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Students Petition for Class on Marxism

It may come as a shock, but the University of Havana (North) currently offers no philosophy class devoted to our patron saint, Karl Marx. Sure, half of the courses here analyze things “from a Marxist perspective” but there is no class that takes an in-depth look at Marx’s philosophy and its relationship to Hegel’s. But one group of ambitious sophomores are trying to change that. Vanguardists!

They’ve written a groveling letter to Professor Neuhouser of the Philosophy department, which somebody (lol) forwarded to Bwog. In the letter, the sophomores—”all of [whom] are professed Marxists or are at least very sympathetic to Marxism”—request that Professor Neuhouser create and teach “a semester-long seminar on Hegel/Marx, preferably either an entire course on the Phenomenology of Spirit and/or on Capital, Vol. I from a philosophical/historical perspective.” Because only professed Marxists ought to take such a class, or have a claim for one? Whatever, they’re Marxists, not liberals.

Professor Neuhouser has already offered to lead an independent reading group on Capital for these Very Young Hegelians, but they feel that they need a formal course as preparation to “fulfill what [Marxist philosopher Theodor] Adorno believed had been missed in his time: the realization of philosophy.” They’ll even promise Professor Neuhouser that they won’t sleep in class, sort of: “you won’t find any of us sleeping in such a class (okay, perhaps this may be an exaggeration; I personally sometimes have difficulty with my sleeping schedule).” Still, though.

It takes a while for a department to get a new course approved—remember “Occupy the Field”?—so the earliest this seminar could be offered would be next fall. But one thing’s for sure: if and when this class is eventually added to the syllabus, we’ll hear about it on Fox News.

Update: Professor Neuhouser has responded to the sophomores’ letter:

Next year I plan to teach Hist. of Phil. III and my Hegel lecture course. The latter especially would be good for students in your situation to take. I hope to be able to teach Eur. Social Phil. in 2014-15; when I teach that course we spend half the semester on Marx. (You could take that course even if you’ve taken it with Prof. Honneth, since the readings will be entirely different.)

The full letter:

Professor Neuhouser,

I write to you only as a messenger of a much larger body of students from the Class of 2015.

All of us desire one thing, and one thing only, from the Philosophy Department before we graduate: a semester-long seminar on Hegel/Marx, preferably either an entire course on the Phenomenology of Spirit and/or on Capital, Vol. I from a philosophical/historical perspective. All of us are either philosophy, sociology or anthropology majors; all of us have taken both European Social Thought and European Social Thought II: Critical Theory (Frankfurt School) with your collegue Axel Honneth; all of us are planning to take Twentieth-Century Philosophy with Taylor Carman next semester. All of us are professed Marxists or are at least very sympathetic to Marxism, have read quite a bit from authors in the Marxist tradition (as well as from 19th/20th century continental philosophy as a whole), all of us have “faith” in, as Lukacs put it, the (materialist) dialectic. We someday wish to fulfill what Adorno believed had been missed in his time: the realization of philosophy.

Yet to our embarassment none of us has every truly confronted Hegel on his own terms, at least not outside of a second-hand account of his system or the reading of various excerpts. Neither have any of us gone through the whole of Capital, outside of, yet again, several companions to the text or excerpts. We realize both of these authors’ magnum opa are incredibly dense. We also realize that they are towering figures in the history of philosophy, particularly the philosophy we most enjoy. These facts only fuels our appetite further.

I write to you because we all know you are not only the resident expert on these authors/this philosophical school in Columbia’s Philosophy Department (aside from Honneth), but also because we know you have offered a Hegel seminar in the past. If we have a Kant seminar offered every spring (some of us have taken that class or plan to next semester), then we feel we deserve a shot to grapple with Hegel, with you at as our guide. Some of us, in fact, met you (myself included) personally at the Philosophy Department’s Open House in the last academic year, in which we expressed our interest for a course solely focused on Marx. You were kind enough to speak to us afterward, telling us that you’d be more than willing to participate in a Capital reading group with us (“from an orthodox Marxist perspective,” you said, much to our delight). I suppose this is our belated response: we want not just a reading group, but an entire class devoted to the two authors. At the very least, a semester course on Hegel’s Phenomenology to get us grounded.

We realize petitioning for, preparing, and teaching such a course is not in any way an easy task. Nonetheless, we believe that our preparation and enthusiasm can make the course incredibly productive, both to you and to us. You won’t find any of us sleeping in such a class (okay, perhaps this may be an exaggeration; I personally sometimes have difficulty with my sleeping schedule) or taking any of the assignments lightly. We admire your scholarship and we wish to be given the opportunity to receive your instruction.

If we were to see a Hegel, Hegel/Marx or Marx class in the Bulletin come the Fall of 2013, or the Spring of 2014, we’d be forever grateful to you. Like I said before, we promise we’ll make it worth your trouble.

Let me know what you think of this proposal.

P.S.: Forgive me if at any point in this letter I’ve been disrespectful or out of line.

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42 Comments

  • Latín says:

    @Latín Magni Opera

    1. #neuter says:

      @#neuter magna

      1. true, true. says:

        @true, true. haha! latin rules.

    2. LOL says:

      @LOL “OK, no spin: Columbia University is a disgrace. It is not interested in free speech or learning, it is a place of indoctrination.”

      okay, no judgment: judging Fox so hard for this paragraph

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “All of us are professed Marxists or are at least very sympathetic to Marxism, have read quite a bit from authors in the Marxist tradition (as well as from 19th/20th century continental philosophy as a whole), all of us have “faith” in, as Lukacs put it, the (materialist) dialectic.”

    Why don’t you pick up copies of The Communist Manifesto or Capital and read them for yourselves, rather than pouring your parent’s capital into your attempts to revive a fatally flawed philosophy?

    Better yet, why don’t you repellent little shits fuck off and join whatever red guerilla army is recruiting these days or, for that matter, spend some time as ACTUAL labor as longshoremen or swinging a hammer in the summer?

    1. Illinois says:

      @Illinois Hear, hear. I bet one could see by their narrow shoulders and awful posture that they’ve never swung an axe.

    2. Please says:

      @Please @Anonymous:

      The most unwarranted aggressiveness I’ve seen in Bwog in a while. Simply because these students wish to expand the education that they’re paying over $50,000 to receive in a direction that is not to your liking, they are “repellent little shits” who need to “fuck off”?

      Also, how does it follow that to study Hegel/Marx one needs to have been through the grueling life of a slum laborer? Isn’t what these students envision precisely a world without this type of assault on human dignity?

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Yeah? Fuck off and get over it, you repellent little shit. Plenty more aggression for your lot.

    3. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous “You repellent little shits” I lol’d so hard!

  • Freedom Fighter says:

    @Freedom Fighter In 2013, a far-left, subversive terrorist sympathizer, activist, ACLU lawyer, professor, and abortion doctor was teaching a class at Columbia University on Karl Marx, known atheist.

    ”Before the class begins, you must get on your knees and worship Marx and accept that he was the most highly-evolved being the world has ever known, even greater than Jesus Christ!”

    At this moment, a brave, patriotic, pro-life Navy SEAL champion who had served 1500 tours of duty and understood the necessity of war and fully supported all military decision made by the United States stood up and held up a rock.

    ”How old is this rock, pinhead?”

    The arrogant professor smirked like a communist and smugly replied “4.6 billion years, you stupid Christian.”

    ”Wrong. It’s been 5,000 years since God created it. If it was 4.6 billion years old and evolution, as you say, is real… then it should be an animal now.”

    The professor was visibly shaken, and dropped his chalk and copy of Che Guevara’s biography. He stormed out of the room crying those leftist crocodile tears. The same tears Marxists cry for the “proletariat” (who today live in such luxury that most own cell phones) when they jealously try to claw justly earned wealth from the deserving job creators. There is no doubt that at this point our professor, DeShawn Washington, wished he had pulled himself up by his bootstraps and become more than a sophist communist professor. He wished so much that he had a gun to shoot himself from embarrassment, but he himself had petitioned against them!

    The students applauded and all registered Republican that day and accepted Jesus as their lord and savior. An eagle named “Small Government” flew into the room and perched atop the American Flag and shed a tear on the chalk. The pledge of allegiance was read several times, and God himself showed up and enacted a flat tax rate across the country.

    The professor lost his tenure and was fired the next day to be sent to the Gulag. He died of starvation and was tossed into the lake of fire for all eternity.

    Semper Fi.

    1. Illinois says:

      @Illinois pure comedy gold, right here

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous PS That marine was Albert Einstein.

    3. maeby says:

      @maeby Marry me.

    4. downvoted says:

      @downvoted repost.

    5. jb says:

      @jb this is a longwinded and simpleminded caricature (the worst kind of satire) of a conservative viewpoint, and i’m a liberal! i’d expect something more clever from fellow columbians…

  • Lol to the apology; also says:

    @Lol to the apology; also A bunch of ideologues want to drown in dialectical theory without encountering opposition. Surprise

  • CC '13 says:

    @CC '13 This email is incredibly annoying, but whoever wrote it is right that Neuhouser is a boss. He is by far the most thoughtful, respectful, and brilliant professor I have encountered at Columbia – I would give my left nut to study Hegel and Marx with him.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Chances are if you’re so goddamned keen to study with him, you haven’t a left nut to give.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous do they not realize a class like this is regularly taught in the philosophy department, and was taught a couple years ago, so would very likely have been taught again before they graduate anyway?

    –someone capable of reading the “past courses” links on the philosophy department website

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous “I write to you because we all know you are not only the resident expert on these authors/this philosophical school in Columbia’s Philosophy Department (aside from Honneth), but also because we know you have offered a Hegel seminar in the past. ”

      — someone capable of actually reading the email

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous how does that explain why an email is necessary?

    2. lol says:

      @lol you just got dissed.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous You don’t have to apologize for making a (polite, no less) request of authority at the bottom of your email. Pretty sure Marx didn’t want you to act like a little bitch.

  • Bernardo CC'14 says:

    @Bernardo CC'14 Why the hell are people criticizing this? It’s University students wanting to study something in which they’re interested… I would also like Columbia to offer more classes in my area of study (philosophy dept, if you’re reading this, a seminar on Augustine and Boethius would make me the happiest). Kudos to this group for being proactive regarding their education.

    How exactly would it affect anyone not enrolled in the class if this were taught? Also, regardless if you agree with some of Marx’s ideas, you can’t deny his importance in intellectual history and a huge number of historical events in the past century. Hence, why we skim him in CC.

    1. hmmm says:

      @hmmm I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of courses already offered that have a significant Marxist influence, if not explicit focus. Much of modern anthropology, if I’m not mistaken, has a decided Marxist influence. Anyway, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to study whatever and whoever they please– though I think that any serious engagement in political thought requires at least some attempt to overcome the practice of “studying” that which you already profess to believe.

    2. Bernardo says:

      @Bernardo I must admire your courage and maturity insulting someone (albeit quite poorly) on an anonymous online forum. If I annoy you so much, please tell it to my face.

      Also… Queef? Your seventh grade teacher called. Your 300-word essay on Christopher Columbus is due Friday.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous U mad, punk?

    3. CC says:

      @CC Maybe because Marx’s philosophy has caused millions of brutal deaths?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous this will go over real well on the right wing blogs

  • Very Young Hegelians says:

    @Very Young Hegelians Haters gonna hate, players gonna play.

    Bwog Commenters have only interpreted Columbia, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Fuck you.

  • Why do professors says:

    @Why do professors for these classes never grade on the curve?

    All students get the same Marx!

  • Jacks says:

    @Jacks we have to protect the club

  • Gavroche says:

    @Gavroche Ugh, don’t go around saying big words and defending dramatic stances before you’re old enough to fully comprehend them. It can end badly. Trust me.

    1. not Javert says:

      @not Javert Bullshit! Go for it, guys!!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Good on ya for trying to get what you want out of college but the sooner you realize what a crock of shit Continental philosophy is, the better.

    Spoken as someone who’s take one of those Marx and Hegel classes.

  • comment says:

    @comment comment

  • Columbia Liberal says:

    @Columbia Liberal I don’t think this letter is actually as ridiculous as Bwog is making it seem – nor is it such a big deal. If someone emailed the Slavic department asking them for a course on the history of the Soviet Union from 1918-1943, I don’t think it would make Bwog. While I disagree with these students’ worldview, I admire their intellectual dedication and wish them well in finding classes which fit their interests and leave them intellectually fulfilled.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Ironic. You would not be able to petition if you follow Marx.

  • King says:

    @King If you want inheritance from your parents, you support redistribution of wealth.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous By the way, the Fox thing about the University of Havana is actually sort of accurate. Search University of Havana on Google images and you’ll understand why.

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