[Fwd: NYTimes attacks ASA meeting (fwd)]

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Sat Aug 19 20:08:44 MDT 2000

for ---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000 17:23:15 +0000
From: Steve Rosenthal <smrose at mailhub.exis.net>
To: PSN at csf.colorado.edu
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

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

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

Why does the Times bother to attack what we know is a small number
of Marxists in the American Sociological Association?  I think an
analogy with Edgar Allen Poe's "The Telltale Heart" might help us
answer this question.  In that famous short story, the killer is
haunted  by the sound of the still beating heart of the person he
has murdered.  The bourgeoisie, which celebrates the death of
Marxism and the triumph of globalized capitalism, is haunted by a
fear that the heart of Marxism is still throbbing in its coffin, and
that it might be resurrected.  This fear drives them to hysterically
attack any symptom that Marxism remains alive.

After 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

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