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Unformatted text preview: Whitman National Debate Institute 1 ALLISON & ANJALI AT: THE SPECTER OF VIETNAM KRITIK AT: The Specter of Vietnam Kritik ( ) The permutation solves completely rejecting humanism is self-marginalizing and disabling to effective coalitional politics. J. Russell Perkin, Professor of English @ St. Marys, 1993, Theorizing the Culture Wars, Postmodern Culture, Volume 3, Number 3 My final criticism is that Spanos, by his attempt to put all humanists into the same category and to break totally with the tradition of humanism, isolates himself in a posture of ultraleftist purity that cuts him off from many potential political allies, especially when, as I will note in conclusion, his practical recommendations for the practical role of an adversarial intellectual seem similar to those of the liberal pluralists he attacks. He seems ill-informed about what goes on in the everyday work of the academy, for instance, in the field of composition studies. Spanos laments the "unwarranted neglect" (202) of the work of Paulo Freire, yet in reading composition and pedagogy journals over the last few years, I have noticed few thinkers who have been so consistently cited. Spanos refers several times to the fact that the discourse of the documents comprising The Pentagon Papers was linked to the kind of discourse that first-year composition courses produce (this was Richard Ohmann's argument); here again, however, Spanos is not up to date. For the last decade the field of composition studies has been the most vigorous site of the kind of oppositional practices The End of Education recommends. The academy , in short, is more diverse, more complex, more genuinely full of difference than Spanos allows, and it is precisely that difference that neoconservatives want to erase. By seeking to separate out only the pure (posthumanist) believers, Spanos seems to me to ensure his self- marginalization . For example, several times he includes pluralists like Wayne Booth and even Gerald Graff in lists of "humanists" that include William Bennett, Roger Kimball and Dinesh D'Souza. Of course, there is a polemical purpose to this, but it is one that is counterproductive. In fact, I would even question the validity of calling shoddy and often inaccurate journalists like Kimball and D'Souza with the title "humanist intellectuals." Henry Louis Gates's final chapter contains some cogent criticism of the kind of position which Spanos has taken. Gates argues that the "hard" left's opposition to liberalism is as mistaken as its opposition to conservatism, and refers to Cornel West's remarks about the field of critical legal studies, " If you don't build on liberalism, you build on air" (187). Building on air seems to me precisely what Spanos is recommending. Gates, on the other hand, criticizes "those massively totalizing theories that marginalize practical political action as a jejune indulgence" (192), and endorses a coalition of liberalism and the left....
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