14.0179 market-driven truth-seeking

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sat Aug 19 2000 - 07:31:56 CUT

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0180 machines, pride and pure research?"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 179.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Mark Wolff <WolffM0@hartwick.edu> (55)
             Subject: Re: 14.0174 two questions

       [2] From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com> (56)
             Subject: Truth

             Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000 08:27:17 +0100
             From: Mark Wolff <WolffM0@hartwick.edu>
             Subject: Re: 14.0174 two questions

    "Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty )" wrote:

    > Academia has always been market driven, really. It's just now
    > that money is showing itself as the efficient sign of the portability of
    > capital per se (including *academic integrity*). This is the logical
    > ramification of fact that *Truth* is, before it is anything else, a
    > *survival strategy* (i.e. Education is a kind of capital). What depresses
    > me is not that truth is being reduced to capital. For it always was
    > capital. But rather that the market seems to have so little understanding
    > of how to survive (many truths that are relevant to our survival are marked
    > down as "irrelvant" (i.e. unsalable).

    The disinterest of academics is a measure of their social autonomy as
    intellectuals, and as "truth" (the specific form of symbolic capital
    that defines who an intellectual is) gives way to technology (the
    capital of the New Economy) in the intellectual field, intellectuals
    must clothe themselves as entrepreneurs. Of course, this is not new: a
    lot of critical theory is really just technology in the Heideggerian
    sense of putting the world in standing-reserve, ie creating efficiencies
    for purposes other than opening our eyes to the truth (like selling cool
    books in cool bookstores). If we confuse technology, the modus operatum
    and opus operatum of humanities computing, with the quest for truth, our
    modus operandi, we reinforce the blurring between capitalism and the
    academy. Information technology has changed the way humanities scholars
    pursue the truth, indeed what counts as truth, and as a result our
    perspective has undergone a radical shift. How do we distinguish
    "humanities" from "computing"? Have these two terms become
    imcompatible? Bourdieu has an explanation for this difficulty that many
    of us as humanities computing scholars experience:

    If agents are possessed by their habitus more than they possess it, this
    is because it acts within them as the organizing principle of their
    actions, and because this modus operandi informing all thought and
    action (including thought of action) reveals itself only in the opus
    operatum. (Outline of a Theory of Praxis, 18)

    > The answer seems to lie in our attitude to *waste*. We have to be prepared
    > to waste time, money and energy if we are to take control of the global
    > situation, which at present is not ruled by men, but a diffuse and
    > ineffable artificial intelligence that thinks numerically and has accepted,
    > in true faith, the axiom we programmed into it long before the days of
    > Babylon. The AI I am speaking of is, of course, money.

    I suppose from the perspective of the New Economy, with its emphasis on
    streamlining and efficiency (just look at all the consolidation taking
    place in the dot.com world as IPO money runs dry and companies devour
    each other), waste could be a tactical measure for waking people from
    passivity in cyberspace. But in any economy, symbolic or material,
    waste cannot be tolerated for long. If what we do is perceived as
    waste, universities will either outsource their teaching and research or
    people will invest their time and resources elsewhere.


    Mark B. Wolff
    Modern and Classical Languages
    Center for Learning and Teaching with Technology
    Hartwick College
    Oneonta, NY  13820
    (607) 431-4615


    --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000 08:27:37 +0100 From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com> Subject: Truth

    I just want to clear something up. When I said that truth was a kind of capital, I said that it has "use value" (the word I used was survival value). This hardly implies that academia has a monopoly on truth - or that the markets of capitalism are not just as troublesome for "truth" as the symbolic markets of academia. Quite the opposite. I was demystifying truth via *perfomativity*. I see little benefit in continuing to deny the death of "God". Though Capital-on-high yet lives, moratally wounded we can't say for sure, I'd rather put a bullet in the transcendental signifier than see it do more parlour tricks. Does this mean I oppose the idea of "truth". Not at all. Not in the slightest!

    Capital is not just money.

    As to why we should *waste* resources? You have to risk capital to make capital. Diversity is a survival strategy dating back to the origins of life (a strategy enabled by chaos, not order; utilizing the degraded copy, not the faithful copy).

    To say nothing yet of the sacrifies Truth would demand of us (sacrifices that I would rather make for Truth than for anything else) the truth of which is: Truth needs a bullet.

    Having said that, should the academy continue to defend itself as a *restricted economy* in which *symbolic capital* functions instead og money so as to make *virtual capital* (i.e education) as a side-effect (or is honour the side effect, you tell me)? Or should it just say die and rationalize? Well homogenizing the system is not a good survival strategy. And truth, before it is anything else, is of survival value (the carrot and the stick of capital by which the first cells floated forth and multiplied). But the "economic rationalists" are goings to call this risk by which diversification propspers just "waste". Because they see survival in terms of *money*, not in terms of *capital*.

    What place communications technology? If K.Ohamae (et al., numerous others since Marx) is right, IT will facilitate the further growth of golbal capitalism and spell the end of the nation state. If nations shall be degraded how shall the autonomy of univerisities survive? It is obvious that universities can survive in two ways: 1. By outcompeting the corporation re: truth in accord with the same logic of global capitalism, a logic that will rationalize universities ... OR 2. Under the heading of luxury or waste, which must then be sold, again according to the logic of global capitalism, that will end up rationalizing universities.

    Because, as yous say, waste will never be tolerated for long, waste will always survive only as surplus value, luxury, or survival value qua diversification.

    But what happens if we start thinking in terms of capital instead of money? Is there not an even more profound seat of capital? I mean the whole biosphere of this world where we evolved, people included? And that means, in order to make this fantastic paradigm shift, we need historians and philosophers not just economists. We need the M.BAs to start talking with the PhDs in philosophy and history! We need to humanise the technocrats and technocratize the humans! New blocks of becoming need to be formed. This is the role of the university as I see it, not to restrict entry, but to create a public space: a zone where these blocks of becoming can start being actualized, start discovering laterally pragmatic approaches with which to make it possible for the human mind to no longer be obsolete, supeceded by money.

    :) Chris ________________________________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com

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