Re: aaa and activism

Warren Sproule (Warren.Sproule@SOCIOL.UTAS.EDU.AU)
Thu, 1 Dec 1994 13:43:04 +0200

Bob Graber's latest posting (11/29) struck a definite chord with me. My
first responses to posts such as Aron Fox's initial 'Adman' outburst, or
Sherwin Hicks' opening flame against Rushton, were empathetic: I could well
understand the spirit that animated them, but found myself objecting to the
abusive "tone" used, and wondering about their "appropriateness in the
context of a scholarly forum". This personal reaction was reflexively quite
jarring for the neo-anarchist, anti-war, 'never-trust-anyone-over-30',
non-politically-correct, ex-beatnik-cum-hippie-scum,
'why-are-my-students-so-politically-apathetic' baby boomer I'd always
pictured myself as representing. What made this MORE confusing was that I
ALSO felt queasy about the assorted early 'naughty-boys' chiding of Fox and
Hicks by other list-members; that something essential was being damped

So I'm 'puzzling' too. Maybe this confused response - we're politically
aware but we mustn't *do* anything about it, and we must denigrate those
who *do* - is a generational thing (I see that Bob and I were both born in
1950) and a conjunction of age-grades and a spirit of the times [aka '60s
old fart soul-searching]. Maybe we're all just older and wiser, more
worried about propriety and security of position (ie, you *really*
shouldn't trust anyone over 30!). Maybe it's an under-estimation by old New
Lefters of the old Right, and a failure to predict the rise of the New
Right, to the degree that we play into their hands, follow their agendas,
or even BECOME "them"...

Perhaps it's a facet of our academic professionalism - perhaps even
specific to the human sciences (value-neutrality writ large, no thorny
ethico-political engagements beyond making lots of politically correct
noises?). Bob's AAA eg from '85 reminded me of a similar eg in my own
discipline. In 1967, Sociological Abstracts (XV,[VII], 1160-1170, 1267)
published an open letter to the US President, Vice-President and Members of
Congress from '1300 individual and active members of the American
Sociological Association' calling for a halt to the bombing of North
Vietnam, immediate peace negotiations and the 'orderly, phased withdrawal
of American forces': Responding to the Gulf conflict in 1991, sociologist
Peter Eglin reported that at his campus [WLU in Ontario], a War Symposium
and ad hoc open forums were organised, '[b]ut the numbers involved in
intellectual activities to do with the war outside their own classrooms,
but inside the university, represents no more than 10% of the faculty body'

What price radicalism/activism? Have we not been careful enough in looking
at Fred Nietzsche's abyss? Maybe this is just the hot meat of romance being
cooled by the dull gravy of common sense, but I don't think so. Whatever,
apologies that it's so very stream-of-consciousness. Any other more cogent
thoughts from my cousins in anthropology?