Chumps at Oxford

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Oct 12 07:54:28 MDT 1999

I am considering the possibility of a novel approach to to understanding
the Brenner thesis. Some years back I was on several mailing
lists--including this one--with a Justin Schwartz. Justin was proud of his
connections to Robert Brenner, who he considered a jewel among Analytical
Marxists, among whom he included himself. He was insistent that real
Marxism was very, very, very rigorous stuff--which required the scalpel
like tools of AM to do right. It was also apparently necessary to be
educated at a proper university where such tools could be mastered, like
Oxford where he and Brenner were classmates. I get the picture now of a
couple of middle-class Yids like myself sitting in a classroom at Oxford
hearing about the exceptional wonders of Great Britain, the early
breakthroughs in constitutional law, Shakespeare and large farming units
based on profit. This would be the English equivalent of the sort of
nonsense dispensed at Harvard University on American exceptionalism.

Now if you were a British kid at Oxford, you would want to gag on this
tripe. I can imagine someone like Alexander Cockburn or Perry Anderson
listening to some old fart in robes blathering on about yeoman farmers and
fantasizing about gunning him down with an AK-47. Apparently some Americans
found all this rather compelling. So a possible clue to understanding how
Wood and Brenner line up against Anderson and Blackburn is worship of
Merrie Old England versus a desire to destroy it like Johnny Rotten.

Myself I can't understand the allure of Oxford. I think the definitive word
on the school was Laurel and Hardy's classic "Chumps at Oxford." Stan and
Ollie decide that their careers are going nowhere and they decide that
what's needed is to get a college degree. So off to Oxford they go. Stan
gets bumped on the head one day and remembers that he is actually Lord
Bumpley-Grosbeck or something like that. Not only is he a brilliant
scholar, he is a great athlete as well. The Oxford students come up to his
room to lionize him, while Ollie is turned into his valet whom Stan keeps
referring to as "Fatty". Finally, Stan bumps his head and returns to his
previous identity. Whereupon Ollie takes revenge...

Louis Proyect

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