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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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, April 22, 2018


I remarked a while back that I had received a praising letter about IN DEFENSE OF ANARCHISM from Murray Rothbard, and one of those signing him/herself "anonymous" asked about it, so I went searching through my piles of papers.  It turns out the letter was from Jerome Tuccille, also a stalwart of the Libertarian movement, not Murray Rothbard.  Tuccille, Wikipedia tells me, passed away just a year ago.  I could not find his original letter, but here is his gracious and friendly reply to my response to it.

Dec. 13, 1970

Dear Mr. Wolff,

            Your letter of Dec. 8 is in hand.  If you find yourself startled to receive kind words from the Right, you can imagine my own response to the fact that my book has been viciously attacked in the conservative press (National Review, New Guard, Triumph) and generally well received by the Left.  Actually, I had somewhat anticipated this; the ms. was bought by a New Left editor after it had been given a cool reception at some of the more conservative publishing houses.  It’s fairly indicative of the re-adjustment in political thinking that has been going on over the past two years or so.

            By now you must have seen the Widmer review of both our books, along with Guerin’s ANARCHISM in the Nov. 16th Nation.  Their new literary editor, Emile Capouya, is very sympathetic to libertarian ideas and this was apparently his inaugural feature.  The Guerin book, is, in my estimation, the best short comprehensive history of the subject available.

            I’ve done a brief review of your book for the Libertarian Forum, a bi-weekly newsletter, and I’ll send you a copy when it comes out in a few weeks.

            I’ll also keep you posted on the progress of my course at the New School.  The students who sign up will probably be a mixture of Randian capitalist types and Left Wing communalists; I’m sure to be attacked by the former for “selling out to the commies” and by the Leftists for advocating “greed” and “exploitation.”  This exchange usually takes place at every Left-Right conference I’ve been to.  If Nixon knew the truth about the so-called radical movement, he’d be sleeping much more soundly.  Fortunately, he doesn’t.

                                    Best Regards,

                                    Jerome Tuccille
                                    4 Windsor Terrace
                                    White Plains, N.Y. 10601

Despite the tensions caued by the war and the Nixon presidency and the Civil Rights Movement, those were more civil times.


This is exactly right.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


The secret to the NRA’s success, we are repeatedly told, is the fact that gun rights advocates are single issue voters, ready to set aside even economic self-interest in pursuit of their obsessive desire to own assault rifles.  Fair enough.  In a winner-take-all electoral system, single issue voting is one of the few ways to express cardinal rather than simply ordinal preference.  I have a dream, and here it is.  The only thing that can successfully counter a single-issue voting bloc is another single-issue voting bloc, especially a voting bloc that has not in the past voted at all but is now motivated to get out to the polls.  The high school students’ gun control movement has the potential to be just such a counter-weight to the gun rights activists.  Using social media, the students can communicate with an extremely broad segment of the 18-21 age population, historically the least likely to vote.  If they really do mobilize, the idea of voting, and voting only for pro-regulation candidates, could easily go viral, tilting even solidly red districts blue.  We shall see.

I do not speak, read, or write Korean, I have never been to the Korean Peninsula or even to Asia, and in the immortal words of Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers, so take what follows with enough salt to satisfy a chef in a Chinese restaurant.  I got my start in political activism sixty years ago with the campaign for nuclear disarmament.  I wrote, spoke, marched, and protested in favor of getting rid of nuclear weapons, not merely limiting their possession to America, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain.  Well, we failed big time, and the world is now awash in small, medium, and large fission, fusion, and dirty bombs capable of being delivered by everything from an intercontinental ballistic missile to a suitcase.  By my count, there are at least nine countries that have workable nuclear weapons, the most recent of them being North Korea.  Only one nation has actually used nuclear weapons in war, namely America, which, I think we can agree, somewhat limits its moral authority in this matter, though not of course, its presumption of moral superiority.

At the moment, one of the most urgent dangers of catastrophic [even if not nuclear] war is America’s bipartisan insistence that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is “unacceptable” whereas Pakistan’s, India’s, Israel’s, Russia’s, France’s, Great Britain’s, and China’s is not.  [I leave to one side the possibility that Iran will develop nuclear weapons.]  If America launches a pre-emptive attack on North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites, a million or more men, women, and children could die in the resultant war.

There now seems to be a genuine possibility that Trump will agree to North Korea’s continued possession of nuclear weapons in return for their agreement to discontinue further development of more sophisticated delivery systems and the regularization of relations with South Korea.  This would be a triumph for North Korea, giving it everything it has sought for more than sixty years.  Trump would trumpet the agreement as proof of his spectacular deal-making, and in all likelihood John Bolton would resign in outrage.  One can but hope.

Meanwhile, Michael Cohen is going to be indicted.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Friday, April 20, 2018


On Wednesday I met my OLLI [Osher Lifelong Learning Institute] class on Plato.  About fifteen old folks turned out, including enough retired physicians to staff a small hospital and an Anthropologist.  OLLI is a hoot.  Preparing for the class I re-read the Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito and will in due time re-read the Gorgias, the four Dialogues I am covering.  As I think I remarked here earlier, all of us “professional philosophers” [or Sophists, to use the Athenian term] are so familiar with Plato, and have been for so long, that it is easy for us to forget how extraordinary he was and is.  I mean, he invented our field [the Pre-Socratics to the contrary notwithstanding.]  The distinction between Appearance and Reality, which lies at the foundation of all philosophical thinking, was virtually given to us by Plato, along with the technique of definition by division.  On top of which, he was far and away the greatest artist of the entire Pantheon of great philosophers.  And he lived TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED YEARS AGO!

If I accomplish nothing else, I need to help the members of the class to see and appreciate how truly remarkable he was.  It is a challenge.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Well, I bitched about the screw-up concerning my Columbia course next semester, and the response is extended discourses about bureaucracy and solidarity with the working class.  It recalls the old light bulb joke, "How many socialists does it take to change a light bulb?  Answer, a dozen.  Eleven to debate the hidden injuries of class, and one to go out and find an electrician."

Just to be clear, I am only being paid $8000 to teach the course [$2000 less than UNC Chapel Hill, a state university, pays], so in this situation I count as one of the exploited.  And the people I am complaining about are the College Committee on Instruction, which consists of six tenured professors, one untenured professor, and the dean of the College, not underpaid secretaries.

I mean, if we are not going to be able to complain about bureaucratic screw-ups under socialism, I am going to reconsider my commitments.

Monday, April 16, 2018


I have mentioned that next Fall, I shall be flying up to New York every Tuesday to co-teach a course with Todd Gitlin in the Sociology Department of Columbia University.  The course is an undergraduate seminar entitled "The Mystifications of Social Reality."  Today begins enrollment for the Fall ["rising seniors" today, in the jargon of the modern Academy.]  Out of obsessive curiosity, I went on line to check the course and see how many seniors had signed up.  To my distress, I could not find the course in the list of offerings, so I called the Department secretary.  She knew from nothing, so I called the office of the Chair, Shamus Kahn and left a message.  Todd emailed me to say that he had heard from Kahn who knew nothing about it.  Todd and I talked, and agreed that he would get onto the department [where he is a professor] and have someone correct the list of offerings and send a message to students about a "new course."

Now, one could speculate that  this is an act of political suppression, but that is clearly untrue.  This is by no means the edgiest course being offered in Sociology next semester.  No, alas, it is just good old fashioned incompetence, of a sort with which I am too, too familiar in the Academy.

Fortunately, Todd says, students keep signing up all Spring.  But it is a good thing I am so obsessive, or we would have had no students at all.