My Stuff

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Thursday, March 31, 2022


The response to my invitation was extremely gratifying. Let me begin with the easiest responses. John Williams writes “I am interested in what you have to say about G.A. Cohen and analytic Marxism more generally.” As it happens, 32 years ago I published a lengthy critique of a book by Jan Elster in which in some considerable detail I came to terms with “analytical Marxism.” If you follow the link at the top of the page (which is, I am afraid, not clickable but has to be copied and pasted – my apologies), you will find a very large repository of my writings, among which is something that is simply identified there as the “Elster paper.”  Elsewhere – it will take me a while to find it – I have published a detailed critique of one argument by G. A. Cohen. I hope that will satisfy your curiosity.


A number of you asked for my opinions about things I either have not read or do not have opinions about and I am afraid I cannot help you there. For example, although I studied Spinoza 70 years ago with a great scholar, Harry Austryn Wolfson, I have never written about his works and really have nothing to say about them. Rather more surprising, perhaps, is the fact that I have spent almost no time reading or thinking about Wittgenstein, a fact that is very much to my discredit, I should think. Sorry about that.


The same thing is true about Dick Rorty.  I knew him back in the day and found him quite unimpressive. I was genuinely surprised when he became a really big deal. I do not think I have actually ever read anything by him so once again chalk that up to my inadequacy, not his.


My favorite comment was by Achim Kriechel.  Back when I was able to take long walks, one of my favorite early-morning routes in Paris took me along Boulevard Saint Germain past Café Flore and Deux Magots, opposite Brasserie Lipp.  It was always early in the morning when I walked there and the waiters were just setting the tables and chairs out. I do not think I ever stopped for coffee but that little spot is burned into my memory.


Enough for the moment. Tomorrow I will start to address some of the serious questions which I have something resembling answers.


I thank all of you who responded to my last post and I shall try to answer some of the requests and questions soon. However, in the middle of the night when I got up (as I do every night) I got the terrible news that my dear friend Milton Cantor had passed away last Saturday, and that is what fills my mind. Milton was 96 years old and as I think I mentioned on this blog, the last time I spoke to him his principal concern was that he could not get into the Amherst College library to check footnotes!

I love Milton very dearly. I have long thought of him as my best friend even though we have seen each other rarely since I retired and moved away from Western Massachusetts. As I have said here before, Milton had a rare gift for friendship and for many years, reaching back half a century, he took me into his heart and surrounded me with love.

Milton was a good man, an old-fashioned lefty and a fine scholar. 

God, there have been so many terrible losses lately.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


As faithful readers of this blog know, I have struggled for some time with the unusual character of the format. Over the past several years, this blog has drawn to it a small circle of consistent commentators whose exchanges, sometimes extending to 50 or 60 or more comments in a thread, are at best only tangentially related to what I have originally posted.


I enjoy teaching, which is to say explaining complex ideas, and my recent experience visiting first a class in Canada and then an adult education gathering in Oregon, persuades me that I still have some things to say. So I am going to try something new on this blog. Instead of posting a comment and waiting, more often than not with disappointment, to a response from the usual suspects, I have decided to invite readers – most especially those who do not usually comment – to suggest subjects they would be interested in having me write about. If I get requests, I will sift through them, looking for those about which I have something useful to say, and will then post my replies.


This will not, of course, stop the dozen or so usual commentators from entering into arguments with one another about subjects unrelated to my posts, but it will give me a sense that I am speaking through this blog to people who are interested in what I might have to say about the topics suggested.


Over the course of my long life, I have written about a more than usually broad array of subjects, venturing into more than half a dozen academic specialties – philosophy, history, politics, economics, sociology, literature, psychology, Afro-American studies, among others – and I hope that if I do receive some questions they will span an equally broad spectrum of subjects.


So the floor is yours. What would someone like to hear me talk about?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


 Some of you may recall the very large Chinese economic initiative launched some years ago by Xi called One Belt One Road.  The project, due to be completed in 2049 for the centenary of the People's Republic of China, is a vast complex of land and sea routes designed to link the Chinese economy to the economies of the nations of the entire Eurasian landmass. Several of the important components of the land branch of this project run through Russia. It would seriously hinder the project for Russia to be ostracized from the world economy. That is probably something worth keeping in mind as we watch from afar how China responds to the Ukraine disaster.


What with taking my wife to occupational therapy and physical therapy sessions, dealing with my own Parkinson’s disease, navigating the complexities of the pandemic, and appearing in Canada or Oregon as a guest lecturer, I am afraid I have let the comments section slide by me even though there have been several comments to which I wanted to respond. So what I will do here is just go through the comments for the last week or more and try to pick up, one after the other, those that call for some response.


Here we go in no particular order:


Someone masquerading behind the elegant nom de blog “Marcel Proust” asks: “Is this a situation in which it is better to live on one's knees than to die on one's feet (h/t La Pasionara) because of the risk of nuclear annihilation?”  This is an extremely complicated and difficult matter and I am limited severely by my lack of useful inside information. Are there back channel contacts between senior US and Russian military commanders that could conceivably lead to Putin being deposed in a palace coup?  Does the US have intelligence accurate enough to tell when the Russians are preparing to launch a nuclear weapon and could they intercepted and shoot it down? And so forth. I just do not know. By the way, chemical weapons, terrible as they are, are not in any sense “weapons of mass destruction” and their use poses problems of a totally different sort from the use of nuclear weapons.


Tony Couture:  thank you for the long and informative comment about Moodles.  This is something with which I am completely unfamiliar and it sounds extraordinarily time-consuming for you. I will have to look into it.


Barney, great to hear from you. By the way, folks, because my big sister Barbara was called “Bobs” before I was even born, I was always “Rob” in the family. Even if he did not give his whole name, that is the giveaway that Barney is my cousin.


John Rapko, I am very touched by your offer to send me a copy of Geuss’s book when it comes out.  Ray was a student at Columbia when I was teaching there in the later 60s but I do not think he ever took a course with me. Those who knew him had only the highest opinion of him, I recall.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


According to what seem to be reliable reports, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is stalled. The Russians are said to have suffered the deaths of 10,000 or more troops and two to three times that many wounded. The Russian losses of tanks and other armored vehicles are apparently huge and continuing. In the past few days, there have been more and more discussions in the media about the possibility of Russia resorting to the use of what are referred to as “tactical nuclear weapons.” I do not get the impression that the people talking about this on television have the slightest notion of what a “tactical nuclear weapon” would be or what conceivable use it would be in the Ukraine war.


I have talked about this on this blog quite recently and I am going to repeat now things I said then. If you find this tiresome, go somewhere else and amuse yourself on another blog. This is far and away the most important thing now happening in the world and I am going to talk about it again and again and again.


The distinction between strategy and tactics has for centuries been a part of military discourse. The term “tactics” refers to maneuvers or decisions or actions taken on a particular battlefield in the context of a particular battle. How to combine tanks with foot soldiers to greatest effect is a question of tactics. Whether to combine all of one’s forces or spread them across the field of battle or perhaps divide them into several wings to surround the enemy forces is a matter of tactics. So are the decisions about how most effectively to combine airpower with ground maneuvers. The Russian decision to divide into several columns the forces advancing from the north on Kyiv is a matter of tactics.


The weapons referred to as “tactical nuclear weapons” are fission bombs each of which is rated as the equivalent of perhaps 3000 to 5000 tons of TNT or some similar explosive. This is referred to in shorthand as a 3 KT or 5 KT tactical nuke, a catchy form of speech that sounds hep and knowledgeable, what was called when I was young “inside dopester.”


Let us think about this for a moment. If Russia were to send a flight of 50 heavy bombers to attack the capital city of Ukraine and if each of these bombers were to carry four so-called “blockbuster” bombs, each containing the equivalent of 1000 pounds of TNT, and if all 50 of these bombers were to drop their bombs on the capital city, causing enormous amounts of destruction and death, this would be an attack using a total of 100 tons of high explosive. If Russia were to send such a flight of bombers every day for a month, it would at the end of that month have delivered to Kyiv an explosive power equivalent to one so-called tactical nuclear weapon rated at 3 KT.  In one month, Russia would have destroyed Kyiv with conventional weapons. Using a single tactical nuclear weapon, Russia would destroy Kyiv in roughly 3 seconds.  To ensure the complete destruction of Kyiv, Russia might have to double down and use two or three tactical nuclear weapons.  Not by any stretch of language can this be called a “tactical decision.”


The phrase “tactical nuclear weapon” is a contradiction, a deception, a device employed by people who seek some way of justifying the use of weapons, which they possess, for which no justified use can be found.


Russia is said to have 4000 nuclear weapons. As I have said before and will say again and again, if a nation has nuclear weapons and the people who control those weapons cannot be deterred by rational self-interest, there is nothing anybody can do to stop them from using those weapons.


Vladimir Putin cannot use nuclear weapons. It is not he who sits in the bunker or flies the plane or enters the codes into the device that launches the weapon. He gives orders. If he were to order the use of nuclear weapons, “tactical” or otherwise, would the generals and the colonels and the majors and lieutenants obey his orders? I have no idea. If he were to order the use of nuclear weapons and if the officers who actually control those weapons were to obey his orders, would the weapons actually fly or would they splutter and fizzle? I have no idea and I do not know whether American military commanders know either.


Tomorrow, I will try to say something speculative about what Biden could do short of launching a nuclear war to try to stop Putin.

Monday, March 21, 2022


Some of you will recall that a while back I announced that I was available for zoom visits in classrooms wherever I was wanted.  Last Thursday, I spent a delightful hour and a half with some students at Laurentian University in Canada. I have just finished two hours with a marvelous group of people my own age in Eugene, Oregon as part of an OLLI course taught at the University there by retired Bates College Prof. David Kolb. In several weeks I will be appearing at Georgia State University in Atlanta to talk about Charles Mills’s book The Racial Contract.


This is fun!


 When you get the info on Ray Geuss's book, let me know. I would love to look at it.


Stephen Darling sent me this link.  I found it extremely helpful and instructive. Well worth looking at. Thank you, Stephen.

Sunday, March 20, 2022


I have been thinking a great deal lately about the arc or shape of my life.  These ruminations, which are uncharacteristic for me despite my having chosen philosophy as my life’s work, are brought on by three things: first, my recognition that 88 is really not young, after all; second, by the extraordinary constraints and deformations imposed by the pandemic, which is now more than two years old; and third, of course, by the discovery that I suffer from Parkinson’s disease, which increasingly places constraints on what I am able to do and raises questions in my mind about how much longer I shall be able to go on as I have been. Although I have returned to this subject repeatedly on this blog, the comments made daily by a dozen or so regular readers have more or less ignored this personal side of my life and have proceeded along a variety of independent tracks – or threads, as I understand they are called.


With no disrespect to these interlocutors, who could I suspect do quite well without me, I shall try to pull together some of what I have been thinking about.  I shall begin by recalling yet again the extraordinarily evocative passage from Eric Erickson’s Childhood and Society which I quoted at the beginning of my autobiography: “An individual life is the accidental coincidence of but one life cycle with but one segment of history.”


I was born into a professional middle class non-observant Jewish politically left-wing family in New York City in the depths of the Great Depression, a quite accidental fact that has determined much of the shape of my life.  I have devoted much of my time during the past 80 years to articulating precisely the ways in which I differentiate myself intellectually, politically, socially, morally from those around me and yet from a certain distance these differences are so small as to be almost unnoticeable. Had I been born into a 14th-century nomadic Mongolian family or a second century Egyptian family or a 17th-century Iroquoian family (to choose just three of the endless possibilities) everything in my understanding of my life in the world would have been totally different.


In a few years I shall die – perhaps before this year’s midterm elections, perhaps not until several more presidential cycles have come and gone – and then I will be done. Some of what I have written may well live after me for a while, but that will of course be nothing to me. What a spendthrift God must be to have lavished so much self-awareness on mayflies.


I have been quite fortunate, both in the circumstances of my birth and in my freedom from such devastating blows as serious physical illness or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child.  It has been fun, withal, and because I am blessed with a quite good memory, I can even now recall most of it.  I can recall the triumphant moment in the fall of 1960 when I completed my exposition and clarification of the argument of the Deduction of the Pure Concepts of Understanding to a quite appreciative group of Harvard students and I can recall the moment in 1986 when I saw again my high school sweetheart and knew with an absolute conviction that we would be married. I can recall launching into the viola solo that begins the fourth movement of the third Razumovsky quartet and knowing that I had managed to play it fast enough so as not to embarrass myself with my much abler quartet partners.  And I can of course recall kneeling before Desmond Tutu in 2011 as he awarded me an honorary degree at the University of the Western Cape, the highlight of my long political career.


It may well turn to dust, as everything must, but at least it is not dust that will cause any of history’s gears to grind to a halt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022


As I lay in bed last night, I thought of writing a self – mocking post about my deep military experience 65 years ago in the Massachusetts National Guard as a lead-in to some comments about the failures of the Russian military in Ukraine, but the situation we confront is too desperately serious for such lighthearted literary amusements. Instead, I want to talk about the box the United States is in as a consequence of Russia’s possession of an enormous nuclear arsenal.


Stymied by the disastrous performance of his military forces, Vladimir Putin has resorted to the bombing of maternity hospitals in an effort, one presumes, to terrorize the Ukrainians into giving him the victory that he is unable to gain on the battlefield. The United States military could easily defeat Russian forces, it is my impression, but is held back from doing so by the fear that Putin, facing defeat, would launch nuclear weapons, first against the Ukrainians and quite possibly, if we took action against them, against the United States. Such an action would be disastrously self-defeating for Putin and would almost certainly result in his own death, but we are fearful that he would not be moved even by elementary self-interest to refrain from so disastrous a step.


Are we then to sit by and watch Ukrainians die at Putin’s hand because we are afraid that he will not act in his own rational self-interest? The answer, quite simply, is yes.


This is not a new thought. As soon as nuclear weapons were invented and used the one and only time in battle by the United States, it was obvious that their existence had completely changed the age-old logic of war. That is why the central concepts of offense and defense gave way to the entirely new and fundamentally nonmilitary concept of deterrence. It took very little thought and virtually no battlefield experience to recognize that a war between nuclear powers was simply unthinkable, to be avoided at all cost.


For three quarters of a century now the United States, Russia, and the other nuclear powers have fought local wars and proxy wars in which they avoided directly confronting one another. The problem is quite simple. If a country armed with nuclear weapons chooses to launch them against an opposing nation, there is nothing that can be done to stop it. The only thing one can do is to try to dissuade it from ever making that decision – to deter it. But there is no defense against a civilization ending nuclear attack.


More than 60 years ago, as a young man in his 20s, I got involved in politics because of my fear of nuclear weapons. I have lived with that fear for my entire adult life and it has not diminished one whit.  Let me be clear what we are talking about. Russia is said to have 5000 nuclear weapons. A single strategic thermonuclear weapon launched by Russia against Washington DC would completely obliterate the city and everyone in it. If Vladimir Putin were to order a full-scale nuclear attack on the United States and if the Russian military officers to whom that order was given were to obey it, probably 100 million or more Americans would die immediately and countless other millions would die of radiation poisoning not long afterward. There would be absolutely nothing that the United States could do to stop such an attack. All it could do is launch an equally destructive attack against Russia.


I am not a big fan of Joe Biden, needless to say, but in the present situation his preternatural caution is completely wise and admirable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022


When I was born in 1933, my parents were living in the neighborhood of Queens in New York City called Sunnyside. At the age of two, I was sent to the Sunnyside Progressive School, which was then what we used to call a “red diaper operation.” I have been told, although I confess I do not myself remember it, that when I was a year or two old I was on occasion pushed around in a baby carriage with another little boy named Philip Green. Thirty-seven years later, when I left Columbia and moved to the University of Massachusetts, my wife and I bought a home in Northampton near Smith College and I discovered that Phil was a professor of government at Smith. We reconnected then. Phil has been all of his life an active, productive, engaged democratic socialist – for a while, a member of the board of Dissent Magazine.


Phil has an active blog on which he posts a great deal of political commentary. I have not been in touch with him in years and it was only recently that it occurred to me that since I am now 88 he must be also! Strange how these things work out.


Phil's post today was, I thought, particularly apt, and expressed many things that have been in my mind as well but which I have not been writing about. Here it is for your edification and enjoyment.

Friday, March 11, 2022


This is not an easy time in my life and I am afraid I spoke, or rather wrote, out of irritation and exasperation. Of course it is appropriate to make moral judgments about the behavior of people in their interactions with people from other nations. It is always appropriate to make moral judgments about the behavior of people. But nations are not people, any more than corporations are (the Supreme Court to the contrary notwithstanding.)  I make moral judgments about the actions of Putin, Zelensky, Biden, the uniformed soldiers who give orders, the uniformed soldiers who carry out orders, and everyone involved in the present affair, including television commentators, taxpayers, Doctors without Borders, and anyone else whose behavior in any way affects what is going on, including quite marginally my own. But I do not make moral judgments about states because I do not know what such judgments mean.


Putin is not firing a gun at Ukrainians. Putin is sitting in Moscow (or wherever) issuing commands to people who are obeying his commands and in turn are issuing commands to others who are obeying their commands and so forth.  Every one of those people, starting with Putin, right down to the people actually pulling the triggers, is an appropriate object of moral judgment (and in the present circumstances, of moral condemnation.)


But I reject the notion that nations can be thought of, as it were, as superpeople who make decisions.  I know everyone talks that way. I just think it is fundamentally incoherent. 


Although I have not been very much present on my blog lately, I have tried to keep up with the series of comments that have been put up on the occasion of (it would be too much to say in response to) my brief posts, and I have to confess that I am somewhat mystified by them. You folks seem to think that international relations is a morality play in which we, the audience, are charged with deciding who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Sixty years ago, when I met Hans Morgenthau at the University of Chicago, I learned some elementary but important lessons from him and they have stood me in good stead ever since.

Great imperial powers like France, England, Russia, the United States, and now China expand their spheres of influence and control until they encounter opposed forces strong enough to compel them to adjust. At the end of the second world war, the United States and its European allies controlled all of Western Europe, which was as far as their armies took them. The Soviet Union, at enormous cost in life and treasure, had expanded its sphere of influence well into the central European plain, going so far as even to take control of the North Prussian city of Königsberg (to my great sadness), renaming it Kaliningrad and transferring its library back within the boundaries of old Russia. The nuclear standoff thus established persisted for almost half a century while the United States tried unsuccessfully to replace France as the overlord of Southeast Asia, asserted its control over Central America, and failed comically to overturn a revolution in the tiny island of Cuba “90 miles off the American shore”, as it used to be popular to say.


With the collapse of the Soviet Union, brought about in part by their disastrous failure in Afghanistan, the United States and its Western European allies expanded their sphere of influence eastward, incorporating the countries of the old Warsaw Pact as well as several of the former Soviet Socialist Republics.  Vladimir Putin has been trying with very limited success to reestablish Russian control over some of the lands bordering his country which used to be part either of the Soviet Union or of its sphere of influence.


It is delusional to treat these great empires as a collection of schoolyard middle schoolers who are having trouble playing peacefully together in the world sandbox. Does anybody really imagine that if Nikita Khrushchev had been a trifle more simpatico the United States would have been content to leave the world map as it was? Or that if United States had just been a bit friendlier, Vladimir Putin would not have been provoked to seek to reestablish the borders of the old Soviet Union? All of this is silliness.


In the calculations of the men (and sometimes the women) who make the decisions about these matters, the Vietnamese or the Iraqis or the Nicaraguans or the Cubans or the Chechnyans or the Uighurs or the Ukrainians are mere collateral damage, “mushrooms” as they used to be called in the earliest versions of computer games.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022


Although I have been spending most of my time caring for my wife, I have along the way been watching the endless television coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I wrote a brief post several days ago designed to emphasize the danger that is posed by Vladimir Putin’s implied threat of using nuclear weapons. Today I would like to expand on this because it is far more important than anything else happening at the present time. It was the danger of a nuclear war that got me involved in politics more than 60 years ago. I was one of many people around the world who worked unsuccessfully for nuclear disarmament. If it was obvious then it is equally obvious now that a war fought with nuclear weapons would simply end the world as we know it. I will not bother to take any time explaining why this is so unless there is someone reading this blog so dim as not to understand it.


From the very beginning, it was obvious that there were three ways in which we could stumble into nuclear war: through escalation of conventional warfare that got out of hand and led to the use of nuclear weapons; through accident or the mistaken interpretation of unclear evidence in a battlefield situation; and through the deliberate decision of someone who had lost the ability to make rationally self-interested decisions and self destructively initiated the use of nuclear weapons.


All three of these are threats in the present situation. It is obvious that direct military confrontation between NATO and Russian forces could easily lead to an escalation resulting in the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons which could then very quickly and uncontrollably lead to the use of strategic nuclear weapons. It is also clear that if Soviet and American fighter jets were to confront one another over Ukraine, it would be fatally easy for a jet pilot armed with nuclear weapons to misread a battlefield situation and make a split-second wrong decision that would result in nuclear weapons being used. It also appears to be the case, although I am an absolutely no position to judge the likelihood of this, that Vladimir Putin, confronted with a humiliating and even career ending military defeat in Ukraine, could issue orders for the use of nuclear weapons, even though it would certainly result in his death. Whether those orders would be obeyed or not is something that none of us can rationally judge.


If we do survive this, God willing, I think it is actually possible that this crisis will work to the benefit of the Democrats in the midterm elections. Wouldn't that be enjoyably ironic!


I have been reassured by the flat refusal of Pres. Biden and the American military to even consider establishing a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine through the use of American military jets. The calls for the establishment of such a no-fly zone by American politicians are irresponsible and literally insane, but at least thus far the American military establishment and its political rulers appear firmly committed to resisting all such demands.


This gives Russia a great tactical advantage, of course. That fact was well understood half a century ago by people thinking and writing about nuclear war and it was one of many reasons why those of us who sought nuclear disarmament argued that nuclear weapons were never a satisfactory form of defense. But we lost that argument and so here we are, in 2022, hoping that Vladimir Putin is rationally self-interested or, alternatively, that close to him are advisors and generals who will if necessary kill him.

Sunday, March 6, 2022


 A reader who tactfully chose to contact me by email rather than making me look foolish in the comments section notes that I have confused "nonage" with "dotage," clear evidence that I am in fact in my dotage.

Saturday, March 5, 2022


Well, in 48 hours I have arranged to appear in courses in Georgia, Oregon, and Ontario. Not bad!

Friday, March 4, 2022


Let me just say a few things about tactical nuclear weapons to make it clear by their use would be so horrendous. A tactical nuclear weapon is described as having a yield of “just a few kilotons”, let us say, for example, 3 kt. A flight of 50 World War II bombers, each loaded with four 1000 pound blockbuster bombs, could deliver 200,000 pounds of TNT in a single raid, which is to say 100 tons of explosive munitions.  If that armada of bombers returned to the city every night for a month it would dump a total of 3000 tons of explosive munitions. That is an explosive yield equivalent to a single “small” 3 kt tactical nuclear weapon.  Five such tactical nuclear weapons used in a battle would have the equivalent explosive force of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. How many people died in Hiroshima? The estimates vary from 70,000 to 200,000 and this does not include all of the people who were injured, many of whom later died of radiation poisoning.

The use of nuclear weapons is unthinkable. Their existence is a monstrosity.

Thursday, March 3, 2022


I taught my first class 67 years ago as a young graduate student Teaching Fellow in the Harvard philosophy department. In the intervening two thirds of a century, I have taught in philosophy departments, history departments, economics departments, political science departments, sociology departments, and Afro-American studies departments in colleges and universities around America. Teaching is what I love to do.


I was teaching most recently in the UNC philosophy department in the spring of 2020 when Covid hit. I finished the course on zoom and since then, apart from some appearances virtually in Laramie, Wyoming, Cornell, New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania I have been unable to teach. Next semester, I will return to the classroom at the University of North Carolina, an opportunity that cheers me greatly.


I am limited by age, by infirmity, and by family obligations from traveling to college and university campuses, but I would really like to continue to teach – not simply to write, or to offer opinions on a blog, but actually to spend time talking with students even if only via the intermediation of zoom.


I do not need travel money, I do not need honoraria, what I need is groups of students who would like to meet with me, talk with me, learn from me, and give me thereby the opportunity to continue to do what I have done since 1955, namely to teach.


This blog reaches widely into the academic world, it is my impression, and so I have decided to use my blog to offer my services wherever they might be desired. I would be happy to appear in graduate or undergraduate courses as a visiting zoom lecturer, either for a single session or for several. 


Any takers?

Tuesday, March 1, 2022


The first state-sponsored invasion that engaged me politically was the abortive attempt by the United States to overthrow the Fidel Castro government in Cuba. That was 62 years ago and things have not gotten much better since. The most terrifying international event that I have lived through was the Cuban missile crisis, a year later. I sat that one out in Chicago with my VW stocked with dried food and a Geiger counter and reservations for my wife and myself on planes heading north to Canada and south to Mexico, depending on which way the wind was blowing. I am, I suppose you might say, an equal opportunity scaredy-cat.


What terrifies me most in the present situation is the possibility that Vladimir Putin, pushed to the wall, will launch tactical nuclear weapons, although I have no idea where he would find an appropriate target for one. That would make him only the second national ruler after Harry Truman to use nuclear weapons in a war.


There is no point in my trying to make predictions at this point. All I can do is sit here in the relative safety of North Carolina and watch what happens. But I would like to try my hand at speculating what the long-term consequences will be of this Ukrainian invasion, assuming we get through it without a nuclear war.


It seems to me quite likely that this will more or less permanently change Russia’s geopolitical position in the world. Russia’s economy will in the medium-term be devastated, and since it depends so thoroughly on oil and natural gas exports, its long-term prospects are dim as well. It strikes me that it would be extremely imprudent in the current situation for China to forge closer ties with Russia, which suggests that the relationship between China and the United States will change. Since China in the course of the remainder of this century is on track to lose half of its population, it may find its ambitious “One Road, One Belt” project more difficult to pursue than it may have imagined.


The big winner from this event almost certainly will be the United States, which has been handed by Vladimir Putin a golden opportunity to strengthen and expand the European alliance that it leads.


Is this a good thing? Lord, I do not know. It must really bug Putin that America got away with launching a completely unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Iraq, almost halfway around the world, and he cannot even get away with invading what I am sure he views as part of his own territory.


What can we say about Pres. Zelensky?  That he was the voice of Paddington Bear in the Ukrainian version of that tale. That he got his political start by playing the president of Ukraine in a television show. Even as I write this I have the feeling I am making it up.


There is an old stock market scam that works like this. The scam artist targets a thousand or so marks and sends half of them predictions that a stock will go up and the other half predictions that the stock will go down. Whichever prediction turns out correct, the scammer then divides the 500 who got the correct prediction into two groups and sends half of them a second prediction that a different stock will go up and the other half a prediction that the stock will go down. After several more iterations, he has identified a small group of potential investors who have received an unbroken series of correct predictions from him. Having thus established himself as a canny and highly knowledgeable insider, he proceeds to rip them off.


I am tempted to try a version of this scam on my blog readers. I could make a series of quite specific predictions – for example that the 40 mile long column of tanks and supply vehicles making its way toward Kyiv will be pretty much destroyed by Ukrainian partisans using shoulder held rocket launchers. If I turn out to be right, I look like a genius. If I turn out to be wrong, nobody will remember.  But I shall abstain from these games and just continue watching the television.