On Judging and not reading

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Thu Aug 26 15:40:53 MDT 1999

Chris Matthew Sciabarra wrote:

> Take a look at my work before you pass judgment on it.

I am not concerned in this post with Sciabarra's own work but
with the general principle embodied in this remark. It is obviosly
false. (See Craven on opportunity cost.) Just a few feet away from
where I am typing I note on my shelves the following books which
I have *not* read, though some of them I have owned for years:

Kenneth O'Reilly, *Black Americans: The FBI Files*
Edward Said, *The Politics of Dispossession*
Nelson Peery, *Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutinary*
Samir Amin, *Re-Reading the Postwar Period*
Normon Solomon, *False Hope: Politics of Illusion in the Clinton
Howard Zinn, *Postwar America: 1945-1971*
Raymond Williams, *Problems in Materialism and Culture*
Eric Foner, *Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men*
Jerome Miller, *Search and Destroy: African American
    Males in the Criminal Justice System*

And many others (and this not the bookcase I reserve for new
or unread books of special interest)

Also within a few feet are the following works which I have
not reread in over a decade:

Gramsci, *Prison Notebooks*
E.P. Thompson, *The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays*
Lunacharsky, *Revolutionary Silouettes*
Chomsky and Herman, *The Washington Connection and
    Third World Fascism*

And I have not reread *Paradise Lost*, the *Republic*, Capital
Vol. II, ...... in the last year or longer. And this is of course not
to mention the many must read books which I do not even
possess a copy of, or the journals that come in each month or

Everyone has to judge the overwhelming proportion of books
published each year *without* reading them. One must judge
most of these without even reading about them. Everyone does

And yet hardly a week goes by on maillists that someone does
not pompously proclaim that this, that or the other work must
be read before one can say anything about it. That attitude, if
seriously carried through, would bring all intellectual and political
activity to a halt, forever.


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