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July 23, 2007

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Dr.Dawg

Ah, David, mock on, mock on. The concepts quoted really aren't all that hard to understand. History itself is constructed--and that's not postmodernism, that's Karl Popper. We can read history a number of ways. Sigal is foregrounding sexuality. So did Freud. Indeed, there's probably more Freud in this stuff than Sigal would admit.

He cautions that we should not take the Spanish observers at their word. Seems like sound scholarly advice to me. Look at the texts available, see if something other than a "literal" reading makes sense. Again,m perfectly reasonable, or we'd have literature students think that Jonathan Swift advocated eating babies.

I'll leave Sigal's colleagues alone for the moment. Sigal's latest proposal, incidentally, makes a good deal of sense, at least to me. The links between colonization and sexualization are hardly a new discovery, after all. Frankly, it's pretty mainstream stuff, and free of all that jargon you dislike, too.

David

Dr Dawg,

You really shouldn’t presume that mockery automatically entails heathenism or a lack of understanding. I tend to target idiocies I have some acquaintance with. I’m not suggesting that Sigal’s concepts are “hard to understand”; merely that they’re not entirely reputable and carelessly used, as in the examples linked above.

Suitably motivated, one can, I’m sure, “read” texts and events to suit almost any personal or political agenda, or to retrospectively project contemporary fixations; not least when one is willing to disregard contrary evidence and resort to “poststructuralist gender studies” as a validation of rather loaded and fanciful suppositions.

I realise that if one is schooled in such notions, and their habitual misuse, one can come to identify with them, and with their misuses. But that you rush to defend Sigal and, abortively, Guertin does you no favours, I think. If you follow the links above, I suspect you’ll spot a pattern of deception in the Duke humanities.

Dr.Dawg

David:

I did read Sigal's proposal, and also the article you linked to, before posting a comment. So there is nothing of the kneejerk in my response.

I don't thinking that "reading a text" means that one can simply use the text as a backdrop for one's own inventions. Readings must be intelligible, coherent and text-based. I haven't seen any evidence that Sigal is doing anything but textual analysis. The word "literal" doesn't equate to "facts and evidence": it means taking a text at face value. As noted, that would leave "A Modest Proposal" as monstrous policy wonkery à la W.W.Rostow, and, for that matter, most literature would become simply unintelligible.

Ah, you will say, but that's literature and I'm talking about history. But if the stuff of history comes down to us as textual fragments, then textual analysis only makes sense. And reading those texts literally, you will likely miss a great deal.

TDK

This reminded me of the "Goddess mythology" which was just starting about the time I graduated.

http://www.debunker.com/texts/goddess.html
http://www.debunker.com/texts/goddess_rem.html
http://jbburnett.com/resources/atlmo-goddesses/atl-mo-allen-goddesses.html or
http://www.rickross.com/reference/wicca/wicca31.html

This is the idea of a feminist prehistory, where people were cooperative, not competitive; peaceful, not warlike etc etc.

Slightly less convincing than Erich (ancient Egyptians never knew rope) von Daniken

David

Dr Dawg,

You really must try to stop throwing straw around too. You continue to accuse me of making points I haven’t actually made and then attacking them as if I had. (This is, I think, the sixth time you’ve done this since you arrived, or possibly the seventh. Unfortunately, issues I have raised previously have been lost in the confusion.) In this instance, I haven’t argued that all texts, literary or historical, should be read literally, in the sense you suggest. None of which exactly validates Sigal’s colourful claims or his methodology, such as it is.

David

TDK,

Well, quite. The Däniken comparison is funny, and not entirely misplaced. I would add, however, that many of the culprits I have in mind who ‘re-imagine’ history based on almost nothing tend to do so as a vehicle for their comments on the present. Unfortunately, those comments tend to be rather uniform in their disdain for capitalism, bourgeois values, etc. Which, for some reason, doesn’t foster enormous confidence in the theory, or the intention behind it.

Dr.Dawg

David:

The fault here was mine. I had conflated your views and those of Johnson, who wrote:

"In a 1998 article, Sigal wrote that historians needed to avoid the 'traps of reading the evidence too literally.' (Facts, indeed, can be inconvenient things.)"

It was that sentiment to which I was reacting. But back to Sigal. As noted, there is little new in terms of concepts in what has been referenced. The notion of the phallus as a signifier of power, for example, is more than a century old. I may be thick, but I can't discern through all the mockery what, specifically, you dislike about Sigal's analysis. For instance, you reference his new proposal, which I read with interest. What's wrong with it?

If I have indeed been throwing straw around, please accept my apologies. I'm still learning your style, and perhaps you aren't being as outright dismissive of postmodern thought as I had imagined. But you do seem to have a habit, if I may say so, of simply putting something before the reader, saying "There!" and breaking into a laugh. I'd like a little more by way of critique.

David

Dr Dawg,

Well, facts can indeed be inconvenient things, and for Sigal I suspect they’re a real thorn in his paw. Sigal’s work does appear to be, at the very least, tendentious, and, frankly, absurd. I don’t care to trawl through it’s details further as I fear the absurdity may induce nausea. I did it with Guertin to make a broader point, but it’s tiresome work and not hugely rewarding.

I confess I’m rather baffled by your apparent willingness to defend Sigal’s speculations, based as they are on almost nothing, and defended as they are with appeals to equally speculative devices of questionable repute. And his desire to “centre [his] entire analysis of the military by sexualizing the bodies of the soldiers” scarcely needs further comment. I’m sure the gags will write themselves.

But perhaps you’re being mischievous.

steveaz

TDK, In the PoMo mind, History is like Anthropology and Archeology. With just a little bombast and word-smithing It's conclusions can be reconstructed to fit a "scholar's" needs, just like a hem can be raised for a skirt's new wearer.

But, when every aspect of written history refutes feminism's utopian, pacifistic designs, it's not enough for the Fems to fiddle with a hem-line and add a few new buttons. No, the entire robe of history must go in the trash, along with all the supporting "Patriarchal" sciences, so that these academics' wish-filled accounts can stand as unrefuted "history." Their Goddess History must become the "one true history," and any competing narratives provided by the modern sciences must be quashed.

I still laugh when I recall how my fem professor-friend asserted, with a straight face, that all those implements found with the bear skulls in European caves were not weapons. She's sure that they were farming implements. This applies equally, I assumed, to the spear point found in the Neanderthal child's cranium, too, but I did not ask.

Maybe the point was a shard of a rudimentary digging tool that accidently got stuck in the little girl's temple: a farming accident.

The sad part is, my friend is considered "smart" by her peers in the university, and worse, my tax dollars pay her salary and health insurance. So we all have to subsidize this idiocy. Mon Dieu!

Cambias

Dr. Dawg: Let's apply a little postmodern analysis to your letter, shall we?

"Ah, David, mock on, mock on." -- You use Mr. Thompson's first name, while arrogating to yourself the title "Dr." in your signature, thereby establishing a hegemonic relationship.

"The concepts quoted really aren't all that hard to understand." -- You presuppose that "concepts" are inherently understandable, and that therefore David's transgressive refusal to participate in your narrative represents a personal failing rather than an alternative response to signifiers.

"History itself is constructed--and that's not postmodernism, that's Karl Popper." -- Note the inherent paradox of making an assertion of "historical" fact which states that history is a construct. This slyly invites the reader to understand that "Dr." Dawg is using a self-contradicting argument to support his hegemonic narrative. The reader can either assent, thus becoming complicit, or dissent -- but the act of dissenting from the historicist argument itself affirms the statement.

"We can read history a number of ways." -- Again, the use of paradox, by stating that history can be used to support any number of narratives, yet using this statement as part of one particular hegemonic narrative.

"Sigal is foregrounding sexuality. So did Freud." -- Note his repeated use of white/male "authority" figures to ground his postmodern discourse. But Dawg subverts his own narrative by playfully dragging in figures from unrelated disciplines, as if to point out the fundamental absurdity of relying on the "authority" of individual viewpoints whose value derives solely from their role in the greater Western hegemonic narrative.

"Indeed, there's probably more Freud in this stuff than Sigal would admit." -- By referencing Freud, a bisociative figure at once known for his "authority" as the founder of a new style of psychological "analysis" and yet also as a transgressive figure who shattered the paradigm of Christo-European patriarchal repression, he seeks to reassure the reader that Sigal is _not_ transgressive and thus can be an "acceptable" actor within the presumed hegemonic narrative.

"He cautions that we should not take the Spanish observers at their word." -- Again, a retreat into a highly conventional, indeed almost Victorian Protestant narrative, disregarding "Spaniards" because of their presumed "untrustworthiness." This is part of the long "Lejenda nera" tradition of Anglophones stigmatizing the Hispanophone Other as simultaneously hyper-devout and sinful, sexualized and repressed -- not to mention displacing the "guilt" of imperialism onto them.

"Seems like sound scholarly advice to me." -- Again, the ironic appeal to authority, inasmuch as it is advice to ignore the authority of eyewitnesses in favor of the modern Anglophone narrative.

"Look at the texts available, see if something other than a "literal" reading makes sense." -- This represents a kind of ontological imperialism in which the experience of the modern reader is privileged over the mundane, and thus "unreliable" experience of the historical Spanish observer.

"Again,m perfectly reasonable, or we'd have literature students think that Jonathan Swift advocated eating babies." -- Dawg continues his playful irony, this time adducing examples from explicitly "fictional" texts in order to place in tension the very concept of "fact" and "fiction." How, he asks, can we know if Swift was being "literal?" How can we know if Sigal is? Or Dr. Dawg? Or Cambias? All texts, he suggests, are equally fictitious, which means that for Sigal to teach his own "interpretation" in a class is equated to a form of "performance art" expressing Sigal's own truth rather than the "truth" of historical observers or hegemonic narrative.

"I'll leave Sigal's colleagues alone for the moment. Sigal's latest proposal, incidentally, makes a good deal of sense, at least to me. The links between colonization and sexualization are hardly a new discovery, after all. Frankly, it's pretty mainstream stuff, and free of all that jargon you dislike, too." -- He closes by invoking his paradox of "authority," invoking "colleagues" and the "mainstream" to affirm Sigal's place in the hegemonic narrative even as it acknowledges Sigal's "transgressive" attempts to deconstruct that narrative. The reader is left in doubt: what is authority? What is real?

David

Heh. Don’t make me flick the lights on and off.

Dr.Dawg

ROTFLMAO!!!

Dr.Dawg

I was laughing so hard that I forgot to make one correction. The title "Dr." is used ironically, its presumed authority subverted by "Dawg," signifying a cartoon animal. Contrary to the charge that I am establishing a hegemonic relationship, therefore, I have constructed a non-hierarchical subject-position.

The Thin Man

So many big words...
So little comprehensibliity...

I think the single most important question about this pomo dreck is one every Parent of a student should be asking. Is ANY of this worth the $40,000 a year I am paying?

Are we sure that that discussions about how queer ancient Mexicans were are worth the same as say - a years study of Bio-chemistry?

If this ersatz wisdom is supposed to be worth something, how come there is no market for it outside the hallowed halls of Academia?

We should take all these marxist buffoons and gas them like badgers.

Dr.Dawg

We should take all these marxist buffoons and gas them like badgers.

Now, that's going a trifle too far.

wayne fontes

To Dr. Dawg

I posted this question at DIW and it attracted no responses. I would bet $100 that every paper and lecture produced at the conference was unfavorable to to Caucasians-Capitalism-Men. In other words the Race/Class/Gender would be adhered to with slavish orthodoxy. Would you expect any scholarship that runs counter to this orthodoxy?

The extension of this question is if the results of the scholarship are known before hand should resources be put into the research and is the research honest?

TDK

"The links between colonization and sexualization are hardly a new discovery"

What did you have in mind?

I'm aware of a theory that homophobia was introduced to Africans by Europeans. Does that fall under the scope?

David

“Gas them like badgers.”

“Now, that's going a trifle too far.”

I have suggested targeted sack beatings as a compromise. They’re not so indiscriminate and they are quite effective.

The Thin Man

But really - is this kind of drivel how we want the era we live in to be remembered by history?

Can ANYONE honestly say that in 100 years people will speak of the "Greats" and list Popper, Freud and Sigal? It really does sully the names of Popper and Freud to mention Sigal in the same breath.

We have created a "make-work" academic culture; our universities are, in the name of "diversity", replacing honest endeavour with politically motivated boondoggle. It strikes me that all the left (and let's be honest, it IS the left we are talking about here, since they have firewalled themselves into control of large swathes of academic life and will tolerate anything EXCEPT diversity of opinion) wants to do is project its' own prejudices about today onto the past.

None of this "research" has any real philosophic or intellectual enterprise.

Dr.Dawg

TDK:

"The links between colonization and sexualization are hardly a new discovery"
What did you have in mind?"

Well, this sort of thing:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CAP/POCA/POC-col.html

I'll try to dig up some better references, but the sexualization of the Other is hardly controversial.

TDK

I think it worth pointing out to The Thin Man that Karl Popper was (and is) generally disliked by academics because he was a trenchant critic of the enemies of Open Society, which included Marxists and National Socialists. He dismissed Freud as pseudo science.

David

“None of this ‘research’ has any real philosophic or intellectual enterprise.”

Well, we wait for someone to address the points raised regarding the value of such “work” outside its immediate academic context and the broader, habitual, bias against certain political targets - generally bourgeois values, capitalism, territoriality, masculinity, Western wickedness, etc. As has been suggested, the disreputable methodology and its prejudicial objectives suggest very little of value (intellectual or otherwise) is actually taking place.

If someone calls something “Transsexuality and the Floating Phallus” and litters it with fanciful and unsupported claims, many of which are simply perverse, and then asserts it as scholarship, they can scarcely be indignant when it is viewed as unworthy of study. The fact that Sigal may call himself a scholar doesn’t automatically mean what he does is scholarship, or that it’s deserving of attention. Though there will always be some who feel obliged to defend appalling flummery for reasons of their own. But contrarianism in and of itself is not the greatest virtue, or the best use of one’s time.

And I think The Thin Man should win something for his use of the word “boondoggle”.

John Ryan

Strange isn't it how so many young people could actually choose to attend such an institution as Duke University ? This could only occur with the full co-option of MSM.

TDK

You really have to stop making sweeping statements like "the sexualization of the Other is hardly controversial". It starts to sound like you don't really believe it yourself. If you are right, you don't need to say it - it will be self evident.

Let me extract a quote:

"Critics such as Richard Slotkin have called this genre [ie a rape story] representative of the North American mode of contact with the Indians."

It would be "silly" (another sweeping word) to deny that people were and are raped. Some questions occur:

Did every European rape?
Did every European approve?
Did others rape too?
Did the Indians rape Europeans?

This is a thesis like Orientalism. Yes such events occured, but the question arise as to what makes it noteworthy. For this type of theory to have any value at all it relies upon the notion of Western exceptionalism. It can't be just a rape, it must be more than that. If all races indulged in such behaviour then we have merely an list of European atrocities that could be matched by a list of atrocities carried out by other races. It is noteworthy that no curiosity exists in academia to develop such a list of "other" atrocities. Why should that be?

The mass destruction of temples in Indian by the Muslim invaders is documented by Muslims, yet it is a virtually unknown fact in India, let alone the West. Estimates of the slaughter of Hindus by Muslims range from 40m-100m during the period 1000-1700AD with some rulers recording the fact that they aimed to kill 100,000 people every year. THis from a base line population of approx 200m in 1000AD.

Muslim slave traders are estimated to have enslaved approximately twice the number of Africans as enslaved by the west (over a much longer period). Those slaves are estimated to have died at a rate of 9 out of 10 as they crossed the continent. Slavery persists today. The "creation" of eunechs was a risky process in the sense that the majority died within days. It goes without saying that rape was a common experience for women and men.

I'm not the slightest interested in whether you agree with the numbers; we can quibble about details. However, I would like you to point out the university faculty running a course on any aspect of the colonial experience of those of suffered under this imperialism. It doesn't even have to include sexuality.

TDK

Let me narrow that slightly - Western faculty please

mikek

This is turning into a hilarious collection. Thanks for posting the link in mayberry David. Are you in London?

David

Mikek,

I’m happy that you’re happy. And no, I’m not in London. I’m in my fortress, on the battlements, howling at the stars.

EBD

"What happens when we centre our entire analysis of the military by sexualizing the bodies of the soldiers?"

Well, what happens when we centre our approach to driving by closing our eyes, throwing the car into reverse, and focusing on our seventh chakra?


Vitruvius

I think that if you look into his legacy further, David, you'll find that [accusing people of making points they haven’t actually made and then attacking them as if they had] is Dawg's established modus operandi, which he apparently does in lieu of doing something useful to contribute to the overall benefit of humans in general, much as we have come to expect from other postmodern fraud artists like Duke's Gang of 88 and their fellow travellers who attempt to redefine language in order to conceal their illegitimate agenda of fantasy excursions to mythical worlds.

Dr.Dawg

Wayne:

"I would bet $100 that every paper and lecture produced at the conference was unfavorable to to Caucasians-Capitalism-Men. In other words the Race/Class/Gender would be adhered to with slavish orthodoxy." I regret to inform you that I believe that any Race/Class/Gender analysis will end up being unfavourable to capitalism, and the patriarchy.

To all:

The problem I'm having over here in general is that there is an obvious clash of epistemes that is creating a hell of a din. If one simply doesn't believe that colonialism generated constructs and language that mask power and oppression, and had a sexual dimension, then anyone who offers a contrary view won't get very far in the comments section of a blog. Ditto with unequal power relations generally. When I defend a caution against over-literal readings of texts, for example, this is simply brushed aside. All these discussions are good fun, of course, but there's a serious side to them too.

David (for one)maintains that he is talking about excesses, and raises the straw man issue when I take perhaps an over-general approach in response, but the whole of postmodern thinking does seem to be at stake sometimes in the discussions we've all been having. I haven't seen any defence of moderate PoMo here, for instance, or any attempt to make distinctions--just a battery of examples of unclear language, not all of it meaningless, by the way, but all of it dismissed out of hand as fraud or banality or sloppy thinking or an attempt to intimidate. I don't think it's setting up straw men to point any of this out.

To John Ryan, I can only respond that I accept the Orientalist thesis, but I do not consequently reject serious treatment of the other issues of oppression that you raised. Not having my finger on the calendars of all NA and UK universities, I don't know whether the latter is adequately covered in the academy or not. Personally I think bringing some of the postmodern arsenal of concepts to bear on these other matters would be fruitful. But, as Mr. Ryan says, the Indian example is largely forgotten even there, although the atrocities in Darfur make the African example perhaps more current. The effects of Western colonialism, however, are reverberating to this day, people are interested in studying them rather than wishing them away, and hence we see considerable scholarship on the multiplicity of issues raised--some brilliant, some good, some simply unreadable or absurd.

Vitruvius's lies about me deserve no response, incidentally, other than to point out that his assertions about "postmodern fraud artists" (in whose number I'm apparently being included) are precisely what I've been talking about all along. Sweeping. Silly. Non-analytical. In fact, intellectually dishonest.

Vitruvius

Every opinion is a gamble, every decision a bet.

M. Simon

First off changing the sign of history with out good reason is wrong.

Second suppose the sign is really an imaginary number. Consider two signals I and Q. One in quadrature to the other. What is the historical significance of reaction forces at right angles to the original impulse? How do you demodulate that without a reference? Is the right hand rule of any use here? Can the coulomb barrier be overcome? Will fusion leave us more fulfilled or will it just occasion a loss of energy?

i.e. sociology for physics majors.

If only I could sling POMO as well I'd be a tenured professor.

M. Simon

Dawg,

You can see the repercussions of colonialism every where. Those countries that were well colonized (mostly by Brits) are doing well. India is a prime example. After floundering for 50 years after the Brits left they are returning to their Brit roots - meritocracy, capitalism, science - and prospering. Those countries that have rejected those roots are failing some of them spectacularly (Zimbabwe is a prime example).

You can run a country based on talent and let that talent earn its own reward or you can use some other criteria and system of rewards.

Where talent prevails countries prosper (c.f. China in its modern incarnation) where something else prevalis (family, clan, tribe, ethnic origin) liberal modernism is hard to come by (c.f. China in its Maoist phase). Angry studies is a return to tribalism. Tribalism is non-competitive in the modern world.

Fortunately we have two systems in America academia and business. Them that can, do. Them that can't teach.

M. Simon

Let me also note that China is prospering by adopting the Brit model (Hong Kong).

Vitruvius

Will the straw man catch fire? Will the tin man corrode out? Will Dorothy be able to find red shoe polish?

Can we prove F = m a? No. Can we prove the displacement principal? No. And yet we've never found a case where they don't work, at least in the sense that the values in the range of the functions are as far as we can measure correct as long as the values in the domains of the arguments respect the constraints of the functions.

In other words, the proof of the pudding is in it's eating, pace the interminable dissertations of periphrastic circumlocution that are promulgated upon us by the snake-oil salesmen for the purveyors of doom.

PS to Simon: I know some professors who can do and do teach, both at the same time. Of course, they're engineers, not postmodernists, which may have been your point.

wayne fontes

Some help with the British/English please.

Why is always a gentle pelting with soft fruit? Why not vegetables?

Dr.Dawg What does the NA in "NA and UK universities stand for?

Does a "sack beating" refer to covering the upper body with a sack or a targeted attack on a man's testicular region?

Vitruvius

Gentle refers to the behaviour of gentlemen. Pelting refers to being swathed in furs. Soft fruit refers to the left side of the isle. Hard vegetables refers to those who do. NA stands for Not Applicable. Sack beating refers to being beaten while in bed, which reminds me, it's time for me to hit the sack. Yes I'm jesting. A conversation without wit, or at least attempted wit, is a conversation that soon dries up, which is yet another reason why postmodernism will ultimately fail: it is witless.

David

Morning all. I see you’ve been busy, and a wee bit surreal. Good-oh.

This caught my eye:

Wayne Fontes: “I would bet $100 that every paper and lecture produced at the conference was unfavourable to Caucasians-Capitalism-Men. In other words the Race/Class/Gender would be adhered to with slavish orthodoxy.”

Dr Dawg: “I regret to inform you that I believe that any Race/Class/Gender analysis will end up being unfavourable to capitalism, and the patriarchy.”

I think the exchange above sums up a key problem of postmodern political “analysis” and the bias that arises from its own theoretical frameworks, its own terminology and its own ideological assumptions. Dr Dawg’s belief that “any Race/Class/Gender analysis will end up being unfavourable to capitalism” is a common one, and all but ubiquitous among enthusiasts of postmodern politics. Being “unfavourable” towards capitalism is, it seems, not a discovery, but an objective.

It’s all but inconceivable that a postmodernist dissertation would arrive at a conclusion that isn’t hostile to capitalism, and by extension hostile to individualism and to intellectual progress. I struggle to imagine one that doesn’t “problematise” bourgeois values, or territoriality, or masculinity, or whatever else doesn’t suit a range of current leftist prejudices. Is this a happy coincidence?

If postmodern political analysis really is an impartial tool for revealing hitherto unseen power relationships and hidden political agendas, why are these things found - or imagined - so selectively, and with such dreary conformity? Why does almost every postmodernist paper I’ve seen focus on capitalism as a malign construct with no profound redeeming attributes? Why is capitalism, so construed, so often shoehorned into analyses of apparently unrelated subjects?

Where are the earnest and withering PoMo dissertations on the “patriarchy” of non-Western societies, in which that patriarchy takes rather more dramatic and oppressive forms? Or on the monstrous indoctrination of small children with jihadist ideology, as found in school textbooks from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Or dissertations on the power dynamics of collectivism, or on Islamic imperialism (in terms of brutality and sheer numbers the most formidable imperialism of all); or the brutish colonial projects of non-Western cultures (independent of Western evils), or the prejudices found among members of the racial grievance industry?

Where are the papers exploring the benefits, accidental or otherwise, of colonialism – say, in matters of literacy, infrastructure, economics and law; or the colonial insistence that - contrary to custom - Indian widows shouldn’t be burnt alive simply for being widows? Where are the endless, tedious, PoMo volumes “problematising” the inherent defects of Socialism and its moral and practical evils? Are these political agendas and power dynamics unworthy of study, or simply not conducive to some Greater Cause?

Why, I wonder, are these things so hard to find? And, perhaps more to the point, why don’t we expect to find them?

Dr.Dawg

Wayne:

North America.

M.Simon:

That's great stuff, but it's better done on Star Trek. "Captain! The hyper-module is leaking quarks and the temporal transponder is going off-line!" --done in a Scottish accent with the obligatory shower of sparks.

[Anyone know why science fiction on film or TV envisages a future where the electronics appear to be back in the days of tubes (valves)? Or, for that matter, why swords still make those metallic rasping sounds when they come out of scabbards that were made of leather?]

But I digress...

David:

"Where are the earnest and withering PoMo dissertations on the “patriarchy” of non-Western societies, in which that patriarchy takes rather more dramatic and oppressive forms?"

Chandra Mohanty comes to mind right away. I've read quite a few papers, in fact, about the complexities of oppression in the so-called Third World that are rather more subtle than blaming everything on the Age of Discovery.

David

Dr Dawg,

Who mentioned “blaming everything on the Age of Discovery”? My point remains: is the range of postmodernists’ critical targets wide and commensurate, as one might hope from an impartial philosophical approach, or is it remarkably narrow and thus easy to parody?

Dr.Dawg

David:

Mohanty has published widely on patriarchy, and intersections with class and "race." As I said, she's more subtle than assigning blame for all ills on the West, although she is a strong critic of globalization (and, by the way, of much Western feminism). (There are those who *do* blame everything on the Age of Discovery--some of your favourite targets, perhaps?)

But, to the main point, she's far from alone. See, for example (since the notion of sexualizing the military came up), Cynthia Enloe, "Nationalism and Masculinity," in her "Bananas, Beaches and Bases' (1989). Or her "Does Khaki Become You? The Militarisation of Women's Lives" (1983). On societies ither than Western ones, Maria Mies, "The Dynamics of the Sexual Division of Labour and Integration of Rural Women into the World Market," in Beneria, ed., "Women and Development: the Sexual Division of Labour in Rural Societies." (1982). Or Kate Crehan, "Women and Development in North Western Zambia: from Producer to Housewife." (Review of African Political Economy, 27/28 (1984). Or Joke Schrijvers, "Manipulated Motherhood: The Marginalization of Peasant Women in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka." (Development and Change 14(2) (1983). Or Diane Wolf, "Daughters, Decisions and Domantion: An Empirical and Conceptual Critique of Household Strategies." (Development and Change 21 (1) (January 1990).

There are a pile of critiques of traditional socialist approaches, too, which deal inadequately with what Marxists used to call "The Woman Question." [wince]

But maybe all this, while social science, doesn't conform to the going definition of PoMo. Am I wrong?

David

Dr Dawg,

Thanks for those pointers. I may call upon your familiarity again, if I may. Until I see the essays, I can’t really say whether they qualify as postmodernist, social “science”, or, perhaps more likely, some hideous fusion of the two. Though Diane Wolf’s “Daughters, Decisions and Domination: An Empirical and Conceptual Critique of Household Strategies” has that trademark smell about its title, so to speak. Either way, I’m sure they’ll be grist to the mill.

“There are a pile of critiques of traditional socialist approaches, too, which deal inadequately with what Marxists used to call ‘The Woman Question.’ [wince]”

Well, to return to my basic point, I suppose the obvious question here is whether those critiques of “traditional Socialist approaches” are themselves equally hostile to capitalism and advance a leftist position of some kind, or whether they register Socialism as a failed and wicked enterprise. I’m guessing not, somehow. :)

Dr.Dawg

David:

Why social "science?" Granted, the social sciences are weak on prediction (by their nature), but so is the theory of evolution. Good social science depends upon careful observation and empirical adequacy, just like any other science.

TDK

That Socialists criticise other Socialists is hardly news. From Ice picks to the People's Front of Judea, we know they disagree. I think David seeks specimens that advocate individualism rather than collectivism A vs collectivism B.

TDK

"Good social science depends upon careful observation and empirical adequacy, just like any other science."

Then why are they mainly still socialists? One has to ask whether they share more in common with "Creation Science" than with the science described by Kuhn or Popper.

David

Dr Dawg,

“…just like any other science.”

Methinks you elevate social studies way above its station. The tendentious and politicised nature of much social study is, I think, the source of its doubtful reputation. (And, yes, I’m sure this irritates the more conscientious social researchers, who no doubt exist.)

Now, to return to my previous point I’m going to quote myself:

“I suppose the obvious question here is whether those critiques of ‘traditional Socialist approaches’ are themselves equally hostile to capitalism and advance a leftist position of some kind, or whether they register Socialism as a failed and wicked enterprise.”

Perhaps you could clarify which is the case?

old blockhead

That's a red herring, Dr. Dawg - a tactic that Vitruvius pointed out is your 'modus operandus'.

The theory of evolution is not and never was set up to have a predictive capacity, based as it is on the open potentiality of randomness.

And social 'science', understood as data-based analyses offering basic causes of social behaviour, ought to be able to predict future beahviour based on this analysis of causality.

By the way, all your references on one topic are in the 1980s - 20 years ago.

Dr.Dawg

That's "modus operandi," and it was not what Vitruvius was accusing me of. You might want to look up the meaning of "red herring," by the way: what's the main issue that I'm supposedly distracting you from?

Karl Popper took care of your assertion about predictability in the social sciences. It's impossible, because we can read those analyses and change our behaviour. Then you need meta-analyses, and so on. But science, to be science, doesn't require predictability. That was my main issue, and I'm sticking to it.

So what if my references are from the 'eighties, by the way? What's your point? Did PoMo start last year or something?

David

If I can cut in here.

“What's the main issue that I'm supposedly distracting you from?”

[ cough ]

“I suppose the obvious question here is whether those critiques of ‘traditional Socialist approaches’ are themselves equally hostile to capitalism and advance a leftist position of some kind, or whether they register Socialism as a failed and wicked enterprise. Perhaps you could clarify which is the case?”

[ cough ]

Dr.Dawg

David:

[cough} yourself. I was focussing on your use of shudder-quotes in "social 'science'". The answer to what I thought was a rhetorical question is clearly (a).

[hack]

old blockhead

Comments on spelling, dawg, is yet another diversion, ie, red herring.
And telling me to look it up, is yet another red herring, ie, diversion.

Just as was your refusal to answer Cambias' very detailed and accurate critique of your responses - which you met with a laugh, showing your superiority and rejecting equality.

Popper most certainly did not reject scientific predictability; he was a realist - unlike you of the postmodernist slant, who reject objective reality and thus, end up only with your own subjective words to live within. He rejected determinism but that is not the same thing as scientific predictability. His notion of a scientific theory is that it can 'get nearer to the truth'. This means that it can predict. Again, don't confuse determinism with scientific prediction.

Kindly recall that your analogy of the 'unpredictable nature' of the social sciences was by offering up a scientific theory for comparison. Now, you are focusing only on the social 'science'.

No, a population cannot readily read an analysis and then, change their behaviour. Behaviour is not simply a matter of individual intention but is embedded within the collective activities - which include the economy. If a socialist reads an article that socialism is economically disastrous, will they change their behaviour? You won't? Oh.

The fact that your references are 20 years out of date suggests that little is being done in this field since then. That was the era of 'anti-ism'. Anti-capitalism, anti-globalization, anti-colonialism, etc, etc.

Postmodernism is not a theory but a mode of action - of subjectivist perceptions - a babbling in the wind. As such, it can offer nothing of intellectual substance and has instead, been submerged within the leftist anti-ist agenda. Or, anti-western agenda, displaying a profound ignorance of history and social structures.

Why don't you answer david's question? It's a very valid and pertinent question.

David

Dr Dawg,

“The answer to what I thought was a rhetorical question is clearly (a).”

Well, hopefully you see my point and what it implies. As TDK has suggested, criticism of one outmoded subset of leftist ideology by another subset of leftist ideologues doesn’t exactly qualify as a wide range of critical targets or as indicating an impartial philosophical approach. It’s more of an in-house scuffle.

As you say, I doubt I can expect to find an encouraging volume of critical papers on, say, Communism or Islamic imperialism, roughly in proportion to the scale, span and grievousness of these phenomena. Nor, alas, will I be thrilled to discover hundreds of highly-regarded critiques, not just of certain outmoded Socialist beliefs, but of Socialism as a broad philosophy and of collectivism more generally.

Given the volume of postmodernist papers published, and given the spectrum of views that exist in the broader population, one might have supposed it would be fairly easy to find roughly the same range of political views and philosophies, in roughly the same proportions, reflected in postmodernist literature. Unless, of course, there *is* a political bias to postmodernist literature, and those who consume it.

Dr.Dawg

old blockhead:

I had thought Cambias was having some fun at my expense. How was I supposed to respond, other than appreciatively (as it was very well-done)?

I did not say that Popper rejected scientific predictability. I said that he rejected it as a possibility in the social sciences. It's all in "The Poverty of Historicism," if I recall correctly, but it's been a while. And I indicated that, even in the so-called "hard" sciences, lack of predictability doesn't equate to invalidation.

Your knowledge of PoMo is weak, but I'm not through all *that* again. You can read previous exchanges that I've recently had with David.

David:

"Given the volume of postmodernist papers published, and given the spectrum of views that exist in the broader population, one might have supposed it would be fairly easy to find roughly the same range of political views and philosophies, in roughly the same proportions, reflected in postmodernist literature. Unless, of course, there *is* a political bias to postmodernist literature, and those who consume it."

This is the crux, isn't it, of our on-going discussions? Because, from where I sit (or stand), capitalism, etc., needs a fundamental critique, and PoMo (at its best) offers some tools for doing so. No, I'll go further than that: PoMo presents itself as a set of critiques, of stances, that you fundamentally disagree with. It's not just a set of tools that can be applied even-handedly across the political spectrum. It makes no sense at all, for example, to imagine a post-modern defence of racism, or imperialism. PoMo is definitely political, just as political as, say, opponents of PoMo, or adherents of the "great man" theory of history, or those who think they're in regular touch with "objective reality," and so on. I completely agree with you. And my response is, so what?

Dr.Dawg

"I'm not through all *that* again"

Sorry.

"I'm not going through all *that* again."

The Thin Man

When exposed to pomo/marxist vomit, I find it useful to keep handy a little primer on hand
1. Socialism = garden of eden
2. Capitalism = expulsion from garden of eden
3. Individualism = the snake
4. Private property = the apple
5. Western Culture = original sin
6. Everybody except white men = cherubim & seraphim
7. White men = the first up against the wall come the revolution

Dr.Dawg

Gosh, I thought *I* was the straw man guy around here. :)

old blockhead

Dr. Dawg - you state that 'science, to be science, doesn't require predictability'.

Of course it does, otherwise it is just a hypothesis rather than a law. Scientific conclusions, which must be left open to constant empirical evaluation, nevertheless operate as Laws, which is to say, they provide predictability.

Therefore, we can securely conclude that heat will evaporate water; that a human requires lungs, requires oxygen and so on. These are laws of chemical and biological organization, and most certainly, their operations are predictable. Therefore, science, to be science, requires predictability. We couldn't live without such certainties.

You can stick to your unscientific view that there are no Laws, of course.

Provide proof that my knowledge of postmodernism is weak, otherwise, it's just yet another example of your red herring tactic.

You state that capitalism requires a fundamental critique. Doesn't socialism require such? No? Why not?

No, postmodernism cannot critique; that's because it has no theory. All it is, is an action of subjective perspective and as such, it has no referential base (ie, a metanarrative or set of rules) to use for criticism. Therefore, postmodern opinions against capitalism are purely subjective.

Again, you come up with your usual cover of the red herring - with your attempt to define opponents of postmodernism as operating within a 'political' perspective. You are doing this to lessen the criticism of postmodernism as having effectively become a political perspective. Again, postmodernism is not a theory but an action and that's why it was taken over by a theory (socialism).

Adding the historicist and determinist theory of socialism to an action of subjectivist authority means that the postmodern-socialist insists that his view is Eternal (determinist)Truth.

Your insistence that any and all philosophical perspectives are also political perspectives is unfounded. Someone who believes in objective reality can also, unfortunately, be totalitarian (Plato)as much as they can be democratic (Popper). Therefore, the two variables are not connected except accidentally.

Dr.Dawg

old blockhead:

To begin with, please look up "red herring," as I asked you to do earlier. You are grossly misusing the term.

As noted, I don't intend to repeat myself. You are pushing a caricature of PoMo, as your second-last post indicates. And your last one: thanks at least in part to PoMo, the notion of historical determinism has been reduced to dust.

You are also prone to contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you concede that the theory of evolution does not offer predictability, and now you are saying that science, to be science, requires it. Wrong. The theory of evolution is perfectly good science.

The notion of scientific Laws, capital letter and all, being immutable and absolute, rather than highly probable, is plain wrong as well.

Of course socialism requires a critique--and, in my observation, socialists do a better job of it than non-socialists.

"Your insistence that any and all philosophical perspectives are also political perspectives is unfounded. Someone who believes in objective reality can also, unfortunately, be totalitarian (Plato)as much as they can be democratic (Popper). Therefore, the two variables are not connected except accidentally."

This makes no sense whatsoever. Belief in the silly notion of "objective reality" is not a philosophy in itself. Talk about red herrings.

David

Dr Dawg,

“From where I sit (or stand), capitalism, etc., needs a fundamental critique, and PoMo (at its best) offers some tools for doing so.”

I’ve no problem with critiques of capitalism; I’ve read some very good ones and I’ve written a few myself. The questions are whether PoMo’s political agenda makes it entirely credible and whether PoMo’s tools – say, epistemological relativism and the denial of an objective reality - provide a credible critique of capitalism, or of anything else. But I’ll try to elaborate on that tomorrow.

Dr.Dawg

David:

I look forward to it. Remember only that I don't either affirm or deny that there is an "objective reality," just that nobody has some kind of privileged access to it, as those who want to win an argument sometimes imply that they have. ("In reality," "Get real," "In the real world," etc., etc.) I thought that Kant might have torpedoed the concept by noting that you cannot apprehend the ding an sich, but this pernicious notion seems to have a thousand lives and guises. Note also that this doesn't condemn us to solipsism or an "anything goes" subjectivism. Again, I cite Rorty--but there are many others.

David

Now I really must save my voice. It’s hoarse from all that shouting at the stars, demanding to be heard.

[ gargles soothing tincture ]

old blockhead

Dr. Dawg - if you object to my use of red herring as the use of another topic as a diversionary tactic, then provide your own definition and explain how I am 'grossly misusing it' rather than making a postmodernist authoritative claim of my doing so.

And, here you are, yet again, trying to insert a diversion. Most certainly, scientific laws must provide predictable certainty. What you are ignoring in the theory of evolution is that one of its Laws is that future morphologies are random developments rather than necessary; therefore, we can predictably be certain that the future morphology will be random rather than essentialist. Try again.

Absolutely not, historical determinism hasn't been 'reduced to dust' because of postmodernism. Postmodernism had nothing to do with it. It's been reduced to dust by the scientific method of acknowledging objective reality (something postmodernism refuses to do) and by the logic of objective realism. Popper, a major modern figure in this field, most certainly wasn't a postmodernist. After all, he critiqued those essentialists - Plato, Hegel, Marx.

Now, you say that the theory of evolution is 'perfectly good science' but remember, you declare that science can't predict. So what do you mean by 'perfectly good science'?

Where did I say that scientific Laws are immutable and absolute? Where? Kindly don't make false claims about what I said. I said that scientific conclusions must be left open to constant empirical evaluation - which means, for your edification, that they aren't immutable and absolute. Try again.

But, scientific rules do operate as Laws - capital L - which means that they function as a universal or metanarrative, governing individual expressions of this Law. All individual atoms of helium have the same morphology, according the Laws of chemistry and physics.

I think a non-socialist, Karl Popper, did a fabulous critique of socialism in his Open Society. Hayek's economic outline equally critiqued socialism. Ah, and Orwell.

Actually, belief in 'objective reality' is indeed a philosophical theory. It's called realism or metaphysical realism, and usually includes the view that there are universals. Postmodernism rejects objective reality and universals and slips into the subjective isolation of conceptualism or nominalism.

old blockhead

I'm confused, Dr. Dawg. On the one hand you declare your objection to 'belief in the silly notion of objective reality' and you now are stating that 'you don't either affirm or deny that there is an objective reality'.

Heck, your first sentence seemed a pretty clear denial to my impoverished reading capacity. Perhaps 'silly notion' means something different to you than it does to me (disparaging).

Now, you are tempering your objection to state only that no-one has 'privileged access' to that 'silly notion'?

Who is talking about 'privileged access'? What does that mean? Sounds like something a shaman would do. Or are you implying class privilege - ie, the upper class having privileged access? Or what? Are you diverting it to a rhetorical device in an argument?

Dr.Dawg

old blockhead:

A red herring is a deliberate diversionary tactic. Not guilty. You can't throw a horde of issues at someone at a blogsite and fuss about red herrings because your interlocutor replies to only some of them. I find the ones I responded to be the most interesting and important. If you insist that I respond to others that *you* feel ate the most interesting and important, name them and I shall do so, without making silly accusations as you seem wont to do.

"a postmodernist authoritative claim" -- res ipsa loquitur. You don't know anything about PoMo but cliches.

As for the Theory of Evolution, it's predictably--unpredictable. Try again. Perhaps I might help you a little--it does in fact have a weak predictability wrt what we might turn up in the fossil record.

Now, please do me the courtesy of actually reading what I have to say before going off half-cocked. I don't claim Popper as a postmodernist--didn't say that, and never have. The postmodernist turn resulted in a critique of the teleology of classical Marxism on the Left. Nor does science require "objective reality" or, even worse, "the logic of objective realism," whatever the hell that may be. Have you never heard of instrumentalism? That's a rhetorical question. Of course you haven't.

By "perfectly good science" I mean using observation and applying tests of empirical adequacy. And, once again, and for the last time, I reject the usefulness of the notion of "objective reality." Believe in it all you want, or believe in God, I don't care. You can't show either to me, and any claims that you are speaking from the perspective of "objective reality" are claims of a privileged relationship with it, no more demonstrable than claims of revelation.

Vitruvius

For the last time? Really? Objectively?

TDK

"It makes no sense at all, for example, to imagine a post-modern defence of racism, or imperialism."

PoMo has had such a short history, we haven't yet had to test this. However I note the fact that left wing thought prior to WWII was very definitely tolerant of racist beliefs. eg. One has only to think about the fact that the Eugenics movement was markedly left wing in it's support. Margaret Sanger (a modern heroine to the left) was openly racist and gave at least one lecture to the Ku Klux Klan. That organisation was closely associated with the Democrat party. Marx and Engels wrote articles that are clearly racist: http://jonjayray.110mb.com/marx.html.

None of this is to deny that post WWII, the left were not progressive in taking action to eliminate racism.

It would be interesting to continue this discussion ten years from today. We currently have a left wing movement that openly marches with banners saying we are all Hamas now. Hamas is a movement that has incorporated the openly racist Protocols of Zion into its charter, and produces xenophobic children's TV shows. Tolerance of "approved" racism is, it seems, acceptable again. The movement to boycott Israel in the absence of commensurate campaigns against Zimbabwe, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China ... can be seen as moving beyond tolerance to overt espousal.

Intellectuals working in the PoMo field now have a opportunity/dilemma. Will they write critical pieces about their colleagues or will they write in support?

Ten years?

TDK

And here I broke my own advice on URLS. The link is: http://jonjayray.110mb.com/marx.html

Dr.Dawg

Interesting article, TDK, although, admittedly, Encounter is not my first choice of reading material. In any case, if we take the thing at face value, thank goodness for Engels!

What I really see here is a collection of throwaway lines that wouldn't have been remarkable at the time. Once racism was seen as the evil it is many decades later, every one of these lines became deeply offensive, of course. Marx could also be rightly accused of a profound Eurocentrism, as his stuff on the Asiatic Mode of Production and "The British Rule in India" make pretty clear.

But, just as I think campaigns against "Huckleberry Finn" for racism are fatuous, equally fatuous is combing through the voluminous writings of Victorian era figures, finding a few sentences, and saying "Aha! Racists!" The only surprising thing for me was the attitude of Engels on the question--amazingly enlightened.

TDK

The exemption you grant to Engels might be disputed by George Watson http://www.lutterworth.com/lp/titles/lostlith.htm who argued that "Engels publicly advocated genocide in 1849".

I think it revealing that you dismiss the racism of Marx and Engels as being typical of it's day and therefore of no consequence. [I wonder if the deconstructionists are as generous when targeting the works of dead white males.] Quite amazing really - the core prophets of an ideology that always ends up with piles of dead bodies demonstrate misanthropy and they apparently amount to throwaway lines. I defy you to read "On The Jewish Question" by Marx and claim that the "What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his
worldly God? Money" isn't central to his argument. Is there really no possibility that the anti-semitism of the Soviet Union doesn't derive from Marx?

The link was included as part of a list of left wing racisms. The example of the left and it's support for Eugenics is instructive in that opposition came mainly from the right.

old blockhead

Postmodernism certainly didn't produce a critique of socialism; postmodernism can't critique because it is merely an action of deconstruction of synthesizing theories or metanarratives.

This destruction of the synthesizing knowledge base, and the postmodern rejection of reason in favour of emotion, means that the result of such an action is 'freedom' - a false freedom in which the individual is 'free' to make whatever connections between X and Y that they choose. There is no objective reality to act as a constraint, no evolved knowledge base to act as a guide. The result, is sophistry.

What filled the gap left by the destructionism of postmodernism, is socialism, which sets up an essentialist, historicist metanarrative.

Dr. Dawg's rejection of objective reality and laws is an insistence that the world is dependent on one's experience of it; however, I suggest that the world will continue to exist without my input.

Furthermore, insisting that unless objective reality can be directly experienced then it doesn't exist - and direct experience is defined as 'privileged', that's logically invalid. That's like saying that unless I can view the world the way a fly views the world, that fly doesn't exist. Quite arrogant.

Objective reality exists, quite indifferent to my interaction with it, but, our perception of that reality is indirect. That's what science and knowledge development does, it 'hones' our perceptions into a more accurate representation of this reality.

Instrumentalism isn't relevant here; we are talking about the development of laws.

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