PEN-L exchange on capitalism as a world system

Craven, Jim jcraven at
Thu Jun 21 11:56:00 MDT 2001

Mine wrote:

Educators need to be educated. Mark and Lou are writing so brilliantly that
there is always something to learn from their posts. clear
writing+concerete analysis. keep up the good work!

bye, Mine

I concur absolutely. The longer I am in academia, even around some "radical"
academics, the more "Willy Loman" moments I get. It is full of narcissism,
pomosity, pretension, title-mongering, elitism, much-to-do-about-nothing,
bullying students and just plain irrelevance. On the "radical" side, we have
some "radical academics" who just crank out quilted-stringed-paraphrases,
bordering on plagiarism, (When you take from an author without originality
and proper attribution it is called plagiarism; taking from many authors
without originality or proper attribution is called research; and taking a
whole lot of "research" without any real originality or proper attribution
is called a dissertation) masquerqading as "research" and do spin-offs of
spin-offs of dissertations to add notches to their CVs--"radical academia"
is often but a "market niche" for those unable to get published in the
"respectable" journals (I'm sure some of them would be elated if they could
get published in AER etc). As far as I can see the likes of POMOS like
Judith Butler and self-proclaimed academic-"Marxists" like Ellen Woods and
their ilk fall into this camp.

Then we get the talk-show/lecture-circuit celebrities who command big fees
to go around and talk "radical" and promote their books/pamphlets to
audiences that are themselves often disengaged or cause-selective, feeling
"radical" as they have gone home in their Volvos with "Baby-on-board" signs,
after a long day of hearing something "radical"; and the celeb-speechifiers
feel so "radical" as they have delivered "radical" messages based on their
"radical" research. (We have some Indian academics who go around as Indian
celebs to detached white audiences (only) but the Indian celebs can never be
found doing concrete action where there are real Indians and real radical
Indians doing real struggle.)

I am not on pen-l anymore because, in cost-benefit terms, there is nothing
going on that is worth my time or elevated blood pressure (I check archives
now and then). While it is important to exchange ideas, sources and
contending paradigms, what next? Where does it lead? How is it all to be
used? In what concrete ways can these exchanges be used under concrete
conditions to make some concrete contributions to concrete struggles?
Besides cranking out some really irrelevant and  boring shit, full of
narcissistic-esoteric-banal syntax and vocabulary/jargon--CV notches--and
improving keyboarding skills, what are some of these "radical" academics
actually doing in the real world with/for real oppressed peoples?

Jim C.

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