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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Monday, January 20, 2020

PREPARING TO TEACH


Generally speaking, I do not re-read books I have written, but to prepare me for upcoming meetings of my UNC course on Marx I have been re-reading Understanding Marx, the first 88 pages of which are assigned for February 3rd.  I warned the students the first day that this would be a really hard course, but I had forgotten how compressed and difficult that book is.  Chapters One and Two are pretty easy.  The long third chapter on the political economy of David Ricardo is very, very demanding.  Well, they were warned.

Oh yes, I have found three typos, the first of which matters, although not seriously, the second of which has necessitated an entire substitute page of mathematics to clear up, and the third of which is a trivial “in” for “it.”

I have to admit, this is much more fun than obsessing about Alan Dershowitz’s underwear.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Professor,

Thank you for your you tube presentations on Kant, Marx, and the others. I am learning a lot and find myself turning to Kant's techniques in times of disorganization whether mental or physical. Looking forward to learning and much gratitude.

s. wallerstein said...

Do I read more carefully these days or are book editors more careless?

I increasingly find typos when I read, many more than I did when I was younger.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

I fear opening my old books. They’re often scrawled in inane marginal notes which my younger self cringingly imagined demolished the merely ordinary thoughts of whatever giant I was reading. The more gianter the author, the more arrogant and, in hindsight, punier my own contribution. On occasions I’ve gone through old books with an eraser, but that only works on pencil, not ink or my shame. And so I buy new copies. Happy ending! (But how do I safely dispose of the old?)

Dean said...

These same thoughts cross my mind all the times these days, by which I mean these past two or three decades, s. wallerstein. But lately I have begun to encounter typos in books published in (for the sake of argument, let's call them) pre-digital-everything times. For example, I'm currently reading the Penguin English Library edition of Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, edited by Stephen Gill and published in 1971 with a handful of reprints (not new editions) up to 1977, the date of my copy. I'm finding occasional typos, akin to the "in" for "it" in RPW's book. Granted, this volume consists of more than 900 pages of tiny print, but still, I don't recall noticing typos all that often into the '80s. The Dickens is just one example. Other books I've recently read and in which I've noticed typos were published in 1946 (pbk. ed. 1961), 1953 (pbk. ed. 1958), and 1942.

I'll hedge my bet and reply, "Both." (I literally almost delivered this comment with "I'll hedge my but..."!)

Sonic said...

Happy MLK day! That's a whole lot of pages of Marx!

I was wondering if anyone here had listened to this episode on the Political Philosophy Podcast: "Activists, Elites, and the Left" https://www.politicalphilosophypodcast.com/activists

Wallerstein originally introduced me to the podcast, and I've loved it ever since - until this episode. I just don't know what to think about it. Was hoping someone more intelligent than I would have an interesting perspective.

It's the episode where he reviews his experience as an activist in 2016, Jeremy Corbyn's loss in the UK, and the outlook of 2020. He is essentially arguing that Warren would be a better candidate than Sanders. It's a very strange, liberal attempt at class analysis, I think. He argues that Sanders and Corbyn represent a popular uprising against the elite class - but only among political activists, not as a general whole. I don't know what that means. Then he argues that the populists aren't capable of intelligent political action, and we still need the elites to remain on the top to handle the difficult stuff. He says this explains why Trump was successful, but Corbyn was not, because Corbyn wasn't a member of the elite class and couldn't handle the real politics. I guess. You can see why it would leave a bad taste for a revolution-minded youngling.

s. wallerstein said...

Sonic,

I haven't listened to the episode you mention. Chilean politics have kept me occupied lately.

However, Buckle has always been clear that he's a welfare state liberal, not a socialist, so it's not surprising that he prefers Warren to Sanders.

As you point out, Buckle can be very insightful at times, but like all of us, he has his good days and his bad days.

Sonic said...

I guess I was just hoping to come away learning something more about the liberal argument, instead of just kind of getting mad and frustrated. Which is the most cliche way to react to any support for Warren, of course. Oh well.

s. wallerstein said...

I found the episode on crack cocaine to be fascinating. Did you listen to that one?

Sonic said...

Yeah, the street capitalism one. There's a lot I didn't know about that kind of thing. I intend to listen to both of them again, cause I have the time, and it helps me understand things better. What about that one did you find particularly interesting? I always find your personal perspective on things to be valuable.

s. wallerstein said...

Thank you for kind words about my perspective being valuable.

I wasn't in the U.S. during the so-called crack epidemic, and I guess from what little I read about it (that was in the days before internet and my contact with the U.S. media was limited to the international edition of Time magazine) I had a vague idea about a horrible plague of drug abuse that had taken over inner city communities. So it was interesting to see it analyzed from a market perspective and also to see how all the current moralism about drugs evolved: for example, the guy points out that in the 19th century all drugs, cocaine, opium, marijuana, etc., were legal and that actually, in 19th century free market U.S. capitalism just about everything was legal. It's kind of a genealogy of our current attitudes about drugs, often from an economic perspective (and I'm enough of a Marxist to appreciate that, even if the guy interviewed isn't a Marxist at all), without moralism, without hysteria, with no efforts at political correctness, etc.

Sonic said...

Oh yeah! I remember a few things that shocked me too now. He talks about how there was a moral call for regulations on a whole lot of things. Just a general, big, public health scare. And he talks about how, apparently, the crime bill and war on drugs was fairly popular with black demographics at the time. They wanted to clean up their communities. I feel like a big, leftist mystery right now is "Why does Biden have so much support from black voters?" I feel like that might be part of the story. I definitely need to listen to that episode again.

s. wallerstein said...

You're right. I had forgotten about that and it's important.

One thing that my favorite Chilean congressperson, Gabriel Boric, quite leftwing, but willing to question leftwing dogmas, points out that if it wants to win over the general population, the left is going to have to start to talk about street crime, not just to point out that there are deep social causes in inequality, lack of educational opportunities and class divisions, but to address the fact that the folks on the street are scared and angry: what does the left have to say to the working woman who is thrown to the ground by a group of thugs and her monthly salary robbed as she walks out of the automatic teller in the slum neighborhood where she lives, etc.? Tell her there are deep social roots and she'll scream at you.

I'm not saying that there aren't deep social roots to street crimes, but repeating that over and over again isn't going to do the job.

Sonic said...

Yuck, but that means we need... policing.... gross. I can't argue against that though. I'll try to keep that in mind. Hopefully, there are better ways to address that problem, but I wouldn't know it. Kind of reminds of how a lot of Bernie supporters threw shade at Kamala Harris for being a cop. Then I heard a liberal say, "yeah, she's a cop, but literally only you guys think that's even a bad thing." That one hit me pretty hard ha ha.

Dean said...

"Tell her there are deep social roots and she'll scream at you." That seems just a little condescending, both to the working woman and to the leftist. Is this really how our elected officials think? They assume the vulnerable are focused entirely on their own plight, and the ideologues propose mere shallow platitudes?

s. wallerstein said...

To tell you the truth, the political ideologues often propose shallow platitudes and anyone who has had their monthly salary stolen from them after being thrown to the ground tends to focus on their own plight.

Actually, I'm more or less repeating what happened to Señora Teresa, a woman who works in my building. I'm talking about a person whose paycheck barely allows her to survive each month, who obviously has no savings. Yes, I "lent" her some money on the spot when I heard what had happened to her.

Dean said...

But your initial response to her was to tell her there are deep social roots? And then she screamed at you?

s. wallerstein said...

I'm empathetic enough not to tell a person who has just had their monthly salary robbed and is angry that there are deep social roots to crime. I live in neighborhood where this kind of thing happens fairly frequently and I've talked to enough people who have been mugged here to know that it's not wise to talk to them about the social roots and if I had been unwise enough to do that, 99% of them would scream at me.

Another reason why you don't give a working person who has been just been robbed a lecture about the deep social roots of crime is that that person will get angry because they often come from exactly the same social background as the mugger, but unlike the mugger, they work hard, get up early, and feel that if you see the mugger as the inevitable product of a poverty, you are overlooking the fact that hardworking people from poor neighborhood like themselves don't commit crimes.

Dean said...

I don't disagree that one shouldn't lecture. I utterly deny the notion that those who, for example in my neighborhood, have slept on the sidewalk under a canopy of a pricey bedding store dubbed Urban Mattress, aren't aware of and interested in the social roots issue.

Dean said...

Meanwhile, I think I mentioned that I'm reading Dickens. Hence, I get to condescend, too!

s. wallerstein said...

Dean,

I agree that they may be interested in the social roots issue, but they sure as hell don't want to hear about it from me, the middle-class leftie intellectual. They have their own codes, their own ways of focusing on the social roots issues. They understand them all too well, but in their own way, not in my mine. All they want from me is empathy in the here and now about their plight in the here and now.

I'm going to turn off my computer for the night now. Have a good night.

Peter said...

Trump belongs to the "elite class"? Of what: gangsters??

Anonymous said...

Hillary would have sent the nukes Russia's way. After Bill was banging the intern, hell certainly would not have matched Hillary's fury were she the one in power. We had no choice but the other candidate. Its all a myth. Pliny would know the shot here. Go play your stock options no nukes this year.

s. wallerstein said...

To add one more comment to our conversation above, which I was too tired to formulate last night, working class people are aware from very early childhood that the system is screwing them. That's doubling true for African-Americans, whom I mention because the conversation began with reflections about why African-Americans often back Biden.

So working class people don't need a middle-class intellectual to tell them how the system works against them and in moments of stress, such as when they have robbed on the street, for a middle-class intellectual, who has learned about the evils of capitalism from books, instead of from bitter experience from early childhood as is the case with them, to lecture them on the theory of surplus value is simply to add insult to injury.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

If only "the Left" in the US would realize this. *despairing sigh*

Gary N Alford said...

Right

s. wallerstein said...

Sonic (and others),

A worthwhile new episode in Buckle's podcast on the relation between the rise of human rights discourse and the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970's and 1980's.
https://www.politicalphilosophypodcast.com/season-3