Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Nov 01 2005 - 16:00:18 EST


Interesting: you believe that postmodernism is dismissive of science
and the types of intellectual projects that you are part of;
postmodernists believe that scientists and 'vulgar Marxists' are often
dismissive of their intellectual beliefs and work.  What you clearly
both have in common is the belief that others outside of your
intellectual tradition are dismissive towards the intellectual projects
that each is a member of.

Are there any Marxist scholars anywhere who believe that their
perspectives are _not_ dismissed by others?

Even if this is a wide-spread feeling by Marxists,  it is important
to note that there are _different outcomes and consequences_ of being
'dismissed' depending on the circumstances that one is talking about.

It is the conditions and terms of employment that condition those
circumstances within universities.  Some of those who privilege one
perspective in the hiring and promotion process are in management
but often they are colleagues.   Outside of the university proper,
the intellectual output of  scholars is judged in part by those who
publish different scholarly journals.  In that context,  those who are
making the calls are not typically part of management but are
professional colleagues (euphemistically and often inaccurately
labeled as "peers").  While the work of radicals of all stripes and
kinds (from postmodernists to 'vulgar Marxists') are, with rare
exceptions, excluded from the major mainstream journals in the
social sciences and humanities,  radical journals themselves tend
to be pretty parochial and tend to privilege some radical perspectives
and dismiss and exclude others. (Yes, of course, I realize that there
are some exceptions to this: some radical journals are more open
to alternative perspectives than others.)

If we take a closer look at this question by considering how
decisions are made within university departments in different
disciplines, I don't think that it can be said that there is _one_
radical perspective (postmodernist or otherwise) which is either
universally privileged or dismissed.  This can be easily seen if,
for instance, we compare economics and sociology.

a) Economics

It's hard for _any_ heterodox economist or Marxist to get a
[non-contingent] job in economics departments.  But, I think
that those who are making the decisions on hiring both in
departments and in the administration (management) tend to
'value'   economists more highly who have a record of being
"scientists" as measured by their written work using mathematical tools
and empirical analysis.  These are the coins of the economics realm
and without such coins one's entrance into the promised land
of academic job security and the holy grail of tenure is often
blocked.  Within _that_ context, I think that it must be _especially_
difficult being a postmodern Marxist whose professional career is in
the field of economics.  Most economists simply don't "get"  and don't
want to get postmodernism: it is outside of  their comprehension of
what economics "is".   But, postmodernists are not alone:  it is also
especially difficult for all those who have an area of specialization
like the history of thought which is devalued within most economics


Within many (but not most) sociology and social science departments,
the shoe is sometimes on the other foot.  That is, there is a
widespread recognition of the importance of having postmodernist
sociology and cultural studies faculty, but the work of others who
allegedly have misconceptions about science and are "vulgar Marxists"
is devalued.  At one school where I teach, for instance,  the
sociologists are _all_ radical but all might be thought of as being
postmodernists.  If somebody like [listmember] Murray [Smith] were
to apply at this school,  I have no doubt that person's work would
be devalued as being too "traditional" and "diamat" and "classical
Marxist" and "vulgar Marxist" and "scientist."   [NB: I  do not
think that any of the previous terms should be used to describe Murray's
intellectual work] [Indeed, are there _any_ sociology departments
which 'value' the work of 'value theorists'?]  In these departments those
who claim to be "scientists" (like yourself) are treated in dismissive ways.

So, you see, there is no universal pattern here:  those who find
privilege and sanctuary in certain cubbyholes of universities are
insulted and dis-respected in other cubbyholes.  All of this helps
to perpetuate acrimony and divisions within universities -- a situation
that often benefits management.

In solidarity, Jerry

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