Re: Real History vs Imaginary "Historical Processes"

Wed, 9 Apr 1997 10:00:34 -0400 (EDT)
Andrew Wayne Austin (


First, opposition to vulgar idealism does not imply a disregard for what
people think. What people think is very important. However, what any one
individual or groups of individuals think is not the motor force in
history. World-historical development is a collective, objective and
deeply structural process. To think that China's relationship with the
rest of the world is primarily driven by ideas, particularly religious
ideas, is metaphysics, not science.

What explains foreign investment is a complicated set of political and
economic forces. These forces must be contextualized. Why any one TNC and
MNC would put a chemical plant in China depends on all of these forces and
decisions reached by planners and corporate executives both internal and
external to the TNC/MNC. One of the attractions in China, particularly the
region already cited, is infrastructural development and well-trained
labor pools at cheap wages. But the primary logic is (long-term/
short-term) political economic, not cultural-ideational.

My argument is that these transformations are caused by world-historical
forces. World planners are guiding, in so far as they can, the development
of objective material (economic) forces through structural adjustment
mechanisms at the institutional level and through interstate trade policy.
But the objective reality underneath issue and policy development is the
objective process of transnationalizing production; this is the context in
which elites theorize about the world. One current contradiction internal
to the Chinese nation-state that is important in understanding the
behavior of world planners and business elites, and in understanding
structural changes, is the intraclass struggle between capitalist forces
there. The linkages between fractions of the Chinese capitalist class,
TNCs, and the developing TNS is both contributing to and guiding China's
transformation. This is the conflict I brought out in my post.

A word about the Mandarin being "statist, as per down through the
centuries"; this is a perfect example of your defective worldview, which
is vulgar ahistorical idealism. You have essentialized a group of people
you know as Mandarins as "statist." You have not argued that a particular
ethnic group is currently associated with a statist ideology and practice,
but rather that they are genetically statist (for "centuries"); we know
you assert this because statism among the Mandarins is taken as a
constant, exogenous factor. You then take this essentialized
characteristic and draw from it that cultural forces are the primary motor
force internal to China, whereas objective material forces take a back
seat. This is the same sort of intellectual garbage that is offered up by
Huntington in his "clash of civilization" thesis. Human beings are reduced
to their current cultural identity, the identity is essentialized as
genetic, and then conflict is attributed to what amount to racial
differences, not historical or structural forces. Ideology doesn't pass
for scientific materialism, David. Your arguments do not stand up to basic
scientific criteria of logical consistency and empirical verification.

> I didn't say evangelicals, I said evangelists, and I made no reference
> whatsoever to "organized Christian groups," which I take to be Austin's
> code word for his vision of frenzied bubbas with rifles in their pickup
> trucks.

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you were
referring to evangelical organizations rather than individuals. This is
even more amazing, then. You are asserting that "evangelists" constitute
the primary linkages between the United States and China. This doesn't
deserve refutation. "Organized Christian groups" is an attempt at neutral
language; it seems rather social scientific to refer to groups when
organized as organized and Christian when Christian. I don't see how this
can be misconstrued as a code word for "bubbas with rifles in their pickup
trucks." But to clear the air over this, organized Christian groups are
not bubbas with rifles. Christian organizations like the Christian
Coalition and the Moonies are highly organized, well-funded,
ultrarightist-neofascist elite organizations who work under the cover of
religious ideology to facilitate power elites in keeping the world safe
for exploitation. The "bubbas" David refers to are small potatos compared
to the groups I am referring to.

> This "second" is the misquote above -- evangelicals for evangelists --
> amplified, with background noise added. For the record, the only
> significant piece of decent social legislation in the US lately has been
> the child tax credit -- a progressive boon to the working class forced
> down the Republicans' throats by Ralph Reed.

What do you mean "lately"? Like this year? You need to examine changes in
U.S. federal and state governmental structure and policy, both regulatory
and legislatively, over the past 50 years to understand macrostructural
changes this nation has undergone. The last 25 years have constituted what
amounts to a massive structural adjustment program beginning with the
dismantling of the Bretton Woods system and accelerated under Carter and

> No I don't. The question was not what is going on in China -- which is
> simple modernization, made possible by the collapse of communism. The
> question was why is America involved as it is. I propose that a major
> part of the explanation lies in American culture. Austin prefers his
> Marxoid mumbo-jumbo.

Again, you return to Rostow and Huntington to make your argument (although
we have to decode your reactionary anticommunist rhetoric first).
"Modernization made possible by the collapse of communism." What part of
"communism" prevented the Soviet Union from becoming the second most
powerful industrial nation in world history? Must not be the economic side
of "communism" that makes China different. Maybe it is China's cultural
system? That follows from your argument. The Mandarins, with their
"statist" predisposition which perpetuates a culture of statism, have been
holding back the teleological force of modernization. And the ultimate
expression of Chinese statism was Mao's Godless communism. Now with the
collapse of communism in China (did it collapse?) the barrier to
modernization has been lifted, and China is rushing headlong towards the
end of history, and the only question for David is why the U.S. would want
to get involved. And the answer David gives is that since China is on
natural path to capitalism, she might as well be put on the path to
Christianity, as well. Is this a misinterpretation of your argument,

> "World-historical material and economic forces" eh? And Austin accuses
> _me_ of idealism! These completely fictitious forces are ex post facto
> explanatory variables conjured out of thin air by people of the type who
> think that quoting each others' books constitutes research.

Just like an idealist--transform the real material world into a fiction
that only resides in books. And David is claiming that evangelists are
changing the world.

Andrew Austin