Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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

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

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Monday, April 2, 2018


I had a comment on a recent post that was so wonderful I had to pause and acknowledge it.  Here is the comment in full, originally appended to my post entitled “Whew”:

Anonymous said...
I am a non-white woman from India and I have been reading your blog for more than two years. As a mother pursuing PhD in her early 40s, I could perhaps be the least noteworthy of all your readers. I decided to post a comment because in your previous post you mentioned that your blogs have very low female/non-white readership. Let me point out, I have finished watching your Youtube lecture series on Kant, ideological critique and Marx. Currently, I am on the third part of the Freud series. I can’t thank you enough for taking the effort and putting those videos out in the public domain. As a person, without any training or knowledge of philosophy and with very limited resources at hand, your lecture series, blogs and even the discussions on comments section have helped me immensely. In fact, I have recommended your lecture series to some of my friends and fellow students. So, I hope you will soon see a spurt in your non-white readership. 

Also, I can’t help but mention one point. Maybe it is cultural. I know capitalism is not the most rational form of production. But sometimes, in a caste-ridden society like India, where some people (due to their birth status) are condemned to do certain jobs like picking up garbage and cleaning sewage (with no escape at all for generations), money can help transcend barriers. In that case, a man making millions from trash (as you mentioned in your Marx series) is something to be celebrated. For millions of people out there, it gives hope and a modicum of dignity – the dignity of labour, which is hard to come by. Just a thought.”

I am thrilled beyond description by this, and I thank the anonymous writer most warmly.  No writer could ever hope for a better audience!  Google counts do not really matter, not when Rosanne Barr gets twenty million viewers for her latest TV show.  What matters is that miraculously, I have somehow reached out across half the world and found a reader.

I am of course completely aware of the existence of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of men, women, and children around the world whose only way of surviving is by picking over or collecting or sweeping up the garbage left by the more fortunate.  For those of you who have not watched the video, I was trying to illustrate the fact that capitalists are motivated solely by a search for the largest available rate of return on invested capital, regardless of the social status of the investment.  I mentioned Louis Wolfson, an American who made a fortune after WW II in the garbage collection industry.  My failure to point out the existence of people who have no other choice was sheer thoughtlessness and insensitivity, for which the writer of the comment, in the gentlest possible fashion, quite properly chastised me.

I trust that my hardy band of the usual suspects will not be affronted that I have devoted such attention to this comment, coming from an unexpected source.  I love you all!

Anonymous, if I may address you thus, dare I ask the subject of your dissertation?  I am delighted to be able to acknowledge your presence in the circle of readers of this blog.


Jerry Fresia said...

What a wonderful experience/comment this must be for you. The miracle of the internet reaching around the world and into places and minds that good old and standard higher educations institutions could never reach. And the youtube videos! posterity plus.

So there must be two "Anonymous" commentators, then, given that one Anonymous has identified himself as David. I liked that
Charles Pigeon provided a bio. More important for you, perhaps, but as a reader/commentator, I like it when the rather sterile name metamorphoses into flesh and blood.

Anonymous said...

From yet another anonymous commenter:

Congrats are in order to Prof. Wolff for his video lectures. These are invaluable even for seasoned university students with resources, not to mention people from across the globe who do not have the same access to high-quality education once-in-lifetime professor like Wolff.

As for the specific comment from a viewer from India, I was struck by the often repeated mythical example of captialism working in India and the use of "...a man making millions from trash..."

Experience shows that there is no such success due to capitalism in India. Whatever gains one might notice, is entirely due to clever exploitation and not capitalism of the labor theory that Marx is talking about. Many political economists more well-versed in Indian conditions, including some recent Nobel Laureates, have better explanations. Such exploitation-based successes (aided no doubt by the caste system) in India can be traced to a long history going back several centuries, under different political and economic regimes, and is not unique to the economic regime in place since India's independence in 1947.

The exploitation in recent years became so acute that the excess profits in a system with no legal way to accumulate turned to hording of currency notes. In fact the evidence on the ground is that exploitation has magnified the problem of the poor in this new global economy of call centers and backoffice operations for the world's businesses. The western businesses they serve may operate in capitalist economies, but the labor and conditions supporting those 24x7 call centers do not. According to one UN study, India is well on track to housing 90% of world's poor in 50 years.

A couple of years ago, the TV program, 60 minutes, did a story in an Indian call center. That segment would be very instructive for this discussion. One sound bite that was quite memorable was when they asked an American executive in India why he's there? He said something about how he does not have to deal with employees leaving in the middle of the day to care for a sick child. How about that, a quote that could've come directly from Das Kapital.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

What a lovely comment! Best wishes on your studies, anonympus from India!