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Quick comment/brief clarification
by David Smith
13 March 2002 02:25 UTC
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I was a bit apprehensive after I sent my message last night: First, I
noticed several boneheaded typos; second, I was quite sure that folks on
the list might misconstrue what I wrote as a personal "flame" of some

I was pleasantly surprised today:  I've gotten a number of messages on the
posting from people thanking me for writing things that they had been
thinking.  Interestingly, only three of these messages were shared with
everyone on wsn -- five of them came in the form of personal notes to me.
I was also glad that most of the folks who reacted to my message
understood that it represented a call to refocus the list's discussion
to grapple with how the world-system literature and academic scholarship
DOES help us to understand various issues.  That certain could and should
include real-life, controversial, contemporary events -- and I really do
LIKE to hear various reports from places like Palestine, Latin America,
East Asia, etc.  But let's not eschew (or, worse, bash!) old fashion "book
learning" and denigrate intellectual and academic research.  Instead,
let's try to "raise the discourse" a little by avoiding the ad hominen
attacks on both individuals (and groups) who participate on the listserv
(or "look in" on it).  And, yes: I suggest we all get up from our
computers occasionally and head for the library to read books and
journals.  There's useful ideas in those things!

Unfortunately, from their responses two people didn't understand my main
message.  I apologize to Adam Star, since he seems to have read my posting
as a personal insult, impugning his intelligence.  I was a little "fed
up" after reading a series of messages, culminating with his uninformed
incredulity about Immanuel Wallerstein's question about "the influx of
cotton."  I probably should have refrained from the comment about stuff
whizzing over his head.  But I am quite confident Adam is a very bright
young man -- and I've heard Canadian universities are more demanding that
those south of the border.  I'm about to go teach my large introductory
"Social Problems" lecture course tonite -- I occasionally realize that
I've zipped one "over the heads" of my students there, too.  It's NOT
because these University of California students are dumb.  They aren't.
But there are times when they simply don't know as much as an old guy
like me, particularly about my own areas of expertise.  Perhaps, as
Adam says, he's read all the relevant world-system books and articles (I
confess: it took me many years, during and after grad school to do that --
but, again, I don't want to underestimate Canadian universities).
Nevertheless, his comment about Wallerstein's questions was simply an
uninformed one.  It's usually a good idea to pause and think before you
suggest that someone like Immanuel Wallerstein doesn't know what he's
talking about vis-a-vis the world-system (that doesn't mean IW is always
RIGHT, but as a rule of thumb, his ideas are probably worth taking
seriously rather than mocking).  Similarly, Paul Reitz seems to think that
my comments are what he calls  an "ad personem attack" on Mr. Star.  This
misinterprets my meaning -- and I'm glad that so many others understood.

Now, let's get on with some discussion that's a bit more interesting...


dave smith
sociology, uc-irvine

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