Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

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

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





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Saturday, September 7, 2019

LIFE'S LITTLE PLEASURES


Many, many years ago, a group of German scholars in East Germany [before reunification] undertook to produce a complete scholarly edition of the works of Marx and Engels, adorned  with the full panoply of traditional Germanic scholarship.  Because this edition was, at least officially, intended for the Communist masses, the volumes were quite cheap.  For years I had a standing order at Blackwell’s Bookstore in Oxford for each new volume as it appeared.  The beautiful volumes, bound in blue, cost three or four dollars each, and the entire set sits on the shelves of my Paris apartment.  International Publishers then brought out, volume by volume, an English language edition, which sits on the shelves of my apartment in North Carolina.

One of the delights of these volumes is the identifications of individuals mentioned or included [in the case of letters] in the text.  Here is what I found this afternoon in the Name Index for Lincoln:

Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)  American Statesman, a leader of the Republican Party; President of the United States (1861-85); under the influence of the masses carried out important bourgeois-democratic reforms during the Civil War, thus making possible revolutionary methods of warfare; was shot by a slave-owner’s agent in April 1865.

Ah, the good old days!

10 comments:

Chris said...

Lincoln was also an avid reader of the NY Tribune, which Marx wrote for. No surprise then that Lincoln made the general Marxist point that:



"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Jerry Brown said...

Would an unethical economist describe slaves as part of the slave owners 'capital', sort of the same way machines and factories capitalists might own and use for production would be described? Or would slaves get described as labor? How did Marx make that distinction if he did?

Is the point of the Lincoln description in the volumes that Lincoln managed a war that ended up separating that form of capital from the former owners?

In any event, that is quite a new description of Abraham Lincoln at least for me. How much merit do you think it has? At the moment, I imagine whoever wrote it was smoking some really strong stuff. But I'm always willing to learn new things.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

I can't speak to Marx's view of Lincoln in particular, but writing for the NY Tribune, he and Engels had a positive view of the US Civil War: "Both men saw the war as an extension of the American Revolution of 1776. Marx and Engels argued that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the North’s arming of Black soldiers transformed the Civil War from a purely constitutional war to preserve the country with slavery intact, into a revolutionary war. They did not characterize the Civil War as a socialist revolutionary war, but they believed that it advanced the cause of all workers, both white and Black, by destroying chattel slavery. The revolution armed former slaves, destroyed the horrendous institution of slavery without compensation to the slave-owners, and opened the way for a struggle between the working class and the capitalist class. As a result, our next revolution in this country will be a working-class revolution."

Talha said...

Jerry, what part of the description of Lincoln do you doubt has "merit"? Presumably you are not quibbling with the dates of his life, or that he was an "American Statesman, a leader of the Republican Party; President of the United States (1861-85)" nor that he was indeed shot by John Wilkes Booth, who was acting in the service of a pro-slavery plot.

So what does that leave us with? Do you contest the assessment of the Civil War as enabling "revolutionary methods of war"? I am thinking not.

Then what? I guess maybe that the abolition of slavery was an "important bourgeois-democratic reform"? But what else was it but the consolidation of a liberal order along purely capitalist lines, removal slave labor while leave wage labor in tact? To say this is not to criticize but to make an accurate observation.

Or is your beef with the suggestion that this was done "under the influence of the masses" as opposed to the Great Man interpretation of history favored by pre-modern historians (i.e., those before the 1950s/60s revolution in historiographical understanding) and seemingly most Americans in their pop understanding of the past? I get that it chafes against the fairy tales Americans like to tell about their society and history but do you really think challenging that grade five view of things is evidence of smoking some strong stuff? Is even the mildest departure from American nostrums--especially ones so plainly inaccurate in their understanding of historical processes--really so shocking? Still?

Jerry Brown said...

Well Talha. yes- to start I would question that Lincoln was President from "1861-85". You know kind of because he was dead for twenty of those years according to the 'Great Man interpretation' history that you assume I was indoctrinated in.

Look, I was asking questions about Marx because I am interested but don't know the answers. It is true that I don't understand how abolishing slavery is interpreted as an important "bourgeois-democratic reform" although the democratic part makes sense to me. And that the civil war was due to or "under the influences of the masses" also escapes my understanding. Cause it seems to me that it was mostly the 'masses' that ended up dying in it, at least in the North where Lincoln was presumably influenced from.

And really- why would you jump to all kinds of conclusions about what I might believe about history just because I asked a few questions? Maybe you could smoke some of that strong stuff and lighten up just a bit yourself.

LFC said...

This is off topic but I think will be of interest to some readers of this blog. (What follows are my words -- I am not quoting from or paraphrasing something else, just to make that crystal clear. It's late and I'm tired, so this is not esp. polished, but so be it...)

Immanuel Wallerstein died on Aug.31, at the age of 88. So far obits have mainly appeared in the non-U.S. press, though I'm pretty sure the NYTimes will eventually run one. He was the originator of world-systems analysis and a leading figure in the critical social sciences, indeed one of the most influential social scientists of the 2nd half of the 20th cent. His work was taken into account even by many who did not share his (leftist) political commitments and by those who did share those commitments but might have disagreed with one aspect or another of his historical perspective on capitalism. He collaborated widely w scholars from a number of countries and for many years was director of the Fernand Braudel Center at SUNY-Binghamton. The first vol. of his The Modern World-System, published in his 40s, is an amazing work of scholarship, whether one agrees w its approach and arguments or not.

Here is a short obituary by a Portuguese scholar who knew him. I think this writer is conflating the notions of world-system (w/ hyphen) and world system (w/o hyphen); the two aren't the same. But that's a slightly nitpicky point, at least in this context.

https://popularresistance.org/immanuel-wallerstein-an-obituary/

Talha said...

Or instead of a book, how about a two and half minute video clip of Eric Foner on the question:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hQ2u214A2Y

Jerry Brown said...

Thanks for not answering my questions Talha but instead just insulting my intelligence, upbringing, education, and debating abilities.

My questions were asked in good faith.

I would be ashamed if I wrote what you did to me. I think you should be also when you think about it.

So I ask on a blog written by a professor who is teaching at Ivy League schools and is teaching about Marx, and I ask about Marx- and you spout this crap? Cause you assume I'm coming from some hostile ideology?

You don't know me. And at this point I don't wan't to know you.

Chris said...

"Would an unethical economist describe slaves as part of the slave owners 'capital', sort of the same way machines and factories capitalists might own and use for production would be described? Or would slaves get described as labor? How did Marx make that distinction if he did?"

Marx identifies differences regularly, but a key place would be chapter 6 to chapter 7 part I of Capital Vol I. A primary difference is that 'wage labor' is 'free' to sell its labor power to any bidder, and the contract is not binding for eternity. Whereas slaves are not free to sell their labor power, nor leave employment. In this sense slaves do appear more like means of production and are thus seen as part of capital. [We can safely assume the 61-85 was a typo by either Wolff or the publishers].

When you state:

"How much merit do you think it has? At the moment, I imagine whoever wrote it was smoking some really strong stuff. But I'm always willing to learn new things."

about this:

"Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) American Statesman, a leader of the Republican Party; President of the United States (1861-85); under the influence of the masses carried out important bourgeois-democratic reforms during the Civil War, thus making possible revolutionary methods of warfare; was shot by a slave-owner’s agent in April 1865."

I have to side with Talha in utter vexation. What about that description isn't true in a banal sense, let alone a controversial one?

Chris said...

We can safely assume 1861-85 was a typo by either Professor Wolff or the publishers.