[Fwd: NYTimes attacks ASA meeting (fwd)]

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Tue Aug 22 11:05:29 PDT 2000

Re recent reference to New York Times on Jameson and Arrighi


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 Order."

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 sexism.

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 sociologists.

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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