quantification/epistemological debate

Wed, 12 Feb 97 19:37:29 CST

Dear WSN,

I have greatly improved relations with the University of Illinois at
Chicago since moving a thousand miles away, and I'd like to post this letter
from a member of their faculty who, for reasons of Validity, I could never
have, so do not, call Colleague. Her principal research concerns, as you
know, the complex relationality as to whether Roman aggressive expansion to
the East along the Silk Road to 363 "caused," or in what sense, the Goth
immigration; and whether the Goth immigration, again, in whatever sense,
"caused" the "decline and fall" as "objective reality" or as "ideological
delusion." As promised, I will include warning signals to tell you that she's
Out Of Hand by Chris Chase-Dunn's standards. But she almost makes it to the
end without that. It should be borne in mind that her finding of one-third
female ownership of the Antioch silk industry is a healthy corrective to
Averil Cameron's studies of lives of female saints.

Dear Daniel,

I was frankly shocked that some on WSN seemed to quail, cavil, or disgrace-
fully turn tail before the fetish of quantification. WSN deals with periods in
our past when all known quantification is, in historical perspective, baloney
today; even worse, it was patent baloney when it was collected. Consider your
allusion to the ostensible decline in Chinese population, from 60 million to
50-60 million, between the Han period and the Tang, 500 years later. Did this
reflect epidemic disease, smallpox, measles, or malaria, as you suppose, or
illegal encroachment of the Great Families on peasant military allotments since
the Toba-Wei (386-535)? *I* say, the population grew. Tang extravagance in
human life, in-effect autogenocidal wars of conquest, and the even-worse An
Lushan/Tibetan War which followed, is inexplicable otherwise, considering that,
furthermore, that vast once-marginal agricultural zones were relegated to
imperial-stud horse-rearing to provide mounts for armoured lance-knights.

Even today, how much of our quantification would survive a true paradigm
shift in social science, and in what condition? Well, just what I mean by that.
Kuhn, in his earlier essays, even more than in Scientific Revolutions, assures
us that scientific theories, once attaining paradigmatic or hegemonic status,
generate their own appropriate measureing devices. The difference, epistomolo-
gically, between a social-science practitioner and her sister in natural
is, the former woman must live most of her quotidian existence as an *uncon-
scious* participant, not a participant-observer, in the Observed at its norma-
tive-power-of-facticity and even-worse facticity-is-telelology (my coinage, ie,
if it's there, there's no question everything that ever was, has led up to it's
being thare, and it's continuing forever to be there in some variant) worst. A
woman, as you cannot possibly realize, Daniel, *must* get her hair done, or
she is done. Hers not to reason, nay, question why. Since posing the question
itself suffices to lay bare its arbitrary Stupidity, the principle "Total
awareness is total paralysis" locks the city gates of sophistication against
Barbarian nomads without. Recall your friend "mara media hell hound" who
interviewed a graduate student at Northwestern University, Ms Yu, inviting her
to Career Magazine, Denver CO, for the occasion, because Ms Yu had complained
to ELLE Magazine that no Asian women had been invited to their "panel discuss-
ion" fronting for marketing the latest concept-pseudocommodity model of
"femininity" to rich white women. As an *extreme example of a Pervasive and
Persistent Pattern of bias in social science theory and praxis, howbeit rarely
this *blatant*, *what might have proved a stimulating exploration of race in
relation to repressive gender fabrication* foundered on the commitment of both
women to yuppie superficiality, attained or aspired-to.

Daniel, the suit you are wearing, the grenish or the brownish one (actually
newly-purchased after leaving Chicago, gray with brown stipes, Made in Israel,
trash, $350) has remained stable in fundamental appearance for 80 years. Women
confront, daily, *what to wear*, which differentially affects, ie, in failing
relatively speaking to provoke you, our relation to theory. Women are advanta-
ged in answering *unaskable* questions such that, however *unsoundly bizarre*
- merely bizarre is hardly a drawback - yield data hitherto unlooked-for. A
past ruler of China said, "You cannot make an omelette without breaking a
woman." Also, "Women hold up half the ceiling." As Patricia Buckley Ebrey
said, in The Inner Chambers, UC, 1994, about women in the Song Period, "Look
for where the women are."
Before emerging from the dim and distant past, my favourite habitat and
vacation spot, actually, let me add some further oddities of social science
theory relative to theory in Real Science. As hinted by your Eternal Suit,
Daniel, society, the Knowledge Object, changes under our noses. Or other
anatomical parts, paddings, and protuberances. What's more, too slowly or
too fast, dapending, and you never catch all of it in the act until it's
in the rearview mirror and the mirror is clean. What's more, it is required
to be a special sort of rearview mirror for people living in a society where
it is unimaginable what an automobile is, as we ourselves cannot imagine, can
no longer even hallucinate, a society not organized inter alia to sell cars
to itself. Which should that fail to suffice demands additional highway
construction to subsidize the increase of the traffic density to what it
previously was.
And unlike the Real Sciences, the human behaviour within the Knowledge
Object of our sort is contaminated by the monitoring by Observers, or potential
monitorability of the selfsame behaviour, into something qualitatively diffe-
rent from, let us call it, *naive* behaviour. After a fashion *which is not
itself susceptible to quantification*. Have you, have you ever, been interview-
ed by a journalist or, WORSE, by another social scientist? Can you honsestly
said that the behaviour produced for the monitoring of it is *yours*? Can you
say that the behaviour you exhibit when you suppose there is no prospect,
possibility, or feasibility of monitoring - assumptions proven all-too-often
wrong with evergrowing frequency - is *more you* than the classroom you, the
interview you, the radio and television you, the conference you, the annual
meetings you, the learned-periodical you, the published-book you. Our fabri-
cated personae will become increasingly predominant in social life, at the
expense of such selves we retain when we do not wear media makeup. Which is
realer, and who cares.

What do employment statistics today tell us where the women are? Some of
them, in Mexico and Indonesia, we omit for simplicity's sake. Even domesti-
cally, and woman, qua domesticated animal, has her own sense of the word,
employment-measurement tells us nothing of the social relations organizing,
defining, socially constructing work. Whether getting paid meant it ought to
have ever been done. Or that you do not, cannot by definition think, unless
paid to think, where in fact you are paid for class-appropriateness and what-
ever your employer suppositiously fancies you are "doing," where "doing" is
defined with lesser precision than that visited upon the vestigial working
class, is called "thinking." Circularity squared. Strategic control of the
definition of the cognitive is, next to control of the means of violence, the
most fundamental guise of Power in any hierarchical society. Knowing I can
make the lot of you, as a real Chinese, feel like a bunch of illiterate slobs,
is the only protection my spindly weak body has in your animalistically violent
whitedevil Bararism, no?

Ideologically, we have regressed since 1978. That year, Samir Amin, in
Accumulation on a World Scale, something I have not heard from the lot of
you ever since. How many of you today would allow yourselves to think, "Tech-
nology, potentially liberating humanity from mindless toil, paradoxically
appears as the menace of unemployment."
I say, Daniel, there are too many, tens of millions too many, jobs in the
United States, and of the vestigial remnant I myself would permit to survive
the Great Emancipation, I would counenance their survival only under the
condition of the total divorce - women appreciate the right to divorce, which
is our right to have our body elsewhere from you, however much we cannot get
away from Them - of the productive function from the social-disciplinary
function. Employment statistics obliviate the fact that the ruling power
decides when and where your body is, via time-scheduling; hence also knows it,
too. The rest of your life is taken care of, ie, snuffed out, by partitioning
your quotidianity into Getting Ready For Work, the aforementioned Working
Hours, and After Work.

Daniel, I am telling you that you cannot know what you need to measure, and
how, unless, and pursuant to, a true social transformation which permits the
conditions of existence of a true paradigm shift. What am I going to wear under
socialism? Were I younger, I'd be damned well certain: Like Lady Yang at
Houqing Hot Spring!

Daniel, there is a deservedly obscure book from 1991 or 1992 edited by Ivo
Banac on Eastern European Nationalism, some of the articles evincing such
superficiality that anyone carrying leaflets or, better yet, having acquired
an actual mimeograph machine, got interviewed, with often amusing if hardly
ever nasty-as-deserved results. I recall two sentences only: "World Systems
Theory has been totally disconfirmed. No social science theory has ever been
falsified the way World Systems Theory has been falsified." No explanation,
no context. Why should anyone enunciate such rot? Because WST, like everyone
else, was contaminated by ideological delusions of both the time-immemoriality
of the Past and the eternal prolongation of the Present. Why did W. Warren
Wagar's A Brief History of the Future require a second edition? Precisely.

The fact is, WST clearly enunciated, ab initio ab ovo, there is one world
market, which is a capitalist world market, and that, short of world
socialism, socialism in one, one dozen, three dozen countries is chimerical.
It is doomed to reabsorbtion, which happened as was Foretold. The creature doth
not escape the black lagoon.

Now, WSN/WST, I fear, has been acting like real men, whom we do not bother
to accord a History Month, and I feel called upon to remind you Gentlemen, that
the "sheer," as in "sheerest speculation," looks better on us than on you. The
lesson drawn from Marx on creative thinking is that it is the privilege of the
non-time-scheduled, academics in general, and it is the ultimate preserve of
the tenured. Feminism stands for the unity of theory and tenure, and I am
very good at both of them. Which is why Daniel insists I speak for him, even
though he takes the chance of my talking about WST and extraterestrials./STOP.

Louise C. Liu
Associate Professor

Thank you, Louise,
Daniel A. Foss
<That C. is for her merit pay increase>