RE: Real History Vs Imaginary "Historical Processes"

Wed, 9 Apr 1997 13:56:44 -0500 (EST)
Paul W. Turner (

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the personal attacks that
you have been heaping on Andrew Austin have been getting pretty taxing.
I've noticed that this is favorite tactic of yours. You're obviously a
bright guy--why don't you try sticking to the facts instead of subjecting
us to yet another of your name-calling rants?

On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, David Lloyd-Jones wrote:

> Andrew Austin puts on his best Now Kiddies voice and pronounces the following simple-minded twaddle:
> David,
> 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.
> Can you spell "simple minded metaphor"? There, I knew you could.
> 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.
> Wrong. Metaphysics is when you dream up "engines" to power a reified "history." Your engines are mystical phantasms as illusionary as any other ghouly host.
> What explains foreign investment is a complicated set of political and
> economic forces.
> Ass backwards. What explains academics dreaming up "forces" is the fact of investment taking place.
> 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.
> A half truth masquerading as a principle. Everything you say in this paragraph is one way of looking at a part of the truth. To think that this is the whole truth and the sole true way of expressing it is arrogant lunacy, a specialty of the academic left.
> My argument is that these transformations are caused by world-historical
> forces.
> I know that. You have these pataphysical spectacles which make visible to you flows, exchanges, boundaries... You are like a psychoanalyst of the corporation, the company, and the culture: you weave in and out of contact with reality as Freud sometimes came down out of his apartment to see, Lo! an actual Vienna.
> 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.
> "World planners"! <Giggle> Look, James Wolfensohn does not even have the illusion that he runs his bank, let alone that he plans the world. If he can avoid megalomania, you could at least have the decency to stop committing it on his behalf.
> 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.
> "Objective process"?? I think we have that failure of vocabulary again. You are not speaking English. The processes of history are ex post facto analytical constructs; there is nothing remotely objective about them.
> 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.
> "Jenny, have you been cleaning up my desk? Where did you put the bloody dialectic? I need it for a meeting this afternoon."
> 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.
> Andy, you've lost control of yourself: you're so lost in your metaphysical constructs that you don't recognise a simple empirical observation when you meet one. The counterargument to a report of the kind I make here is to say "No, here are a large group of Mandarin mandarins who were not statist." You won't find any.
> 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.
> Modulo your demonstrated inability to identify garbage when you're swimming in it, you could have a point here. My argument with Huntington is simply that he is a paranoid dolt. Cultures don't necessarily "clash." To express the meeting and melding of cultures in the vocabulary of warfare is the moronic macho of the fourteen year old boy.
> 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.
> Since was taking people's beliefs, cultures, lifestyles a "reduction." Reductionism is the failure of wit of the person who falls back on nameless and unidentified "world historical forces."
> Ideology doesn't pass
> for scientific materialism, David.
> But your scientific materialism would be getting a large promotion if it could pass for an ideology. It is a mere cult.
> Your arguments do not stand up to basic
> scientific criteria of logical consistency and empirical verification.
> So _you_ say.
> * * *
> A small note on evangelists. I do not have in mind the Christian Coalition or the Moonies, though I think the first domestically important in some States. I tend to think more of significant individuals -- Jimmy Carter would be an example -- at the city, town and suburb level. The fact that Austin thinks of Moonies and Ralph Reedies as representative of American organised religion simply demonstrates how little he knows about the United States.
> A small factoid which will show how far people can be led if they operate on the daily newspaper view of reality: during the waning days of the Brezhnev Administration Russian _refuseniks_ were all the rage in the Western press, and it was commonly thought that Jewish unrest was a major problem in the USSR. In fact the total number of Jewish activists in jail or in "mental health" confinement was between three and four hundred. At the same time the number of Russian Baptist members of "Operation 2000, Evangelize the World by the Year 2000" (of which Jimmy Carter was then and I believe is now a Director) was over 5,000 people. Imprisoned for everything from street-corner ranting to running barge loads of Bibles up the Volga in the middle of the night.
> I am not a Christian; I am a Social Democrat, and hence necessarily an anti-Communist at least in politics. (Some of my best friends...) And apparently unlike Andy Austin I take the newspapers' and the textbooks' arbitrary categories with a grain of salt.
> -dlj.

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