RE: Real History Vs Imaginary "Historical Processes"

Thu, 10 Apr 1997 01:08:45 -0400
David Lloyd-Jones (


What is it about scientific materialism that you find at fault? =20

Andrew, the question is meaningless without a context. "Scientific =
materialism," it seems to me, can only have a useful meaning as a label =
for a collection of techniques for looking at things. Useful for =
explaining wheat, say: one bushel, two bushels, zero wheat gods. Things =
get more interesting when you throw in information theory, a pure =
metaphysical, for looking at the DNA in the wheat, but the material view =
gets you a good way along. Similarly for gunpowder: it's more useful to =
think about the chemicals than about the impulsive spirit -- but the =
quantum states of the electron clouds on the carbons and the potasiums, =
more of those pesky metaphysicals, also come in handy for knowing how =
the stuff will blow up. "Scientific materialism" as an explanation, let =
alone an engine, of history strikes me as simply a meaningless =
concatenation of sounds, mystical hocus pocus like that damn dialectic =
that Jenny was always losing. Or did the maid take it?

What do
you mean when you say I hold a "reified" history?=20

Quite simply -- ya could look it up -- you talk about history as if it =
were a material object. What else would need an engine and be expained =
in only material terms?

Are you arguing that
collective behavior is not qualitatively different from individual

Again, I don't understand the question without any context. Which =
individual? Which group? Which quality?

Why is the idea of elite management so unbelievable for you?=20

Hunh? What on Earth makes you think I think that? Obviously there are =
elites of various kinds, and obviously they try to exert their =
collective and individual wills -- with varying success. Best laid =
plans of mice and men... But as a past, present, and I hope future =
member of various elites, perhaps I am more aware of their/our =
limitations than some of the soi-disant non-elites you have been =

Do you deny that the IMF imposes structural adjustment on countries in =

Of course not, or at least it tries, with mixed success. I even object =
strongly -- and probably in more detail and with more effect than you -- =
to their tendency to decontrol the price of rice and beans, rather than =
capping military expenditures, a much faster and easier way of bringing =
a country's finances back into line.

Do you deny that Bretton Woods, the United Nations, the World
Bank, the World Trade Organization represent planning at the global =
and implement policies that affect populations?=20

Probably yes in the sense I think you have in mind. I think your =
accusation is wildly too optimistic.

Why did or do these organizations exist?=20

The triumph of hope over common sense. =20

When the board of directors for a mammoth TNC makes a
decision about where to locate production, you do not think this is

The CEO remembers where his wife liked the priests at the temple near =
the hotel, as often as not. Seriously, if you think it is done =
rationally, I have this bridge for sale.

Is there no complex of organizations moving at the global level?

There are many global organizations, and even more trying to become =
global. Some, like McDonalds and Kelly Vacuum Cleaners in fact operate =
effectively in a global sense.
How do all these trade deals get done?=20

'Nuther meaningless question. Name a deal, we'll discuss it. If you =
think there is a set of explanations for all of them, see the bridge for =
sale, op. cit.

GATT? NAFTA? Do you not believe
that things that happen in the world are objective reality?

I agree that organizations named GATT and NAFTA exist. I would be =
surprised if there was much more than that which has "objective reality" =
in the sense that Manhattan Island (modulo land fill and outgoing =
garbage) or my Casio watch do. There are happenings in the world; to =
call them "things" is only a convention of English and some other =

You have
argued that the "processes of history are ex post facto analytical
constructs"; how can the past be if the analytical constructs that make =
the processes of history occur at a point temporally subsequent to the

Austin, you silly bunny, the processes you impute to history are =
different from the happenings. The happenings, whatever they were, =
happened in the past. Your invented processes happen in your time =
frame, which comes later. Are you really obtuse, or do you have to do =
this to keep your AFTRA card alive?

Isn't this akin to saying that we must first analytically construct
a tree before a tree can be a material reality?

Depends on the tree, dunnit? Yggdrasil, anybody? Even at the casual =
level of everyday reality, a tree may look like ready lumber to you or =
me, but be quite useless to cut down because the future price of pulp =
has changed in Chicago. How simple-minded do you want to get? "Its a =
tree, dammit."? Well, yeah, sure, it's a tree. Or is its essential =
material reality the fact that it is blocking a potential highway or =
dam? What are you trying to prove with your silly question?

Is history even important?
As important as any other set of attempts at grasping reality, which =
attempts we live by.=20

In your view, what is a social democrat?=20

Tentatively, a member of an organization affiliated with the Second =
International, or a sympathiser with such organizations.

Is Jenny your secretary?=20

No. She was Karl's wife. Sheesh. So much for the AFTRA-card theory.
And if you can't find your dialectic, you may borrow mine.
Thanks for the offer. I have one in the bedroom, and one is all I can =
Andrew Austin