Cultural racism

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Mon Jun 1 13:01:24 PDT 1998

At 09:05 AM 6/1/98 -0700, Charles Brown wrote:
>This seems to contradict your contention in an earlier post that "Yoshie
>and Charles attach too much value to the contents of this neo-racist
>pseudo-science" which is "evident crap and can be easily refuted on
>methodological grounds. Thus, its value to the ruling clas must lie in
>something else than the content that can so easily be refuted".
>I agree that it is evident crap, but your argument in this current post
>seems to say that a lot of the "knowledge" with an "institutional stamp
>of approval from an officially recognised producer of knowledge" is also
>evident crap, but that the "stamp of approval" makes it more influential
>than lockerroom talk. Do you see the contradiction I am raising ?

I admit failing to explicitly distinguish different mode of discourse here.

When I was talking about methodological shortcomings of the racist'research' - I was refering to the nominally binding standards of scientific truth: that the propositions of science should be empirically refutable (from Popper's perspective). As I tried to show in my earlier posting, those propostions cannot be emprically refuted because they are crafted in such a way that they are either true by definition (c.f. using factor analysis to measure "general intelligence"), or that the methodology used in the process is so sloppy that the empricial evidence gathered in the process is irrelevant for the proposition being tested (c.f. my argument that a paper-and-pencil test is incapable of identifying links between genetic makeup and cognitive abilities)..

So in that discourse, the emphasis was on the "offcial standards" of scientific truth. The point is however, that in actual practice, empirical refutation does not automatically lead to the rejection of a particular theory. There is an institutional investment, so to speak, in maintaining a theory, even though some of its core tenets may be refuted by empirical evidence. In such instances, makeshift solutions are usually proposed to reconcille the theory and the contradicting empirical evidence (c.f Imre Lakatos' concept of "problemshift") that prolings the life of a theory - until of course the suffcient critical mass of contradictory evidence is mounted to refute that theory.

An important point in this argument that there is an institutional component in every science -- meaning vested interests of science producers in maintaining that theory even in the light of contradictiong evidence. And it was this second type of discourse, science as an instituion, when I was refering to while talking about contents of racist science.

Of coursse, level of "institutionalization" varies. On the low end you have honest researchers who pewrhaps would not reject a theory on the first sight of contradicting evidence (there might be errors in measurement), but they would seriously reconsider that theory if that contradicitng evidence starts mounting. On the other end, you have researchers that would dogmatically stick to the theory even in the absence of any empirical evidence (cf. rat-choice models).

More importantly, the level of 'instituionalization' usually depends on the interests vested in a particular theory. Those intersts include not just the prestige of those who actually produce the scientific knowledge (i.e. the research workers), but also a whole host of those who benefit from it in various ways - those who disseminate it (publishers, administrators teachers), as well as those whose interests form elective affinity with certain kinds of theories. An example of elective affinity is the relationship between medical research and th ehealth care business. Since the American health care business that derives its profit from treatment rather than prevention, it will sponsor all those theories that stipulatwe treatment rather than prevention.

When I argued that the 'contents' of the racist theories do not matter, I meant that there is an elective affinity between th eruling elite interests and the dissmination of particular theories. That interests lies not in the promotion of certain view per se, but in the promotion of a view that is instrumental in maintaining the elite's hegemony. Because of the changes in the status quo (new technology, globalization) there is an intensive competition or at least conflict of interests among different corporate sectors for access to the new technologies and markets. That poses a potential threat that the general public or public interest advoctaes may exploit that conflict of interest to limit the power of corporate elites. Therefore, anything that would divert public interest and re-direct toward safe scapegoats serves the elite interests. Let the puiblic fight to culture war over symbols, while the captains of industry divide the spoils of globalization and cold-war research.

To that end, the ruling elites will promote anything that can create diversion and divide the public into quarreling camps. School prayer, abortion, racism - anything goes. By that I mean that people who actually produce this kind of crap might be deeply devoted to its contents (e.g. be sexists or racists), but people who disseminate it could not care less, as lomng as they get what they want.

In the same vein, corporate execs probably cannot stand rap or punk music, yet they produce and disseminate rap and punk CDs because it is profitable.

In other words, the content of the medium does not matter as long as it is profitable.

>>When the revolution finally comes, knowledge/culture producers should
>>the first to be put against the wall :). They are the ones who
>>others to action.
>Gee, I feel relieved. Does this mean that lawyers are now out from under
>Shakespeare's revolutionary death sentence - "First thing we do is kill
>all of the lawyers" -?
>Not to be picky but the other saying is that "patriotism is the last
>refuge of scoundrels." Not that religion isn't a refuge too.

Well, this was actaully an inside joke referring to series of cartoons in a local alternative paper. In that cartoon, various cultural icons (like Joe the Camel) were put against the wall "whne the revolution finally comes."

As far as the refuge of scoundrels is concerned - ANY abstraction will do.



More information about the lbo-talk mailing list