Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

Total Pageviews

Monday, September 9, 2019


I am off before dawn tomorrow to lecture on Marx at Columbia.  By the time I return, Wednesday morning, I shall be my usual implacable self.  Upon reentering this retirement community, I shall almost immediately go to a meeting of the Building and Grounds Committee of the Residents' Association to defend a controversial proposal put forward by myself and our building's representative on the committee calling for red dots to be placed on the list of residents posted at the elevator next to the names of people who, in the event of an emergency, will need help descending the stairs from the second and third floors.  This is a proposal fraught with complexities that must be debated publicly.

And you thought all I worried about was the transition from late capitalism to socialism.


TheDudeDiogenes said...

I am not the only one suspicious of the motives behind the publication of The 1619 Project. Besides the What's Left? podcast episode on the project, I just came across this article on the World Socialist Web Site: "The New York Times’s 1619 Project: A racialist falsification of American and world history".

The second paragraph is key to the point I was trying to make. It is as follows:

"Despite the pretense of establishing the United States’ 'true' foundation, the 1619 Project is a politically motivated falsification of history. Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal 'identities'—i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race."

David Palmeter said...

Dude Diogenes

Is there evidence of the aim of the NY Times’ 1619 Project? And what does the “aim” have to do with the substantive merits of the project? The aim of someone who writes a book may be to become rich and famous, but so what? The reader is only concerned with the book's being worth reading. How is the 1619 Project any different?

s. wallerstein said...

David Palmeter,

In a Marxist analysis political aims are not necessarily conscious. The men who made the French Revolution sincerely believed that their goal was liberty, equality and fraternity for all men, but in reality, they were paving the way for capitalism in France.

So too the New York Times did not publish the 1619 Project with the explicit aim of diverting attention from a class analysis of U.S. capitalism, but effectively, that is the objective goal (or aim) of what they are up to.

Chris said...

In a 9/8 post by Professor Wolff titled "Establishing Guidelines" Talha was charged with being abusive. Maybe he was. I don’t know.

Under that post, I asked what constituted proper guidelines for posting on this blog, and what were the connections between internet handles and online behavior that Professor Wolff wanted to establish. I genuinely didn’t see a connection. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I was asking in good faith.

As Boris Dagaev pointed out, these were perfectly reasonable questions, since Wolff had deleted the offending post, which prevented those of us unsure what were proper guidelines from at least avoiding what was improper:

"If the purpose was to establish guidelines, the removal has defied it. Those who haven't read Talha's comment have no precedent that would guide them to avoid crossing RPW's boundaries in the future. In this circumstance, confirmations like Paul Kern's are mere groupthink and calls for respectability, politeness etc are empty platitudes."

Later on 9/8 Professor Wolff made a second post titled "Time to cool it". In that post Wolff COMPLETELY MALGINED MY POSITION AND ATTRIBUTED VIEWS AND BELIEFS TO ME I EXPLICITLY REJECTED:

" First of all, let me assure Chris that I am not a snowflake who melts if someone says an unkind word to me." <--- I never so much as HINTED that Wolff was a snowflake, since I had not read Talha's post I had nothing to gauge the situation with, and thus just inquired.

"In justification of Talha’s mean-spirited remarks, Chris invokes Lenin, Trotsky, and Rosa Luxemburg! Really? Let us not get above ourselves!"

My comments about Lenin and Trotsky, if anyone did read them, had nothing to do with Talha, they were about the connections between pseudonyms and politeness and I was only pointed that I did not see the connection (again maybe I’m an idiot, but I’m just inquiring), since all of us on the left tend to accept and appreciate the impolite and initially anonymous debates several revered thinkers once had.

Moreover, I EXPLICITLY went out of my way NOT TO JUSTIFY Talha's behavior remarking in "Establishing Guidelines":

"bracketing out how offensive Talha's comments were, since I didn't see them"

Although I went out of my way to show Professor Wolff that he had maligned my position, and provided clear evidence that I never attempted to "JUSTIFY" Talha's comments, nor did I ever accuse Professor Wolff of being a "snowflake", he nevertheless ignored everything I wrote and proceeded to post on 9/9 "Time to cool it".

Somehow his own incorrect, false, and malicious comments towards me don't need to also be part of the cooling process. Or the apologizing process. Or the comment deletion process. Or really any process of reflection.

So Talha allegedly abuses someone is banned forever. Wolff abuses someone, not alleged but public and still open for all to see, and declares EVERYONE ELSE needs to cool it.

Fine. I'm also announcing my retirement from this blog since the host seems incapable of apology, reflection, or even minimal consideration. Maybe some of you agree or disagree, I guess it doesn't matter, because I'm done.

Goodbye fellow travelers, some of you I greatly admire (Jerry, Wallerstein), some of you I never did, and some of you I’ve ceased admiring, but again that doesn’t matter, what matters is: Buh bye.

s. wallerstein said...


I'm genuinely sorry to hear that. You made a great contribution to this blog.

I'm busy now, but I'll write you personally later.

F Lengyel said...

Prof Wolff has repeatedly attempted to set ground rules in various posts, such as, A LITTLE DECORUM, PLEASE, among others. These are clear enough—one has to be willfully obtuse or dense to insist otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Pressed for time, so briefly:

1) I think Chris is overreacting a bit -- RPW did misread him (on whether Chris was "justifying" Talha) but I don't think RPW abused him (at least not as I understand "abuse"). RPW should have corrected/retracted the misreading however.

2) On the guidelines here, it's not too hard: don't call people or their comments "stupid," "moronic," "idiotic" or similar, and in general try to avoid name-calling.

LFC said...

Sorry, "anonymous" at 2:13 p.m. was me.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of drama queens. :)

Oskar said...

Dear Prof Wolff,

I have only ever posted a comment here once before, some year or so ago, when you wanted to know if there were avid readers beyond those who commented frequently. (There are, you aren’t shouting into the void!)

And perhaps the same sentiment is pertinent to this current drama. I receive your posts via a subscription service straight into my email inbox, so I never see any comment in the first place.

More to the point: this is your blog. Nobody else’s. You are, free to do with it exactly as you will. The fact that your posts have engendered a sizeable following - both in the commentary and outside it - is testament to the fact that what you have to say is interesting and worthwhile to many of us.

So, not to be so preposterous as to give you advice, but here’s how I would consider the situation if I were in your position: do the comments cause more grief than joy? Then I would just turn off all comments. It may feel emptier to not get immediate feedback, but if on the whole it would make writing easier, then why not? And know this: there are many of us who will continue to enjoy your posts just as much without any commenting ability.

In any case, I hope that the antics of some of your commentariat (*cough* Chris’s tantrum above *cough*) don’t make you take such a drastic step as to shut the entire blog down. I certainly know I would miss your writing. As an academic in neuroscience with a background in philosophy and a strong leftist bent for as long as I can remember, yours is the only blog I subscribe to these days. Too much noise on the internet, but your musings often provide a bit of a cooling balm.

Best wishes and with hopes of continued posting!

Paul Kern said...

First, Chris’s response is disingenuous. He most certainly does know what was said if he bothers to read the comments. Talha called a commenter “moronic” and a “fool” and then repeated it after it was deleted by RPW, so his insistence that he “doesn’t know” suggests that RPW is somehow making it all up or that perhaps the comments don’t rise to actual abuse. One definition of abuse taken from Webster:
speak in an insulting and offensive way to or about (someone).
insult, be rude to, swear at, curse, call someone names, taunt, shout at, scold, rebuke, upbraid, reprove, castigate, inveigh against, impugn, slur, revile, smear, vilify, vituperate against, slander, libel, cast aspersions on, offend, slight, disparage, denigrate, defame.

Second, I don’t think RPW does misread Chris. Chris uses the Snowden example while simultaneously acknowledging its non-analogous relevance. If its not comparable what’s the point? The same holds true for his use of 19th/early 20th c. revolutionaries who’s lives were literally on the line…yes, they were impolite and under a barrage of anxiety trying to decide issues affecting the lives millions in a very immediate and real sense…not a blog site. And frankly, are we really trying to emulate 19th c. revolutionary cultural norms here? If you’re a Marxist I hope you’re living in the present with its relevant circumstances and not romancing some notion of what it is to be a revolutionary a century ago.

Finally, as noted by LFC, this is a smart group and we all know what it means to use epithets and insults.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I too would keep reading this blog even if comments were discontinued. I used to read many blogs, but most have either shut down or I've lost interest. Now I only read three blogs: this one, Brian Leiter's, and The Electric Agora. The only blog I've read longer than this one is Leiter's. This blog would be dearly missed if it too went defunct.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

Very well put! (Additionally the evidence David Palmeter inquires about above is in the podcast and the article to which I linked, not the paragraph I quoted.)

Anonymous said...

Bob is not about to shut down this pulpit - every so often he likes to threaten to do so, in order that we will all tell him how much we adore him. Patterns, people: learn to recognize them.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I chose as my pseudonym the Cynic par excellence, but even I am not this cynical about Prof. Wolff.

Sonic said...

Chris is on our side, so I am on his side. I would regret not speaking up when I feel I've been in a similar situation many times.

I love reading your comments, Chris. I understand why you are frustrated. I get very upset when I am misunderstood as well. But don't stop commenting until they make you stop! You're on our side!

It's too late for Talha, but for the record, I would like to see him again if he feels like coming back after a few week's vacation.

Anonymous said...

I have never before posted on this blog--I am what Prof. Wolff would call a "lurker"--but have been reading it assiduously for several years. In fact, as a professor of English at a university in a rural part of the Deep South, I consider this blog my sole forum for Leftist conversation.

I wanted to stress that I think both this blog and the comments section on it are vital, and I hope they both remain. I'm indebted to Prof. Wolff both for the insights he offers and the discussion he cultivates here. Despite the latest brouhaha, I have also long enjoyed the comments posted by Chris and Talha, and I hope they'll reconsider their decisions to leave.

I can understand Prof. Wolff's frustration--or what I take to be his frustration--in having to moderate comments, and I think the best thing we can do to repay him is to acknowledge his role and remain civil in our comments, much as we would in a classroom. I also say this as one who harbors very strong Leftist beliefs and, like Chris and Talha, I suspect, sees little reason to compromise politically.

Ed Barreras said...

I seem to remember Professor Wolff posting a lengthy and gracious open letter to Chris apologizing for something or other. I can’t remember what the occasion was, or whether Chris in fact deserved an apology. But to now accuse the host of being “incapable of apology, reflection, or even minimal consideration” — because of some perfectly understandable mischaracterization of your views — is absurd. If a statement of yours was mischaracterized (and no, mere mischaracterization does not alway constitute abuse), correct the record in the comments and anyone who cares will take not of it. And one of the advantages of posting anonymously is that your reputation in the “real world” won’t be affected in the least by anything RPW writes.

Professor Wolff, please let all this overwrought drama blow over and continue blogging as normal.

Ed Barreras said...

David Palmeter,

The article from WSWS DudeDiognes provided a link to (1st comment in this thread) charges the authors of the 1619 project with ignoring scholarship that undermines their thesis. In other words it’s not just the intent of the project but also its merits that are being critiqued.

As usual, so much to read, so little time.

Jerry Fresia said...

Chris, I think it is easy to misread the written word as far as tone is concerned (as distinct from verbal communication) and also with regard to intention given that our comments tend to be cryptic. And I suspect the professor, at times, races through the comments which begets misunderstanding. My brilliantly crafted statements are regularly ignored :) So I hope you reconsidered dropping out. Your comments provide somewhat of a balance and I like your "hard hitting style." Bottom line: we need you. Moreover, I agree with Ed Barreras that the professor has apologized to you in the past - although I can't remember exactly when and quoted from you favorably, too.

Further I think the banishment of Talha from the "comrade commentariat club" is harsh. Perhaps an explanation or apology from Talha would make amends. FYI Chris: your sentence above ("Maybe I’m an idiot, but I was asking in good faith.") was, essentially, the post made by Jerry Brown (?? was it he?) only to have Talha say, in effect, "Yeah, you're an idiot."

I agree with the professor in that "Which side are you on?" is the central question each of us must answer and I agree, too, that it will take millions of us (drama queens and smarty pants intellectuals included) to move the needle.

The best thing about this blog is that each of can learn and grow from it - no small distinction in the blogosphere - despite all the imperfect blogging and commenting. Come, come - we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Jerry Brown said...

Jerry Fresia- yeah, it was me and that is probably a fair description even if I might prefer different words.

Don't worry that your brilliantly crafted statements are ignored :). I've been laughing about that since I read it- thank you! I think it is just more likely that they cannot be improved upon, and therefore don't seem to get as much attention.

But be careful what you wish for. Sometimes less brilliant statements attract far, far more attention than you ever wanted or dreamed possible. I seem to have more experience with writing that kind of statement...