John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 19:42:24 +0900

Some time ago, Donna Lanclos mentioned the ebb and flow of the notion that
the Iroquois Confederacy influenced the U.S. Constitution in high-school
history books. In the context of an ongoing discussion of the nature of
ideology, the following appeared on H-IDEAS.

Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 18:24:36 +0100 (MET)

Last week several participants argued about "life cycles" of systems of
ideas/ideologies. A short while ago I was fumbling around with the new
CD-ROM versions of several citation indexes, which provided me with the
following (rather unintelligent and misused) data on who has been quoted
how often in the scholarly journals. The following figures, extracted
from the "Arts and Humanities Citation Index", might nonetheless be helpful
in assessing life cycles of ideas, methodologies, and of some people's minds:
AUTHOR CITED in 1980-89 in 1990 in 1991 in 1992 in 1993 in 1994
(*annual average)

GADAMER-H* 162 189 191 187 152 155

MARX-K* 634 395 321 315 319 272

ENGELS-F* 208 117 72 77 55 64

WEBER-M* 203 194 218 248 256 246

HABERMAS-J* 230 297 320 360 344 362

GEERTZ-C* 137 190 187 223 217 216

FOUCAULT-M* 391 524 584 669 722 735

DERRIDA-J* 352 530 521 505 481 513

GINGRICH-N* 0 0 0 0 0 0

(* Note: In order to make good for the differences in the total number of
counted quotations in the several annual databases - and so to make the
figures comparable to each other - I have multiplied the raw data as
follows: The figures of 1980-89 were multiplied by 0.1, those for 1990
by 1.07, those of 1991 by 0.87, those of 1992 by 0.82, those for 1993 by
0.92, and those of 1994 by 0.97. Statistical information can be found in
the printed versions of the A&HCI).

I have attempted to include representatives of several schools of
thought, such as Rankeans, Marxists, structuralists, post-structuralists,
postmodernists, and neo-conservatives. One might, no doubt, argue about
the samples to be found in my short-list; it was compiled under
time-pressure and has certainly got a somewhat German bias (and, as
I now recognize, fails to include any women). Nonetheless
one might detect in it a general decline of the Marxist paradigm on the
one hand, and a rise in postmodern methodologies on the other hand.

However, this should not to be regarded as a ranking-list, I think -
these statistics simply illustrate the finding that certain trains of
thought and ideologies gain prominence (in the merely quantitative
point of view) at times - and lose it again sooner or later; they cannot
account neither for their respective qualitative values nor for
their degrees of "truth", whatever all that might be. Here it is exactly at
stake, how "quality" in research and "truth" ought to be assessed. At the
turn of the century, for instance, Max Nordau, the popularizer of the term
"degeneration", was a highly successful and frequently cited author - so what
did it mean then, and what does this/he mean to us? - In addition, the
citation index does not distinguish between positive and negative citations;
so it might well be that most of the journal articles citing Foucault might
be doing so in order to actually criticize his ideas. Nonetheless his ideas
seem to be so influential at the moment, that scholars have to quote him
so often nowadays.

For all those scholars who now fear a "Decline of the West": Aristotle
was quoted no less than 692 times in scholarly journals in 1994 - so
there is certainly not a 5-year-life cycle for all people's minds!

A further idea might be to establish citation-ranking lists for particular
fields of studies - scientists are said to do so, whenever a new Nobel
laureate is to be found (,albeit it usually is not the most often quoted
scholar, who eventually is to be awarded the prize). However, I have
established a citation-ranking-list of German historians - and found
indeed a Nobel-prize winner (Theodor Mommsen) at the very top ...

Well, the next step might be to find out your own ideological life-cycle,
be it a curve, a sine-curve (sinecure?) or something else: simply consult
the relevant citation index (and compare with colleagues). But be warned: In
the A&HCI, the average number of citations to authored cited items is no
more than 1.01 - and by far not all scholars are listed! Maybe you don't
WANT to know it?

Thomas Schmitz

I wonder if anyone has ever done similar research on citations of
eminent anthropologists, and why we might learn if they did?

John McCreery