Thursday, August 04, 2005

Closing the discourse to outsiders

Brad De Long is a super-smart guy, a top economist and top blogger. Unlike
many economists, he takes the time to argue with *non-economists* (that
weird super super majority of humankind).

I agree with him: Every discipline develops a specialized language both as
an analytical tool but also as an entry barrier for "unsophisticated
outsiders"... The real challenge is to read between the lines and beyond
the entry barriers to beat pseudo-arguments with real arguments--this is a
large portion of the "fun" in academia.

"It's beginning to look as if people calling [Jared Diamond's] "Guns, Germs,
and Steel" "quasi-racist" and that it "perpetuates racism" may simply be
aping their elders.

It appears to be a thing their sub-group does in order to close the circle
of discourse against outsiders--just as economists close the discourse to
outsiders by saying "they don't have a mathematical model" and historians
close to discourse to outsiders by saying "they don't have any new
primary-source evidence."

If so, Ozma's and Tak's claims that Diamond is "quasi-racist," or
"perpetuates racism" should not be understood as empirical claims about the
world but merely as markers of their own commitment to a group that seeks to
close the discourse to outsiders."

(...) "And here we have why, in Holberg's eyes, Diamond is a racist:
Diamond (in Guns, Germs, and Steel) focuses not on how human agency is
culturally-inflected, but on how it is geographically-inflected and
environmentally-inflected. That's materialism. That's reductionism. That's
determinism. That's not racism."

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