#CrookedTimber CENSORS my comment in #DavidGraeber vs. #HenryFarell debate, “Because: Imperilaism!”. Read it here.
After a multiple post exchange with #HenryFarell, #ChrisBertram and other contributors and readers at #CrookedTimber, my post was censored without an explanation (see posts No.68+87, http://bit.ly/HVCkpf). The censored post in question is quoted below. The preceding exchange is also summarized below.
Ostap Bender 04.05.12 at 10:03 am
Henry, you certainly outdid yourself with this one!
Now you employ some perverted version of your original delegitimizing methodology as described in Graeber’s post but this time against his source Michael Hudson “as an aside” in a 300 words smear campaign footnote!
Buy one get one free!
You go out of your way with picturesque language to paint a picture of Michael Hudson -- the self-aggrandizing liar. All, of course, with pretext of demanding “to see some evidence to back up Hudson’s [...] claim” and then proceed speculating that “Hudson seems to have some quite emphatic beliefs about his own central role“ (while reprehending Graeber earlier about mixing up beliefs with evidence). But you are still generous with Hudson because you understand that “people who have had a tough time in getting their ideas accepted by the more hidebound members of their profession sometimes react by overselling themselves.”
The purpose of this clearly ad hominem 300 words footnote, is not only to support your pedantic nebulous distortions about Hudson’s and Graeber’s work and to fulfill your scholarly obligation to provide “evidence” of “Hudson’s colorful claims” but also, of course, to “recommend [Hudson’s] book” because you are “happy that this debate got [you] to read it”.
What remarkable honesty!
And the worst part is that you are fully aware of what you are doing and I know that because you end with your customary double bind (http://bit.ly/39lySc). -- “to be clear, as per the distinction between author and work at the beginning of this post, even if a couple of these claims did turn out to be a wee bit overstated, it wouldn’t shift my assessment of his arguments all that much “
But wait then, Henry, what was the purpose of this 300 words footnote, again? Or this long anticipated 5500 words article?
Oh, yes, “to clarify the broader point about the independence of market power from military power” best exemplified by “a thought experiment under which aliens decide to intervene in human affairs by positioning death ray satellites...”
The preceding exchange with #HenryFarell #ChrisBertram and others can be found at http://bit.ly/HNcgLd and is summarized below:
Ostap Bender 04.03.12 at 3:00 am
What are people trying to prove here—that dollar as a reserve currency was introduced out of goodness of the hearth?
Please pardon my non-academic, common-sense perspective but imposing one’s currency just as imposing one’s language, culture, law, military, etc. seems to be an instrument or at least expression of domination and is as such imperialist. The fact that such domination techniques and expansion policies or whatever you want to call them often backfire doesn’t change their nature. Alexander the Great or Napoleon is no less of an emperor or Roman empire is no less of an empire because they ultimately failed. Same goes the other way considering that there might be some benefits, for ex. Hitler invented and built the highway (Autobahn) system…
And Robert Fisk is a veteran journalist who understands middle east better than your average embedded journalist http://bit.ly/HbQtzT. The wikipedia 911 entry only demonstrates that, unlike some other journalists, he is capable of critical thinking. But I agree that 911 controversy is ultimately irrelevant since what resulted doesn’t have much to do with 911 to begin with…
Which brings us back to the first point about American imperialism…
Ostap Bender 04.03.12 at 10:59 pm
Just read Henry’s original critique http://bit.ly/wNPhan
First—imo, Henry’s overall tone is passive-aggressive and patronizing and yes he is delegitimizing based on (very unoriginal) conspiracy theory “argumentation”. His overall attitude seems to be: “nice try but now i’ll tell you what’s going on here.”
So, according to Henry, Graeber started off nicely in his chapter 2 but then became irrational and got carried away with his “pet theory” in “suggesting” (Henry chooses his words carefully) the correlation between “military might” and economic interests. To that Henry offers the (rational?) ANSWER which says that all is much more complex and ultimately due to (magical?) “market forces.”
I ain’t an academic but if this mambo-jumbo is all Henry has to offer, I am not surprised that he and his learned colleagues ultimately had to resort to reprehending Graeber for naughty behavior.
Ostap Bender 04.03.12 at 11:09 pm
“He who by profession has become a slave of trivial details is the victim of bureaucracy.”—Antonio Gramsci
Ostap Bender 04.04.12 at 8:17 am
Henry and some of his learned colleagues seem to be doing what members of academia often do and which seems to be very effective marketing strategy for for the said members to gain some PR, build their brand/name. They get into disputes with higher profile academics than themselves. But everyone seems to be doing it, especially since the web 2.0, the age of self promotion… In any case, I am sure if academics had PR managers/agents (maybe they do?), they would mandate this technique for all their clients.
In fact, Graeber gained some very important PR via his dispute with Zizek in LRB. After that, Graeber got some space in The Guardian, etc… Even the Great Zizek is a provocateur of first order (which is imo justified considering his weltanschauung). But, sure, one can also say that debates are traditionally part of the academic’s job description.
So let’s agree that that is “normal”.
Of course, whether this practice is entirely parasitic can only be measured by the level of authenticity, argument, originality and ultimately history… which, unfortunately, all tend to be somewhat elusive categories…
This would be in response to all the conduct related commentary.
More concretely, in my estimation so far: Graeber passes. Zizek is the king. Henry fails (royally). Rossman fails (miserably). Chomsky is the ultimate gentleman.
We now return to the regularly scheduled….
Phil 04.04.12 at 10:27 am
Knowledge is cloud-shaped, clouds develop in conversations and conversations enact authority. As I was saying, a few years ago. (I really should have got it written up properly.)
Henry 04.04.12 at 1:34 pm
Henry and some of his learned colleagues seem to be doing what members of academia often do and which seems to be very effective marketing strategy for for the said members to gain some PR, build their brand/name. They get into disputes with higher profile academics than themselves.
Osip – this isn’t prima facie plausible – getting into fights with anthropologists is not a useful way for political scientists to win recognition. Most of my colleagues in IR will recognize Karl Polanyi’s name – and that’s about it for the entire field of anthropology (you may say that this is a problem with my field, and you would be right, but that’s an entirely different debate). Trust me when I say that this falls under the category of a massive pain in the arse, and annoying distraction from work that I would much prefer to be doing, and which I find much more interesting (and which would likely contribute directly to my career, although that’s a side-benefit).
Katherine – I actually don’t think that Graeber is arguing in bad faith. Indeed I’m sure that he entirely and fully believes in what he’s saying.
Ostap Bender 04.04.12 at 4:44 pm
Thanks for the link, Agog #240
Yes, Graeber says he derived directly from Hudson’s “Superimperialism”. As per Henry’s request for sources in the course of this discussion, Graeber also linked to the (well documented) Hudson’s article “De-Dollarization: Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire / The Yekaterinburg Turning Point” (http://bit.ly/3WdTc) that directly addresses the issue at dispute here.
Hope Henry addresses the Hudson article in his anticipated, long response (as Graeber explicitely invited him to).
Otherwise, Henry will likely fail again.
@ Henry #247,
I am a visual artist, in fact a designer, and the cross/inter/multi-disciplinary approach in contemporary art/design as well as I think is increasingly the case in contemporary science is necessity and reality. This seems to be relevant not only within art or science per se but also between the different species of human knowledge, such as art and science (I am the living proof). The lines are blurred and I don’t think this is a controversial concept at all. To bring this as an argument strikes me as reactionary and as some kind of logical acrobatics and a “double bind” (http://bit.ly/39lySc) despite (or perhaps better to say especially because of) your acknowledgement of this as a problem…
But even that aside, your ‘Crooked Timber’ readership is not political scientists only (again, I am the living proof) and I think you should be aware that involvement here arguably contributes more to your overall notoriety and prominence than your reputation within the narrow circle within your profession. Why else would you be a regular contributor at CT?
Besides, Graeber is extremely (and openly) political and he openly declares himself to be an activist even. He even claims that he is one of the initiators of the OWS and I even read an early interview with him where he claims (perhaps somewhat vainly) that he came up with the 1% vs 99% catch phrase. And “Debt” is hugely influential with general public, especially the politically engaged portion of it. It can’t get more relevant than that for a political scientist today.
Imo (@Graeber, I will stroke your vanity here but will trust you that you will not let it go to your head), it can be even said that as Nietzsche felt that it is necessary for philosopher to be artists, Graeber does the same in terms of being an activist, thus, in a way, invents and/or at least builds upon/takes to a new level the scientific-scholarly-political genre (not to be confused with populism i.e. pbs-like ‘popular science’ approach).
So, Henry, by any standard you should not treat this as the “pain in the arse” if you are serious about being a political scientist. Political scientists should not ignore work of politically relevant scholar-activists. Therefore your argument doesn’t really speak in your favor at all. Not to mention that it may be offensive to your audience (especially considering you are listed as a regular contributor here).
Moreover, the academic superstars are not superstars because they are acknowledged by their narrow niche but precisely because they manage to reach wider audience and make their work relevant to the general public which is doubtlessly one valuable purpose of scholarship and which, as we know, certainly leads to speaking engagements, book deals, article publications and in some cases maybe even tenures (granted, not surprisingly, this can also have the opposite effect as far as tenures are concerned)… So I think you are either not being completely honest with yourself (and me/us) or are greatly underestimating your own contribution here…
Salient 04.04.12 at 5:20 pm
“Political scientists should not ignore work of politically relevant scholar-activists.”
Coordinating and hosting a book event for a book, writing a review for the book event that praises the book’s first eleven chapters but takes issue with the twelfth, and then inviting and publishing an arbitrarily long response from the author, seems like quite the opposite of ignoring that book. (Arguing ad nauseam about precisely what Graeber said or meant to say on p.336 or in Chapter 12, on the other hand, offers diminishing returns at best.)
Henry 04.04.12 at 5:34 pm
Ostap – I don’t regard dealing with engaged scholar activists in general as being a ‘pain in the arse’ at all. But even if you’re not greatly sympathetic with my underlying position here, I hope you’ll realize why dealing with this (and writing a 5,500 word reply post) hasn’t been a particularly happy experience for me. Few people get excited at the prospect of being called a liar in public debate, or at having to explain at length why they actually are not. Would you find this an enticing opportunity? Do you really think that political scientists who looked at this whole sorry affair, and decided it wasn’t for them, are deserving of blame?
And actually, you’d suggested in your original contribution that this was a specifically academic way of climbing up the slippery pole. It may be different in other disciplines, but in my one, the most I’m likely to get from other academics is funny looks and suggestions that I really shouldn’t be spending so much time engaging with these tedious arguments. Nor do I imagine that I’m going to boost my public audience much (the people who read me at Crooked Timber already, read me at Crooked Timber already, and I don’t imagine that this has drawn many non-readers in). To be clear again: in general, I enjoy public debates, which is why I participate in them (and why Crooked Timber is what it is), but in this specific instance, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience at all.
Chris Bertram 04.04.12 at 5:52 pm
Coordinating and hosting a book event for a book, writing a review for the book event that praises the book’s first eleven chapters but takes issue with the twelfth, and then inviting and publishing an arbitrarily long response from the author, seems like quite the opposite of ignoring that book.
Indeed. And when I emailed my fellow members of the CT collective in October last year to suggest that we put on this event, it was with some enthusiasm for the book and for Graeber’s work more generally. I then went about the business of recruiting people who could comment insightfully on the text. It wasn’t the perfect crowd but I think that, on the whole, the contributions were pretty good, as were some of the comments threads below them. Co-ordinating all this was, I should say, a fair amount of work.
I don’t know what David Graeber hoped to achieve with his aggression above, nor am I sure about what he has achieved in the wider world, as it were. People will make up their own minds. What he’s done for me is to change the future experience of reading his work. I have Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology sitting next to me. My current enthusiasm for reading it is approximately zero and, if that enthusiasm revives, the authorial voice will be somewhat different for me than it was before. Well, too bad for me, I guess: ymmv.
Finally, in the light of various comments I’ve picked up around the web, I’d like to say something about the CT collective. First, we’re not an “academic blog”. We contain both academics and non-academics. We do this for fun and interest, and not for reasons of career or advancement (back when we started in 2003 most academics looked askance at bloggers). We are non-hierarchical and we operate by consensus. None of us has any authority over the others and nobody has ever tried to chuck their weight about either. We are, in effect, an anarchic collective. Ironic, then, that this particular interaction has gone so badly.
Henry 04.04.12 at 5:57 pm
What Chris said. We got into blogging for the fun of it, long before it was academically or professionally even quasi-respectable, and have stayed doing it in the same format, rather than going professional or semi-professional as nearly all of our then-contemporaries did, because that’s what we enjoy.
Phil 04.04.12 at 6:42 pm
“academic superstars are not superstars because they are acknowledged by their narrow niche but precisely because they manage to reach wider audience and make their work relevant to the general public”
Not convinced. As far as I can tell you need to have a pretty solid track record of getting the publications going out and the grants coming in to get to Farrell’s and Graeber’s section of the ladder; in most cases I suspect progressing up it has similar requirements.
Ostap Bender 04.04.12 at 8:40 pm
@ Salient #265
Well, I didn’t say Henry or CT is ignoring the book, obviously he is not. It is absurd to claim that.
However, I said that “Political scientists should not ignore work of politically relevant scholar-activists.” in response to Henry who said that he is not participating here in the capacity of political scientist and that this is in fact “pain it the arse” and distraction from his more important work of political science. What are his motives to pursue this, I can only guess as I tried in my previous post and Henry himself clarified that he enjoys public discussion etc. in his post #267.
Furthermore, Graeber whitdrew from the discussion at post #146 and we are now approaching post #282 and a 5500 words essay from Henry. Salient, Henry and your other learned colleagues continue to argue as you say “ad nauseam”. I am not sure how much this really hurts Graeber’s ideas or is counter productive to CT’s (socially responsible) efforts to promote/publish these ideas as you seem to claim. But if you think that this is the case, than it seems that you are more responsible for the ad nauseam counter effect than (ungrateful, rambling/“arbitrarily long”) Greaber. So this also seems a little bit contradictory.
@ Henry #267
I understand, Henry, you are trying to find some kind of sensible, dignified way out of this mess which might be hard at this point. Although, I don’t think this is impossible, If you feel this is only hurting you, maybe you can just excuse yourself and disengage as Greaber did and let your initial argument stand for itself… I don’t know…
However, I would disagree with you that “the people who read me at Crooked Timber already, read me at Crooked Timber already, and I don’t imagine that this has drawn many non-readers in”. I am sure Graeber drew more readers considering his increasingly high profile. I hope you are not trying to claim that the level of readership at CT has nothing to do with the content you publish since that would undermine your own work here as well as CT’s readership… For ex. I didn’t read CT or knew you before. I came here via a twitter link regarding Graeber and I doubt I am a special case…
@Chris Bertram #269 + @Henry #272
“My current enthusiasm for reading [Graeber] it is approximately zero…”
Since this is based on Graeber’s “aggression above” it seems that you equated Graeber’s personality with his scholarship which might explain the ad hominem argumentation problem encountered in the course of this debate. I personally don’t find this to be a lot of “fun” nor particularly “anarchic” regardless of my non-academic background… Nor I think that proper argumentation is a matter of “professionalism or semi-professionalism” but rather matter of respect for the human intellect. If disregard for logic (as exemplified by ad hominem argumentation above) on account of fun is a permissible policy at CT, then my enthusiasm for reading CT it is also approximately zero…
So what then distinguishes an accomplished anonymous academic (even if he got, say a Nobel Prize in his field) from someone like Zizek aka “Elvis of cultural theory”?
Phil 04.04.12 at 11:00 pm
“So what then distinguishes an accomplished anonymous academic (even if he got, say a Nobel Prize in his field) from someone like Zizek aka ‘Elvis of cultural theory’?”
In academic terms, not a lot. Having massive name recognition outside the academy doesn’t translate into respect inside it – ask Chomsky.
Matt 04.04.12 at 11:07 pm
Having massive name recognition outside the academy doesn’t translate into respect inside it – ask Chomsky.
Well, that’s at least a bit misleading, as Chomsky is massively influential and respected in the academy for his academic work. His political writings are, of course, a more complicated matter, though I suspect many in the academy are sympathetic, but they don’t think, unsurprisingly, that work that’s not academic in nature should be treated as if it were.
Phil 04.04.12 at 11:18 pm
they don’t think, unsurprisingly, that work that’s not academic in nature should be treated as if it were.
Zizek, same thing. That was actually the point I was making.
Ostap Bender 04.05.12 at 1:26 am
“Having massive name recognition outside the academy doesn’t translate into respect inside it – ask Chomsky.”
No need to disturb Chomsky, I already partially agreed with you. As I said in #260 “leads to speaking engagements, book deals, article publications and in some cases maybe even tenures (granted, not surprisingly, this can also have the opposite effect as far as tenures are concerned)… “
Considering the positions of CT academics in this debate (even despite CT’s self proclaimed “anarchic” tendencies), I don’t think any of the academics here are in danger…
Cranky Observer 04.06.12 at 9:49 pm
I’ve been participating in on-line discussions since 1981, and IMHO Crooked Timber is one of – if not the – best such that has ever been and possibly ever will be.
That said, also in my opinion (humble or not) boundary maintenance has been getting stronger here over the last year, and is quite intense in the Graeber discussion threads including the two running now. Not to mention a little moral support from Berkley.
If that is what the hosts want, so be it; CT is still among the best even so. But a bit saddening to me.