front axial ages vs rear ones vs 4wheeldrive & mcreeries

Wed, 11 May 1994 21:39:30 EDT

astically, unambig/bivalently positive, who'd screwed up for once by pushing
a piece of tripe, Donald McCloskey, "Bourgeois Virtue," American Scholar,
Spring 1994, 177-191. Impressionistic mock-sociology; questions about culture
asked long ago howbeit they were answered long prior to that(1); cursorily
travestied skimming flatrocklike over the superficialmost surfaces of modern
social history; and to beat all, the most *creative* sensu tiny tot finger-
painting definition of the holy sociological mantra *class* whereby working
in offices, as half the armenian fulltime unemployed do, suffices to make
all those who do part of the same class. It does not, which is why it does
suffice to get some of them made by others. Just ask Clinton, when he was
just small.
Less prestigious periodicals have been turning into toxic waste dumps for
this uppermiddlebrow superstition: The Atlantic, which is having a fit of
Social Conscience, has a buncha articles on Burning-type Issues in the May
1994 number, whereof relevant to current point is Jack Beatty, "Who Speaks
For The Middle Class," as if anyone'd deny speaking for the middle class,
whatever that now is; *acting* on behalf of the same mysterious entity,
though, is skinning a cat (2) of a different color of fish. Yet, shorn of
the morals/"values" dimension, a more plausible piece appears to put the
kibosh on the vulgar demagoguery: Paul R. Krugman and Robert Z. Lawrence,
"Trade, Jobs and Wages: Blaming foreign competition for U.S. economic ills
is ineffective. The real problems lie at home," Scientific American, April
Intellectual dogfood by famous people or by people who by this means appear
to have become famousish includes: Mickey Kaus, The End of Equality, 1993,
which I found in the sociology section - sufficient justification for Direct
Action - of Barnes & Noble's main store; Robert Reich, How The World Works,
1991, Lester Thurow, Head to Head, 1992.
As previously mentioned in this column, when the ruling circles and their
fiends [deliberate] and neigbors on the Right, is there anybody who isn't on
the Right, declare a Crisis, whether economic or moral/cultural (St Hillary's
Crisis of Meaning speech) or pertaining to rampant criminality and rampant
motherhood alleged to cause rampant welfare abuse leading to rampant Drug
Abuse; which coincides with the Existing Explainer-Pool continuing to get
out of bed in the morning to deal with the same old Knowledge, studies whose
numbers exhibit the same old stuff with same old trends going in mixed up,
as from a food blender, directions, the industrialized pablumizers of
Explanation declare an Explainer Shortage; then drag any so-called, reputed,
selfstyled Really Deep Stuff Explainer who's been starving for years off
skimpy freelance proceeds off his her its barstool, and publish something
on the intellectual level of what I used to get for term papers at Rutgers/
Newark College of Arts & Sciences which I couldn't flunk because the state
had Policies and Programs for taking people with 2nd-3rd grade education from
South Carolina as well as psychotics off the welfare rolls and putting them
on the matriculation rolls.

It should be obvious, I've Explained this too many times already, I'm
allowed to write comic relief - my "soapbox" - but nothing by all that's
holy in your epistemology imaginably True, that the objective reality of
society may be got a handle on only after it's over, gone, revolutionized
to shreds; and most often not even then. Fernand Braudel yet again: "The
reality of a social order surronds us like the air we breathe." With the
Foss corrolary that, "The air is like that pall over Los Angeles; if you
can smell or elsewise notice it, then something Really Stinks." More than
usual, that is: Given the essential "unnaturalness" of class-hierarchical
society, *using for this purpose the most reactionary discourse of socio-
biology*, there is no state/class society anywhere, never was ever, which
does not or did not *[obscenity]ing deserve* to get trashed and properly
revolutionized by the Broad Masses righteously apprised of waddafog it was
all along. As I said in part as recently as last night.
So much for my quarrel with "Bourgeois Virtues," symptomatic trash,
nothing more.

Now, at last, for the "Axial Age": If we have Carl Jaspers to thank for
this term, I thank John McCreery for so apprising me. The term, however,
is in common use; and the Ancient Near East historical populizer in whose
book I first ran across the label did not identify the originator. The task
I set the readership, though, is to Explain why the Axial Age was so readily
identifiable a Thingie from the Eastern Mediterranean including Italy (Magna
Graecia) to China that it invites naming; for all I care you could call it
coaxial, cathoderay, VDT or LCD; the name is irrelevant and perhaps pernicious
in that it draws us into the idealist fog of the religiophilosophical sphere.

Our explanandum is a Deepthink cultural revolution, howbeit elitist, that
spread and intensified itself in a positive feedback loop in the course of
exchanges and contacts on trade routes constituting the integument of the
world system already developing on the Eurasian landmass from end to end;
reports of Deepthink in India, say, reciprocatively reinforcing, however
slightly, developments in China as well as in like fashion those of the

This diffusion necessarily differed from that of, say, chariot warfare
in the Late Bronze Age. If it didn't, I'd have to take meme-ology seriously:
It could be shown, then, that religophilosophical ambiences, doctrines, or
styles of argument - for an analysis of the Greek case, see G.E.R. Lloyd,
Magic, Reason and Experience, Cambridge, 1980ish, incorporating relevant
findings in anthropology - could be replicated as readily as the techniques
for manufacturing and use of war chariots.

The latter is impossible, unless a wave of Western Imperialism with
attendant cultural imperialism is on. Such imposition of Eurocivilized
culture, on "barbarians" of the Hellenistic Period or the "backward,"
later "underdeveloped," later "less developed," occurred in Antiquity
till thrown back by the revolt of the East (including what we'd call a
National Liberation Struggle in Judea, 168-161 BC); has been occurring
since the European Early Modern Period (16th century and after). Which
omits the Crusades, small potatoes by contrast, when *farangi* confidence
in Europe's all-round superiority did not exist whilst Islam's pre-existing
self-evident certainties as to its own superiority remained undented. In
the absence of conquest empires on the scale of the Mongol, ideology had
to develop in each civilization area along tracks already laid down.

Ideology, generally speaking, the [conventional interpretation of social]
Reality, is found on an awareness-continuum from the taken-for-granted and
rules of thumb (inference heuristics, attributions, cognitive schemata)
to formal doctrine appealing to historical records or oral traditions; where
close examination turns up more recent fabrication than is allowed to even
sophisticated people to be aware of (recalling that the Chinese classic,
the Book of Documents, purporting to date from circa 1000 BC, comprised
a thousand documents dealing with the early days of the Zhou Dynasty, where
seven (7) are ironclad authentic, another six (6) "probable").

*Culture requires constant innovation to remain, even synchronically,
reassuringly the same*; and moreover, notwithstanding all sorts of diachronic
discontinuities including cultural revolutions pure and simple, cultural
revolutions associated with social revolutions or endemic warfare or mass
migrations, infusions of "barbarian" elements, or whatnothowsoever, will
predictably generate a sense of "time-immemoriality," it's always and
uninterruptedly been so and, what's an even more potent illusion, there
has always been an Us with the distinctiveness of the Us we are. So we
shouldn't be surprised that the several Deepthink Cultural Revolutions
were constrained to get limited to their civilizations of origin. Yet,
due to the Eurasian landmass' world-system character, they reinforced
each other.

There is one environmental variable which may or may not contribute to
Explaining the observed simultaneity, warmer climate.

*Theorise*, dammit. Make that, Please.

Daniel A. Foss