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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Sunday, March 18, 2018


Here is a piece Todd published today in the NY Daily News.  teaching with him is going to be a hoot!

BY Todd Gitlin [4]
Sunday, March 18, 2018, 5:00 AM
Last week's school walkouts against school shootings will probably not suffice to jolt America to its senses about guns — even if 100,000 students walked out in New York City, by one estimate, or a million nationwide, by another.  But the students have already accomplished something important: They refuse to stand idly by. They speak with the authority of victims but also the maturity of citizens. They honor the lost, and at the same time they think forward.  So they have mobilized an unprecedented force. This is not just a matter of social media. Their energy and eloquence, conspicuous after the Parkland, Fla., massacre, has put new facts on the ground. Where those facts will take us depends on what they do next and who follows the students' lead.

This week's March for Our Lives in Washington will amplify the call.  School walkouts were with us long before the age of instantaneous clicking. High school students took to the streets in the 1960s to demand reforms.  But the current walkouts are in one crucial way precedent-making. In the 1960s, the initiative came from adults who had been campaigning against segregation for years: ministers and civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Congress of Racial Equality.

This week, the students took the initiative. They were the leaders. In the 1960s, there were young leaders aplenty in anti-racist and anti-war movements, but the leaders of those movements were college and university students. I know, because I was in the thick of it, with Students for a Democratic Society. Enthusiastic high schoolers did join in, but they were troops more than officers. The most celebrated, and probably the most effective, wave of schoolchildren's protest came on May 2, 1963, when more than 1,000 teenagers trained in nonviolent action poured out of high schools in and around segregationist Birmingham, Ala., which the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the most segregated city in the country."  Dr. King's followers had been protesting segregation for weeks but had run short of adult volunteers. King himself, at first hesitant to involve the young, was persuaded to try. The students would walk downtown, hoping to talk with the mayor about segregation. Hundreds were arrested. Set free, they turned out the next day, too.   Hundreds more teenagers turned out, too, and this time, Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor ordered his police to turn high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs on the demonstrators. This was bad for public relations. The images of assault on innocent victims circumnavigated the world and fueled still more civil rights activity, which culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Connor instantly became the poster boy for brutal white supremacy.
In October 1963, Chicago's vigorous civil rights movement declared a Freedom Day boycott to protest school segregation and the practice of assigning used textbooks to black students, among other indignities. Some 200,000 students marched in the streets. Other cities saw one-and two-day sequels, all led by civil rights activists and ministers:  New York in February, with some 450,000 staying out of school; Cleveland in April, with 85% of black students staying out; Seattle in 1966, led by the NAACP among others.

In each of these cases, objections were heard. High school kids were said to be too impressionable, too easily manipulated. "Outside agitators" were accused of stirring up trouble among docile Negroes. It wasn't only white racists who looked askance at the student insurgency. During the Birmingham protest, Malcolm X, fearing violence, took a swipe at the civil rights movement, saying that "real men don't put their children on the firing line."  King, on the other hand, said that actions like Birmingham's brought children "a sense of their own stake in freedom." He later wrote, "Looking back, it is clear that the introduction of Birmingham's children into the campaign was one of the wisest moves we made. It brought a new impact to the crusade, and the impetus that we needed to win the struggle."

Birmingham's actions were the first large-scale civil disobedience under King's leadership. The confrontation in the streets made for one of his most vivid actions.  Today too, partisans of the status quo are ever eager to deem student protestors to be pawns in somebody else's sinister game. In the folklore of five decades ago, apologists for white supremacy accused "outside agitators" of being the puppet-masters of the young. Today, without offering the slightest trace of evidence, gun fanatics accuse outspoken high schoolers of being "crisis actors" paid by the likes of their favorite demon, the philanthropist George Soros.  The high schoolers' insurgency is all the more impressive in contrast with the protest habits of their college-age elders. In recent years, despite strong campaigns for fossil-fuel divestment (a good cause) and a boycott of Israeli scholars (a bad cause), a great deal of campus energy that wants the world to think it is progressive remains self-enclosed.

Their feuds are internecine. They are parochial. They do not persuade the unconvinced. Many campus activists think they strike a serious blow against racism by shaking their fists at Mike Cernovich, Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and other far-right darlings invited onto campus precisely to elicit outrage — or at Charles Murray, a conservative thinker who actually makes arguments. They fixate on the view that speech with which they disagree is tantamount to violence, and therefore believe that they are entitled to prevent or disrupt it.  They are not embarrassed to embrace a slogan that would have been anathema for every previous generation of progressive campaigners: "NO FREE SPEECH." Their bullying is, they think, purely defensive.

Liberals are dismayed and a gleeful right — which supports the nastiest president in history — gets to crow that it's the left that's thuggish.  Meanwhile, the campuses whose symbolic "political correctness" is routinely deplored by right-wingers are toothless or counterproductive. Their passions are directed against objectionable words and gestures, so-called "microaggressions," and not against the far more consequential macroaggression that systematically — through gerrymandering, voter ID laws, restrictions on voting hours and other  measures that dampen the vote for people of color, city dwellers and ex-felons — punishes the poor and minorities.  So when I walk onto the Columbia campus, where I teach, I do not see appeals for students to go to nearby swing districts, or anywhere else, to register voters, or to lobby state officials to keep the polls open. There are local Democrats on the Upper West Side who do that work, but not many college students, either at Columbia or other universities I visit.

The high school activists have leapfrogged their older sisters and brothers.  They too often isolate themselves from off-campus political allies with whom they might actually make life better for most people of color. They rarely actively campaign for candidates who support affordable housing, more affordable health care, environmental justice and desegregation.  Even as the post-women's-march Resistance mobilizes to support electable Democrats around the country, and otherwise oppose Donald Trump's most unjust and pernicious policies, not enough campuses teem — not yet, at least — with volunteers who fan out to register voters in swing districts, to build a political force in behalf of democratic, egalitarian change.  We are learning a lot through this split-screen look at two forms of protest.

High schoolers in Florida and elsewhere are acutely aware that they live in a world where their enemies hold power. With amazing speed, less than a week after Nikolas Cruz snuffed out 17 lives with his AR-15, they arranged for buses to take them to the state capital in Tallahassee, lobbying to tighten gun laws. (The Republicans who rule the Florida statehouse refused even to consider a bill to ban assault rifles.)  Many of the high school leaders know they have to take political action if they are not to keep running into stone walls. They talk about the need to register voters. They know they need to keep lobbying but even more, they need to help elect congenial politicians. 

What the young activists will do for an encore is in their hands.  Will they surmount the passivity that has retarded past gun control campaigns? Will they avoid burning out?  And will the power of their example inspire those who are slightly older and not at all wiser in the ways of citizen activism? Here's hoping.

_Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia
University and the author of "Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit and
the Promise of Occupy Wall Street."_


Well, I am back, having just dodged really bad weather in Paris.  Although I cannot access my blog in Paris to post, I was able to read the comments, and my general impression is that you do not need me at all!  A lively, knowledgeable, vigorous discussion took place in my absence.  Maybe I should go away more often.

What is new in Paris?  The Seine is still above its normal level.  Our good friend Joan has a new little dog who is lovely but can never truly take the place of Apollon, who passed away when we were there in October.  Gael, our favorite waitperson at the cafĂ©, has been promoted to daytime manager, well deserved.  Oh yes, I have been invited by a Marxist organization in Brussels to give a lecture in June as part of their celebration of the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth [an event not stimulating much in the way of recognition here in our benighted United States.]

While in Paris I completely changed my plans for the next Marx lecture, to be delivered tomorrow.  I will actually talk about what I said I would talk about, rather than going on a riff about Burt Reynolds, capitalism, and a hotel I watched being built several years ago.  I shall save my notes on that for a future lecture.

Let’s see, while I was away, Rex Tillerson was fired, as was a senior State Departmnent official for telling the truth, Trump’s body man was frogmarched out of the White House because of an out-of-control gambling problem, Conor Lamb won a smashing 627 vote victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford [a.k.a. Stormy Daniels] stated flatly on TV that the payoff to her to keep quiet about her affair with Trump directly involved Trump and that she has been physically threatened, details to be released in a Sixty Minutes interview to be aired next Sunday, and for the first time ever a Number 16 seed beat a number 1 seed in the first round of the NCAA March Madness.

I was only away for twelve days, for crissakes!

Seen from abroad, the United States looks to be spiraling rapidly into a modern reality TV form of dictatorship.  I am ashamed to have an American passport.

When the bags are unpacked and the laundry is done, I shall spend some time kibitzing the exchanges in the Comments section.

I missed you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Here it is, number five.  You can all watch this while I fly off to Paris.  I will return in a little less than two weeks.  I leave it to you to make sure the world does not fall apart while I am gone.

Monday, March 5, 2018


Thanks to Todd Gitlin's interventions and efforts, he and I have jumped through all the hoops and cleared all the bureaucratic hurdles.  Next semester [Fall 2018, the 50th anniversary of the great Columbia student uprising]  Todd and I will teach an upper level undergraduate seminar in the Columbia Sociology Department entitled The Mystifications of Social Reality.  It is scheduled for Tuesdays, 2-4 pm, and I shall fly up to New York each Tuesday to teach.  It should be a blast.

Saturday, March 3, 2018


So Trump, unglued because the world is closing in on him, lashes out by threatening to impost tariffs on steel and aluminum, and the EU responds by floating the idea of tariffs on Bourbon and Harley Davidson motorcycles?  Why on earth those products?  Because Bourbon comes from the home state of Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Harley Davidson's corporate headquarters are in Speaker Ryan's home state.

I think our Dear Leader is outclassed.


Several of you have had kind things to say about my lectures, including Anonymous [is there only one?], Professor Charles Pigden, and LFC.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  It means more to me than I can say that the lectures please and even instruct.  I guess I am, at heart, a stand up comic.

Oh, while I am at it, Andrew Blais, the book you are recalling is Games and Decisions by Luce and Raiffa, which has a proof of the Fundamental Theorem but not a proof of Brouwer's Fixed Point Theorem.


Let's face it.  Things are godawful and getting worse.  Even Tiggers like me have trouble finding something to bounce up and down about.  I grasp at every smidgen of good news like a man sinking into quicksand and reaching for a low-hanging branch.  This morning, after an extra early walk [beautiful full moon], I came upon two stories that lifted my spirits.  

The first was this story in the Washington Post.  It seems that Kansas has never gotten around to actually passing a law stipulating the minimum age for Governor, so five teenage high school students -- all young men -- have announced for the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominations this year.  It is immediately obvious from the Post story that any one of them would be superior to the rightwing idiot now occupying the post.  You gotta love a country in which this can happen.

The second story was an MSNBC report of a Russian sex guru, a young attractive woman currently in a Thai prison awaiting extradition to Russia, who claims to have eighteen hours of tapes and such connecting Russian oligarchs with the Trump campaign, which she will share with anyone who gets her out of jail.  Her story is about as likely as Trump's claim that he was an honors student at Wharton, but the report gave me a frisson of glee.

Now, there, don't say I never give you anything to smile about!