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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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

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Saturday, March 24, 2018


The admirable activism of high school students, on display today in nationwide marches, got me thinking about the absence of activism on college campuses.  What differentiates today from fifty years ago – 1968?  The answer that came to mind was:  the draft, and student debt.

The devastating experience of the Viet Nam War, which almost broke the U. S. Army, moved military leaders to switch to an all volunteer military, with higher pay and something resembling career opportunities.  This suited America’s imperial stance in  the world, inasmuch as empires always need professional armies that can be deployed over long periods of time without excessively troubling the general citizenry.  The success of the switch is evidenced by America’s ability to engage in virtually constant military adventures without crippling objections on the political front.

The rise of student debt, which has reduced the more privileged sector of the population to a condition of modern debt peonage, is more complicated, but, I am persuaded, it is an essential cause of the political quiescence of today’s college students.

To get a handle on the situation, I decided to look at the rise in the tuition cost of my own alma mater, Harvard College.  In 1950, the year I started my education as a Freshman, Harvard tuition was $600 a year.  By 1968, when the Viet Nam War was in full flower, the tuition had increased to $2000, which is $1390 in 1950 dollars, more than double.  And in 2016, the last year I could find, Harvard’s tuition was $43,280, or $4374 in 1950 dollars.  So, adjusted for inflation, Harvard’s 2016 tuition is more than seven times as much as 1950 tuition.

In 1950, when I was a Freshman at Harvard, I got part time jobs paying sixty to seventy-five cents an hour, except for the spectacular job inventorying a Robert Hall clothing store at $1.25 an hour, which came around for one night twice a year.

To earn my tuition at that rate would have taken me maybe 900 hours of work.  A semester with exams was 16 weeks, a year was 32 weeks, so 20 weeks when I was out of school at 40 hours a week, for 800 hours, and 15 hours a week during school time for 480 hours would probably have earned me enough to pay tuition, room, and board.  In short, I could have worked my way through college at the most expensive college in America.

By 1968, working for the then minimum wage of $1.60, it would have taken me 1250 hours to earn my tuition, and more to cover room and board.  I would have had to go into debt at least somewhat to make it through.

By 2016, when the minimum wage was $7.25, it would have required almost 6000 hours of work to earn the tuition, which is to say 250 days working twenty-four hours a day!  Note that if the campaign for a national minimum wage of $15 an hour were to succeed, it would still take 2885 hours of work – 56+ hours a week year round – to earn the tuition, never mind the room and board.

Forgive me if I sound like an old fogey, but the current Harvard education is not seven times as good as the 1950 education [indeed, in some respects, I would imagine it is inferior.]

What has happened?  Young college students have been relieved of the threat of military service and burdened with a totally unmanageable debt that requires them to keep their noses clean and take safe good paying jobs.  It is not for nothing that 30% of Columbia’s graduating seniors take jobs on Wall Street.

Friday, March 23, 2018


I am very frightened by the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor.  Trump may have seen him on Fox News, but he is no mere cable news commentator.  There is a real danger now that the United States will launch preemptive attacks against Iran or North Korea or both.  These will be described as limited surgical strikes carrying no threat of a ground war, but that is an illusion that will rapidly be undone by facts on the ground.  Trump is described simultaneously as giddy with the realization that he can do the job of being President all by himself without the irritation of advisors telling him “No!” and also panicked by the tightening noose of the Mueller investigation.  Bizarre thought it may appear, it may be that what agitates him the most is the danger of being exposed by three women as an inadequate lover.

All of us, myself most of all, have been putting our hopes on the November midterm elections, but things may blow up long before the intervening seven months have passed.  There is absolutely no reason to think that Congressional Republicans will place constraints on Trump, and I am very fearful that if we are in a new war, along with the old ones, when the elections come around, voters may rally behind the Administration.

It is very difficult at such a moment to think through a theoretical lecture on the theories of Karl Marx.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


I have been absent from this site for several days because I have been brooding about my next Marx lecture.  I have reached the point in my lectures at which I must make good on my promise to “put the irony into the equations” so that Marx’s literary critique of the mystifications of capitalism, his economic critique of classical Political Economy, and his historical account of the slow development of capitalism within the old order are united in a demonstration that capitalism rests on the exploitation of the working class.  Yesterday, during my morning walk, I figured out how to explain this in a way that will, I hope, be both clear and persuasive.  This involves a fundamental critique of the Labor Theory of Value and an entirely new set of equations that build the mystifications of the capitalist marketplace into the mathematics.  I have no idea whether the lecture will be a pedagogical success – which is to say, whether it will make any sense to the viewers – but the lecture will encapsulate my novel interpretation of Capital for eternity, or what passes for eternity in the Cloud.  This seventh lecture will be followed by a final eighth lecture in which I look to the present and try to answer two questions:  First, what is the modern neo-classical mystification of capitalism that has taken the place of the old classical mystification; and Second, what is happening right now “within the womb of the old society,” in Marx’s pregnant phrase, that is preparing the way for the possibility, if not the inevitability, of Socialism?

Meanwhile, Trump is ensnared in the trap being laid for him by a porn star, a Playboy Playmate, and a former Apprentice contestant, and the consensus among the legal commentators is that he is in for a world of hurt.  If these three women are his undoing, I shall experience a conversion on the road to Damascus and start believing in a God with a truly divine sense of humor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


The new Marx lecture is number six, not number five.  The link just posted takes you to the correct lecture, but I must figure out how to edit the title so that it is correct.  Rats!

OK, all done.

On to Number seven.


Here it is, the sixth lecture on Marx.  No sooner is it posted than I must get to work on lecture seven.  A bloviator's work is never done.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Faithful readers will recall that when the Grand Jury handed down an indictment of a nonentity for identity theft, I speculated that someone at Cambridge Analytica would be sweating bullets.  [See February 20, 2018]  Well, it looks like Cambridge Analytica is in Mueller's crosshairs now.  We shall see.


Stephen Baraban points out that my fancy literary quote is from Wordsworth, not Tennyson.  Maybe I should stick to The Big Bang Theory!  My profound apologies, and thanks to Stephen Baraban.  So much for my pathetic effort to appear cultivated.  I shall leave the error as a testament to my innumerable limitations.