Views in brief

October 1, 2018

Remembering Said 15 years later

I’M REMEMBERING Edward Said, the Palestinian-American professor and public intellectual who passed away 15 years ago on September 25, 2003.

Said’s writings on Orientalism and imperialism played a key role in bringing the study of colonialism into U.S. literary studies. To be sure, these ideas have been debated intensively over the last three decades, as they have been so influential. But for all his monumental achievements in academia, Said was also much more than this.

Outspoken in his defense of Palestine and widely known beyond academia and beyond the U.S., Said always insisted that intellectuals have a role to play in fighting for social justice and speaking truth to power. Said in fact called this the task of the intellectual. Said’s open criticism of the Oslo Accords, at the same time, showed that critical thinking doesn’t end with solidarity.

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I have many role models. Said is right up there. Rest in Peace.
Pranav Jani, Columbus, Ohio

Believing survivors means believing Reitman

IN RESPONSE to “What should feminists say about the Ronnell case?”: I read the entire complaint. It is damning.

In many places, it demonstrates in clear terms the coercion that produced what Reitman’s detractors point to as his complicity. For instance, there are several absurd e-mails cited where Ronell tells him to “rhetorically cushion” her and coaches him to write to her in fake loving language, knowing that he doesn’t actually mean it but demanding he do so anyway. If it weren’t so real, it would be laughable.

The fact that Reitman finished his PhD in German in three years should amply show he wasn’t enjoying himself. The average is more than twice that.

I went to Cardozo for law school, and I think I know who the professor was who recommended Reitman get out as soon as possible. Sound advice and, again, another cause for sympathy for Reitman. It sounds as if his health was poor throughout this debacle and it couldn’t have been easy for him to get his work done that fast.

I wish I were confident that the Ronell fan club will look at the official complaint as reason to slink into the background, but after reading what some have written, I have been floored by the shamelessness of tenured faculty at upper-division institutions who keep defending Ronell by changing the subject (see Drew Daniel’s musing on how hard it is to be a graduate advisor because of the emotional labor involved).

Why is it so hard for all these of brilliant thinkers to admit that Ronell is an exploiter (this isn’t the first time), and that this is how she did it with this person, which did in fact harm him, broke college rules and law, and plunged the reputation of the humanities into the tank at a time when frankly, we can’t afford it?

Readers’ Views welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

If they are going to comment on this as academics at all, they should be infuriated with Ronell. She has betrayed the profession.
Michaela Brangan, Northampton, Mass

More lessons from Marx

IN RESPONSE to “What do socialists mean by socialist?”: Since I think this topic is very important, especially now, I forwarded Todd Chretien’s essay to lists I’m on. I did keep my own comments to a minimum. But here are the few I did add:

1) Marx and Engels critiqued so-called socialists who concealed their socialistic views; they were not advocating that socialists do so! (Todd meant this, but it was easy to misread.)

2) This also is related to Todd’s five-point summary of his previous article: It’s not just that capitalists will use their control of the state to prevent socialist revolution — that’s true — but that any socialist government, even with mass socialist movements, will have to exist inside a global capitalist economy that exerts huge pressure on socialist economies, as they have to compete with capitalist ones.

3) The latter can always undersell socialists because they can use slave labor (which is antithetical to real socialism) or produce goods under wretched and destructive environmental conditions. So socialism must occur internationally, and not just in one country alone, just to be able to produce along socialist lines and not resort, more and more, to capitalism in the production process.

It’s a shame that Todd pretty much ignores the crucial leadership of revolutionary socialists against ecological devastation and the movements to save this planet for complex life (including human). This is a major omission, especially considering that Chris Williams (also a contributor) wrote a great book and has been speaking constantly on socialism and ecology.

Also on ecology and socialism, see Monthly Review, which publishes numerous articles every month on the subject — a far cry from the old days, and a very welcome turn for the last decade or so.

I’m hoping to revise and republish my series on Zen-Marxism (at Prof. Bertell Ollman’s urging). My book What Is Direct Action? contains 17 chapters that reflect New Left historical thoughts, philosophies and actions, and helped to shape them, too.
Mitchel Cohen, from the Internet