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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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

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

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Friday, January 15, 2016


OK, folks, Lecture Two on Ideological Critique is now posted on YouTube.  I welcome your responses, questions, cavils, and digressions.  I think I have mastered the technology now.  As for the content, I leave that to your considered judgment.


Chris said...

I keep trying to zoom in during the lectures and write down all the titles of the books you own, so that I can get better ideas of what to read in life :)

Michael Llenos said...

Dr. Wolff,
Superbly done lecture. I enjoyed it very much. I don't, however, believe Mannheim's solution to be totally pathetic. Professor Isaac Asimov believed, through his David 'Lucky' Starr novels, that scientists and professors should be in charge of all space settlements and politics in the future. So in a sense he agrees with Mannheim's political philosophy--at least in space i.e.. Albeit, I think Plato gave more thought to this than Mannheim. Plato believed philosophers should be presidents (or leaders) and presidents (or leaders) should be philosophers. Meaning politics should be run as usual but only philosophers should be on the ballot--which is more practical than Mannheim's method. For if we do what Mannheim suggests, and have everyone turn to university professors, which only follow Mannheim's reasonings and methods, and who do not take office, then why would a people vote for their leaders when everyone elected are just going to turn towards Mannheim and his followers for advice on every major level? Wouldn't they rather have Mannheim and his followers on the ballot? Wouldn't also the finitude of human life bring about corruption to Mannheim's views? There could branch out bad neo-Mannheim philosophy and so forth from his intellectual inheritors. So, yes, I agree with your assessment and believe Mannheim's solution to be pathetic in the long run.

Jerry Fresia said...

I have now watched both lectures. It becomes so readily apparent how necessary these video lectures are. Having engaged your thoughts through the blog for a few years and not having attended a lecture for decades, I had forgotten just how powerful a tightly constructed lecture is, particularly when punctuated with interesting stories and references to contemporary politics. This, afterall, is what professors do! The element of performance, if that is the right word, is electric.

While both lectures were multi-layered and rich, it felt to me that in the second lecture you had found a way to transform the camera/desk into a live audience.

I hesitate in responding to the content because my first impulse is to watch the lectures a second time but I will say this: are there not members of the intelligentsia (or interested members of the ruling class) who self-consciously construct ideology for ruling classes or emergent ruling classes with whom they identify? I'm thinking of Locke. Or is the construction of ideology always clouded by material interests? And again, I'm thinking of Locke.

Utopian Yuri said...

i agree jerry fresia on the utility of video lectures. they help to reinforce points from old blog posts that i've previously read but not dwelt on - like the analysis of capitalists as those who give permission.

i am troubled by the thought that ideological worldviews are so fixed and rigid. surely the fact that people evolve ideologically over the course of their lives, and in some cases undergo rapid ideological change, indicates that ideologies are not as fixed as mannheim believes. how does mannheim account for such changes?

personally, i hold out hope that ideology can be transcended, or at least that such transcendence can be approximated, by individuals (of whatever class and social standing) who are particularly good at hearing, understanding and integrating the critiques of their cherished positions made by others who hold other ideologies. is that too much to hope?

on a different note, i am wondering if you could talk about your involvement with south african universities. i know you were on record as a strong supporter of institutional divestment from south africa during the apartheid years. did you not also support an academic boycott? or was your involvement at the time consistent with boycott principles? i'm largely curious because i am engaged with the BDS movement to boycott, divest from and sanction israel, and the academic boycott is a particularly controversial topic that i would love to hear your opinion on.

Unknown said...

Hi Bob,

I'm greatly enjoying your lectures so far! After reading about all your travails working out the kinks to get them up, let me assure you that they are well worth it.

Let me ask about the third criterion for a claim's ideological status. To whom, and under what conditions, must ideological claims be so obviously false? Must they be so on their face? If they are so obviously false, how can they serve to protect the interests they are designed for?

Part of what makes me wonder is that the claims of the economists you mention, backed as they are with the mathematics you mention, do not seem so obviously false on their face. And I dare say I know a number of people smarter than I am, whose good faith I also have every reason to trust, who are absolutely convinced by their arguments.

Enoch Lambert

Jerry Fresia said...

FYI: This from Wikipedia: Makers and Takers is a book by Peter Schweizer. It was published by Doubleday in June 2008. The book's thesis is summarized in its subtitle: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less … and even hug their children more than liberals.

I suspect Schweizer actually believes this stuff. I also looked up Frank Luntz who, while not providing ideological theory, seems to be providing ideological word-smithing: "death tax" instead of "estate tax" or "inheritance tax," etc. Would it be incorrect, then, to say that the roots of ideology are matters of resonance? where various theories or word-smithing take hold because they resonate with the interests of ruling classes; ie, acceptably distort explanations of their power?

Unknown said...

Hi Again,

I realized I should have said something stronger and clearer about the folks I mention in my last sentence. It's not just that there's no reason to doubt their good faith. There is good reason to think they are not self-deceived (I'm referring to friends who have been economics majors/grad students). If I have any reason to think that I am not self-deceived about my beliefs in other fields that I have received extensive training in, I don't see why such should not extend to them.