Re: Social Engineering (was: Different patriarchy Model)

John Cook (
Wed, 25 Jan 1995 06:50:40 GMT

In article <3g23dv$>,
(PioneerTom) wrote:

> John Cook writes:
> "Newton's three laws of motion are a norm that oppresses someone who has
> trouble understanding them and using them."
> This, and the other opinions accompanying it in John's post, are prime
> examples of why anthropology stands a good chance of becoming an unfunded
> "discipline" as the next millenium starts. When the basics of how the
> physical universe works, and those three laws are just that, are touted by
> any group of people as arbitrary "norms" that can be paid attention to or
> not as the spirit moves you, then that group has begun the proceess of
> detatching itself from a society that must and will live in and with the
> constraints and opportunities described by those laws of motion. Those 3
> laws have never been superceded, simply expanded upon by subsequent
> discoveries.
This is a classic case of Tom of confusing a description of the world with
the world. I am not at all suggesting that your desciption of the world in
terms of the three laws is unconnected with the world it is simply not the
same thing. If we agree (and I'm sure we don't) that the notion of Newton
law is a normative construction then it is neccessarily oppressive for
those not included within it.

Are you suggesting I abandone a critical perspective for the sake of
funding. Probably wise, but not very interesting.

> John also said:
> " The successful mathematician is undermining the cultural
> articulations of the other children."
> This is the most extreme example of zero-sum strategy I've ever heard of!
> Increasing the capacity of society to generate wealth (in this case
> through mathematics)did not, in my case or the black-on-black case
> mentioned earlier in this thread, undermine anyone's long-term
> "articulation" of their culture. In the short-term it did show up people
> who hadn't put out the same number of hours studying as I had, and as I
> suspect most other successful math students have, of any race. It isn't
> the racial characteristic that has influence, it's the willingness to tell
> anyone who would take up your study time with other things to take a hike!
> This was what got jocks to beat me up, not "articulation". They wanted
> me on the football field, "being a real man". I suspect it's similar for
> the black students, successful in math, who got abused for their focus on
> academic studies.

Long live meritocratic individualism heh. That's right Tom, there's no
difference between you studying maths, or a black kid studying math, or a
logger studying math. You're all the same and you all get what you work
for. I hope you had your hand on the stars and stripes when you wrote

> John also said:
> "There is a continuing conflict in this thread with contributers both
> wanting to insist upon how "black" are essentially different, and at the
> same time insisting that they assimilate totally with the norms of
> mainstream America."
> I have seen no one in this thread say that there is any essential
> difference between blacks and any other ethnic group. I certainly
> haven't, and don't believe there is any such difference. I have seen much
> assuming, by people who give John's type of arguement, that this is
> implied. The only assimilation that is required is the same as that for
> all who would enjoy the benefits of an industrial society. One must
> assimilate _industrial_ culture, of whatever origin, to survive in an
> industrial environment with any ease. Both those who assaulted me, and
> other's assailants described earlier in this thread show evidence of
> refusing that sort of culture from whatever source.

The fact that you appear to see all forms of assimilation as inevitable
and as unconnected with forms of oppression is quite stunning.

> Of course you can choose to continue the "articulation" of the old peasant
> cultures, from whatever source, but you should be prepared to accept the
> level of wealth supported by such cultures for most adherents. That level
> of wealth is so low that few really wish to maintain it for the rest of
> their lives. By the way, my abusers were lily white, not black, and
> racially indistinguishable from Newton. It's not a racial problem, it's a
> problem of general cultural change, and those who resist it.

Actually I don't think this is a situation where people are refusing to
become wealthy. This is a situation where some become wealthy and others
are completely denied the opportunity to make the choice. I never assumed
your abusers were black.

> John finished with:
> "The fools who beat you up were probably far from loopy, beating you up
> was probably one of the only avenues left to them as a way of saying who
> they were in relation to say, capitalism, as a social order. Go read some
> Marx Tom."
> I was reading Marx before those fools pounded me, 30 years ago, and
> neither experience was very impressive. Not surprising, since I ended up
> more libertarian than anything else. In return, may I suggest that you
> read Gross and Levitt's "Higher Superstition", about the way that too much
> of the social sciences have been degraded by the "post-modernist",
> "cultural constructivist", and other marxist-left wing tag ends. It also
> notes the foolish attempts to critique the physical sciences without an in
> depth stuudy of them (That's a Hint!).

Does that come in a bucket or by the dozen. Actually I have a science
degree (with publications).
> I continue to believe that a real and rigorous science of anthropology can
> make excellent contributions to all our futures.
> Tom Billings

I continue to believe that a critical and reflective discipline of
anthropology can make some sort of a contribution towards an understanding
of the painful mess that is human existence.


John Cook