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Current Issue: Volume 25, No.16 , Week of November 27, 2005

jeanne's guelph look after Rafi's dancer, and link to jeanne's page . . . . .

Celebrating Naked Space Performance Art Exhibit: Love 1A
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Noon Till Seven in the Evening
Spilling into the Hallway from SBS B 326

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Previous Issue: Volume 25, No.14 , Week of November 6, 2005
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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: November 26, 2005
Latest Update: November 26, 2005

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Topic of the Week:

Talking To, Not At Each Other

One of the texts I want to briefly summarize for you is Albert O. Hirschman's The Rhetoric of Reaction. Hirschman wrote this book for a think tank during the Reagan administration when liberals were horrified at what conservatives were doing to our safety nets (like having places to house and care for the mentall ill, that Reagan disbanded and did not replace in California). With the objective of getting liberals and conservatives to listen to one another in good faith in the interest of understanding the need for safety nets for the poor and those in crisis or catastrophe, Hirschman listened carefully to both sides. He came up with the startling conclusion that neither side was listening to the other.

Both liberals and conservatives were using the same basic arguments to deny any need to hear the Other. Hisrchman classified these denials as:

  • The Perversity Thesis

    This reaction to an opponent says that no matter what he does, it's going to turn out just the opposite of what he intended. Here's how HIrschman puts it, on p. 11:

    "This is, at first blush, a daring intellectual maneuiver. The structure of the argument is admirably simple, whereas the claim being made is rather extreme. It is not just asserted that a movement or a policy will fall short of its goal or will occasion unexpected costs or negative side effects: rather so goes the argument, the attempt to push society in a certain direction will result in its moving all right, but in the oppostie direction. Simple, intriguing, and devastating (if true), the argument has proven po;ular with generations of "reactionaries. as well as fairly effective with the public at large. In current debates it is often invoked as the counterintuitive, counterproductive, or most to the point, perverse effect of some "progressive" or "well-intentioned" public policy. (fn. omitted) Attempts to reach for liberty will make society sink into slavefy, the quest for democracy will produce oligarchy and tyranny, and social welfare programs will create more, rather than less, poverty. Everything backfires.

  • The Futility Thesis

    This reaction to an opponent says that no matter how much you struggle to change it, it always comes back to the same thing, greed. You can't change that. So where the perversity argument suggest that you can get change, but that change goes in the opposite direction from what you plan, the futility argument suggests that you can really get fundamental change, period. Here's how Hirschman puts it on p.43-44:

    "[The futility] argument . . . says that the attempt at change is abortive, that in ine way or another any alleged change is, was, or will be largely surface, facade, cosmetic, heance illusory, as the "deep" structures of society remain wholly untouched."

    . . .

    "[O]ne of the best-known (and best) jokes to come out of Eastern Europe after the installation of Communist regimes there in the wake of Wprld War II: "What is the difference between capitalism and socialism?" The answer: "In capitalism, man exploits man; in socialism, it's the other way round." Here was an effective way of asserting that nothing basic had changed in spite of the total transformation in property relations.Finally, Lewis Carroll's proverbial saying in Alice in Wonderland, "Her it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." expresses yet another facet of the futility thesis, placing it in a dynamic setting."

  • The Jeopardy Thesis

    The Jeopardy Thesis acknowledges that change can take place without going in the opposite direction to the one you planned, or without only superficial changes occuring, but it suggests that the cost of such change is so prohibitive that it places the whole society in jeopardy. In other words, you may get a poverty safety net, but only at the cost of taking the righteously earned profits of the rich (who make the law as the holders of power). Or you might pay the social security you promised to the elderly, but only at the cost of having to give up your pet wars. Here's how Hirschman puts it on p. 81:

    "The arguments of the perverse effect and of the futility thesis proceed along very different lines, but they have something in common: both are remakably simple and bald___therein, of course, lies much of their appeal [in dominant discourse]. In both cases it is shown how actions undertaken to achieve a certain purpose fail miserably to do so. Either no change at all occurs or the action yields an outcome that is the opposite of the one that was intended. It is actually surprising that I was able to account for a large and important portion of the reactionary arguments with these two extreme categories. For there is a third, more commonsensical and moderate way of arguing against a change which, because of the prevailing state of public opinion, one does not care to attack head-on (this, I have claimed, is a hallmark of "reactionary" rhetoric): it asserts that the proposed change, though perhaps desirable in itself, involves unacceptable costs or consequences of one sort or another."

    I hope these brief examples of Hirschman's work will help you see the complexity of getting us into real substantive discourse. It's so much easier to stop with the simple perverse or fertility thesis, or hide behind the jeopardy of overwhelming "costs." I have put up a brief bit of exchange from transform_dom. Check it out, look at the actual exchanges, and consider how comfortably and securely we avoid good faith efforts to hear one another. Mevysen fusses or "corrects," in the hope it will make you listen in good faith; I coerce by luring you with points on which we can agree; Beau overwhelms us with erudition we can't match; Kathleen gently persuades us. We all struggle with avoiding the rhetoric of reaction in different ways. My own assessment, despite circumstances dragging me away from the participation I hoped for, is that you're doing a pretty good job of dragging each other, sometimes gently, sometimes roughly, toward paths around what Hirschman described as the pitfalls of substantive discourse.

    References:

    NEWS, Announcements, and

    Current Events Discussion Topics:

  • The Naked Space Exhibit, Fall 2005

    Image Map for The Internet Version of the
    Naked Space Exhibit for Fall 2005 Love 1A

  • Time: Tuesday, November 29, 2005, from Noon till Seven in the Evening
    Place: In the SBS Central Hallway, Spilling Out of Jeanne's Office - SBS B326 - like the amorphous creation we are

    This has been a semester full of surprises. Some wonderful, some less so. Boxes and cards and books and sharing the art that enables us to engage political and social issues, the art that surrounds us daily and in which we have been silenced as participants far too long. The Naked Space Performance Exhibit: Love 1A has had to change its format a little, since we lack a Student Union in which to hold it. But the exhibit has changed its format much more profoundly because we have changed. We learned, both at UWP and at CSUDH that making boxes really did make sense, and did we ever make boxes. We'll be in one of our local public schools next week, making boxes with Special Education children. And most of us have made and shared boxes with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

    Lenore made a big box, filled it with candies, and opened it to offer surprise treats to voters in thanks for their voting. Ruben brought his wife and daughter to share in the making of a box, which ended up being a card! Val brought her daughter, and Pat brought her grandchildren. Matt says he'll join us making some boxes and cards, and Miguel is getting us materials we can share with the Latinos and AIDS group that he has worked for and volunteered with.

    This is mythos, landed unceremoniously right in the middle of an institution of higher education where many still claim that mythos has no place! Hah! Here we are. As firmly implanted as jeanne's jaguars, and as firmly committed to staying. In celebration, we offer the Naked Space Exhibit, Love 1A for Fall 2005. We''ll hang the exhibit pieces on box sculptures which jeanne and Pat are working on. And we beg, absolutely beg you to come in on Monday from about 11 a.m. on, to help us finish painting, to bring in boxes and cards and sculptures that you've made.

    In connection with your class work and learning records, each of you is expected to bring in for sharing what you have worked on. But perhaps, even more important, is that this is a PERFORMANCE exhibit. We will have some sculptures ready that invite people to take bits of the box sculpture away with them, for themselves, or to share with another. And we will have some sculptures that invite our guests to share in making their own card or box or book, whatever, either for themselves, or to hang with ours on the sculptures. And you are each expected to share our learning on social issues like the warnings of toxic substances from Proposition 65, the meanings and significance of propositions from the special election, and all the many bits and pieces that led us to this Fall's theme: Invest a little love in the world, for the world exists because we love it. We'll have special guests Alton and Anthony visiting with us. All of you who are curious about the social interface with the law should find time to share with them our learnings and our naked space project.

    Special this semester is our celebration of Betty Melton's retirement. Over the last many semesters Betty has rescued us innumerable times when administrative practices have left us confused, frustrated, and desperate. Somehow she has always found a path around our difficulties. We'll have cake and something to drink all day, from noon to seven in the evening. Please share with us in thanking Betty for her many efforts on our behalf. And, of course, all this, while sharing the naked space.

  • A Conversation on The Art of Engagement: Peter Selz and Henry Hopkins

    Saturday, December 3, 2005
    7:00 till 9:30 p.m.
    Please make a reservation for seating; the gallery has seating for about 200.

    The Art of Engagement
    Jack Rutberg Fine Arts Gallery
    357 North La Brea
    Los Angeles, California 90036

    Tel. (323) 938-5222

  • The Ecstasy Exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art through February 20.
    "Ecstasy" is the trippy, messy, highly entertaining survey put together by Paul Schimmel of the Museum of Contemporary Art here. It sprawls through the Geffen Contemporary, the museum's cavernous warehouse in Little Tokyo, which too often begs for attention but is now jammed with blissed-out mobs.

Famous People and Concepts We Should Have Heard Of, But Often Haven't.

    People

  • Helnwein - Austrian artist who is deeply engaged and uses his art to convey his messages. Compared to Beuys, who despised the commodification of art.

  • Botero - Colombian artist who could not help himself - he had to paint the violence he witnessed in his own country.

Concepts:

Jeanne's Lectures for Fall 2005