plain english version

Wed, 8 Jun 1994 16:53:24 EDT

prospect, Moving Out. Have so far strangely failed to close down the account:
Two lines of gratuitously foul insults in the last post on Friday failed to
induce the insulted parties, if they indeed heard about it, to Complain to
the Authorities, thereby saving me the trouble. In principle, I can annoy
you all until July 31.]

Dozens upon dozens of posts later, the situation was as mad as I'd left
it five or six days ago. Proving once again, if proof be needed, that social
scientists will act like a bunch of blooming Natives, which is what they are,
should material personal interests, embedded in ongoing quotidian social
relations, occlude theoretical perspective. Here, then, is the plain English
version, which I promised to Bonnie Blackwell last week, of what I wrote in
deliberately bizarre language lest I insult the readership with what is,
after all, mere Intro level social science.

If this is capitalism, then Inferiority, "social inequality," "social
stratification," is objectively real. "Achievement" is represented as
existing at the level of the organism, a function of essential Abilities,
which are reified by measurement; moral virtue; and Fleawill. Successful
applicants and candidates for promotion are certain they possess these
qualities while the less-privileged do not. John O'Brien was, not
surprisingly, overtly damned as a "loser," which he has gone to great
effort to deny, both before and after that deadly stigmatising word was
used. Which is the nub of the ideological problem, since if you adhere
to the assumption that Achievement is organismic - "individual" is far
too ideology-laden in bourgeois culture and society for usage without
treacherous semantic undertow - then the only way you can claim you
were unfairly graded, rejected for admission, or not hired to the advantage
of the less-Qualified (or more essentially Inferior) is to claim you were
Discriminated Against, which will get you one deviance point on the MMPI
Paranoid Scale.

What is measured, from your Apgar Scale at birth, are rather minor
differences marginally differentiating organisms basically the same.
"Reality is only objectively real enough to make itself look good," and
there are sufficient measured differences, accumulating and clotting over
time, to convincingly indoctrinate each and every one as to the organismic
character of Achievement. Actually, where we find gross differences, these
are *aggregate*, attributable to hierarchical position and inculcated from
earliest childhood in class or stratum-specific subcultures: If you group
your data, by parents' income or by neighborhood, which increasingly amounts
to the same thing, you will get perfect correlations between parents' income
and standardized test scores. Playing with a toy correlation and regression
program I wrote (the limit of my talents, actually, in the Wonderful World
of Computers and Adventure), I plugged in grouped SAT data, got an r of 0.96,
and a regression equation which said that a $23.41 increment in parents'
income predicted an increment of 1 point on the SAT in 1974. Nor should
this surprise anyone; the hereditary transmission of social rank is, after
all, what children are for. Capitalism embodies the hereditary principle to
a degree which is positively ferocious: The current level of real as opposed
to nominal inheritance taxes makes the deal cut with feudal lords in former
times look stingy by comparison. It should, and does, follow logically from
the foregoing that, once the educational system has performed its hierarchy-
reproducing function (everybody is a little bit of a functionalist, sort of
as shorthand, you know, some of the time), it is allowed to become as decrepit
may be imagined, and worse; nothing really being taught below the postgraduate
level. Maybe it has some influence on which graduate school one is admitted
to, or whether one finds graduate school an imaginable alternative to what
in school is called The Real World; but it cannot be gainsaid that our, for
i are an armenian too (as in "a young armenian boy with finely muscled head,"
"beautify armenia, get a harelip," etc., Firesign Theater, q.v.), graduate
schools are the Wonder of the World.

From students themselves I have distilled the following two Laws of Life:
1. Life is a place where "they take points off," as in, "If we don't get
this in by 5 o'clock, *They're gonna take points off*!"
2. Assumed expectations of relative social Inferiority determine
performance: "Where I'm gonna End Up in later life determines how I'm gonna
do on this test next Tuesday." (True demystification via slip of the tongue.)

It follows from the determinate character of the control of the definition
of the cognitive by psychometricians, Ed-Psych types (the EdD degree would,
maybe has been, granted to Mr Ed the Talking Horse &c + ilk, commonly for
the purpose of getting a credential to practice Shrinkage [= "psychotherapy"]
in Woolworths), and Special Eds that, firstly, the word "know," in English,
does not have the alternative meaning, "have sex," consequently this room is
is not merely de-eroticized but windowless. Second, the educational system
selects certain types of organisms for certification as cognitively superior,
some of whom are *used* by those employing its graduates and advanced-degree
holders; others are *stockpiled*; still others are in effect *insulated and
silenced*. The latter include potentially socially critical persons employed
as staff within academia itself, as well as Doctress Neutopia,
indiscriminately. Only within academia is the distinction made between
those authentically theoretically radical, in theory, and Doctress Neutopia;
and only I systematically study the criteria on which this is done:
-- I don't know what to do about my Mission to Spread Truth throughout
the World.
-- No, lizzy, it's "subvert the hegemonic discourse," as commonsense is
-- But on the other hand I feel I've been *dead* all my life up to now.
-- What we have in common, no wonder we can't stand each other.

If this is capitalism, those certified by the system as cognitively
superior assume that they have coming to them by Natural Right a target
level of social privilege. This privilege would ideally take the form of
release from scheduled time to an extent rarely encountered in The Real
World. Cynical reactionaries call this nonscheduled time "leisure," though
academics very commonly impose upon themselves burdens of workaholism rarely
encountered outside Wall Street. The key point is control over *when* one
does the work; secondarily, *what* the work is. Marx fully grasped the point,
as spelled out in digressions from digressions here and there in the
Grundrisse, that one's time is one's life. It is noteworthy that only once
in his entire life did Marx apply for an honest job, as railroad clerk, but
got turned down as a slob.
It follows that, under conditions of hierarchical-authoritarian autocratic
managment, as practiced in The Real World, with its lengthening of scheduled
time to an alltime record workweek for professional-managerial staff, for as
long as statistics have been kept, that: The slightest chance of a lifetime
of wallowing in libertarian utopia in the midst of repressive social discipline
for social discipline's sake will prompt the filling of the graduate schools
in the critical social sciences to bursting; and that jobseekers will outrun
the food supply. The current discussion on ANTHRO-L has amply borne this out.

Under conditions of labor surplus, the employers of social scientists,
university Search Committees and Vice Presidents, benefit from the privileges
accorded all employers in capitalist conditions, such as *defining
suitability*. Certain grousing was empirically observed by this writer as
to a certain candidate having been *more suitable* than the one actually
hired; but this is absurd. The most suitable candidate for any position,
within academia and without, is the one actually hired, unless higher
management subsequently hires Outside Consultants who declare otherwise.
As mentioned, capitalism enshrines the hereditary principle to an extent
unacknowledged in public discourse: You wouldn't deny "Uncle-Jake-in-the-
Garment-Business (Jewish imaginary being analogous to the Virgin or Kuan-yin)
the right to hire the Retarded nephew, would you? Certainly not. Capitalism
if for giving your children all the advantages. Hence my Kent State speech
on the usual streetcorner in 1970: "You must kill your children, to ensure
that they have *all the advantages* you never had." And, of course, "All
things must continue to have prices *at all costs*." Why I'm leaving Long
Island; Them are going to Charge, $ for $, what it says on $ACTRPT$ DFOSS A0.
Other things. <harrumph> Digressed agin.

While and whereas the "detail worker" of nineteenth-century political-
economy and the semiskilled worker of Fordist-Taylorist utopianism, "Show
me a man who can't learn his job in a week, and I'll show you someone who's
no good to American Industry," was *interchangeable*, hired like a holder
of the winning lottery ticket, that is to say, by place on line or letter
of the alphabet or belonging to a linguistic group whose tongue wasn't
understood by the Lithuanian on the right and the Slovak over there. The
vestigial blue-collars remain so, with additional requirement of highschool
diploma and visible servility picked up on by the Japanese-trained manager.
Even here, differentiation by "skill" proceeds apace. Conviction that formal
education inculcates "skill" is universal among economists and employees
alike, though the latter, surveyed by the former, evince no attribution of
whateveritis they do to school; well, 12% of them say so. Human Capital
Formation Theory, which won Gary S. Becker the Nobel Prize, holds sway
by means of hard math formulas; but empirical studies, using measured
"qualification" data, IQ included, account for only 30% of the variance
in wages. (See Lester Thurow, Dangerous Currents, 1983.) Something is screwy.

Factory workers at least have readily quantifiable productivity. Office
workers, including the education industry, do not. Marx explicitly excluded
university faculty, "quill drivers," he called them, from the blessed realm
of "productive labour." In terms of material reproduction, this is true. The
economy is, however, now in the culture business, generally speaking: Over
half of the fulltime-employed in the USA are office workers. This subsumes
bureaucracy in general, which is the self-monitoring activity of society, and
the culture industries proper, including education as the largest aside from
government at all levels, wherewith the education industry overlaps. Telecom-
munications, infomation processing, mass and other media, and fabricators of
or dealers in intangible entities sold as pseudocommodities, whether software
or arbitraged currencies or securities, insurance, finance, other immense
industries, and of course Consultants, whatever they may be, and last and
least tens of millions of female slaves slaving away at "looking good in the
office" - here, in The New York Times, Tue 7 Jun 94, I see Official Proof,
in the reportage on Wonderbra et al. as an Official Trend, of the correctness
and accuity of Mike Lieber's observation! (Great staring, Mike!) - all are
in the business of *culture*, buying and selling the mental life of society
and the material objects wherein it's embodied as pseudocommodities. (The
concept of *commodity*, defined in the nineteenth century in terms of
standardized material objects, is most lucidly formulated in Marx, best
of all in Capital, Vol I, Ch 1; hence is the principal theoretical cause
of the sterility of Marxist analysis of capitalist development ever since.)

There is no objective assessment of the "suitability" of anthropologists
apart from whom they are suitable *to*, which is, university Vice-Presidents
and their constituencies, the state and federal governments; and the latter's
constituency, of course: the Private Sector (and to a diminished extent post-
Cold War, the military). There is, in fact, an excellent reason why women and
minorities per se should be more suitable than [dead] white males: Gender
studies and cultural studies are the most vital and intellectually stimulating
subfields in sociology and anthropology today, with the partial and overlapping
exception of, uh, Macro-Comparative/Historical sociology. Gender studies and
cultural studies *sell*, they draw paying customers, they require newer and
more nearly politically correct textbooks (and a newer, larger, fully-climate-
controlled School Book Depository to stash them in); and let me tell you, a
textbook can be anything! Why, yesterday I read a textbookish pseudobook,
Revolution, by Michael Kimmel, 1991, which I heartily recommend over the
Competition because, not least, he teaches downstairs; and I say "pseudobook"
because it's what's increasingly happening when the Quest For Truth <har>
meets up with media multiglomerates in dark alleys. The proofreading is
horrible. (Kimmel is good, and I'd have preferred what he might've written
under socialism-yet-to-come.) Three, perhaps *five* of the sociology faculty
have published textbooky thingies on Revolution alone! Moreover, harrumph,
I bought this particular volume in a chain outlet which is a wholly owned
subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch (aka News Corp); and Kimmel has been on the
Donohue show four times, probably more! How it's done the armenian way.

Those who invoke Universalism as Revealed by Talcott Parsons (one of the
dead white males taught in "contemporary theory") on Bunker Hill will find
only Archie Bunker - now also Dead [WhitishMail] - concurring. One senses
that John O'Brien, in his unending horror of countless rejections, has failed,
for strongly determined reasons, to exhibit that herd conformity seen in
those who contrive to get hired; and this has been true for so long that
his age tells against him. The herd conformity is itself strongly determined.
And all parties to the dispute denounce conformity, insist they alone are
True Beings, etc, as we should expect in any bourgeois culture where the
invocation of Individualism is incessant (because, as Marx said, long before
John O'Brien was born, or I was born, the previous year, even, it distorts
and obscures the evergrowing interdependence of all humans, as brought about
by market relations). No point telling John O'Brien he's possessed by a *dun-
rili-wana* spirit, else he'd have been hired long ago, or suchlike sermons;
he's a determinate product of his times, like Tracy Brown. Or like me. Each
year, the quaint armenian peasant villagers vow total Self-transformation.
This is called New Years Resolutions. Not even Gloria Steinem can change, but
she can make big bucks telling you she's the master of her fate, the captain
of her soul, as Walt Whitman put it. (There's a shopping mall in Huntington,
western Suffix County, on the Prefix Co. line, named in his honour.) The
organism, even Alexander The Great, is caught in a rigidly determinate
universe so far as intrapsychic and behavioural plasticity is concerned.
The objectively real social environment, though, may at times present a
spectacle of radical underdetermination to the discerning eye. This is what
makes an Alex The Great or a Lenin. Darius III and Kerensky figured they had
No Choice. As nobody really does, usually. "Choice" is a figmentational social-
ly constructed buzzword. We rarely have any such leeway, and its over trivia.
What we Experience as Fleawill amounts from the Martian's eye view as mere
aggressive drift. Yet you are damned by your Superior Officers for denying
Religio-Shrinko orthodoxy; godblessarmenia, long may it rave, don't bother
me with your stupid culture until you fix it up.

Tracy Brown is right. Away with obsolete stereotypes. To identify and
squash the far more insidious *contemporary* stereotypes, strip them naked
of their vestments called "discourse." How about, "Multicultural diversity
is the class-conscious ideology of university Vice Presidents as a class-for-
itself." Aint it sad, when the most Progressive thingie in the joint is what
was intended as *counterinsurgency* just in case the Sixties happened again?
Oh whatta surprise they're gonna get!

Daniel A. Foss
[About this harddrive-corrupting virus, Mike. This harddrive has been on the
take since it got here. What else is new.]