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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Thought for the Day

Today's rather pointed thought comes from A. Gouldner's The Coming crisis of Western Sociology (London, 1970), p.503:

The man who can voice support for Black Power or who can denounce American imperialism in Latin America or Vietnam, but who plays the sycophant to the most petty authorities in his university, is no radical; the man who mouths phrases about the need for revolution abroad, but who is a coiled spring ready to punish the rebels among his own graduate students, is no radical; the academician who with mighty oaths denounces the President of the United States, but subserviently fawns upon his own Department Chairman, is no radical; the man who denounces opportunistic power politics, but practices it daily among his university colleagues, is no radical.  Such men are playing one of the oldest games in personal politics; they are seeking to maintain a creditable image of themselves, while accommodating to the most vulgar careerism.  Such men are seeking neither to change nor to know the world; their aim is simply to grab a piece of it for themselves.
This 'thought', I admit, has a specific target (indeed it has several), but, in the immortal words of Men Without Hats, 'everybody look at your hands'.

8 comments:

  1. Er ... I don't know why that might be. But ponder it anyway, as a sort of koan.

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  2. How true and well written!

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  3. However, those are exactly the men who lead revolutions -- or at least led them during the Age of Revolutions. The leaders were always the ones who could harness others to do their dirty work so they could get bigger pieces of the pie for themselves

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  4. If I thought a revolution could happen without people dying and actually institute change? yeah. But I don't. Even in places where real change happens (I think you have to argue that it did in the second Russian Revolution and in China between 1925 and 1949), the result was different people gaining essentially the same powers as the people they overthrew. Still oligarchic, still oppressive.

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  5. This is why it is better - but infinitely more difficult - to be a rebel than a revolutionary. Camus was right.

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  6. Well, yes, I mean always Camus rather than Sartre, but Camus could only justify that position from an existentialist base. It didn't, in the end, matter if his chosen strategy achieved little or nothing, because it was only constructed anyway; he had done the right thing in an absurd world that was beyond saving anyway. If, however, one wants actually to change something, and has a plan for doing it beyond saying that things need changing wherever possible (which has tended to be my compromise since I gave up on political parties), one probably can't avoid some compromise of ethics. Philosophically, ends don't justify means, I think; but it's people who put ends over means who are going to achieve their ends. So is it 'better'? Perhaps only for the rebel.

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  7. Fair enough, it's been a long while and I've probably bent him round my own thinking rather than the other way about. I think there's a point there to answer, though, whether it's mine or someone else's.

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  8. Sadly, it doesn't look as though Alvin Gouldner exactly upheld the notions he espoused above:
    http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/the-day-alvin-gouldner-punched-a-guy/

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