My Stuff

https://umass-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/rwolff_umass_edu/EkxJV79tnlBDol82i7bXs7gBAUHadkylrmLgWbXv2nYq_A?e=UcbbW0

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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Sunday, March 24, 2024

WHAT CAN BIDEN DO TODAY?

What can Biden do right now, today, to avoid even more deaths of innocent people in Gaza? I am not asking what he can do if he gets Congress to approve a bill in two weeks when they return from their break; I am not asking what the United Nations can do in a week; I am not asking what America’s negotiators can attempt to achieve in the next several days. I am asking what Biden can do today about the starvation now afflicting 2 million people in Gaza?

 

Here is what I think he can do. First, he can take all of the food on the aircraft carriers in the Middle East, put it on airplanes, and airlift it to an Egyptian airport, telling the Egyptians to get out of the way.  He can commandeer trucks, cars, whatever in Egypt and announced that the aid is being taken into Gaza, regardless of whether they have permission to do so. He can tell the Egyptians to get out of the way and my guess is that they will. At the same time, he can ship more food by air to the carriers to replace the food sent to Gaza. Meanwhile, he can underwrite the efforts of anybody, any organization, attempting to help the Gazans and announce to the world that American troops are going to take the food into Gaza. Meanwhile, he can cancel all military aid to Israel until they stop the creation of illegal settlements in the Palestine Authority.  He can tell Israel that if its troops fire on American troops bringing food to the Gazans, he will cancel all further military aid to Israel for as long as he is president.

 

Will he do any of these things? No. Could he do them? Yes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

TERRIFYING

Thank you to whomever it was who posted this link to the New York Times story.  It is terrifying and all quite plausible. Keep in mind that these terrible descriptions concern the effects of fission bombs, not fusion bombs which are a thousand times more powerful.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

LET US REMEMBER

The decision by the Supreme Court to take the case only grants Trump de facto immunity if he wins the election. If he loses the election, the trials continue and sooner or later he will go to jail. But if he were found guilty in the January 6 case on or about the time when he was nominated as the Republican candidate for president, he would still stand for office and if he won, the rule of law would end and he would be dictator for life.


So the fact remains, we have to beat him at the polls and we have to hang onto that victory in the Congress in whatever way we can so that Biden is inaugurated for a second term.


If Trump wins election it does not matter what happens in Georgia – even if the trial were held and he was found guilty, he would simply refuse to abide by the decision and deploy the military to quell any attempt to force him to abide by it.

Monday, February 19, 2024

QUESTIONS

Can anybody point me to someplace where I can get information on the value of capital in the United States not including homeownership? As a start perhaps could anybody point me to a site that would tell me the dollar value of all publicly owned companies? Piketty is quite useful but he includes homeownership in his figures (because that is the way it is listed in the sites that he uses as sources for his information). 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

NODDING IN

It has been quite a while since I have posted on this blog, and I thought that as I wait for the Super Bowl to get started I ought to just say a few words about where I have been and what I have been doing.


I have been right here in Chapel Hill, of course, even more limited by my Parkinson's than previously, but I have been working very hard on my lectures at Harvard on volume 1 of Capital.  This is for me an extremely exciting coda to my career, and I am putting everything I have into it. I only hope those who are attending and participating are enjoying it as well.


I am so appalled and distressed by the carnage in Gaza that I cannot speak about it rationally. I  have no idea what it is going to happen and of course I have no influence on it at all so all I can do is anguish.


As for American politics, I am both optimistic about the election and terrified. I remain convinced  that Biden will beat Trump more decisively this time than last, helped by the total dysfunction of the Republican Party and by the issue of abortion, which is our secret weapon.  


Perhaps if I do a good enough job in my lectures, it will inspire one or two of those listening to take up the struggle as I pass from the scene.


Be well, all of you, and try to be nice to one another. In the larger scheme of things, we are all on the same side.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

UPDATE ON MY LECTURE SERIES

I gather that the lectures will be recorded and that it is quite possible to remove from them any indications of the identities of the people listening to them. Let me emphasize that my concerns grew out of my anxieties, not out of theirs. For all I know, everyone planning to attend the study group would be happy to have his or her name published.  I pursued my career during a time when it was almost impossible not to succeed. In the immortal words of Ann Richards, we were born on third and thought we had hit a triple.  But these are times when grand jury members have their personal details posted online and members of the House Republican caucus who do not support Jiim Jordan for the speakership get death threat calls.


I will let you know whether I can make the  lectures available, and if I can I will.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

WHY I WILL NOT BE POSTING MY HARVARD LECTURES

This morning I read through the enormously long series of comments you folks have posted to my last blog post. Hidden in that series were several requests, from Jerry Fresia and others, that I make my Marx lectures available to all. Let me explain why I have decided not to do that.


There are now 37 people signed up for the study group, including large numbers of undergraduates, several graduate students, and 10 or 11 members of the faculty. It is going to be hard enough to get the undergraduates to speak up in the presence of the faculty. I plan to make a little joke about it, suggesting that I am so old that they all look the same age to me, but I am sure we all know that the norm would be for the undergraduates to sit quietly and wait to hear what the faculty ask or comment.


I am genuinely fearful that if I make available on the Internet lectures on Karl Marx in which the faces of undergraduates are clearly visible and in which some of them actually ask questions or make objections, it is entirely possible that they will be identified, attacked, have their futures compromised professionally, and so forth. In light of what has been happening in this country lately, I do not think my fears are irrational. My primary commitment is to those students and I simply will not take the chance that some of them may be targeted or harmed, either professionally or personally, by their participation in the study group.

Monday, January 15, 2024

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

While you folks have been having all sort of interesting conversations in the comments section, I have been hard at work preparing for my Harvard study group on volume 1 of Capital.  The enrollment is now up to 35, with nine faculty, 23 undergraduates, and three graduate students. As I am sure some of you can imagine, this study group is for me, at the age of 90, both a great challenge and a very exciting opportunity.  I have been thinking about very little else, except for the unavoidable problems of my Parkinson's. I watch a good deal of television news and keep up with the ins and outs of the legal cases enveloping Trump, but although I have all sorts of expectations, I have little or no professional knowledge and experience that would make my speculations any more useful than those I see on television.  The same is true for the events unfolding in the Middle East.  


The more I think about volume 1 of Capital, the more persuaded I am that it is the most important work of social and economic theory ever written.  It has all sorts of problems, God knows, and important parts that are clearly wrong but the core idea is so powerful, and so original, that the book stands head and shoulders above everything else written on the subject. I hope very much that I can communicate that to the participants in the study group.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

SUPERANNUATED REFLECTIONS

Turning 90 has had an unexpected effect on me.  All my life, I have struggled against my limitations and against my tendency to veg out. I have not really worked very hard save for a few moments in my life, but I have done a lot of worrying about whether I am doing enough.  I have been struggling with my Parkinson’s disease for several years now and as I grow steadily less able to move around or even to walk very well at all, I have fretted about it and struggled against it. Being 90 years old seems to have given me permission to relax and accept my limitations. In effect, I say to myself, “you are 90 years old, of course you cannot do as much as you used to, it is all right.”

 

Right now of course all my attention is focused on the study group I will be starting to teach at the beginning of February. Since I will be talking about things that I have been working on for 40 years, I do not really need to do much planning but I lie in bed giving lectures in my head, sorting out what I want to say and in what order, enjoying the fact that I am being given this one last chance to teach, which is what I most love to do.

 

Meanwhile, I will take great enjoyment from watching the so-called originalists and textualists on the Supreme Court struggle to find ways to avoid applying the obvious meaning and intention of article 3 of the 14th amendment. These days, you must take your pleasures where you find them.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

HARVARD

Well, I looked at some of former president Gay's supposed plagiarisms, and they were not very impressive. I would hardly call them plagiarism.  But then, the essays in which they were to be found were not terribly interesting either. Out of curiosity, I did a little searching for information about the people who have been president of Harvard since I was an undergraduate there. James Conant was an impressive scientist. Nathan Marsh Pusey was not an impressive intellect at all, but he resisted McCarthy in his former position and that was a good thing. Derek Bok was a reasonably impressive legal scholar. Most of the presidents of Harvard in the past 70 years have been people one would not really be interested in talking to if one had a chance.


I actually met Conant when he was the head of the American portion of a divided Berlin. Since I was a traveling Sheldon fellow he agreed to see me. Not very exciting. I also had lunch once with a committee that was meeting with Pusey.  He seemed to me very much like a retouched photograph of himself.  Academic administrators by and large are people who do just enough to get tenure and then go into administration.


I should not imagine any of this will have an effect on my Marx study group, which starts February 2.  Eight faculty and 25 students signed up for it and I am really excited to have a chance to teach again.


I do not know yet whether I will be permitted to record the sessions or whether that is a good thing. I will let you know. Meanwhile, I am safe and protected in my retirement community while all the rest of the  world is going to hell. I gave another thousand to the DLCC.  It is pretty much all I can do.