Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Wed Nov 02 2005 - 12:34:02 EST

Hi Jerry,

Granted your points about the academy and putting aside subjective questions
about whether this or that scholar considers others dismissive of her or his

The point Ian makes has a theoretical dimension:  insofar as postmodernism
emphasizes the surface connections of things and rejects the idea of
causally potent deep structures, often unobservable, then this constitutes a
thread which can be characterized as dismissive of science.  That said,
attention to surprise, which always appears first as a blip of some sort on
some surface, is a powerful engine of science.


----- Original Message -----
From: <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, November 01, 2005 4:00 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Derrida's ghosts

> Ian:
> 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
> departments.
> b)Sociology
> 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
> 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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