This German PhD story [via] reminds me of that blissful moment in recent British political history (February 1994) when Michael Portillo went on one of his xenophobic rants about furreners, claiming that in Britain students earned their A-Levels rather than, as elsewhere in Europe, either buying them or ‘being a friend of the minister’s’, only to be asked by some journalist or other just which EU countries in particular he had in mind, and could he explain what he did to acquire his Cambridge MA?
“I was involved in three long-running arguments over the course of my career. The first was with the Althusserians, on Marx’s theory of history, and I knew what that was about. The second was with Nozick, on self-ownership, and I knew what that was about. The third was with Dworkin, on expensive tastes, and I still have no idea what that was about.”
(Imperfect paraphrase from memory of conversation a few years ago.)
Jerry Cohen collapsed yesterday and died this morning.
The words that follow were written by Frederick Engels to Friedrich Adolph Sorge on 15 March 1883, the day after his friend Karl Marx had died, they are words that Jerry knew very well and in which he found inspiration, and they seem appropriate for this very sad morning.
Be that as it may, mankind is shorter by a head, and the greatest head of our time at that. The proletarian movement goes on, but gone is its central figure to which Frenchmen, Russians, Americans and Germans spontaneously turned at critical moments, to receive always that clear incontestable counsel which only genius and a perfect understanding of the situation could give. Local lights and lesser minds, if not the humbugs, will now have a free hand. The final victory is certain, but circuitious paths, temporary and local errors – things which even now are so unavoidable – will become more common than ever. Well, we must see it through. What else are we here for?
And we are not near losing courage yet.
[Picture credit: Chris Bertram]