serious guaranteed no jokes intended readable theoretical

Sat, 9 Apr 1994 08:27:43 EDT

...matter about what I am trying to say about Explanation Industries and
why and wherein this problematization is superior to the unresolvable issues
you are now fruitlessly arguing over:
Guaranteed no jokes.
If it is true that this is new social theory, the length is legitimate.
If the preceding sentence's initial clause is false, the length is not
This is being posted because of the total failure of impact: I'm being
misinterpreted, there is something I am trying to do which is not being
picked up on, and there are points about which I am convinced that I am

I have discerned why the noncommunication has continued to exist. As
everyone, even I, long ago realized, the style is inappropriate. It is
inappropriate with conscious awareness that it is inappropriate, as will
be explained below. But the current noncommunication of my intent in
pursuing an answerable, either true or not, issue rather than yours,
is not wholly attributable to my stylistic failings. It entails the added
causal contribution of the listmembership's inclination *qua* social group
to pursue their emotionally gratifying flamewar. Given the latter, they
will, by culturally normative devices, and you will always find such things
in any subculture if you are intent on finding them and know good places to
look, since you are confronted by empirically observable social behavior
which cannot be Explained by the *prima facie* accounts given by the partici-
pants while they are participating.

[Aside to you. I am no good at, have never been worth a good goddam at,
participation. Put me and a group together, you get me silently ignored, or
doing something construed as a norm violation in the *disruptive* family, or
i am allowed to exhibit behaviour(s) - *preceding pomposity deliberate* - by
nominal recognition of nominal right, like raising a hand in the Question
Period and they allow an utterance when my turn comes around (but am altogether
ignored unless it's worldhistorically good).]

There should be no problem with the assertion that the affect exhibited
in the flamewar underway is in no way commensurate with the intellectual or
abstract issues under dispute. The metastasizing of problematic issues down
certain ill-defined pathways consistently retains the intensity of affect,
whereas the newly problematized issues are comparable in their principal
defect to the original ones. Which brings up the second assertion.
Second, it should be equally apparent, and as readily accepted, that
the debated issues, with the worst namecalling associated, are unresolvable,
and each deserves a wholehearted commitment to the "It Depends" position,
with the consequent pigeonholing of the form, say, "Further studies are
necessary." Which is what I have in the past called "arguing over genessee

What I have therefore been doing, without effect, is to redefine that which
has been disputed over, to no point, and will thus, inasmuch as it's exciting,
continue on said trajectory till the ratings decline and the sponsor pulls
out, which I selfishly choose to find a repellent prospect (having got bored
out of my tree days ago). My goal is a theoretical statement which is either
true or not. The instigation and starting point was a post by Mike Lieber to
the effect that he was about to resuscitate my characterization of certain
social practices as "Explanation Industries." I did so in one of a series
of posts written during the week prior to Jan 20-21 of this year. On Jan 21
I was charged as "racist" and with "character assassination" which may or
may not have contributed to the condemnation of the whole series of posts
and the labelling of me and anyone who responded to said posts as "Foss and
his cretinous cohorts" by a selfstyled "lurker" announcing himself about to
unsubscribe in protest. This had the effect of deligitimizing my right to
post further, for this reason:

I am not writing for the purpose of supplying profession-specific, readily-
identifiable-as-such "*anthropological*," citing a critic, emphasis in
original, content, but to write social theory of my own. It has been my
unannounced policy to, excepting certain purely humorous or fictional
exercises (these are usually the shorter posts), include some theoretical
content I just thought up in each post. As the anticipated response to such
pretensions would doubtless take the form of the culturally ingrained but
non-boolean truth value, "Just who the [deleted] are *you*?" there is no
prospect of anyone much reading it without extraordinary efforts, in exagger-
ation of the style I used to use anyway when writing as if I were going to be
read, to entertain. Hence, the responses to my posts, if any at all, are
either fanmail of the form, "Caught your act, boffo laffs, rolling on the
floor, har har," or hatemail of the form, "Why don't you just dry up." Meaning
that that the whole exercise *would* have been self-defeating if it weren't
for my Collections of Rectangular Objects: books to have something to say,
floppidisks to store all incoming e-mail and contextualized postings,
laserprintout in shopping bags as hardcopy of the contextualized postings
and sentimental reminders of the posts.

I am, by early-childhood socialization onward, an Explainer. Having been
excluded by one or another combination of rejection and withdrawal, I'll
Explain, best I can, whateveritis. Had I been able to write academic prose
in the first place, which by first year of graduate school had become
impossible, either nothing or too much, I made a virtue of necessity when
I could, developing the whateveritis way I write for any audience. From
which my total lifetime pecuniary reward was $300. When it was necessary
to produce academic prose, an editor always materialized so long as I was
construed as having a [potentially] Upper Middle "career," whateverthatis,
not thereafter and since. What you saw, believe it or not, was theory written
with the expectation it could appear nowhere else, that is, nowhere else
which *counted*. In journals or books. Had I been able to write academic
prose as well as some or as badly as others, I'd have done so, be now living
in your neighborhood, and undergoing class-appropriate anguish which you'd
listen to, not the kind I've got, which you won't.

Having had to Explain myself in the context of Explaining what I'm now
trying to do, I will say now that, from my standpoint, whereby you have more
in common than you subjectively "Experience," as demonstrable by this excerpt
from an offline letter [apologies to namewithheld]:

> "Explain me. I'm sick of trying to explain you"?
> Surely you can't be categorizing the denizens of this cyberspace under
> one rubric? I thought the diversity, and even incompatibility, made for
> interesting stimulation.

Which, true or not, is beside the present point. You are all alike in your
*obligation to be your own Explainers*. As noted previously, the elites of
the cultural apparatus, in accordance with a certain pattern in the division
of labor, are classifiable, with respect to Explanation Industries, in terms
of two variables, giving rise to the hoary and venerable, traditional in
social science, *Four-Celled Table*:

1. There are social groups within the cultural elites who are *required*,
by their specialization, subdiscipline, or discipline as a whole, to produce
would-be New Knowledge which is, must be, *transparent to co-practitioners*.
At the same time, the would-be New Knowledge in question is allowed to be
*opaque to all non-co-practitioners, aside from the odd cross-disciplinary
or transdisciplinary ultraspecialist or the more extreme type of polymath.
There exists, for some but not all practitioners of these disciplines a
branch of the Explanation Industry which is not, with rare exceptions,
comprised of those who are themselves practitioners. (In evolutionary
biology, there is the example of Steven Jay Gould. He suffers from the
disabilities of being insufficiently hightech-y in style and also a political
liberal. Those desirous of more tech-y posturings or amenability to Rightist
political biases or both can and do flock to Richard Dawkins, best known,
curiously, for his contribution to the general culture of the notion of the
"idea-bite," by analogy with "sound-bite," which he calls *meme*, by explicit
analogy with *gene*, *qua* unit of self-replicating DNA. This is enabled by
the accepted notion that ideas, as rumors of a sort, may be construed as
self-replicating with grievous intellectual contortions or extreme philosoph-
ical idealism.) The rest of the Explainers are people who report what has been
pre-pablumized by the practitioners, that usually means scientists, to the
"cultural apparatus" or to other academic subdisciplines. The latter include
the sociology of science, for instance.

2. There are practitioners and disciplines to whom or which the above
requirement of *transparency to co-practitioners* applies, but in whom there
is construed no "general interest" by the managers of the "cultural apparatus."
Accordingly, there are no resources of the Explanation Industries devoted to
their *opaque to non-practitioners* would-be New Knowledge or even in existing
Knowledge. Their specialties, usually because insufficiently technologized
relative to those attracting Explaining and Explainers, are at times derided
as merely arcane. An example might be specialists in Ugaritic texts, language,
literature, and very closely related social-science matters (such as eg the
role of women in Ugarit, circa 1400-1200 BC[E]). Another victim, if subject
to upgrading at any moment, is the bewildering, to a non-women's studies non-
woman, differences of opinion among feminist theorist, all of whom are
credentialled academics publishing in specialized journals devoted to feminist
theory, such as *Signs*.

3. There are subdisciplines and disciplines whose practitioners are required
to produce would-be New Knowledge *transparent to the literate public regard-
less of occupational specialization*, if in a highly constrained, formalized,
precisely-worded idiolect of written language, which marks it as Professional.
Which I cannot do, and this is the closest you will ever see me get. Even were
it deemed by the lot of you Publishable, it wouldn't be, as on arising tomorrow
I shall, if ever perchance I look at it again, exclaim, "What a crock,"
shudder, and be grateful that I change my mind so readily. [To answer an
unasked question, yes, I do change my underwear, but not quite as often as
I change my mind, do your own guesswork.]

Think of it this way: Had I any real talent, there would of necessity arise
Fossists and Explainers of Fossism, meaning Daniel A. Foss, not the Daniel C.
Foss, whom I call "the real one" and irrationally fear ever meeting, who is
well-regarded by a subspecies of sociologists who hang out on the edge of
sociology and philosophy. *He* writes solid, Professional-looking, respectable,
and to me boring, stuff; I envy him, wish I could do it, can't, here I am. But,
as I do not have talent, hence even before I got into the condition where I
could just barely walk, which is why I have been here all night, it's the easy
way out, I'd been unemployable in academia as un-Professional and, indeed,
un-Professionalizable. On top of that, I was unemployable in any occupation
of lower prestige, because I was, have always been, *behaviorally disfigured*,
which is at best minimally tolerated only in the most behaviorally tolerant
of milieux, which is as you know *academia*.

Professor Derrida, so I have been assured by Experts who Know the field
of Derrida (Derridean? by analogy with Foucaldian) Studies and related areas
of philosophy/litcrit/history of consciousness/linguistics/gee-idunno, has
talent. Though his occupation reuqires *transparency*, and requires of him,
given his pretense to be at the summit of intellectual life, to take on the
role of Explainer to non-practitioners of what I've previously called The
Nature of Contemporary Consciousness and Things In General, is entirely exempt
from self-simplifying himself for propaedutic purposes. He is gratefully
accorded, for this purpose, the services of Explainers of Derrida, themselves
practitioners of Derrida Studies or Derridean Theory and Method, and produce
in volume would-be New Knowledge for the consumption of their co-practitioners
and the educated dead-cellulose-purchasing public alike. Beyond this level,
there are the mass-audience media, whose reporters on Things In General, which
is included in the contents of Section Two (Arts & Leisure), Section Nine
(Style), and Section Seven (Book Review) of The Sunday New York Times; even,
more rarely, Section Six (Magazine). Very recently, for example, the latter,
the magazine section, carried an article on Derrida having entered a new phase
of Derridean Thought, with snippets of utterances from an alleged (by the
freelancer) interview with Derrida.

That's how it works. I've Explained it, except for:

4. There are occupations, notably creating - *not* criticizing - literature
including both fiction and poetry, as well as composing of academic Serious
music, and the plastic arts (painting, sculpture, avant-garde architecture,
multi-media art, performance art, all the hybrids fostered by postmodernist
critics and cognoscenti), the dance, and even popular culture, whose
practioners' evaluation is not impaired by *opacity to those portions of the
public which have no use for, do not like, abhor being patrons of* the forms
in question. Or where the work will be accumulated, whether for snob appeal
or as a "hedge against inflation," by those who do not care what it means or
even if it means anything: "I don't know anything about art, but I know what
I like," for example, is a familiar caricature. It's pretty safe to infer,
besides, that the speaker, usually male, does not even know what he likes.
His meta-meaning is, "Arty stuff is effeminate and I'm presenting myself as
a Real Man."

It is because I'd just thought of, recalled the existence of, category (4)
that I wrote the post, "my posts henceforth literary art and never social
science," Thu, 7 Apr 1994 22:24:49 EDT, pretending to, on my own authority,
reclassify the occupation I am suppositiously in, thereby claiming different
rules of *opacity* as opposed to *transparency* applicable. This was farcical,
as the *anthropologists* for whom ANTHRO-L purportedly exists, are the social
group by whose convention the occupational specialization of a listmember are
decided, where the *system default is anthropology in one of its sub-
disciplines*, such that I am required to be *transparent*, as is not
usually possible. Given that I am not an anthropologist, and in fact not
*anything*, the greater the legitimacy the complaints that what I post is
not "*anthropological*." Whence the following
RULE: The greater the social distance of the listmember from the academic
practitioners of academic anthropology, including "gonnabes" that is,
graduate students, the more that listmember's contributions to the
list-as-a-whole are *required* to be recognizably on stylistic grounds
Professionally "*anthropological*."

The escapism in the [think of it as an] utterance, "my posts henceforth
literary art and never social science," then, is sheer fantasy, employed
as a device to smuggle social theory *past the ingrained subcultural rules
of censorship by reason of inferior position in the system of social
stratification*, that is, "Just who the [deleted] are *you*?" is of course
foolishness, wishful thinking. The emotion, the affect, however, in
> Explain me. I'm sick, frankly, of Explaining you.
is quite sincere or was, at the time, anyway.

The Dog of the Internet need not get kicked by any particular flame artist.
The Dog of the Internet is self-kicked by tuning into a channel reminding
The Dog of the Internet that the Dog of the Internet is socially inferior
to the normative practitioner (not necessarily the same as the statistically
*average* practitioner, but this is true for all, each and every one, of you,
as I am, as I said, The Dog of the Internet, having only recently risen in
social status to the exalted level of welfare-recipient by reason of disa-
bility) profiled by those accorded legitimacy to post to the list as they
see fit.

"For every Martian observing objective social reality from the Martian
Perspective, there exists a Martian for whom the first Martian is merely
part of the woodwork of the Observed." - Daniel A. Foss (cited by permission).

Daniel A. Foss