Kimberly De Vries on Mon, 20 Aug 2007 12:11:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> personal life, impersonal writing

On 8/18/07, <> wrote:
> The point is that, however longstanding certain styles of writing
> may be in the academy, the present conjuncture is best understood as
> a bureaucratic reaction to the freedoms inherently released by the
> digital revolution of the last two decades. This is why, for example,
> at a time when anyone can find most things by googling two words, the
> academic standard when citing publications for official purposes is
> becoming increasingly baroque (exact pages, ISBN numbers etc). And the
> academics and their students are becoming more fearful while trying to
> protect privileges that they and everyone else know are becoming ever
> more precarious.

Really? I don't disbelieve you, I just haven't seen the citation
standards change in my own fields (Rhetoric, pop culture, literature),
so I don't know how widespread this is. Could you mention some
journals, or could others comment?

> Those of us old enough all remember 'The personal is political'.
> (What happened to feminism or, if not to feminism, to the general
> intellectual respect it once enjoyed?) Now the hit man's perspective
> ('Don't take this personal, it's just business') is so universal
> that once again we have to fight for the idea that politics is
> always personal.

I think this reflects a change in the culture, not just the academy
(or maybe that's what you meant anyway). And I agree, certain things,
like increased profits, are taken as a natural good these days, so no
one thinks it's so surprising that corporations will get away with
whatever they can regardless of environmental damage or violation of
ethical principles (or breaking laws).

So we shouldn't take that personally any more than we'd take being
attacked by a shark personally.

Even so-called liberal journalists, politicians, etc. don't question
these assumptions and it drives me nuts!

> I was recently asked in an interview with a sociology newsletter:
> "You have worked on normative issues. Students are told that
> they should separate what one ought to do from what is. Most
> social scientists accept this, but how can normative work further
> "traditional" scientific work?"
> To which I replied:
> "Max Weber should be turning in his grave, if you talk like this.
> The issue is the relationship between politics and science (or the
> intellectual life more generally). Weber's two great essays on
> 'Politics as a vocation' and 'Science as a vocation' show that the
> line between the two is hard to draw firmly and perhaps one should
> not try. Politics, he says, is the pursuit of power and its means
> is passion. But a politician who is indifferent to reason will soon
> lose his credibility. Equally science is the pursuit of knowledge by
> means of reason. But all the best scientists are passionate about
> their work. Weber's work is incomprehensible except as an attempt
> to find ways of combining science and politics. This may involve
> compartmentalizing each activity to a degree, but they feed into
> each other over time."
> This is yet another angle on the personal and the impersonal, since
> what is at stake is often inserting a moral dimension into politics.
> And morality is by definition personal.
> Keith

I agree with this as well, and I'd add that in ruling out the
personal, we rule out being able to question the terms or frame of a
scholar's argument. For example, feminism challenged science on the
grounds that the questions being explored and recognized as worthwhile
were very much shaped by personal and perhaps unexamined assumptions
or biases. And we have slid backwards here as well as in other areas;
in the US, many more drug companies are working on Viagra-type drugs
for men than are working on contraceptives (for either sex). Yet not
many people question this, from what I can tell.

I think we could all come up with lots of examples, but what shall we
do about it?



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