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Latest update: August 21, 2000

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    Goodman Article Sociologists to the Barricades; Thinkers Who Would Be Doers See Social Injustice Wherever They Turn, By Walter Goodman

    Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000
    From: "Richard E. Ratcliff"
    To: kumru toktamis
    cc: Steve Rosenthal I read the article by Walter Goodman to see just how vicious the alleged attack on the working class, etc had been. What I found instead was a rather light critique of the pretention and jargon that Goodman found in the sessions he attended. His article, as I read it, contains little if anything that could be called dismissive of issues of class, racial or sexual justice. But those who see the sort of sessions and themes that predominated in this years ASA meeting as deadly serious and not meriting a bit of parody aimed at themselves should avoid the article.

    Richard Ratclif

    From: "Steve Rosenthal"
    Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000
    Subject: NYTimes attacks ASA meeting

    It's not every day that the New York Times sees fit to attack an entire discipline and its annual meeting. Today, in "Sociologists to the Barricades," in the "Arts & Ideas" section,Walter Goodman contemptuously dismissed the ASA meeting last week as a gathering of "thinkers" who "see social injustice wherever they turn."

    Goodman's tour of the ASA meeting apparently began with the special session I chaired on globalization and the anti-globalization movement, featuring Ralph Nader, a worker from Seattle, and two sociologists. After that, Goodman attended "Confronting Racism, Sexism and Homophobia in Academia," "Sexism and Feminism: Challenges for the 21st Century, a plenary organized by ASA president Joe Feagin, "Marxism and Capitalism in the 21st Century," organized by Erik Olin Wright and featuring Robert Brenner and Giovanni Arrighi, and finished off his grand tour of the ASA meeting with Joe Feagin's presidential address.

    I attended all of these sessions except "Confronting Racism...," and what Goodman detested about all these sessions is what impressed me about them. In each of them, most presenters offered thoughtful analyses and critiques of sexism, racism, and capitalism.

    Moreover, poor Mr. Goodman missed many other excellent sessions that would have given him additional material for his diatribe against progressive sociologists. For example, at a session organized by Marxist section chair-elect Lauren Langman on the legacy of C. Wright Mills, Lauren delivered a searing jeremiad against the contradictions and decadence of contemporary capitalist culture. David Simon, Bill Domhoff, Stanley Aronowitz, and Bill DiFazio joined Lauren in providing many important insights into Mills. It was a great session.

    Of course, if Goodman had wanted to torture himself even further, he could have joined me at R36, the conference on Alienation Lauren organized before the ASA meeting, or at the meeting of the Association of Black Sociologists, which was chock full of deluded sociologists who foolishly think that racism remains a central problem in the U.S. and the world today.

    Goodman took a swipe at Joe Feagin for "his championship of sociology's mission to redeem society." He heaped ridicule on all of us in the session "After Seattle: The WTO and the New World Order."

    What the New York Times was trying to do in this article is not very hard to figure out. They put reproductions of three posters above the article. A large one, titled "The Hand That Will Rule The World: One Big Union," is a Wobbly poster from 1917 celebrating the power of the working class. The two smaller ones depict capitalist wealth and power and the exploitation and repression of the working class. Alongside the article on the ASA meeting they ran a story on "Totalitarian Idealism," featuring a photo of Aleksei Stakhanov with his Soviet comrades.

    The not so subtle message is that thousands of sociologists, unwilling to let go of an outmoded communist ideology, met in DC last week to prattle on and on about workers' exploitation, racism, and sexism.

    But the Times not only wanted to attack radical sociology. They also attacked Ralph Nader for appearing at such a far left gathering. The Times, which has made it clear that it regards Gore and Bush as the only two acceptable (i.e., pro-globalization) candidates, sought to marginalize and discredit Nader for hanging out with commies. Thus, desiring to smear both radical sociology and Nader, they had no interest in describing the differences between Nader's reformist strategy and the Marxist vision put forward by a number of sociologists. >pAfter all, the bourgeoisie knows some of what we know: That half of the world's people are attempting to survive on less than two dollars a day, that their racist cops and criminal justice system have imprisoned over two million people in the U.S., that they have carried out a massive attack on the working class during the past quarter century. If I had done those things, I too would be frightened by any sign that Marxism, the science of working class revolution, was alive in sociology or anywhere else.

    Let us not be in any way defensive in response to this attack. As Marxists, we should understand that it is a good thing to be attacked by the ruling class' "paper of record." It shows that our analyses have drawn blood.

    If anyone would like to read the short speech I gave to open the session on globalization, it is on my web page at:

    Steve Rosenthal

    From: "Steve Rosenthal"
    Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000
    Subject: NY Times

    Two suggestions I forgot to include in my earlier post:

    Write to Joe Feagin to let him know you support the program on "Oppression, Domination, and Liberation" he put together. And write the NY Times to let them know that they have revealed to thousands of sociologists and hundreds of thousands of faculty and students their racist, sexist, anti-working class position.

    Steve Rosenthal

    To: "Steve Rosenthal" From: "kumru toktamis"
    Subject: Re: NY Times
    Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000

    Since I couldn't participate in this year's meeting, I was happy to see it mentioned in NYTimes. I only had time to read the first page of the article covering ASA and I didn't get the impression of an "attack" really, especially in the section about Ralph Nader. It was a collection of impressions of a lay person and, maybe because English is my second language, it didn't sound like a mockery to me. Also I am only proud to be referred to as someone who sees injustice whereever she turns.

    Do you mind specifying where exactly you saw an "attack" to the sociologists in general in the article? I might have missed it if it is towards the end of the article.


    From: "Alan Spector"
    Subject: Re: NY Times
    Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000

    Goodman's use of "quotation marks" around the word "racism" is a pretty good indication that he disregards the murderous nature of racism in the world today. Sure, there is room for "light critique of pretention". But to be dismissive of the crushing reality of racism is racist.

    Alan Spector

    Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000
    To: Jeanne Curran
    From: Hal Pepinsky
    Subject: one more thought re Marx and his enemies

    The sad part to me is that it keeps us from dealing with other important issues. It has been important to me to think through what appropriation of surplus value of labor, and capitalism for that matter, mean. But to me, like radical feminists, I think patriarchy is a more fundamental template for violence itself, and capitalism is but one among many evolutions through that template. Now it is father multinational who knows best...among a panoply of patriarchs from home to school to every arena of our daily lives. Patriarchy is the root vision of those who believe that might makes right, while to me, the essence of making peace and secure social order is making all our relations democratic and participatory, to take the power out of our relations.

    Hal Pepinsky