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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, November 30, 2023


Gregory of Tours was a sixth century bishop who wrote a long History of the Franks which is one of our principal sources of information about the Merovingian period in early medieval Europe.  In the late spring of 1958, I read it along with many other books of European history in my desperate effort to prepare myself to join five brilliant young Harvard Assistant Professors of History in teaching Social Sciences 5.  At one point, Gregory describes the rather scrimy life of a minor Merovingian princeling who spent his time feuding and whoring and killing and generally being a bad actor. The otherwise forgettable lout managed to live to be about 80, which was of course very long in those days, before dying peacefully in bed. Gregory sanctimoniously observes of him, “and thus God’s justice was demonstrated yet again” or something to that effect.


I thought about this passage when I got up this morning and read that Henry Kissinger had died at the age of 100.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


A long time a.go, I observed on this blog that my score on the game of Free Cell was pretty good but that I could not get it higher.  David Palmeter reported that he had a very very high score but used the undo facility, which I had shunned. Encouraged by him, I began to use that facility and since then have not lost a game. Yesterday, my all-time score went up to 98.4%, for roughly 15,000 games total. I have always been grateful to him for this encouragement and I thought I would just pass it along now. Thank you, David.

Monday, November 27, 2023


The release of roughly 130 prisoners and detainees from Israeli jails has created empty space, so with great efficiency, the Israeli forces have gone out and arrested another 120 or so Palestinians to take their place.  Waste not, want not.

Sunday, November 26, 2023


As the Israeli hostages have been released, there have been endlesss heartwarming television pictures of the released women and children being welcomed back into their families. When crowds gathered in the West Bank communities to welcome back the release Palestinian prisoners, Israeli police and military disperse the crowds with teargas and refuse to allow them to put on any sort of public demonstration that might appear on television.


I have not been posting lately because, as I have indicated, I do not think that I have the kind of specialist knowledge of the Israeli situation that would give what I say any merit. But I have been watching those reports obsessively. First CNN and then MSNBC finally began to have reports about and interviews with the families of the Palestinians being released, and not at all surprisingly, one finds those stories as moving as the stories about the released Israelis.  Now that reporters can get into Gaza more easily, we begin to see pictures of the total devastation that has been wrought in Gaza city by the Israelis.   Having supported Hamas for years as a counter to the Palestinian Authority in order to make any possibility of an independent Palestinian state impossible, and having been caught completely by surprise by the Hamas attack, Netanyahu is now committed to the total destruction of Hamas. It is my impression that the destruction of Gaza and the deaths of 20,000 or more Palestinians is, from his point of view, a feature not a bug of the war effort he has mounted.


I suppose we shall have to leave it to history and the experts to make a final judgment on the performance of Biden, but it seems to me it may turn out in the end that he has played this disaster as well as he possibly could to retain some influence with Israel and pressure them to back off from their war plans. I have no idea whether this is true. It may just be my desperate effort to find some suggestion of hope in a disasterous situation.


Meanwhile, if a may turn to a much happier matter, my grandson Samuel (or Sam, as he wishes to be called now) will turn 18 next month and I have been brooding about what to give him as a birthday present. He is currently applying to colleges and his father tells me that he will be taking a course next semester on Middle Eastern affairs. Considering all of that, I have decided to give them three books.


The first is a copy of the great work by Erich Auerbach, Mimesis. I read Mimesis many many years ago, and not surprisingly I was fascinated and delighted by it, but it has been decades since I looked at the book and when Samuel’s copy (whoops, I mean Sam’s copy) arrived from Amazon, I picked it up and reread the first chapter. Lord it is a wonderful book.


The second book I decided to give him, to prepare him for his course next semester, is Edward Said’s Orientalism. Coincidentally, the edition of the Auerbach book that arrived is a fiftieth anniversary reprint with a special new preface by Said.


The third book I chose is my book The Ideal of the University, which began as a series of lectures at the University of Wisconsin Madison and was published 54 years ago.

If hr reads those three books, I think he will be ready for the great adventure of college.

Saturday, November 18, 2023


Susie's son has been visiting all week from Seattle and we have been spending a lot of time with him. That and the terrible situation in the world have kept me from posting. I have no expertise in the Israeli matters, as I have made clear, but I am so upset that I simply lurk in my study and brood.

I am very excited about the study group I shall be leading at Harvard in the spring and I spend a lot of time in the middle of the night thinking about what I shalll say.  Lord knows, the world does not really need a deep dive into volume 1 of Capital at the moment but it is what I do so I shall do it.  

I remain hopeful that a combination of the concern about abortion rights and the almost certain conviction of Trump in the DC case before the Republican nominating convention will combine to give the Democrats a win a year from now.  Perhaps what is happening in the United States now will put to rest for a while the myth of American exceptionalism.

Monday, November 13, 2023


When I joined the senior common room of Winthrop House at Harvard in 1959, one of the most interesting people I met was William Polk, an assistant professor of political science and an extremely knowledgeable person about Middle Eastern affairs. Bill went on to be an advisor to McGeorge Bundy and to play an important role in the diplomatic developments in the Middle East. In my "My Stuff" collection of essays, books, and other materials you can find a two-part account by Bill going back more than 100 years of the development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I posted it on my blog more than 10 years ago. I have just reread it to acquaint myself once more with the details, which I had almost completely forgotten. If anyone is interested in the background of the current terrible events taking place there, I recommended it strongly. I trust Bill's knowledge, his objectivity, and his moral perspective.

Saturday, November 11, 2023


After anguishing for several weeks about the New York Times poll showing Trump beating Biden in 5 out of 6 battleground states, commentators turned their attention on Tuesday night to yet another series of Democratic Party victories in local off year elections and ballot initiatives. The endless television commentary about these events almost entirely ignored what I remain convinced is the single most important factor, after abortion, in the upcoming election cycle: the outcome of the first of a series of trials of Trump at the federal and state levels. 

Judge Chutkan has made it clear that she will not move the March 4th date for the beginning of the trial in DC, and has even scheduled jury selection for the weeks prior to that time to make sure that the trial can begin on her date specified. Some while ago, Jack Smith announced that the prosecution’s case would take from 4 to 6 weeks, so sometime in late April, we can expect the prosecution's lead litigator to announce “Your Honor, the prosecution rests.” 

It is not clear at that point what sort of case the defense can put on, because they cannot argue that Trump truly believed he had won the election without putting him on the stand, and everyone seems to agree that would be a disaster for the defense. Nevertheless, one way or another, by early or middle May the case will go to the jury. I think we can project that by early June they will come back with a verdict. If, as I expect, the verdict is guilty on some or all of the counts, the Republican party will be faced with the prospect of convening its July presidential nominating convention with Trump having won enough delegates to take the nomination and having been found guilty in the most important trial facing him.


At that point, the Republican Party will have an impossible choice: to nominate Trump while they await his sentencing or perhaps await the carrying out of the sentence already handed down, or to change their rules on the spot to avoid nominating him, with all of the attendant chaos that would produce.


The same New York Times poll that showed Trump beating Biden in 5 out of 6 battleground states also asked the question “if Trump is convicted of one or more of his charged crimes, how would you vote,” and something like 6% of the Trump voters announced that they would then vote for Biden, giving him victory in all of the battleground states.


We have a long year ahead of us and I for one will give as much money as I can to the Democratic legislative campaign committee, to support Democrats in local races across the country, but I really do think the odds are very strongly in Biden’s favor.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023


My Harvard non-course is set for 13 Fridays from 2 to 4 PM starting in early February. I am really pumped.

Sunday, November 5, 2023


I am afraid my brief comment revealed my ignorance. I bow to my more knowledgeable commentators.


I have watched the news from the Middle East with desperation and dismay.  Yesterday I watched a 15 minute segment on YouTube by Noam Chomsky and he said everything that I believe but with infinitely more knowledge and background.

I have just one tiny caveat to the things that have been said. The situation of the Palestinians has been compared from time to time to apartheid, but that is a mistake. It is not worse than apartheid or better than apartheid, it is simply different from apartheid. Apartheid was a system designed by the white South Africans to separate nonwhite South Africans while simultaneously exploiting their labor.

The relation of Israel to the Palestinians is, it seems to me, better captured by the old saying "a land without people for people without a land." That was the view of North America articulated by some of the most famous 20th century professors of American history in their college textbooks. You can find my analysis of that in the second chapter of my little book, Autobiography of an Ex-White Man.

It is not my impression that Israelis want to exploit the labor of the Palestinians. They simply want them to go away.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023


It looks as though I shall be teaching a noncredit semester long study group at Harvard next semester on volume 1 of Capital.  The participants will be faculty, graduate students and some undergraduates. I am really looking forward to this.  It is a good way to begin my 90s!