Normativity and stats (was Marxism and academia)

Andy Daitsman ADAITS at macc.wisc.edu
Fri Aug 19 10:24:00 MDT 1994


Finally expressing some clarity of thought, Colin writes:

>Now Andy, you are getting a bit testy, but no need to fret.  Pardon the pun,
>but...:  The reality of our disagreement is not what you make it out to be.

(Of course, it's hard to know what the disagreement is if one side refuses to
state their opinion...)

>And note, that every time I post something to this conference, I am taking a
>position.  Whether I am successfully defending that position, however, is of
>course debatable.

I would debate, Colin, whether you had even successfully *expressed* your
position up until now.

>	But to reiterate and clarify, I see Louis' claims, echoing those of
>Perry Anderson, partially confirmed when I see a western academic like
>yourself state:  1)  only one of Marx's predictions has perhaps come true,
>though not in any way Marx foresaw; 2) existing socialism has failed;
>3) relying on orthodox Marxism is not useful for analyzing current social
>reality.  Given such a perspective, I do find it difficult to believe that
>such a person has the project of overthrowing capitalism foremost in their
>mind.  And yet, I invite you to enlighten me.

Your confusion confuses me.  If points one, two and three are true, then
how could Marx possibly be useful as a tool for overthrowing capitalism?
If we are intellectually honest, yet still revolutionaries, then we have
to accept our theoretical failures from the past and attempt to improve
on them.  In fact, if Marxism is at all scientific, then that is precisely
what we *have* to do.

Questioning the validity of specific elements of Marxist theory, by comparing
them to real-world experiences, contains absolutely no implication that the
objective of overthrowing capitalism has been abandoned.  In fact, I challenge
you to show me where such questioning carries such an implication.

(I tried to make this challenge privately, but somebody's testosterone
insisted that the debate be carried on in public, to such an extent that
they committed the serious breach of publishing a private communication.)

If, on the other hand, you find points one, two and three to be a grossly
incorrect approximation of the world, (which is in fact what you seem to be
arguing, although you have never stated so directly) why do you think that?
Even if our knowledge of reality can never be more than an approximation,
rules of evidence do exist and some approximations can be shown to be better
than others.  I'd be more than happy to continue that debate, if you can
find it in your heart to state your positions clearly and concisely.
find a way to state your positions clearly and concisely.

Yours,
Andy


>
>P.S.:  When you quit responding to my postings, only then will I have a
>possible indication that you are no longer reading my missives.

Yes, Colin, I was testy, because you've been quite rude.  I threatened to stop
reading your posts unless you straighten up.  Right now, you're still on
probation.


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Andy Daitsman                     +  "Without complete freedom of the press
Department of History             +   there can be neither liberty nor
University of Wisconsin, Madison  +   progress.  But with it one can barely
adaits at macc.wisc.edu              +   maintain public order."
                                  + Domingo Sarmiento -- El Mercurio, 1841
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