to whom you suppose is this discussion raw data
Daniel A. Foss (DFOSS@CCVM.SUNYSB.EDU)
Fri, 21 Jan 1994 00:25:23 EST
[* A tale of Revelation in the realm of Theory & such which Flopped *]
<Sing it!> I woke up this morning Lord! With my mind set on writing
maybe a little something, not even a whole Thingie, on Revelation. But
about what aspect; the discussion has bifurcated, with crossovers, as
between Revelation as a *cognitive strategy* or device, and Revelation,
what is it. Where I'd already made a start on both. Briefest possible
recapitulation, as I'm in a state of total confusion as to what's going
on in this discussion *tout court*, what with the return to the Ultimate
Question, What Is Culture.
First, though, let me take this opportunity to suggest that the transcript
of the current discussion, from circa Jan. 6, should be turned over to some
investigator on the Applications of Chaos Theory To Psychology list,
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, for studying the question of: Under what
conditions does the discussion revolve around a "strange attractor" which
is some topic perhaps distantly related to the original topic yet, somehow,
an identifiable *topic*. Or else, "falls through" into the inert state of
discussing What Is Culture. (What follows is extremely painful to recall,
felt like my guts were getting pulled out while recalling it, and turned
out much longer, in time and words, to write than imagined. *SORRY*.)
I. The post-movement cultural-inversion theory disaster: Anyone who's
not been following this series of posts, sorry, please delete, under the
"briefest possible" rule. The proponents of insight or Revelation, drug-
induced or by imaginary lightning-bolt, not unsurprisingly overrepresent
the "successes," ignore the fiascos. (The successes, too, are historically
decontextualized. Nobody, in recalling the naked Archimedes yelling *eureka*
through the streets of Syracuse, Sicily, before 212 BC, the Roman siege,
when our hero's parabolic mirrors got the Romans so burned up they had his
head, notes that this was a Greek city; and Archimedes may have simply got
sexually aroused, in the mood for a male partner. Let the most wacko
scientist in Syracuse NY, say, "Eddie," who got $100,000 from the USAF
to make LISP a Conscious Being, try that in a good Protestant neighborhood.)
The post-movement cultural-inversion theory was, possibly, the most
ruinous fiasco in my life; and the likelier result of getting blindly
driven by the cognitive passion, that is, over the cliff onto the rocks,
than hard- or easy-science Immortality. This is in spite of the fact that
I still believe the theory and that the data (gathered by myself, monomoni-
acally, and by Ralph Larkin, who finally dragged me out of the field and
forced me to fixate on writing the goddam book already, engaging us thereby
in socialist competition for sheer verbiage output which I narrowly won)
supported it. Also, that the book, rotting away or a la Marx, "given over
to the mice," was better than those we published, separately or together.
Also, that the articles we did publish, where I even made up a couple of
titles (as I rarely otherwise did), "Worshipping the Absurd," "Seven Ways
of Selling Out," were valid.
What went wrong was ignoring how the Explaining (1) Industry (2) worked:
I'd utterly obliviated, or hadn't been apprised early enough, of the
dominance of the whole field of social-movements theory by Charles Tilly.
The key discontinuity with Tilly's work, which was the only work which
counted, was the word "enduring" in his definition of social movements.
Upon reading Tilly, too late, too much history reading had gone over the
bridge, under the drain, for this boy to accept that there was social-
movement persistence in the absence of social conflict. Especially now
that bureaucratic detritus like the AFL-CIO no longer persisted for whole
historical epochs. Or as a 19-year-old student named Jim asked me, in 1968:
"Foss, what's the relationship between the Organization and the Movement?"
"When a great river flows down to the sea, it carries discarded tires,
orange peels, all kinds of floating garbage, on top."
Which was, however, before cybermovements. These must be unlike the
1960s in their characteristic social-conflict episodes. These, for the
Sixties, were disruptions, or as the late mythic hero Abbie Hoffman put
it, "the perfect mess." Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane's call, in "When
The Earth Moves Again," for "computer-killers," is quaint. The LA riots
of 1992 would, then, be the last disruptions of the 1960s type; but then,
every innovation must have its inception in the imagining of a Past which
either Was or Wasn't; even doing it *at the wrong time* is innovatory. Those
who seek the resuscitation of the 1960s are romantic conservatives. They
are like fantasists who called, throughout the 1960s, for putting an end
to the mess, and running the Movement they way it was done in the 1930s,
with the bureaucratized mass-organization central in imagination as in
politics, "you can't scare me I'm stickin' to the union." Or should I
say, "They are zeek," for appended to the Manifesto issued by Mr zeek
of Austin TX in my "ad hoc Revelation" was a list of his heroes and role
models for the edification of his flock, <Leri@gossip.pyramid.com>, were
dead and brain-dead idols of the 1960s: Timothy Leary, Marshall McLuhan,
...Daniel A. Foss? (A mere vestige, but of what never was.)
Observe the 30+ year intervals. These I called "periods of social
quiescence." No conflict, no social movements. Did no conflict at all
happen? Of course not. Right now, I'm looking at Barbara Epstein, Political
Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and
1980s, U California Press, 1991. We dealt with topics of the sort covered
by this book under "episodic dissidence" in "Seven Ways of Selling Out,"
1982; also, say, Ch 5, "Feminist Spirituality and Magical Politics," under
"cultural, artistic, and religious movements," distinguished from social
movements, Beyond Revolution, 1986. But over Epstein's book hangs the
shadow of Charles Tilly. We tried to sneak around him, wriggle into print
more for occupational survival's sake than truth's sake. Otherwise, if
Tilly is Wrong, and you can't Fight The Power, why bother. Just think,
if I'd have gone into Slovene Studies....
To Fight The Power, best we could do was borrow anthrogibberish from
Victor Turner. Where Tilly said that social-movements were "enduring,"
we said that the longer "periods of social quiescence" corresponded to
Turner's "structure"; the shorter "social-movement periods" to his
"antistructure," when liminality prevailed, people got stoned on communitas,
and Revolution was the greatest high there was.
Trouble here was, Turner is a Durkheimian; his project is explicating how
society, a non-class Northwest-Zambian people called the Ndembu, specifically,
maintained its integrity. In transposing his ideas to *class* society, the
closest analogues he could find were Mardi Gras and marginal subcultures
like Hell's Angels. We Marxicized Turner, and there were incredible amounts
of historical evidence for it: I worked, or at least got paid for exhibiting
behavior, in Newark NJ, which, in 1967, was overflown in mid-riot by the
Governor who called it "a city in open rebellion," whereof the most shocking
aspect was the "carnival atmosphere in the streets."
And what else was France in 1968 but liminality and communitas par
excellence? "The more I make love the more I make revolution; the more I
make revolution, the more I make love." "There is no smart and stupid,
only free and unfree." Truly there cannot possibly be a greater "high"
than social upheaval in hierarchical society. Elsewise how explain why
it occurs at all. The immense majority of occurrences are instrumentally
without results if they do not actually leave rebels and dissidents worse
off than at the inception point of social conflict. Tilly says, "Social
conflict *works*." But also: "Repression *works*." And the latter works
so consistently more often, with uprisings drowned in blood, pitiless
massacres, gruesome revenge for social presumption, one wonders, why
try to beat the odds. Our answer:
"Everyone must get stoned!"
It took seven years to get this into print; to the widespread apathy of
all. Even so, Ralph, who did all the editing,(3) had to have recourse to the
unfortunate Tillyesque word, "Mobilization," which suits the bureaucratized
dissidence of the productionist phase of industrial capitalism (as it derives
from pre-World War One usage of General Staffs, "transport of called-up
reserves and standing-army units to the state border upon issuance of a
Proclamation by the head of state; and signifying imminence of war given
inflexibility of railroad timetables and war plans of immense complexity
made far in advance"). But had no relevance to the 1960s, even though some
anti-Vietnam actions used it: Movement cohesion in the 1960s was, as noted,
based on the subculture, not the organization.
Don't never let me catch none of you doing work like that. Study and
understand what the state of the Explanation Industry is in before you
try out your "insights" and "Revelations" with the possible result that
you get in too deep to get out. If anyone did a quantitative study, the
results would probably, I suggest, show that stylistic conformity combined
with immense workacholism is the preferred route. There will be no more
Karl Marx figures in social science. Not even Nobel Prizewinners will be
more than mere pipsqueaks compared to a Marx or a Weber. Who, today, can
know everything known to that date? What would have happened to Karl Marx
in a society where *it counted decisively* that one had a secure academic
post (and to a lesser degree, where it was).
Fortunately, within the Explanation industry, the explosion of styles,
subcults, and corners of expertise render the identification of the
conformist delightfully difficult. One such, among us, may perhaps
explicitly claim to be "deliberately countercultural," perhaps. Which
is an entirely different post.
Daniel A. Foss
(1) Credit for the invention of this usage should go to Professor John H.
Gagnon, Department of Sociology, SUNYSB, downstairs in this building. There
is I'm sure elaboration by me which is not his fault.
(2) John McCreery should be apprised that separate yet analogous treatment
was given to the Explanation *and* Advertising industries a few posts back.
(Will look it up.) Also, he is quite right, I'm sorry, the citations are
from Ch 1 of Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, 1991. Read it in November,
then forgot it. Should have rather read the whole book at once and forgotten
it, but folks here weren't discussing it yet; I forget.
(3) Was at the time deadly seriously committed to effacing all memory of
ever having any occupation other than keypunching and robotically running
statistical-package programs, file manipulation, and suchlike simple tasks.
Objective was, one day, hopefully, making a modest living from such labor,
but failed. Progress was however made in obliterating intellectual life to
point where attempt to reverse direction failed also.