Bulletin N°437



14 February 2010
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,

Ideology, writes NYU Professor Bertell Ollman, is produced when one contemplates a phenomenon while making inadequate abstractions within an incomplete framework : employing a restricted set of viewpoints, developing an inappropriate use of extensions of time and space, while avoiding inconvenient levels of generality. (See La dialectique mise en oeuvre: Le processus d'abstraction dans la méthode de Marx, Editions Syllepse, 2005).

The problem here arises from the fact that reality is more than appearances and that focusing exclusively on appearances, on the evidence that strikes us immediately and directly, can be extremely misleading. . . . Basing themselves on what they see, hear, and bump into in the immediate surroundings . . . [most people] arrive at conclusions that are in many cases the exact opposite of the truth. Most of the distortions associated with bourgeois ideology are of this kind.

After all, few would deny that everything in the world is changing and interacting at some pace and in one way or another, that history and systemic connections belong to the real world. The difficulty has always been how to think adequately about them, how not to distort them, and how to give them the attention and weight that they deserve. Dialectics is an attempt to resolve this difficulty be expanding our notion of anything to include, as aspects of what it is, both the process by which it has become that and the broader interactive context in which it is found. Only then does the study of anything involve one immediately with the study of its history and encompassing system.

Dialectics restructures our thinking about reality by replacing the common-sense notion of "thing" (as something that has a history and has external connections with other things) with notions of "process" (which contains its history and possible futures) and "relations" (which contains as part of what it is its ties with other relations). Nothing that didn't already exist has been added here. Rather, it is a matter of where and now one draws boundaries and establishes units (the dialectical term is "abstracts") in which to think about the world. The assumption is that while the qualities we perceive with our five senses actually exist as parts of nature, the conceptual distinctions that tell us where one thing ends and the next one begins both in space and across time are social and mental constructs. However great the influence of what the world is on how we draw these boundaries, it is ultimately we who draw the boundaries, and people coming from different cultures and from different philosophical traditions can and do draw them differently.(Dance of the Dialectic, Steps in Marx's Method, 2003, pp.13-14)
In his 1972 essay, "The Coming Crisis of Radical Sociology," sociologist Martin Shaw describes all sociology in terms of ideological practice, with a provocative critique of Alvin Gouldner's influential book, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology (1970).
Sociology is primarily an intellectual, or more specifically ideological, response to the major social and political struggles of the last 200 years, which have been translated into an academic, professional context. And it is important to note that the 'professionalization' of social thought, while effectively ensuring it co-existence and collaboration with the powers-that-be, is also a way of preserving its relative autonomy. Which explains why independent spirits (if not militant revolutionaries) can exist within it; which in turn helps to explain the irate response of academic sociologists to the charge that sociology as such is bourgeois ideology.

But it is. Sociologists operate, by and large, with a reductionist conception of ideology; they think that top be called bourgeois ideologists means that they are charged with being capitalism's yes-men. They point out, quite rightly, that only some of them are, while others are declared opponents of many social evi9ls and established powers. They point out too, that while some sociology is conservative, other schools of sociology exist which provide the basis for radical social criticism. Surely this can't all be bourgeois ideology?

Ideology, however, is not apology, although it may and often does entail it. Ideologies are world-views which, despite their partial and possible critical insights, prevent us from understanding the society in which we live and the possibility of changing it. They are world-views which correspond to the standpoints of classes and social groups whose interests in the existing social system and incapacity to change it makes it impossible for them to see it as a whole. A large number of different ideologies have been developed by thinkers tied to bourgeois society, and there is constant development and change. But they are all part of bourgeois ideology, not because they express the immediate interests of the ruling class or are developed by it, but because they are limited, in theory, by the limits of bourgeois society in reality; because their development, including even their criticism of bourgeois society, is governed by the development of bourgeois society and is unable to go beyond it. As such, as bourgeois ideology, they face certain theoretical dilemmas, the solution to which lies in going beyond the standpoint of bourgeois society; just as in practice there are certain problems which cannot be solved within its framework. But because they assume it, they are condemned to reproduce the problems and to reproduce the same one-sided answers which will not solve them in reality.
It is the way in which it is structurally determined . . . [concludes Shaw] which eludes even a perceptive historian of the development of sociology like Gouldner. He can trace many of the links very accurately, both within thought  and between thought and society. He can portray trends. But he cannot understand sociology as a component part of bourgeois social thought as it has developed from the days when it was a part of a process of revolutionary change, until today when the bourgeois social relations which it takes as given are a monstrous barrier to human progress.(from Robin Blackburn, ed., Ideology in Social Science, 1972, pp.33-34)
Meanwhile, neurologists tell us that human beings, unlike horses, cows and most other mammals, are born "pre-mature," which is to say they are totally helpless at the beginning of their lives. While most warm blooded creatures are able to walk practically from the moment of birth, the human being for a prolonged period of time after birth is immobilized and unusually vulnerable to being harmed by the environment. In fact, it takes many years before the human brain develops the capacity for self-defense, and during this period the environment plays an exceedingly important role. Under certain circumstances the human acquisition of the capacity for independence can be curtailed by an unfavorable environment for an indefinite period of time. Such an environment produces what social psychologists have called :

"the slave mentality"
happy slave 








Our on-going research at CEIMSA on the role of ethics in the context of social class struggle has brought us to studies on the function and anatomy of the human brain. The American neurobiologist, Dr. Antonio Demasio's two books, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (2005) and Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain (2003), have been discussed in earlier CEIMSA bulletins. (Please see CEIMSA Bulletin #'s 348, 360, 369, 372, 399, 408, & 429.)

The 6 items below speak to some of the constraints which we must recognize if we are to effectively work for our own liberation within the cages and traps continuously being constructed by the capitalist political economy to nutralize us.

Item A., sent to us by Olivier Hignette, are two links to French language tributes to the life and work of Howard Zinn.

Item B. is a Democracy Now! interview with Canadian neurologist Dr. Gabor Maté, whose books include Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates And What You Can Do About It (2000) and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (2010).

Item C., sent to us by former Grenoble graduate student Frédéric Méni, is a two-part video essay on the American Nazi Party.

Item D., from Jean Bricmont, is an Internet link to the film that was made of his intervention at the CEIMSA conference on The Role of Ethics in the Context of Social Class Struggles which was held on the campus at Nanterre May 6, 2009.

Item E., sent to us by George Kenney the founder of Electronic Politics, is an interview with U.S. military historian David P. Colley, author of Decision at Strasbourg (Naval Institute Press, 2008).

Item F. is an announcement of our CEIMSA conference at Antigone Bookstore in Grenoble on the anniversary of the first day of the Paris Commune, 18 March 1871.

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a look at a report from The Onion on the importance of keeping a sense of humor.


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3

from Olivier Hignette :
Date: 30 January 2010
Subject: Howard Zinn.

Hello Francis,
I am sure you already have the information about the interviews of Zinn at france inter, which I happened to follow while driving
A great  guy indeed !



files are downloadable at this  address
these are supposed to be mp3 files but are ogg. If you have problems playing  ogg files, please let me know


from Democracy Now ! :
Date: 3 February 2010
Subject: “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”: Dr. Gabor Maté, Physician at Vancouver Safe-Injection Site, on the Biological and Socio-Economic Roots of Addiction and ADD.

“In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”: Dr. Gabor Maté, Physician at Vancouver Safe-Injection Site, on the Biological and Socio-Economic Roots of Addiction and ADD


Dr. Gabor Maté is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel Society, which runs a residence/harm reduction facility and North America’s only supervised safe-injection site in Vancouver, Canada, home to one of the world’s densest areas of drug users. The bestselling author of four books, we speak to Dr. Maté about his latest, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, which proposes new approaches to treating addiction through an understanding of its biological and socio-economic roots. Maté also discusses his work on attention deficit disorder and the mind-body connection.

from Frédéric Méni :
Date 12 February 2010
Subject: Nazi America.

Hello Professor Feeley, 
I hope everything is going well. Please tell me what do you think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wURo1SaBMy4 (Part I)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlCzFYm3924 (Part II)


from Jean Bricmont :
Date: 6 May 2009
Subject: Inside Israeli Land Grabs.

Chers Francis,
La vidéo de la conférence faite à Nanterre le 6 mai 2009 est finalement presque prête-montée et raccourcie.

Rôle de l’éthique dans la société de classe de l’Amérique contemporaine

"Inside the Israeli Land Grabs"

Jean Bricmont

On peut la voir sur l'Internet à :



from George Kenney :
Date: 12 February 2010
Subject: Podcast interview w/ David P. Colley re WWII.

David P. Colley's thesis in Decision at Strasbourg is not exactly original, but he's uncovered a key part of the history of World War II that's been almost completely forgotten. David's counterfactual argument is that if Eisenhower had allowed Lt. Gen. Devers to cross the Rhine in November 1944 -- which Devers was poised to do -- that the end of the war in Europe would have come several months sooner and the Battle of the Bulge never would have happened. Now, I'm not a military historian or strategist, but David's arguments make a lot of sense to me. Moreover, even if the counterfactual case were wrong, the process that led to Eisenhower's decision is fascinating, with a great deal of relevance to our understanding of contemporary military operations.

This podcast may not be to everyone's taste but if you do listen I hope you enjoy it.

As always, please feel free to redistribute the link.


Decision at Strasbourg


from Francis Feeley :
Date: 13 February 2010
Subject: An Invitation to an Antigone Bookstore event on 18 March 2010.


Obama after Bush
presented by Francis Feeley

ANTIGONE Bookstore
18 March 2010