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Saturday, May 29, 2010


Volume Two, Chapter Five
The M. I. T. professorship was a major professional advancement for Cindy, of course, and she settled into her new department very quickly and happily. But the member of the family who took the most immediate advantage of our move to Belmont was Patrick. He had advanced so rapidly as a chess player that even the adult tournaments in Western Massachusetts offered no real challenge. The strongest player in the entire Pioneer Valley area was a man named David Lees, whose USCF rating of 2207 placed him just barely in the ranks of Masters. But Boston was home to a number of strong players, including a man named John Curdo, who had attained Senior Master status and regularly won local tournaments.
Garfield Road was at the top of Belmont Hill, a goodly walk from the center of town, where you could catch a bus that ran direct to Harvard Square. Many of the Belmont parents actually forbade their children to go to Harvard Square, convinced, I suppose, that they would be corrupted by the counterculture and end up drug addicts or bums, or, what was worse, Democrats. But Cindy and I were enchanted by the thought that our boys would have The Square at their disposal, and readily agreed that Patrick, at age twelve, was ready to launch out on his own. Patrick had run a paper route during his last year or so in Northampton, and since he was extremely careful with his money, he had a little nest egg that he could commit to the project of getting to know Boston.
In those days, kids could ride the T for a dime. Patrick conceived the plan of exploring Boston one stop at a time. The first day. he caught the bus to Harvard Square, paid his dime onto the T, and rode one stop to Central Square. Then he got out and walked around, seeing what Central Square had to offer. The next trip, he rode a second stop to Kendall, and did the same thing. We told him which lines he was allowed to explore, and which we wanted him to stay away from, and little by little he learned the ins and outs of Boston. Right away, he found the Boylston Chess Club, one block from the Boston Common, which was the headquarters in Boston for serious chess. One of the attractive characteristics of the chess world is that it cares only about one thing: how well do you play? Patrick may have been a twelve year old kid, but he was a serious player, and it took very little time over the board for him to establish his bona fides. Reaching out in another direction, which involved changing at Park Street Under to a trackless trolley, he discovered Newbury Street, which offered an Au Bon Pain on the top of the Prudential Center where he could get his favorite buns, and a store devoted entirely to chess books and memorabilia. Patrick had hit the big time.
Many of you may be familiar with a book called Searching for Bobby Fischer that tells the story of another chess prodigy, Josh Waitzkin. It was made into a movie with Ben Kingsley playing Bruce Pandolfini, the famous chess teacher who took little Josh under his wing. As you can imagine, I watched the movie with a very personal interest. What struck me most powerfully was how different Patrick's chess development had been from Josh's. Josh's story, I think, was typical of that of many chess prodigies. Living in New York City, the home of big time American chess, he was spotted as a little boy and taken up into a serious program of chess development at a point when Patrick was still going to the Thursday evening meetings with Dwayne Catania, or playing in weekend Swiss tournaments the strongest player in which, on a special day, was David Lees. Patrick never so much as saw a real International Master or Grandmaster until he moved to Boston, and even then, they were as scarce as white rhinos. I have always believed, contrary to what one might imagine, that his relative isolation in the early years was both emotionally healthy and also quite possibly beneficial for the evolution of his talent.
It was not until he was fourteen that Patrick became a Master, but playing in Boston and New York, his USCF rating soared. Pretty soon he as a Senior Master, and by the time he was in high school, he was regularly winning State and National Junior Championships. I think he earned his first International Master Norms while still in high school. Once he passed the milestone of Master, the USCF started to take notice of him. He was awarded a scholarship that paid for a grandmaster, Edmar Mednis, to spend some sessions with him, coaching him and promoting his development. I recall quite vividly the first meeting with Mednis, which was conducted in our guest bedroom. Mednis did not set up a chess board or talk openings and moves. Instead, he talked to Patrick about the central idea of chess, which, he said, was to search for the truth. I sat in on that first session, and I am afraid I was extremely sceptical of Mednis' New Age sounding patter. That just showed how little I understood competitive chess.
Here is what Mednis was trying to get Patrick to understand. In a Swiss style tournament of the sort Patrick was accustomed to, draws are death, because the structure of the tournament almost guarantees that someone will rack up a string of wins, if only by luck. Draws pretty much consign you to fifth or sixth place. So even very strong players competing for the prize money take chances, making a risky or unsound move in hopes of tricking their opponents into blunders in time pressure. This, Mednis was saying, is not the way to learn to play chess at the highest level. It is not "looking for the truth." Heavyweight tournaments, in which Grandmasters compete against one another, are almost never Swisses. They are invitational round robin tournaments in which each player plays each other player once. In tournaments of that sort, draws are perfectly acceptable. They are a kind of marking time. The real no no is a loss. Many times, in a high powered round robin, the player who wins has a good many draws plus several wins, but no losses. If you want to play competitively at that level, you must develop the ability to recognize when a position does not offer winning chances, and patiently play completely solid chess to guarantee a draw. if you do that -- if you look for the truth -- the winning chances will present themselves, and you will then take advantage of them to notch up a win. This was a completely new way of thinking about chess for Patrick, and it was his success in mastering it that enabled him to move steadily to the forefronts first of American chess and then of world chess.
Even though I was teaching at UMass, Cindy was teaching at MIT, and we were living in Belmont, we really thought of ourselves in those early days as returning to the Harvard Square community in which both of us had spent so many years. Shortly after the new semester started, we decided to have an elegant little dinner party for some of the people we knew at Harvard. We invited Barry and Betty Moore, Bob and Barbara Nozick, and Jack and Marnie Rawls. During my marriage to Cindy, I pretty much followed her tastes in furnishings, which had in turn been shaped by those of her parents. This meant that our home ran to English and American antiques, fine china, and silver dinner service. Before dinner, we gathered in our elegantly appointed living room for drinks and conversation. Very quickly, all of the men gathered at the north end of the room, where they stood talking seriously, and all of the women sat at the south end chatting cheerfully. I was appalled. We had just come from the Pioneer Valley, where nothing like this ever happened at a party. Somewhat belligerently, I walked to the south end and sat down with the ladies, but by every trick of body language available to them, they managed to communicate that they were not amused and that my place was with the menfolk. Since I was the host, and did not want to cast a pall over the evening, I drifted back to the men. I have a pretty good memory for conversations, but I cannot recall a single thing that was said that evening.
When the Fall semester started, I settled into a routine of commuting out to Amherst. My teaching schedule was easily arranged for two or three days, so I could work at home and spend time with my boys. From Belmont Hill, I could get directly out onto Route 2, which, after a series of traffic lights, turned into a fast drive to rte 202 and another twenty minutes or so to the University. I could make it in an hour and forty five minutes, and since I was always going counter traffic -- out of town in the morning, when everyone was flooding into Boston, and in to town when everyone was leaving -- it was usually a pretty easy commute. I was by now so alienated from the Philosophy Department that I had no inclination at all to spend time there, so I simply drove out, taught my classes, and drove home.
There was of course one small problem. During one of its recurrent budget crises, the UMass Administration had removed all of the phones from the offices of the faculty in Humanities and Social Sciences. Their intention was honorable, no doubt. They were desperately trying to avoid having to fire faculty, and I think they reflected that since they never felt the need to call us in Bartlett Hall, we could probably get on without the phones. One could always make local calls from the Department office, but if I wanted to call home, which as a long distance call was not authorized, I had to go to a phone in the basement and feed coins into it. I recall being invited to speak at Trinity University in San Antonio, Tx. As I was chatting with the members of the Philosophy Department before my talk, I mentioned that we did not have phones in our offices. They obviously saw this as an admirable evidence of monastic dedication. When I tried to explain that we really wanted phones, but the university wouldn't put them in, I could see in their eyes the nervous thought, "This man is not quite stable." It was hard to explain.
The Brandeis course I taught that Fall was really just a way for the Department to take a look at me. I found Brandeis itself a bit odd. Located in Waltham, a short drive from Belmont, it is a wealthy private University, but quite different in feel from Chicago or the Ivy League. The first thing that struck me was that seemingly every bit of masonry or stonework or ironwork had a plaque on it with the name of the donor whose gift had made it possible. Harvard and Columbia had buildings named after donors, of course, and UMass had buildings named after politicians, but Brandeis had benches named after donors, doors named after donors. I fully expected to find urinals in the men's rooms named after donors. I was not sure how I was going to like teaching there, but anything would be an improvement on the UMass Philosophy Department.
Fred Sommers pushed ahead with plans to hire me, and the department was pretty much unanimous, but early on there were indications that things might not go smoothly. The first sign was a comment from the Provost when Sommers went to him to talk about their desire to hire me. "Why do you want another Marcuse?," he asked. I was flattered by the question when Fred reported it to me -- I thought it was the greatest compliment I had ever been paid -- but I had the good sense to realize that it was not meant positively. When the appointment moved up the administrative ladder to the Provost's office, the standard next step was to convene an ad hoc committee [shades of Harvard]. Marver Bernstein, the President, put together a committee that was, to put it mildly, not likely to be sympathetic, including as it did such well-known conservative figures as Charles Fried and Sidney Hook. Bernstein at one point offered the opinion that "Wolff did some good work when he was young, but now he is burned out."
I was under great strain that Spring. My father, who was both an alcoholic and a very heavy smoker, had been going steadily downhill since my mother's death almost six years earlier. He had become seriously weakened, and finally had to be hospitalized by my uncle Anoch, who was his doctor, and was part-owner of a proprietary hospital in Queens, New York. It became clear that he could not possibly continue to live on his own in the home he and my mother had bought forty-one years earlier, so on May 3rd, I drove to New York to see my father and find a nursing home for him.
My father had behaved with very great courage and selflessness in those years after my mother's death. His stubborn decision to stay in the house alone was clearly driven by his desire not to be a burden on either Barbara or me, even though he was very overweight, and weakened by the alcohol and cigarettes. One day, he went out to sit for a while on the front stoop of the little house, as he had done so often over the years. It started to rain, and when he tried to stand up to go inside, he found that he could not. He sat for a long time in the rain, getting soaked and risking pneumonia, before he could pull himself up and get indoors. When I heard about the incident, I was horrified and terribly guilty. I knew that I had allowed him to keep any burden from falling on my shoulders, simply turning a blind eye to his obvious need.
On May 4th, I visited him in the hospital. He had a tube down his throat to permit him to breath, so he could not speak, but he was sitting up, and I knew he could understand what I was saying to him. After telling him that I had arranged for him to go to a nursing home when he was released from the hospital, I stroked his head and told him that I loved him. Then I said, "You were a better father to me than your father was to you. No man can be asked to do more than that. I will try to be a better father to my sons than you were to me." Then I kissed him. Early the next morning, he died.
The affair ended badly at Brandeis. The ad hoc committee, despite its rightward tilt, told the President that they ought to hire me. Bernstein, who was apparently unhappy with the cost of a graduate program in Philosophy for which he could see no use, thereupon summarily not only vetoed my appointment but cancelled the entire doctoral program. Coming on the heels of my father's death, the Brandeis disaster marked a low point in my life. Only later did I come to see that Bernstein's decision was a blessing. Over the years, when I have told this story, I have always concluded it by saying that it ended happily, inasmuch as several years later, Marver Bernstein was killed in a hotel fire in Tel Aviv. But I think it is not appropriate for me to write that into my memoirs. So I won't.
Barbara and I were my father's sole heirs, and we had been designated co-executors of his estate. but the task of arranging for the sale of the family house and managing the paperwork fell to me. Fortunately, Bernie Ackerman, a family friend and lawyer in the neighborhood, agreed to help me. Neither Barbara nor I wanted any of the furniture or personal effects. With her consent, I took two portraits that I had grown up with, one of my mother and one of my father, both when they were young adults. They are on the walls of my study here in Chapel Hill as I write these words. Bernie put the word out in the local synagogue that the house was for sale, and he thought it would go quickly. Since I had left home thirty-one years earlier, the neighborhood had slowly turned into an Orthodox Jewish community, and was actually designated an eruv.
While I waited for a bid to come in, I went up to the attic where I had sat after my mother's death and pawed through the accumulated boxes. There I came quite unexpectedly on a treasure trove of family letters, papers, and photographs going back generations. It seemed that my mother had been the unofficial family archivist. There were hundreds of letters between my grandfather and my grandmother from the years when he was a leader of the Socialist Party in New York City. There were more hundreds of letters between my parents during their courting years, as well as every letter that Barbara or I had ever written home. I knew that these things could not be thrown away, even though I had no idea then what to do with them, so I boxed them all up and took them back to Belmont with me.
Finally, Bernie reported that he had a buyer for the house, although not from the Orthodox Jewish community, as he had expected. The little brick row house that my parents had bought in 1940 for $5999 went for $80,000. My parents' big risky gamble had actually paid off. But the joke came at the closing. Apparently [I was not there] the new owner showed up with a suitcase full of small bills and the lawyers had to spend hours counting it to make sure it added up to $80,000. No one ever said anything, but who pays for a house in small bills?
Now that I was living in the Boston area, and wasn't writing books at a mad pace, I decided I might as well pick up some money [I do seem to have been unusually eager to amass bits of wealth, albeit never in very great amounts]. I contacted Harvard Summer School, which was always happy to exploit another academic, and in 1982, I taught two courses there. I continued to teach each summer for a total of five years -- '82 through '86. It was not particularly ennobling work, but it generated some extra income and got me out of the house. Typically, for eight weeks each summer I would drive down to Harvard Square five mornings a week and teach two one hour classes. Then the rest of the day was free. By this time, I had taught so many classes that my preparation could be limited to asking myself, as I drove the fifteen minutes into the Square, what I was going to say that day.
Those of you who have spent some time in Cambridge may be familiar with the Harvard Cooperative Society, The Coop, a large store that dominates Harvard Square. Ever since my days as an Instructor, I have each year bought a little black Coop date book, in which I record all of my appointments, class meetings, social events, and family obligations. Since these books are produced for an academic community, they begin quite naturally in the middle of the year and end in the middle of the next year. As the years have gone by, I have kept most of them, although there are some regrettable lacunae. By now, I have forty or so, stored in a box that originally held materials from a Copy Cop copy shop in Boston. As I write these memoirs, I sift through the box for the books from the period I am memorializing, checking them for names, dates, and people. When I page through the books from my UMass years, one name appears repeatedly that has not yet found its way into these memoirs, and I think the time has come to give it the attention it deserves.
Milton Cantor is now Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a distinguished chronicler of left-wing political movements in America who has written many books, the best of which in my judgment is his 1978 study, The Divided Left. Milton is the Eeyore to my Tigger --perennially pessimistic about the present and future of progressive politics, as I am unjustifiably, irrepressibly optimistic. Rather surprisingly, Milton is also a spectacular swimmer who, for many years, taught classes at the UMass pool. Milton and I are polar opposites in another way besides our temperament. Whereas I plunge deeply into the internal bureaucratic politics of any university at which I am teaching, Milton, like many academics, views his university merely as his home base, and he looks outward rather than inward for his professional involvements.
I have known Milton for almost forty years, and he is my dearest friend. I am not a terribly outgoing person, for all that I have a cheerful demeanor and an energetic presence. As I have several times indicated, I live much of my life in my head. Ever since I was fourteen, my most intense and absorbing human connection at any time has been with the woman with whom I am romantically involved -- Susie from my fourteenth to my nineteenth years, Cindy from my twenty-third year until the time I have now reached in my story. I had good friends in high school, I suppose, but I never saw them again once I went to college. I had two good friends in college, but I have seen nothing of one of them since graduating and very little of the other. In the teaching positions I have held, I have been very friendly with my colleagues, but each time I have moved away to take a new position, I have almost immediately lost touch with those I have left behind. I am now seventy-six years old, and save for my sister, Barbara, and my sons, there are only two people who have over the years remained an important emotional presence in my life: my second wife, and Milton Cantor.
Milton has a genius for friendship that is matched, in my experience, only by that of Sidney Morgenbesser. When I first met Milton, shortly after I arrived at UMass, he began to include me in the broad circle of the friends with whom he periodically arranged lunches. My early phone conversations with Milton were a trifle puzzling because he regularly refers to people only by their first names. During one call, he told me he had had lunch in New York with Dwight and Andre. "Oh yes," I said, frantically trying to figure out who these two folks were whom I was apparently supposed to know. It took me a while to figure out that Milton was talking about the radical social critic Dwight MacDonald and Andre Schiffrin, then the editor of Pantheon Books. This was not name dropping, let me hasten to explain. It is just that Milton sees the entire world as one big Upper West Side Theater for Ideas. There is an endearing affection in Milton's relationships that in no way diminishes the intensity of his political commitments. He is the only person in the world who calls me "Bobby."
Through Milton, I met a number of Amherst College's leading lights, including his old mentor from Columbia, Henry Steel Commager. By the time I met Commager, he was already seventy, and he grew crustier as the years passed. Milton, who was then in his early forties, very much played the acolyte, although I always found Milton more interesting than Commager himself. Also part of that circle of Amherst College faculty then were the political theorist Gorge Kateb, who later went to Princeton, and Norman Birnbaum, who left Amherst to go to Georgetown. Norman had actually been the Head Section Man when I took Soc Sci 2, Sam Beer's great General Education course at Harvard. Norman was writing his doctoral dissertation on the fall of the Weimar Republic, one of the topics in the course. Beer invited Norman to give a guest lecture, and Norman seized the opportunity to present virtually his entire dissertation in fifty-three minutes. When we filed into New Lecture Hall, Norman stood up, told us to put away our pens, and then unleashed a hurricane of words. We all shrank back against our seats as the waves of sound washed over us. I do not think any of us could have repeated a thing Norman said that day, but we cheered him to the echo.
The old Reader's Digest used to have a little feature they called "The Most Unforgettable Character I have Ever Met," and Norman would have been a candidate for an entry. He was the most engagingly self-absorbed person I have ever known. One of John Kenneth Galbraith's lighter literary efforts was his little 1963 book, The McLandress Dimension. It purported to be the report of a scientific study measuring the amount of time certain well known people could go without thinking about themselves. As I recall, the person found to have the shortest McLandress factor was Charles de Gaulle. Norman certainly would have given de Gaulle a run for his money. If you ran into Norman and told him that you had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, his response would be, "Have I told you about the woman I am seeing?" My favorite Norman story comes from a dinner party given by Felix and Shulamith Oppenheim. Felix was a professor in the UMass Political Science Department. Shulamith, very much Felix's junior, had been his student. Felix's greatest claim to fame was that he was the son of the Oppenheim who, with Carl Hempel, wrote a famous article on what came to be known in the trade as The Covering Law Model of Scientific Explanation. Never mind that. It doesn't matter. Anyway, there we sat, eight or ten of us at a circular table, all chattering away simultaneously so that there was a cacophony of overlapping conversations. Suddenly, as sometimes happens, all of us paused simultaneously for breath, and there was a momentary lull. All except Norman, whose voice boomed out, "As I was walking through Red Square in Moscow the other day ..." He was absolutely mystified when we all burst out laughing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


In Fall, 1977 I again offered my seminar on Classics of Critical Social Theory. Early in that semester, I was standing outside Thompson Hall when I overheard a conversation between two Economics graduate students. By now, the location of departments had been sorted out and rearranged. All of the Humanities departments, including Philosophy, were reassigned to Bartlett Hall and South College, the latter an old building that also was the site of the offices of the three deans of Arts and Sciences. The Social Science Departments had taken over Thompson and Machmer Halls. Economics was in Thompson. The students were talking about a book by someone named Sraffa.

Now, this is going to sound strange, but it is the way I have worked all my life. I do not actually read very much, and I am incapable of skimming. When I read a serious academic book, I read it from cover to cover with very great intensity, and like as not, the reading of the book fundamentally changes the way I think about a subject. I find that experience unsettling, which is one of the reasons that I do not read a great deal. But I seem to have very sensitive antennae that tell me when I need to read a book. The reason I have never bothered to read many of Kant's minor works, for example, is that I knew, somehow, that they could not contain anything that would help me to plumb the depths of the First Critique. That is also why I had such difficulty reading all of A Theory of Justice. My instincts told me that after the opening chapters, it would all be useless elaboration and filler, and I was right. Simply by overhearing that snatch of conversation, I knew that Sraffa was someone I needed to read.

Sraffa, it turned out, was Piero Sraffa, and he had only written one book, a monograph barely one hundred pages long, called Production of Commodities By Means of Commodities. I bought a copy. I should say here that it was an evidence of my criminal ignorance that I did not already know who Sraffa was. Piero Sraffa was been born in Italy in 1893, where in time he became a friend and comrade of Antonio Gramsci. Indeed, it was Sraffa who brought to Gramsci in jail the pen and ink and paper with which Gramsci wrote the Prison Notebooks. Sraffa moved to the Cambridge University in England, where he edited the beautiful and indispensable ten volume set of the works of David Ricardo. Parenthetically, it is a scandal to Economics that Sraffa never won the Nobel Prize in Economics before his death in 1983.

When I sat down to read Sraffa's book, I discovered that it was formidably difficult. Fortunately for me, it uses nothing more advanced mathematically than elementary algebra -- the solution of simultaneous linear equations -- but it is written with a spare abstraction that gives it somewhat the tonality of Gregorian Plainsong. Sraffa frequently omits intermediate or transitional steps in his proofs, leaving it to the reader to supply them. Since I am incapable, when I am reading, of moving from one line to the next unless I understand how the second line is derived from the first, I would sometimes spend hours on a single page. When I finished the book, my entire mental framework had been transformed.

Immediately, and somewhat foolishly, I offered to teach the book to a reading group of Economics graduate students, several of whom were in my Classics of Critical Social Theory seminar. After several meetings, one of the students walked in and said, "Herb says you can prove the whole thing in a couple of lines of linear algebra." [Herb was of course Herb Gintis.] It was clear that I was going to have to learn linear algebra.

I was now in my seventh year at UMass, and I had qualified for a sabbatical. I can recall lying in bed that Fall, before getting up in the morning, thinking to myself, "I am going to be forty-five. I have published lots of books, and I guess I can go on doing that for the rest of my life, but what's the point? I have had my say. I always describe myself as a socialist, because my grandfather was a socialist, but I really don't know what that means. Maybe it is time to learn some economics."

When my Fall courses ended in mid-December, I bought myself a college linear algebra textbook and spent the intersession working through it. I got all the way through eigenvectors and eigenvalues and Perron Frobenius theorems and the like by the time the second semester started in late January. I talked to Don Katzner about sitting in on his graduate Microeconomics course, which used Henderson and Quant, a rigorous mathematical approach to the subject. I attended every class, did all the exercises, and sweated through the whole nine yards of Bordered Hessians and the rest. At the same time, I sat in on Bob Costrell's graduate Macro course, although I could never develop any real fondness for the subject. It seemed to me too much like a bunch of economists chained to the floor of Plato's Cave, developing sophisticated methods for predicting the sequence of shadows on the wall of the cave. By an extraordinarily happy accident, a brilliant young Cambridge England economist named John Eatwell was visiting the UMass Economics Department that semester, and I also sat in on his advanced graduate course on Value Theory. By the end of the semester, I had begun to master the materials I needed truly to understand and appreciate Marx's achievement in Capital.

The '70s and early '80s saw a dramatic worldwide reinterpretation of Marx's economic theories by some of the most gifted mathematical economists in the international profession. Sraffa had started the process with his 1960 monograph, but Wassily Leontieff's linear programming theories played an equally central role. There is a wonderful story about Leontieff that may well be apocryphal. It seems that when the young Russian economist invented linear programming , he went to the Soviet economic planners to show them this new analytic methodology, perfectly suited to the central planning of a large and complex economy. The officials rebuffed him, saying that Stalin had laid down an edict that since Marx had only used addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the taking of averages in Kapital, the Soviet Union would use nothing more in planning its economy.

The first major work of reinterpretation to appear was Michio Morishima's 1973 book, Marx's Economics. This was followed by the Hungarian economist András Bródy's Proportions, Prices, and Planning and the Italian Luigi Pasinetti's Growth and Income Distribution. In 1976, the French economists Gilbert Abraham-Frois and Edmond Berrebi published their Theory of Value, Prices, and Accumulation. The next year, Pasinetti brought out a collection of his essays under the title Lectures on the Theory of Production. That same year, a young English Marxist published an extraordinary little polemic entitled Marx after Sraffa. It is the only book I have ever read that manages to be simultaneously mathematically sophisticated and furiously angry. In 1980, Pasinetti was again in print with Essays on the Theory of Joint Production, which was joined by Classical and Neo-Classical Theories of General Equilibrium by the Americans Vivian Walsh and Harvey Gram. A year later, yet another Pasinetti book appeared, this one called Structural Change and Economic Growth, and Steedman joined a number of colleagues in a collective volume of essays under the title The Value Controversy.

To read each one of these books was a formidable undertaking for me. The mathematics in them pushed me to the limits of my understanding, and much of the economic theory was new to me. I persevered, however, and over a number of years mastered all of them. As with my work on Kant, I constantly struggled to make the story of the argument clear and simple enough that I could narrate it to students who had not plunged into these books and probably never would.

As my marriage with Cindy struggled, pushing us for the last three years of the 70s into couples therapy, I worked over Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx, using the new mathematical reinterpretations to illuminate the core arguments of Capital. For once, I did what I suppose might pass as research, purchasing a thirty volume translation of the collected works and letters of Marx and Engels and reading volume after volume, in preparation for the time when I would attempt to turn my vision of Marx's project into a coherent story.

Fairly early on, my close reading of the mathematics alerted me to a problem in Marx's theoretical explanation of exploitation and the origin of profit. I began to work through an argument in my head, using only the techniques of analysis that Sraffa had employed, not yet daring to try my hand at original arguments in the language of linear algebra. By now, I was driving Patrick to Springfield one evening a week so that he could play chess at the Springfield Chess Club. The drive took about half an hour from Barrett Place, and since Patrick did not want me hanging about while he played, I would make the run down and back twice in the evening. During the return from the first run and the trip down to pick him up at the end of the evening, I would entertain myself by running over the mathematical argument in my head. Pretty soon, I had it sorted out and translated into a narrative that I could unfold in a clear, simple fashion.

This is a good place to relate a story about one of those runs, and its aftermath. As I was driving Patrick to the chess club, he started boasting about how well he could play, saying that none of the men in the club were as strong as he had become. I chided him for the braggadocio. That night, when Cindy and I were sitting in bed reading, Patrick came into our room. In those days, when something was upsetting him, his little face would get puffy, as though the tears he was not shedding had swollen his eyes and his cheeks. I asked him what was the matter, and very hesitantly, he explained that he knew he shouldn't talk in that bragging way in front of people, but thought I trusted him to know that, and that he could say things to me that he wouldn't say at the chess club. I thought about that after he went back to bed, and decided that he was right and I had been wrong. I went into his room and apologized, assuring him that I did trust him to know when and where to say things. I told him that from now on I would trust him. It was a chastening moment for me, but a deeply moving one too.

Eventually, when I had worked out my proof properly, along with some more advanced things for which I really did need the linear algebra, I put them all together in an essay called "A Critique and Reinterpretation of Marx's Labor Theory of Value," which I published in a relatively new journal, Philosophy and Public Affairs [Spring, 1981]. In that paper, I actually proved a very important theorem that demonstrated a fundamental failing of Marx's explanation of the origins of profit. I was pretty pleased with myself until John Roemer, the most mathematically sophisticated Marxist in America, pointed out in a comment to the Journal that Josep Vegara, a Professor of Economics at Barcelona, had published essentially the same theorem in 1979 in a book entitled economía política y modelos multisectoriales. I was heartbroken. Such things do not happen in Philosophy [because we so rarely prove anything]. Still and all, the theoretical elaboration that followed the statement and proof of the theorem is quite original, but I doubt that anyone has ever taken note of it. A word of advice to my readers; If you prove an exciting theorem in theoretical economics, do not publish it in a Philosophy journal.

Over the years that I taught at UMass, the school changed markedly in ways that I suspect parallel changes taking place on other state university campuses. When I arrived, UMass was not at all a prestigious place to study. Massachusetts has top of the line elite institutions, of course, like Harvard, MIT, Amherst, and Williams, but it also has a number of very strong second tier schools -- Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, among others. The student body of UMass when I arrived in '71 was drawn primarily from Catholic families without long traditions of higher education. Many of the students were the first members of their families to attend a four year higher educational institution, and they pretty obviously thought of what they were doing as an extension of high school. The spoke of "tests," not "exams," of "teachers," not "professors." Every Friday afternoon, students lined up in the oval in front of the Administration building to take buses back to their home towns. For many of them, UMass was the biggest town they had ever lived in. They were bright, and serious about their studies, but they were very unsophisticated. It was not uncommon for students to bring their dogs to class, something I had never seen before.

Little by little, the inflation of the cost of higher education put pressure on middle class families to consider the state university as an option, something they would not have done earlier., My first hint of this was a very funny incident in the Spring of '74. I was teaching a big Intro class in the lecture hall in Thompson, which is entered by doors at the rear. After one lecture, a student came up to the podium to ask a question. I talked with him for a bit and then excused myself, explaining that I ahd to rush to my next class in another building. I rushed up the aisle into the large hall outside the room -- and ran into the student again! As I hurried away, I thought to myself, "How on earth did he get out of the room before me?" Eventually I discovered the answer. There was a pair of identical twins in my class, Michael and Mitchell King. They were both extremely good students, easily capable of winning admission to Amherst College, but their parents could not afford to send both of them to a pricey private school at the same time, so they ended up at UMass.

You could see the change just by looking at the students as they walked across the campus. The women started wearing expensive looking clothing, the undergraduates began to drive more expensive cars than the faculty. They stopped going home on the weekends and started their weekend drinking on Thursday nights. All of this was crystallized for me by one brief moment in an undergraduate course I taught some years later, in 1988. Patrick had gone off to Australia to play in the World Junior Chess Tournament, representing the United States as its strongest player. I decided on a lark to fly out to watch him play a game. I flew Continental, which unbeknownst to me was offering a special triple frequent flyer miles promotion. I flew to LA, and changed planes for a flight to Hawaii. As I was waiting for the connecting flight, I paused at a bar to look at the television set. It was October 5th, and Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate, was debating Dan Quayle, his Republican opponent. I walked up to the bar just in time to hear Bentsen deliver what is arguable the most famous line from any televised debate: "Mr. Quayle, I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You are no Jack Kennedy." The I was off to Honolulu, and Sidney, and the tournament. When I got home, I discovered that that one trip had given me enough frequent flier miles for a pair of tickets to Europe, but the restrictions on their use was so severe I could not figure out when we could use them. I finally said to Susie [to whom I was by then married -- more of that anon], "Look. I can't let these go to waste. Let's go to Paris for the weekend." She was down with that, so I walked into my Tuesday Thursday class on Thursday and said, "I am going to Paris for the weekend. I will see you on Tuesday." After class, a young woman came up to my desk, opened her purse, and took out a half used carnet of Metro tickets. "Her," she said, "you may need these." UMass had changed.

I have joked in these memoirs about the fact that I kept being hired either to teach something I knew very little about or to teach something that I had never made the focus of my scholarly work. First Harvard hired me fresh out of the Army to teach European history. Then Chicago hired me to teach Social Sciences. Then Columbia hired me to teach Ethics, And finally UMass didn't really want to hire me at all and was stuck with me when the real targets of their desire left them in the lurch. But of course that is not the way the world looked at things, and it was not really how I looked at things either. By the late 1970s, my career path had been a rave success story. Harvard, Chicago, tenure at Columbia, and then a voluntary move to UMass for personal reasons that were to me, if not in the eyes of the world, more than sufficient.

Cindy's career to that point had been an entirely different matter. Fired from Queens for having a baby, made a lowball offer by NYU because she was a woman and married to me, lucky to secure a position at Manhattanville where, although well treated, she had no opportunity for graduate teaching or research, and then foisted on UMass in a risky power play that could have left us owning a house for which we had no use. Cindy was fully as ambitious as I, and more than well qualified to be treated as a star in her own right, but her wry observation had proven correct: the way they view you when you walk in the door is the way they think of you ever after. Even though she now had tenure, and was secure in her professional position, she wanted just once to be sought after professionally for herself alone. In '77-'78, that opportunity seemed finally to have arrived.

As a consequence of the publication of A Feast of Words, Cindy was approached by the English Department of Syracuse University, which wanted her to join them as a senior professor. Our entire family was very happy in our Barrett Place home, and neither of us, I think it is fair to say, at that point had even thought about a move to upstate New York, but the opportunity was one that Cindy could not pass up. One might ask, as some people at the time did, why she was unwilling to stay at UMass if I was content to do so. The answer is simple, but I think important, so let me try to explain.

I had earned tenure at an Ivy League University at the age of thirty. The high point of that career move was the taxi cab ride through Central Park after Justus Buchler made me the offer. It never really got any better than that. It was perfectly pleasant teaching at Columbia, and it left me with some great stories for my memoirs forty years later, but the actual experience wasn't that different from the experience of teaching at UMass. Nevertheless ever since I walked away from Ivy League tenure thirty-nine years ago, I have been able to say to myself with not the least suggestion of sour grapes, "I had it." Not, "I could have had it," or "It isn't worth having," but simply, "I had it." That really is enough to satisfy one's ambition. Cindy had to that point never been able to say to herself, "I have had the experience of being really wanted for myself alone." The time had come.

I was prepared to commute, if that was what it took, but I thought it worth trying to generate an offer from the Syracuse Philosophy Department. At first, our parallel negotiations proceeded in a very promising fashion, and, the two of us being the house proud types that we were, we even spent a day with a real estate agent in Syracuse to see what we could find. But then things turned bitterly sour. In the end, I wrote a long, pained letter to the Chair of the Philosophy Department, Stewart Thau, explaining our decision to decline the offers. Rather than try to summarize an affair that is now hazy in my memory, I am going to reproduce here the entire letter, as I wrote it on 1 August, 1978. I apologize if this tries the patience of my readers, but I think what this letter says is important not just for the fidelity of my memoirs but also for any readers who may be facing similar career and family choices. As will be obvious from the letter, I had nothing but gratitude and good wishes for the Syracuse folks. Here is what I wrote:

"Dear Stewart, I have had a chance to consider the response of the University of
Massachusetts to your offer, and after weighing all the factors, both professional and private, I have decided to decline the offer. I do so with a very great sense of disappointment, and with the feeling that an exciting -- perhaps a unique -- opportunity has been missed. Rather than fill up a few paragraphs with polite phrases and perfunctory thanks, I should like to take some time to lay before you, as precisely as I can, the succession of events that determined my decision. In doing so, I am moved by the hope that your continuing efforts to build a nationally visible Department of the first quality will be aided by my frankness. Although this letter is addressed to you alone, I hope you will feel free to share all or part of it with any other persons to whom you wish to show it.

"When I received your first letter many months ago, I reacted very much as Maury Mandelbaum did. That is, I doubted that you could recruit philosophers of the first rank, and advised you, therefore, you will recall, to look for first-rate younger people. Subsequently, the English Department approached my wife with regard to their senior position. We had a long talk, and finally decided that in order to further her career, we would, under the right conditions, be prepared to move to Syracuse. I knew that I could always arrange for a two-day teaching schedule, and although the commute appeared difficult, it was certainly possible. As I am sure you know, much more strenuous arrangements have become common in the academic world in recent years. Despite this decision, I wrote to you to explore the question of a position for me in the Philosophy Department, doubtful though I was at that point that such a position would be attractive enough to woo me away from the University of Massachusetts.

"My wife returned from her visit to Syracuse University with glowing reports. It seemed to her that the English Department was prepared to treat her -- absolutely on her own merits -- with every bit of the honor that she has earned by her brilliant writings in English and American Literature. When Arthur Hoffman called to make a verbal offer of the position, he told her flatly and unequivocally that the initial offer would be "too low," that every portion of it was negotiable, and that he and the Department wished to demonstrate their enthusiasm for her candidacy by supporting her efforts to bargain that offer up to an appropriate level. My wife, enormously flattered and encouraged by the warmth and openness of Hoffman's statements, replied immediately, making perfectly reasonable proposals for a higher salary and a somewhat lower teaching load.

"I will tell you flatly that if Syracuse had responded in a week or ten days with a significant improvement in that offer, my wife would now be committed to join the Syracuse English Department! Instead, your Administration -- which can only mean John Prucha [ed. The Academic Vice-Chancellor] -- delayed for fully six weeks, thereby putting my wife in a position of the most intense personal and professional embarrassment. At the end of that time, Syracuse responded with a new offer that was virtually an insult, coming as it did after Hoffman's initial remarks. The timing of the new offer, about which I shall have a good deal more to say below, was so clearly keyed to my offer as to make it perfectly obvious how John Prucha and Gershon Vincow [ed. Dean and later himself Academic Vice-Chancellor] viewed my wife -- namely, as an appendage to me, rather than as a scholar in her own right.

"Meanwhile, I made my trip to Syracuse. When I set out, I thought it extremely unlikely that I would accept an offer. When I returned, I thought it almost certain that I would! My visit was an unalloyed delight (despite the inadequacies of the motel!). For the first time, it dawned on me that I had an opportunity, perhaps never again to be presented, to join in the creation of the national center for Kant studies! Your success in recruiting [Jonathan] Bennett totally changed the picture. With the retirement of Beck, Syracuse could be the one place in the United States to which students would come who wished to study the philosophy of Kant! In addition, my new interest in the philosophical foundations of Economics could be joined with Alex's [ed. Rosenberg] interests to make a strong sub-field in that specialty. My meetings with people from the Maxwell School were especially gratifying. I have on my desk now a warm letter from Manfred Stanley and Barry Glassner, indicating the sort of reception that side of my interests would get.

"This was, I think the high water mark of my enthusiasm, and my wife's, for a move to Syracuse. We expected a reply momentarily to her letter. And after my frank conversations with you, I thought it was clear and unambiguous what sort of offer would be required to recruit me. Although we did not speak that evening in the motel lobby, in precise figures, I made it clear that I simply could not even consider joining the Syracuse faculty at a salary lower than that which had been offered to Bennett. It seemed to me that you understood why that was a necessary condition for any successful venture involving the two of us and the Department, and at that point you seemed to be confident that the matter could be arranged.

Things began to go very sour when Gershon Vincow made that appalling phone call to me shortly before the actual offer was due to go out. Now, I have been in this profession for a good long time -- some twenty-one years since being awarded the doctorate -- I tell you, flat out, that never in my entire career have I been treated by any administrator in the way that Dean Vincow treated me during that call. He began by telling me that Syracuse was going to make me an offer, and then refused to tell me what the offer would be! He told me that the offer (unspecified) was final, that it could not be negotiated, that it was absolutely the best Syracuse could do. I cannot imagine what he expected me to reply to these assertions. I indicated that since he and Dr. Prucha had chosen to adopt that position, it was incumbent upon them to take fully into account the things I had said to you about the sort of offer that would attract me. In short, to be blunt, I was telling him that if the offer was to be Syracuse's final offer, then it had better be for as much money as Bennett was to make. When Prucha and Vincow chose to offer me four thousand dollars a year less than that sum, in part on the basis of erroneous information that they had gathered through some indirect means (instead of simply asking me directly!), they made it impossible for me to join the faculty of Syracuse University.

"But that part of the telephone call was less appalling than what followed. Dean Vincow now undertook to extract from me some assurance that I would reply to the offer immediately. When I explained that I would have to have time to take the offer to my Department (an offer, recall, which he was not yet ready to reveal to me), he actually asked me why I wished to do such a thing. Does the man have no knowledge or understanding of the elemental courtesies of the academic world? If he does not know how scholars behave in the big leagues, then he ought not to try to play ball anywhere but in a sandlot!

"Then, having engaged in the most egregious behavior imaginable, Dean Vincow took a step further, and pressured me to assure him that I would make my decision entirely independently from my wife. Now, reflect: from the very first, my wife and I had conducted our negotiations entirely separately. Indeed, the willingness of Syracuse to treat us as independent scholars had been one of the most attractive features of the move. At the very moment when he was insisting that I make my decision rapidly and in complete independence of my wife's decision (and this, I keep repeating, in response to an offer not yet made, whose terms he would not reveal), Dean Vincow and Provost Prucha were deliberately holding up my wife's final offer in order to "coordinate" it with mine! This last, incidentally, we have directly from Arthur Hoffman. To put the matter as bluntly as possible, Prucha and Vincow were buying a package, in their way of thinking, and they wanted to know the price of the total package before they made any offers. Well, I don't want to be treated that way, my wife doesn't want to be treated that way, and we certainly do not want to join a faculty of a university whose administration treats its professors that way.

"Meanwhile, Syracuse delayed so long that our local faculty union arrived at an agreement with the administration on a pay increase package. The University has agreed to raise my salary to the top of the scale. When the new contract is added to that, my salary as of September 1, 1979 (the starting date of the contract offered by Syracuse) will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000 or a trifle more. So even if I were not offended by the behavior of the administration at Syracuse, it would require an offer equal to Bennett's to move me!

"The bitterest irony of all is that on our recent trip to Syracuse, my wife and I found a house that we immediately fell in love with. it is the only house I have seen in the past ten years that is genuinely lovelier than the house in which we live. Had John Prucha and Gerson Vincow been willing to make my wife the offer they made to a scholar at the University of Connecticut; had they been prepared, in their dealings with us, to preserve the same high standards of professional courtesy that were at every stage maintained by the members of the two Departments, I, my wife, and our two children would almost certainly be living in that house next summer.

"It should go without saying that I retain the warmest feelings for the members of your Department, and for the other Syracuse faculty whom I had the great pleasure of meetings. I am honored that your Department invited me to join their ranks, and I am sure that in years to come I shall see more of all of you. I very much hope, for the future well-being of your Department, that you are able to lead your Administration to adopt a more professional attitude toward the recruiting of senior faculty.

I hope you will convey my warmest thanks, and my regrets, to the members of the Search Committee and to the entire Department. My special thanks to you for the endless hours you put into what could, and should, have been a successful endeavour. With all best wishes,"

Shortly after this fiasco, the M. I. T. Literature Section of the Humanities Department contacted Cindy about the possibility of her joining them. It should come as no surprised that she jumped at the chance. The Humanities Department had gathered up some very distinguished people in a number of fields, Noam Chomsky being the best know. Ever since her medical school days, Cindy had had an inclination toward the sciences, though she had not pursued that inclination since leaving Harvard Medical School to return to Literature. The negotiations were protracted, but in the end produced an attractive offer that in time turned into the Class of 1922 Professorship of Literature. From then until her retirement a quarter of a century later, Cindy received the recognition and respect for which she had worked so hard and had so richly earned.

I knew that I could not continue to run STPEC from Boston, so I went in search of someone to take over its directorship. With extraordinary good fortune, I discovered a young scholar in the German Department, Sara Lennox, whose energy, politics, and commitment to students made her the perfect fit for STPEC. She agreed to take the program over, and what had been, under my rather casual management a small but reasonably successful operation quickly became a flourishing enterprise, one of the very best such programs in the entire country. As I sit here at my desk, typing these words, I am wearing a STPEC T-shirt that features a Red Star. STPEC had taken a bold step to the left. I was thrilled, and for thirty years now I have shamelessly claimed some measure of credit for Sara's success.

Once it was certain that Cindy would be going to MIT, we decided to move to the Boston area. This meant selling our house in Northampton, and buying something there. We settled on Belmont, an upscale bedroom community just west of Cambridge that has long been a community favored by Harvard professors. Selling our house was going to be difficult, despite the fact that it was one of the loveliest homes in Northampton. America was in the grips of stagflation, with interest rates as high as 13 and 14 percent.

Before we knew that we were going to be moving, I had been approached by the Yale Political Science Department to teach a course for them in the Spring. I proposed a course on Marx's Political Economy, which they agreed to. They scheduled the combined undergraduate and graduate course one day a week, on Thursdays, so that I could also participate in a bag lunch meeting of faculty in Economics and Political Science. Each Thursday in the Spring, I would drive down Interstate 90 for an hour, find a parking place, and teach my class before going to the lunch. Apparently no one had taught a course on Marx at Yale in living memory, so more than seventy students signed up, including a young man named Tony Marx who later became President of Amherst College. More than twenty years later, I finally got to meet him.

The bag lunch was a rather high toned affair. Several of Yale's most notable figures were regulars, including the extremely distinguished Political Scientist Robert Dahl and the noted Political Scientist and Economist Charles Lindblom. The general idea was that each week, one or another of the regulars would circulate in advance a paper for discussion. Also in attendance were several junior faculty, whose deferential demeanor toward Dahl and Lindblom, I am afraid, got on my nerves. I had been away from the Ivy League for almost a decade, and had become used the lack of pretence on State University campuses. One week, during our discussion, one of the junior chaps [they were all men, by the way] said to Charles Lindblom, "Well, sir, you may recall that you have written," and then proceeded to quote verbatim from memory an entire paragraph of one of Lindblom's books. I was appalled, and it seemed to me that Lindblom did not have the good grace to be embarrassed.

Among the junior acolytes was an eager young Assistant Professor of Political Science. When it came his turn to submit something for our consideration, he sent round a rather long paper. I read it through and thought that it was really rather vacuous, for all that it was smoothly written. At the lunch, he began our discussion by saying, "I have been thinking of expanding this into a book, and I would welcome your recommendations." There was a silence, and then I spoke up. 'Well," I said, "I have always believed that every good book is really the unfolding of one powerful central idea. I have read your paper, and I confess that I am unable to find a strong central idea in it. So I think perhaps it would be better if you did not try to turn it into a book." There was what I can only describe as an appalled silence, after which Lindblom spoke up in a supportive way and the rest kept the discussion going.

Several weeks later, when the semester came to an end, my Teaching Assistants, who were graduate students in Poli Sci, told me that I had been under consideration for a professorship, but had lost the offer because of my performance at the Thursday lunch. I cannot say I was devastated by the news.

That same Spring, quite unexpectedly, I was invited to give a talk to the Harvard Graduate Philosophy Club, the same organization I had chaired almost a quartet of a century earlier. I suggested two topics, one quite technical, the other a good deal lighter. They opted for the less demanding talk, and I agreed to speak. On April 9, 1980, I drove in to Harvard Square. It was my first visit to the Harvard Yard in nineteen years. Fortunately, I knew what to expect. The only faculty member who showed up was Ronnie Dworkin, who was visiting that year, I imagine. After saying hello, he allowed as how he would have to leave in the middle of the talk, which he did. Harvard was just as warm and fuzzy as it had been when I left. After the talk, the students took me to dinner, and who should show up but Jack Rawls! I thought it was odd to pass up the talk and come to the dinner, but we chatted politely. At one point I remarked on the renovations that had been carried out in Philosophy Hall since my time there. The staircase had been redone, and the second floor was now a hollow square, with faculty offices along the outer walls. Martha Nussbaum was then an Assistant Professor in the Department -- the first woman in the history of the department, I believe. I noted that on my quick tour of the upstairs I had seen a men's toilet and a women's toilet for the students, and a faculty bathroom. What facilities, I wondered, did Martha use. The world's greatest expert on distributive justice explained benignly that since her office was right across the hall from the women's toilet, it was not a problem. I did not regret having failed to secure an Assistant Professorship all those years ago.

As I have made abundantly clear in these memoirs, I was very unhappy in the Philosophy Department, where I was marginalized by Feldman and the majority clique and bored as well by the narrow and stultifying sort of philosophy being carried on by them. Once it was clear that we were moving to Belmont, I started to put out feelers in the Boston area for a teaching position. Late in the Spring I made contact with Fred Sommers, who was then Chair of the Brandeis Philosophy Department. We had lunch, and somewhat later I had lunch again, this time with several of the senior members. Things progressed in a very promising fashion, so much so that Fred arranged for me to moonlight a course there in the Fall. A bit later, he asked me to visit in the Spring of '81, and I agreed readily. I was prepared to commute back to Amherst, but with the situation in the Philosophy Department being as it was, I would have been quite happy to move on.

On August first, we closed on a house at 16 Garfield Road in Belmont Hill, the upscale section of Belmont. It was a large and perfectly serviceable home, to which, as usual we had many renovations made, but it could not hold to candle to the Barrett Place home we were leaving. On August 22nd, Gleason Movers packed us up, and the next day they loaded all of our belongings for the short trip to Boston.

In the words of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham, we were moving up to The Show.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


With this installment ,I start posting longer segments. I was getting too far ahead of myself, and there is lots more to come.

That was all well and good, but I still had not written the textbook. Since I really did not want to, I kept putting it off. Finally, the summer of '74 arrived, and I realized I was going to have to take steps. There was no question of paying the money back! It had been spent long since. Clearly, I would have to turn in something. It did not have to be great. It just had to look like a book. If they decided not to publish it, that was their lookout. How long did an Intro Philosophy text have to be? I figured eight chapters: What is Philosophy?, Ethics, Social Philosophy, Political Philosophy [I thought I could get away with dividing those two, making it easier on me], Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Art. It was the beginning of July, and the book was due on Labor Day. Eight chapters, eight weeks. A chapter a week. I decided to start each chapter with a brief biography of one of the great philosophers, and then introduce the subject matter of the chapter by talking about his contribution to that branch of philosophy. I would include little snippets from the great philosophers in the body of the text, as a way of giving the students at least the flavor of the subject as I knew it. Since there was not going to be much time for library research -- never my long suit anyway -- I hired a really bright and energetic graduate student, Karen Soderlind, to be my legs.

And away I went, sitting in my lovely third floor office, hunting and pecking on the old standard typewriter. By the end of the summer I had a book. I sent the manuscript in, and breathed a sigh of relief. No one would be dunning me for the six thousand dollars. I went down to Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, just across the George Washington Bridge, for a production meeting with the editorial staff. They had just published an elementary Math textbook called About Mathematics, so we decided to call my book About Philosophy. The cover would be an array of little portraits of the eight beginning-of-the-chapter figures.

To my delight and astonishment, the book was a success. Apparently, I had managed just the right tone and level of difficulty. After a while, Prentice Hall wanted a new edition. It was not as though anything new had happened in the field. Philosophy grows slowly, after all. Sometimes five hundred years go by without much change. But students were beginning to buy used copies, and Prentice Hall, like all textbook publishers, wished to discourage such outrageous behavior by bringing out new editions of its texts periodically. The years have passed, and editors at Prentice Hall have come and gone. About Philosophy is now in its tenth edition and its fifteenth Philosophy Editor. Next year, it will be thirty five, and the current editor is already making noises about an eleventh edition. It has been a steady money maker, but the truth is that to me it is something more than a cash cow. Liberated from all constraints by the circumstances in which I wrote it, About Philosophy became a statement from my heart of what I conceive philosophy to be. Like In Defense of Anarchism, it is a personal statement, not a contribution to scholarship. If students can still find their way into philosophy through its pages, I am content.

In 1971, Jack Rawls published A Theory of Justice, which soon came to be recognized as the most important contribution to political philosophy by an American in the twentieth century. Some time after it appeared, the publisher sent me a complimentary copy of the big book with the dark purplish cover. I had already published an article about the early version of Jack's theory, and I knew pretty well what I thought about the enterprise, but I said to myself, "You consider yourself a political philosopher. Pretty clearly, you need to read the whole thing." I put the volume by my side of the bed and started reading a little bit each evening before going to sleep. There seemed to be a thousand words on every page, and there were a great many pages, each one of which had the power to send me off to dreamland. I managed to get through about 130 pages and gave up. Some while later, I sucked it up and started again. This time I made it through maybe 160 pages, but I just could not keep myself going.

Finally, in the fall of 1975, I decided to offer a graduate course called "The Use and Abuse of Formal Models in Political Philosophy," a subject that had engaged me since my abortive attempt to publish my book on deterrence theory and military strategy. By this time, Bob Nozick had published his sprightly, engaging, utterly mad book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which was as easy to read as Jack's was difficult. I put together a dauntingly challenging course, in which I proposed to take my students first through Kenneth Arrow's masterful monograph, Social Choice and Individual Values, and then through much of the standard mathematical treatment of Game Theory, Games and Decisions by Duncan Luce and Howard Raiffa. Once the students had that material under their belts, I would lecture on Rawls and Nozick, showing how each of them had misused the formal materials in his book. I had a covert motive in teaching the course. I figured that if I assigned Rawls' book, I would have to read it all the way through.

I knew from long experience that if I was going to lecture on formal materials, with proofs and all, I needed to prepare elaborate formal lecture notes. No off the cuff winging it. That way lay serious classroom embarrassment. I prepared lecture notes that, by the end of the semester, filled three spring binders. I tried to keep ahead of myself, so that while I was lecturing on ordinal and cardinal preference orders, I was preparing my notes on Arrow's General Possibility Theorem, and while I was lecturing on Game Theory, I would be preparing my notes on Rawls. The plan worked, at least at first. Confronted by the knowledge that I would be walking into a classroom and lecturing on A Theory of Justice, I actually managed to read the whole thing straight through. After the opening 150 pages or so, I found it stultifyingly boring, but I persevered.

Then, on October 19th, the phone rang. I answered it, my father's voice, so soft that I could barely hear it. "Rob, it is very bad." My parents had been getting ready to go out for the evening. When my father went upstairs to get my mother, he found her lying on her bed. She had died instantly of a heart attack. It was not her first heart attack. That had been in 1950, during my Freshman year at Harvard. Born with the century in 1900, she was seventy-five.

I hurried down to Queens to be with my father, who was devastated. They had been childhood sweethearts, married for fifty-four years. I do not think he had ever even considered what he would do without her, were she to go first. I had brought my work with me, in part as a protection against the grief I was feeling. Late that night, after my father finally went to bed in that little row house he and my mother had bought thirty-five years earlier, I went up to the unfinished attic, which was lit only by a raw, uncovered light bulb. I sat on a box of old books for more than a hour, trying to master the details of the proof of L. E. J. Brouwer's Fixed Point Theorem, the essential step in von Neuman's proof of the Fundamental Theorem of Game Theory.

The funeral was held at the same funeral parlor on Queens Boulevard from which my grandmother and other family members had been buried. My sister, Barbara, came in from California. A strange thing happened at the memorial service that preceded the drive to the cemetery. It was pretty clear that everyone expected my mother to be remembered as a good wife and mother and faithful companion of my father, the intellectual, the high school principal, the brains in the couple. But I had always thought of my mother as smarter, sharper, more genuinely intellectual than my father, for all that she had never finished high school. Her skill at Scrabble was legendary; my father would not play with her, for fear of losing. Apparently, my sister had the same perception, for independently of one another, we prepared remarks remembering our mother as a genuinely smart and interesting woman in her own right, not merely as the adjunct to the Brain. Although he said nothing, I am convinced that my father's nose was seriously out of joint. My sister and I had not been at all close for years, in part because Cindy was so unwelcoming to her in our home, but on that October day in New York, we began to re-establish a warm and open connection that has persisted and strengthened to this day.

By the time I returned from the funeral, I was deep into the Game Theory lectures in my course, with the Rawls segment looming. My lecture notes were carefully organized in pen and ink, with headings and sub-headings and sub-sub-headings and important phrases, diagrams, and formulae all worked out on the page. I was taking no chances. When I started to make up my lecture notes on Rawls, I encountered a curious problem. Every time I tried to write a phrase or a key word, it came out on the page as a complete sentence. I would crumple up the sheet of paper and start again, but once again I found myself writing sentences. Finally, I panicked. "Look," I told myself, "you have to make up these lectures. If your brain wants to write sentences, then just write formal lectures and read them to the students. They won't like it, but you will get through."

On November 5, two weeks after the funeral, I began to write. I finished writing my lectures on November 29, just three weeks later. I read each lecture to my students as though I were presenting a paper at a conference. Sure enough, they were not too thrilled with being read at class after class. Then I moved on to Nozick's book, which I had no trouble reducing to carefully laid out lecture notes. Looking back on those months now, I am sure that my manic writing of the Rawls lectures was, more than anything else, a way of denying my pain at my mother's death.

The next semester, after I had settled down and come to terms with the death of my mother, I took out my spring binders of notes from the course and looked again at the Rawls lectures. It seemed to me that they constituted a short book. I had actually typed them out on the same old standard typewriter that was now my preferred tool for writing books. I found a secretarial service in downtown Northampton that would, for a fee, retype the pages on an IBM Selectric, state of the art in those days before computers. At Columbia, I had had a very good graduate student, Sandy Thatcher, who had left the program before finishing his degree and was now the Philosophy Editor at Princeton University Press. I sent him the manuscript and asked whether he thought it was a book. He said he did, and offered me a contract. On May 12, 1976, I signed the contract. After a bit of telephone brainstorming, we came up with the title Understanding Rawls. The book appeared the next year in both hard cover and paperback editions. I never read A Theory of Justice again.

Those were good years in Northampton. Our lives took on somewhat the feel of one of those old television family friendly sitcoms. I taught the boys how to ride bikes, running down Barrett Place holding on to the seat as one or the other of them pedaled madly and tried to stay upright. Once they mastered the bicycle, they would go on "explores," biking to parts of the city they have never seen. I had not the slightest fear for their safety. I recall one day walking downtown on Main Street with Cindy when around a corner came Patrick, on his bike. There he was, free, on his own, liberated from home and parents by the bicycle. Later on, as he grew a bit older, he even had a paper route.

My book lined pine paneled third floor study was an academic's heaven. It ran the length of the house from front to back, looking out both on Barrett Place and on a little patio between the family room and the new garage we had built during the renovations. To this day, I can recall the cool, sunlit Fall day, October 10, 1973, when I sat at my pedestal desk, with a tiny portable television set before me, watching the Mets beat the Reds in the fifth and final game of the playoffs for the National League Championship and listening to the spot announcements of Spiro Agnew's resignation. I knew that life had very little to offer that could be any better.

One day, I had a truly odd visitation. A member of the SUNY Buffalo Philosophy Department had called to ask whether I would be willing to meet with an exchange student visiting them from the Soviet Union. A Miss Tanya Snegirova, he said, was interested in anarchism, and wished to interview me. Of course I said I would be delighted, and in due course she found her way to my home office. She was writing her doctoral dissertation, she said, under the direction of Yuri Melville, who apparently specialized in American thought and letters. She had been assigned to study my philosophy. [I had this bizarre fantasy that Melville told five students to study Rawls, three to study Nozick, and poor Tanya was left with the gray and brown crayons.]

So we talked. She claimed to be interested in anarchism, but as she talked, I realized that "anarchism" to her was something that medieval Russian Orthodox monks had written about. Ms. Snegirova's English was quite good. Her father, she explained, was an army colonel who had arranged for her to study at a school that taught everything in English. Shades of the KGB. My books were in the library at Moscow State, it seemed, but they were under lock and key, and students needed special permission to get at them, so I pulled extra copies of a number of my books off my shelves and gave them to her to take home to Russia.

It was when I asked her about her husband that I hit pay dirt. She said that he was a sports reporter for Komsomolskaya Pravda, the Communist youth newspaper, and as a part of his job, he had actually interviewed Anatoly Karpov, the World Chess Champion. When seven year old Patrick learned that I had met the wife of a man who had interviewed Karpov, his eyes widened, and I could see that I had gained real status in the family.

In 1976, Patrick was old enough to join the Cub Scouts, and with a little urging from me, he agreed to sign up. I took him to the Jackson Street School on the day listed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and walked up to a desk, behind which sat a lady signing kids in. When we approached, she said to me, with a meaningful look, "We really need a father to serve as Cub Master." Well, I didn't want to look bad in Patrick's eyes, so I said I would do it. For the next four years, I was the Cub Master of the Northampton Cub Scout Pack. The experience was fascinating, even though in a way I hated it. The Pack met each month in the basement of the Blessed Sacrament Church next to the high school. The real work was done by the Den Mothers, all of whom were serious Catholics. I think some of them had never actually met someone Jewish before. The planning meetings were held in our lovely Barrett Place home, where those ladies clearly felt religiously out of place.

My job as Cub Master might best be compared to that of Master of Ceremonies at a monthly party. I came on cheerful and upbeat, chivvying the boys to take part in model car races or cake bake auctions. The auctions, which were designed to raised money, presented a real challenge for me. Each year we would ask the boys to bake cakes, supposedly on their own, but of course really with major help from their parents. We would have a competition, the major goal of which was to have enough categories [biggest, smallest, tallest, shortest, ugliest, most beautiful] so that most of the boys could be declared winners. Then I would auction off the cakes.

I understood that the real goal of the auction was to make sure that each boy managed to win his own cake back, but not everyone was totally on board with that. One year, the priest from the church decided to come to the auction. He got more excited as I auctioned off the cakes, until things came to a head with one particular cake. I started the bidding at ten cents, and he threw in a bid of a quarter. The boy who had baked the cake said forty cents, and the priest came right back with fifty cents. Things went on that way, very spiritedly, until the boy bid two fifty. As the priest said two sixty in a soft voice, I saw the boy's mother shake her head at the boy. "I hear two fifty," I shouted in my best auctioneer's voice. 'Two sixty" the priest said, a little louder. "I still have two fifty," I shouted. "Two sixty" the priest almost screamed. "Sold to the highest bidder for two dollars and fifty cents," I chanted, bringing down my gavel with a bang that brooked no disagreement.

My favorite moment of the entire four years occurred during the so-called "Moving Up Ceremony," when the older boys who were ready for Boy Scouts "moved up" from Cub Scouting. The physical embodiment of this rite of passage was a pin that I presented to each boy who was moving up. As luck would have it, the Moving Up meeting occurred the same night that one of the Cub Scouts, Eddie Scagel, was due to get an award for Catholic Scouting. The award was memorialized by a Mass celebrated in the church upstairs. While the boys and the Den Mothers were attending Mass, I was downstairs setting up for the ceremony. I had conceived the idea of borrowing an archery butt from Look Park, and taping each pin to an arrow. My plan was that as each boy's name was read out, I would fire the arrow into the target with a Robin Hood flourish, after which the boy would pull the arrow from the butt and secure his pin.

I got everything ready a bit ahead of time, and went upstairs to watch the Mass. When I got there, I saw two lines of boys slowly making their way to the altar to receive the Body and the Blood of Christ. There at the end of one of the lines were Patrick and Toby. My first impulse was to rush down the aisle and grab them off the line, but then my atheist self kicked in, and I thought, "What's the difference? There is no God."

When we returned home that night, Cindy asked me how the meeting had gone. Cindy, you will recall, was a lapsed Catholic from a very seriously religious family. '" It was great," I said. "Patrick and Toby received Holy Communion." The blood drained from Cindy's face, she went as white as a sheet, and I thought she was going to faint.

In the late Spring of '77, I was driving home from campus one day listening to the local public radio station [WFCR or Five College Radio], when I heard a report that there were two at-large seats open on the Northampton School Committee for which there were no candidates in the upcoming election. Northampton has six Wards, and the School Committee has eight members -- one for each Ward and two at-large members who represent the entire city of 30,000 plus. I thought to myself, "Two seats and no candidates. I might be able to win an election like that." I announced for School Committee At-Large, but before too long, two other people stepped forward as candidates, and I was in a real race. One of the two was an old Northampton type who had been active in local politics for a long time, John Lawler. The other was a Smith College undergraduate who was a townie, a native of the city.

By this time, Charles and Maurianne Adams had sold their house to one of Cindy's young colleagues, David Paroissien, and his wife. They volunteered to be my campaign managers, and we launched a high powered campaign to win one of the two open seats. My campaign literature announced me as a veteran of the Yankee Division of the Army National Guard, Massachusetts' own, as the Cub Master of the Northampton Cub Scout Pack, as a father of two children in the public schools, and as a Professor at the State University. I thought it was probably better not to mention the anarchism, the atheism, and the incipient Marxism. We had bumper stickers, we had a radio spot that aired once, but my ace in the hole was Patrick. Since the seat was at-large, I had to campaign in every part of Northampton, which meant venturing into neighborhoods I had never visited. I took Patrick along with me as I rang doorbells and knocked on doors. I would always introduce "my son, Patrick," hoping that despite my New York Jewish accent, the voters might take me as Irish Catholic.

I think I was doing pretty well, until I got blindsided one morning by a Gazette reporter. He called me at seven a.m to ask whether I thought Smith College was doing enough for public education in the city. The question had never crossed my mind, but I thought the safe thing to say was that Smith College needed to do more. Several days later, I heard through the grapevine that a rumor was sweeping the Smith faculty that if elected, I was going to try to impose a special surtax, over and above the sizable real estate tax, on all members of the Smith College faculty. On election day, I came in third, thirty six votes behind the Smithie. I lost Ward Two, the locus of Smith College. We organized a recount that brought me within twelve votes, but it was not enough. My one venture into electoral politics was a failure. But it was not a total loss. From then on, when I walked down the street, people I had never met would say hello to me. One of them told me that I had run a good race, and maybe after I lived in town for another twenty or thirty years, I should try again.

As Patrick got better at chess, our games became rather tense. It was extremely important to Patrick to win, and he was good enough to tell when I deliberately threw a game. I tried first to limit us to one game a day, but that did not seem to drain any of the intensity out of the competition. By the time he was seven or eight, he was certainly my equal, and growing stronger daily. Luckily, I found a chess club for children run by a local tournament player named Dwayne Catania. Catania was not at all a strong player -- I think his USCF rating was about 1625 -- but he knew all about tournaments and ratings and the world of competitive chess. And he was not me. I stopped playing chess with Patrick and became his rooter, his support staff, his biggest fan, and his Daddy.

There is nothing glamorous about competitive chess, at least until you climb to the very highest level of international competition. It takes place on weekends in Holiday Inns and Best Western Motels. The tournaments at the level Patrick competed in for many years are organized on something called the Swiss System. All the entrants are listed according to their USCF ratings. Then the list is divided in half, and in the first round, the top player plays the player at the top of the second half, the second highest player plays the second player in the second half, and so forth. After the first round, there are three groups of players: those who won their first game, those who drew, and those who lost. Each group is divided and paired in the same way. In a five round Swiss, this process is repeated five times. In the last round, the two players who have won all of their previous games, if there are any, play for the tournament championship and the money prize, usually no more than a few hundred dollars. Then the USCF adjusts everyone's rating, and they all wait for the next tournament.

Patrick started out playing in scholastic tournaments -- kids in grades 1 to 6, and so forth, but he started winning those without much trouble and quickly graduated to adult tournaments in which he played as an equal against grownups. He did not like me to hover as he played, so I would drop him off and go home to wait until it was time to pick him up. If he won, he was happy, and it never occurred to him to call old Dad and tell him about the game, but if he lost, he would call, tears in his voice, and I would rush down to the motel to be with him. Very quickly, I discovered that what he needed at those moments was carbohydrates, specifically french fries. so we would make a MacDonald's run and I would drop him off back at the motel for his next game.

I have a thousand memories of those early days in Patrick's career, but one stands out. When he was ten or eleven, Patrick played a one day tournament in the little mill town of Athol, MA, on route 2 east of Amherst. It was a pretty marginal affair, but there really weren't that many tournaments in Western Mass, and Patrick was eager for any chance to raise his rating. The tournament was held in the recreation hall of the Union Twist Drill Co., a large brick structure sitting across a bridge from the center of town. There was no place to wait and nothing to do, so I found my way to a convenience store across the bridge and hung out until it was time to take Patrick home. He won at least one of his games. Years later, when he was all grown up, I reminisced about his early chess days, and reminded him of the Union Twist Drill Co. Without missing a beat, he said, "Yes, I pushed my queen's rook pawn to the eighth rank and queened it. After that it was easy to win." Like all great players, Patrick seems to have total recall of the games he has played, even in mill towns like Athol.

My alienation from the Philosophy Department led me more and more to seek teaching satisfactions elsewhere. STPEC flourished, and absorbed some of my energies, to be sure, but I really wanted to do some serious classroom teaching. In the Fall of 1976, I decided to offer a graduate course called "Classics of Critical Social Theory." I assigned Capital, Volume I, Theories of Value and Distribution Since Adam Smith, by Maurice Dobb, Freud's New Introductory Lectures and Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Richard Wollheim's splendid book, Sigmund Freud, Philip Rieff's collection, Therapy and Technique, and Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia. Eighteen students signed up for the seminar, not one of whom was a doctoral student in philosophy.

I had read Volume I of Capital in preparation for the Social Studies tutorial I had taught with Barry Moore in '60-'61, but at that time I was quite unprepared to appreciate its power and subtlety, and my knowledge of economics, consisting almost entirely of a reading of Samuelson's text while on my wanderjahr [1954-55], did nothing to help me understand the theoretical issues with which Marx was grappling so brilliantly. I had, of course, taught Marx many times, but always the early Marx, the alienation shtick, "On the Jewish Question" and the Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, the Manifesto.

As I re-read Capital to teach it in the seminar, I had what I can, somewhat pretentiously, describe as an epiphany. I thought I could see how Marx was weaving together philosophical ideas from the Germany of his youth with the economics of the classical political economic tradition of Smith and Ricardo. I thought, too, that I could see the deeper theoretical reasons behind his choice of the extraordinary metaphorical language in which the opening chapters of Volume I are couched. On the spot, I decided that I wanted to undertake a full scale interpretation of Marx's hauptwerk that would bring into fruitful conjunction and interpenetration philosophy, history, ideology, mathematics, economics, and literary criticism. I was pretty sure that it would take me several volumes and a number of years to work it all out, but by then I had written or edited eighteen books and I was prepared to let a few years go by without another.

I did publish a handful of essays in those years, in addition to Understanding Rawls and About Philosophy. In '74, the Philosophical Forum carried "There's Nobody Here But Us Persons: The Denial of the Human Condition in the Liberal Tradition," which struck a blow for women's lib, among other things. I also wrote up my critique of Bob Nozick in an essay that appeared, of all places, in the Arizona Law Review. But the most curious thing to come from my typewriter in those years was yet another essay for the Journal of Philosophy, this one called "On Strasnick's 'Derivation' of Rawls' 'Difference' Principle." A young man named Steven Strasnick had written a doctoral dissertation in the Harvard Philosophy Department in which he claimed to be able to prove Rawls' Difference Principle by applying the methodology of Kenneth Arrow's great monograph, Social Choice and Individual Values. His dissertation committee consisted of Jack Rawls as Director and Bob Nozick and Kenneth Arrow as second readers! Strasnick got a job at Stanford on the strength of this impressive line-up, and published the heart of his proof in JPhil.

I had gone to Athens, Ohio to give a talk, and on the flight home, we got hung up over Hartford-Bradley because of weather. While we circled, I pulled out my copy of JPhil and read Strasnick's article. Something did not seem right to me about it, and by the time we finally landed, I had figured out where things had gone wrong. Essentially, the problem was that Arrow's proof assumes only ordinal preference orderings, whereas Rawls' argument presupposes cardinal utility functions. The attempt to mix these incompatible approaches produced arguments that, despite the off-putting formalism, could be seen to reduce to trivialities that proved nothing.

At first, I was mystified. I could see how Jack might have missed this. Despite all of his impressive talk about "proofs," he didn't actually know much about formal Game Theory or Collective Choice Theory, as he acknowledged in a letter to me. But Bob surely did, and Arrow had invented the stuff, for God's sake. After a while, I knew what must have happened, and in my experience, it wasn't all that unusual. The only one of the three who had read the dissertation carefully, I was willing to bet, was Rawls, and he really wasn't qualified to judge its formal validity. Bob signed off on it after skimming it because Jack said it was all right, and Arrow, an external reader, approved it after a cursory glance as a professional courtesy to a famous senior colleague.

It took me only a short time to write up my intuition in a form sufficiently rigorous to demonstrate formally that Strasnick's "derivation" was invalid. I sent it to JPhil, which published it in their December, 1976 issue. At the same time, I wrote to Rawls to tell him what I had found. He replied somewhat diffidently that there were "a four or five proofs of the Difference Principle floating around," and that was the last I heard from him on the matter.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


All this took a giant leap forward in 1974. The Economics Department was in terrible shape. A group if neo-classicals were feuding with some Chicago Milton Friedman types who had been brought in to jump start things. Enrolment in the intro courses was down, hurting not only Arts and Sciences but also some huge departments like Business and Food and Natural Resources, whose majors were all required to take an Economics course. The Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the time was a really decent man named Dean Alfange, who had ascended to the Deanship from the Chairmanship of Poli Sci. He tried bringing in an outside Chair, but that didn't work. He tried handing the Chairmanship to a young Associate Professor, but that flopped. He even thought of taking the department over himself. At that point, his friend and former colleague, Bill Connolly, came to him with an idea. Bill told him that there was a real hotshot young Harvard economist who had just been denied tenure at Harvard, despite having the support of Paul Samuelson, Wassily Leontiev, and John Kenneth Galbraith. His name, Bill said, was Sam Bowles, and he was spending a sabbatical semester right here in the Pioneer Valley. What about bringing in Bowles?

Sam Bowles was the real deal, arguably the smartest young economist in the country. At Harvard, he had been given the plum of teaching the graduate Micro course, the jewel in every Economics doctoral program. He had been denied tenure because he was a left-wing thinker who did not do the sort of cramped economics that the younger tenured Harvard professors respected. Sam wanted to stay in the area, Bill said. Alfange met with Bowles and asked whether he would be interested in coming to UMass. Right away, Sam said that he had no intention of being the token Marxist in the Econ Department. He would only come if Alfange hired five radical economists, all with tenure walking in the door.

This is where courage comes into it. Instead of throwing Bowles out of his office, Alfange said he would do it, but on one condition: the five had to have gilt-edged Ivy League credentials that Alfange could get past an inattentive Board of Trustees. Bowles recruited Herb Gintis, Richard Wolff, Stephen Resnick, and Rick Edwards. The five met with Alfange, and arrived at an agreement. Overnight, UMass acquired the largest collection of American Marxist economists in captivity.

When the five showed up, some way had to be found for them to live with the people already in the department. Alfange appointed a five man committee to sort things out. Two were neo-classical from the department. Two were drawn from the five new professors. I was the fifth. The committee agreed that the neo-classicals would control the Chairmanship, which went to a really bright, nice mathematical economist named Don Katzner, whose most intense concern seemed to me to be boundary conditions on semi-closed sets. The Marxists would control the Executive Committee of the Department. Everyone agreed that there would be no ideological tests for applicants to the doctoral program. Graduate students would be chosen solely on objective criteria -- GPAs and GREs.

Almost immediately, the West Coast radical magazine Ramparts published a big article about the new radicals at UMass. When it came time for seniors to apply to graduate school, every super-bright hotshot radical econ major in the country applied. The existing neo-classical grad program was a decent second or third tier program, not at all in the league of Harvard or MIT. So the very best neo-classical students applied to UMass only as a back up, having no intention of actually going there. The next Fall, an entire class of top of the line radical graduate students enrolled. Overnight, the program was transformed.

The new faculty were not only smart and left, they were also attractive, charismatic teachers. Enrolments soared, and Alfange was vindicated. But all was not entirely calm. The first problem was the intro courses. Business and Food and Natural Resources wanted the old time religion -- supply and demand curves, elasticities of demand -- Samuelson light, basically. But the graduate students wanted to teach them Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Baran and Sweezy. Sam and Herb and Rick and Steve explained that these courses were the department's bread and butter. If the department did not teach what the big clients wanted, the TA-ships that supported the new graduate students would dry up. The students were not happy.

The second problem was inevitable, and could have been anticipated. Put five Marxists in a room, and the first thing they do is split into two factions. Sam and Herb were a team, joined at the hip, or so it seemed. Shortly after coming to UMass they published Schooling in Capitalist America, probably the most famous work of Marxist scholarship by Americans. They were fiercely smart [and still are, of course], and enormously popular teachers at every level from Intro Econ to the most advanced graduate seminar. Both Herb and Sam are very skilled mathematicians, and their published work shows the power of formal methods when wedded to an uncompromisingly progressive politics. Rick Wolff and Steve Resnick were totally different sorts of intellectual Marxists, much more in the European tradition. They were seriously enamored of the writings of the most refined and sophisticated of the French Marxists, Louis Althusser. Rick and Steve are movement builders, and over the years they have forged a school of Marxist analysis that has its own publications, annual scholarly conventions, and acolytes. Like Herb and Sam, Rick and Steve were enormously popular lecturers. As the years went by, the Economics Department recruited more and more radical economists, becoming the largest and most intellectually powerful Marxist economics department in America.

There is a lovely story about Rick Wolff that I would like to tell. This is really Rick's story, not mine, but since I think Rick has more important things to do than write his memoirs, I hope he will not mind if I appropriate it. It seems that before the Second World War, Rick's father was a jurist in Europe who used his official position to help a number of Jews escape from the Nazis. Rick's family came to the United States, and eventually Rick went to Harvard. He was in his Harvard room one day when there was a knock on the door. It was a little man named Fritz Pappenheim. Pappenheim said that Rick's father had helped him to escape to the United States, and he was here now to repay that debt, by undertaking Rick's real education. For the next several years, as Rick took the standard Economics and Sociology and Government courses that Harvard offered in those days, Pappenheim conducted a private tutorial for Rick, taking him through the writings of Marx and the great sociologists, philosophers, economists, and political theorists of the European tradition. It was that informal tutorial, not what he learned in his classes, Rick said, that shaped his intellectual development. I have often thought that if Rick were a bit younger, he might have encountered at least some of that tradition in Social Studies.

All of this -- the Economics Department, the Legal Studies Department, the Afro-American Studies Department, the Labor Center, and smart, radical intellectuals scattered across the campus in English, German, Comparative Literature, and elsewhere -- made UMass in the 70's, 80's, and 90's one of the most exciting campuses in America. The buildings were in serious need of repair, the budgets were periodically slashed, the university suffered through a series of less than stellar top administrators, but the place was alive. It turned out that my decision to walk away from Columbia was a brilliant career move.

The termination of my analysis and Cindy's lifted a great burden from my shoulders. No longer did I have to teach summer school or hunt up moonlighting opportunities. Between the Fall of 1971 and the Spring of 1980, I did not teach a single course above my mandated load. Edited books also stopped dropping from my sleeves like tribbles, [StarTrek episode, December 29, 1967] although there were three in the works that appeared in '71, '72, and '73. But I still had hanging over my head an unfinished book on Kant's ethics. I had begun the project while teaching Ethical Theory for the first time at Columbia in 1964-65. Fresh from what I felt was my successful engagement with the First Critique, I conceived the book as a critique and reinterpretation of Kant's ethical theory that would succeed at long last in producing the demonstration a priori of the Categorical Imperative that Kant claimed to have given us in the Grundlegung. Those of you reading this, if there are any, who are both knowledgeable about Kantian ethical theory and also conversant with my In Defense of Anarchism will recognize that I desperately needed such an argument to sustain the objectivist premise I had laid down in the latter work.

Ordinarily, as should by now be clear, I write quickly and finish a book without delays, but this project had been in the works for seven years. The problem was simple: I could not get the story right. Kant tries three times in the Grundlegung to demonstrate a priori the universal validity of the Fundamental Principle of Morality, and three times he fails. He first tries, as indeed he ought, to derive the conclusion from an analysis of the nature of willing as such. That attempt comes to grief with the famous, and famously unsatisfactory, Four Examples of the Categorical Imperative. His second attempt is the analysis of humanity as an end in itself, but deeply moving though that passage is, it turns out not actually to mean anything coherent. His final attempt is the concept of a Realm of Ends, which in fact is far and away the most promising of the three. But although Kant has a pretty good argument for the claim that rational agents, if they enter into a Kingdom of Ends, are objectively obligated to abide by its laws [a line of argument he gets from Rousseau], he has in the Grundlegung no proof that rational agents as such are obligated to form a Kingdom of Ends. The dictates of the legislature in the Realm of Ends are therefore hypothetical, not categorical, in force.

It was this unsatisfactory state of affairs, this story without an ending, that kept me from finishing the book. Shortly after settling into the Barrett Place house, I returned to the project, and more by main force than by inspired storytelling, pushed through to a conclusion. In Defense of Anarchism had been such a marked success that Harper and Row agreed to publish the book, and in 1973 it finally appeared under the title The Autonomy of Reason. I have never been happy with that book, even though I do think it contains valuable explications of some of Kant's most impenetrable texts. Some years later, I was paging through Kant's Rechtslehre, for reasons I cannot now recall, and I came upon a discussion of property that I realized constituted the missing step in the argument for which I had been searching. When I was invited to contribute an essay to a festschrift for Barrington Moore, I sat down and wrote a paper that I called "The Completion of Kant's Moral Theory in the Tenets of the Rechtslehre." The editor of the festschrift rejected it because it did not "fit in" with the rest of the essays, and I put the essay in a file cabinet. Years later, I was invited to contribute to a volume of new essays on Kant's philosophy, and I sent it along. It finally appeared in 1998 in a volume called Autonomy and Community: Readings in Contemporary Kantian Social Philosophy. It is actually a rather important essay, in my judgment, showing, among other things, exactly what the relationship is of Jack Rawls' "theory of justice" to Kant's moral philosophy.

The most successful book I have ever written, if we measure success by the size of the royalty checks, was really just an effort at uxorial support. After completing the preparation of her dissertation for publication, Cindy set right to work on a full-scale study of the novels of the American author Edith Wharton [resulting, of course, in my introduction to yet another body of wonderful literature with which I had until then been totally unfamiliar]. She won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that permitted her to take off the academic year 1972-73. She worked feverishly, but at the end of the year still very much needed another semester of free time before going back to teaching. I should explain, parenthetically, that the members of the English Department had rejected suggestions that they reduce their teaching load to two-and-two by scheduling large lectures and discussion sections taught by graduate students. Rather nobly, they insisted that literature could only properly be taught in small classes, and took on themselves a three-three load that no one else in the faculties of Arts and Sciences bore. Cindy simply could not work as she needed to on her Wharton book while carrying that burden of teaching. But with Mrs. McEwan's salary, we did not think we could afford to have her take off a semester without pay.

As her fellowship year was coming to a close, I had a visitation from two Prentice Hall editors. My textbook for them, Philosophy: A Modern Encounter, had been extremely successful, albeit short-lived, and they thought I might be just the person for a new project they wanted to launch. Their formidable sales force of reps who visit Philosophy professors in community colleges and State University campuses across America were reporting that the students found the traditional casebooks too difficult to understand. Twenty pages of Descartes, half a Platonic dialogue, or a section of the Grundlegung was just more than they could handle. Would I be willing to write a readable textbook aimed at "the lower end of the market?"

I really was not attracted by the idea. After pouring out book after book to pay for the analytic bills, I wanted to spend time with my boys, do my teaching, and relax. But then it struck me that this might be the solution to Cindy's problem. "I will do it," I said, "if you give me an advance big enough to allow my wife to take a semester off without pay so that she can finish her scholarly book." How much would that be?, they wanted to know. Given Cindy's salary as an Assistant Professor, I figured we could manage it for $6,000. [Lest anyone think I was nickel and diming it, I will point out that in 2010 constant dollars, that is just shy of $30,000.] They agreed, and on July 12, 1973, I signed the contract, committing myself to turn in the finished manuscript one year later, at the end of the summer of 1974. Cindy took the semester off, she broke the back of her Wharton project, and in 1977, A Feast of Words was published to universal acclaim, establishing her as a major critic of American fiction