Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2013 May 29

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Humanities desk
< May 28 << Apr | May | Jun >> May 30 >
Welcome to the Wikipedia Humanities Reference Desk Archives
The page you are currently viewing is an archive page. While you can leave answers for any questions shown below, please ask new questions on one of the current reference desk pages.

May 29[edit]


I've looked at some of Karl Marx's ideas (i.e., historical materialism, dialectical materialism, false consciousness) and they strike me as a bit…wonky. His concepts are so bizarre and they feel eerily like postmodernism. Am I missing something here, like a connection between the two? Are they related to German Idealism? —Melab±1 02:31, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Postmodernism is about the opposite of German Idealism. There are some Marxist influences of postmodernists, but I suspect you're either confused about postmodernism or confused about Marxism.
Marxism qua Marx is not very postmodern. It's modern with a capital M. Marx believes that everything is knowable, that truth is true, that real is real, and that once you know the right theory you can predict the future, predict how people should act, and predict how everything simply must be at practically every level of knowledge.
Postmodernism is many things, but it's not that. Postmodernists are generally anti-realism, they believe that nothing is really "true" in an absolute sense, they believe that theories used to make all of these kinds of predictions are in fact just artifacts of the people making the theories, and little more.
Yeah, there's areas of apparent overlap — Marx is all about economic and class context, for example, and postmodernists sometimes go in that direction — but I would not confuse the two. Marx wouldn't like postmodernists and the only Marx that postmodernists like is one that has been seriously stripped of his modernist context. There are aspects of Marx that have made it into postmodernism but the doctrine as a whole is totally not what Marx was about. --Mr.98 (talk) 02:55, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Would Marx have predicted characters like Stalin and Mao? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:14, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
No. Itsmejudith (talk) 10:38, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Quite the reverse - Marx seems to have been of the opinion that Slavic nations would never amount to much, for example. AlexTiefling (talk) 11:38, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Marx's positive politics focused on how intellectuals could assist movements of workers. Unlike bolsheviks, Marx strongly believed in the capacity for workers to know themselves and create their own future. However, Marx did study Napoleon III. Fifelfoo (talk) 01:57, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Marx's ideas are surely related to German idealism, though. He got the concept of the dialectic from Kant, Fichte, and especially Hegel. Looie496 (talk) 13:56, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Further, he was something of a Hegelian early on, moving away from it as he developed his views on capitalism. The early Marx was, I think, more idealistic; the later Marx made a point of opposing all utopian ideas in favour of a critique of capitalism based on its structural foundations. You can read more in The Immanent Utopia: From Marxism on the State to the State of Marxism, although I am not trying to endorse the book as a whole. I read it about 10 years ago, and not in full, so I can't vouch for it, I just seem to remember it was very illuminating. Briefly, the early Marx had a general idealistic view; the later Marx thought capitalism was going to die of its own contradictions anyway. I don't know the details, but this developed into the base and superstructure model, that is, capitalism (the base) influences the ideology, culture and history of a society (the superstructure). Some of Marx's followers took this to a ridiculous extreme (perhaps where the "wonky" bit comes from), so much so that Friedrich Engels had to correct them and state "the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary" (or, in other words, it does not influence every little thing, only the broad, final outcome). See [1], although I can't find the precise source for the context of this quote. That link suggests I've got it right, but doesn't explicitly state the doctrine Engels is responding to. It refers to "economism" which I'm guessing is the sort of extreme dogmatism that says everything is determined by the economic base. Of course your question states the "wonky" bit as an aside, so I just thought you might want to look further into the background, to see it's not quite as silly as you might think. Herbert Marcuse, writing almost 100 years later, still had to tell people "Not every problem someone has with his girlfriend is necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production." (see [2]). Simplistic and reductionist views will always have some appeal, but, regardless of his followers, Marx himself is still a rather acclaimed thinker, so don't be too quick to judge. IBE (talk) 17:06, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Just a side note here — I would be very careful how you use the word "idealistic" in a discussion that mentions Hegel, as it might be confusing. I think you're using "idealism" in the sense of "wanting to achieve the outcome considered most desirable, without too much concern about whether it is practically achievable". But Hegel was (I think; I've never really studied him) an "idealist" in the more precise philosophical sense, meaning that he believed in a realm of ideas or ideal objects that exist independently of the material world. I don't think you're saying Marx was ever an idealist in that sense (or are you?). From my limited knowledge of Marx, that would seem not so much wrong, as just irrelevant; I have never heard of any serious investigation by Marx into ontology, notwithstanding the description of his theory as "dialectical materialism". --Trovatore (talk) 21:46, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
That sounds like the notion of the epistemological break between the young Marx and the later Marx. A notion propounded by Althusser but critiqued by Istvan Meszaros and John Bellamy Foster. On Marxism and postmodernism see David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity. Itsmejudith (talk) 21:51, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
For Trovatore, I'm thankful for the point of order, and to Judith, for helping answer it. I actually don't remember what I was thinking, I just remember reading something about this, and it sounded right. Whatever I exactly meant, it goes something like this: early Marx was into some kind of utopian thinking, which is presumably idealism in Trovatore's first sense. He was anti-utopian after that, hence the term "immanent" utopia, note the spelling. "Immanent" means "indwelling", so the utopian society will emerge out of captialism's inherent contraditions, as a predetermined force of history. Why write so much about it then? Well, that would be another thread. So thankyou for helping to tell me what I am talking about :). I'm sure I've read something about the deeper sense of idealism somewhere, along the lines of what Judith is describing, but I don't remember what. Just stuff constantly popping up about "Althusser's reading of Marx" and so on. IBE (talk) 22:07, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
So Karl Marx turned into a grump old cynic. Who knew? --Melab±1 22:47, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
You're missing quite a lot. As previously discussed, Marxism involves a determinable epistemology, produced in relation to external reality. Most post-modernisms are far more dubious about the capacity to make claims regarding the world. Marxism is formally an ideology connected with a project of transforming reality into a better social arrangement, based on an understanding of what the next social arrangement is likely to be, based on an analysis of existing reality. Those progressive claims from post-modernism often have a more dubious ground, based on idealism (in both senses), or a kind of progressive nihilism. The positive project suggested by Marxism is a collective one, centred in the experiences of people who work for a wage or are specifically denied the capacity to work for a wage; this project can only be undertaken by those people themselves. I'm not sure that post-modern politics can produce a positive project. The closest approximation I can think of is the politics of identity centred in new subjects: which almost inevitably rests on a bourgeois post-enlightenment subjectivity and thus acknowledges the existing organisation of economy and society. Finally, Marxism had to be hijacked by bourgeois intellectuals. Post-modernism didn't: you can't hijack what you already possess. Fifelfoo (talk) 02:33, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
The most famous statement on the relation of Marx to Hegel is of course the late Marx's Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital - "..I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker...". But see also Heinrich Heine's characterization of "the secret leaders of the German Communists" (like his friend Marx), great logicians to whom the future belongs, described as eggs hatched by the brooding hen Hegel (whom Heine had known years earlier). Not at home, to give a good cite at the moment. Somewhere in Heine's History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, and perhaps another work.John Z (talk) 07:32, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
The most famous statement on the relation of Marx to Hegel is of course not that one at all, but the one (by Engels?) about "standing Hegel on his head". It's the only one that most non-philosophers (e.g. me) recognise or remember.—— Shakescene (talk) 17:25, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
The "standing Hegel on his head" is from the preface by Marx I linked above, so it's in my dot dot dots. (What pupil doesn't stand his teacher on his head, when he gets the chance?) And to add a third (how can one speak of Hegel & not add a third?) there is Lenin's observation in his Philosophical Notebooks that Marx is impossible to understand without understanding The Science of Logic backwards & forwards (something that nobody including Hegel has achieved ;-) ) John Z (talk) 09:08, 4 June 2013 (UTC)

Record number of consorts by Chinese emperors[edit]

Which Chinese emperors had the most consorts and concubines? PS: I read what is in Ranks of imperial consorts in China.--The Emperor's New Spy (talk) 05:02, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Qin Shi Huang reportedly had 10,000 concubines (meaning he needed 30 years to sleep with all of them, assuming that every night he got a fresh one). Those were the times long before one child policy. Don't know whether it's the absolute record among Chinese emperors though. Brandmeistertalk 15:28, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Are earrings very important to Spanish women?[edit]

Just see in a Chinese website that "Spainsh women fashioned earring. A woman without earring would be ridiculed just like a woman without clothes." And there are quite a lot google result on similar claims. Is it exaggerated?--朝鲜的轮子 (talk) 06:42, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Obviously exagerated. Foreign women that walk the streets in Spain without ear rings do not get stares or arrested the Police. Foreign women that walk the streets in Spain without clothing do get stares and do get arrested by the Police. There is clearly a difference of importance in the 2 concepts. --Lgriot (talk) 08:21, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Complete nonsense. I've been to Spain without earrings and have never noticed people staring. Itsmejudith (talk) 10:38, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
"Infants of both sexes are carefully, even ornately, dressed. Sometimes strangers can detect their sex only by the presence of earrings on girl babies, whose ears are usually pierced in their first weeks of life." This is from Countries and their Cultures, by Melvin Ember (and refers to Spain).  Card Zero  (talk) 13:13, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Piercing the ears of very young girls goes well beyond Spain. It's widely prevalent among hispanics in Latin America [3] and North America [4] [5], so it's fairly broad culturally, ethnic rather than national. - Nunh-huh 13:27, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
It's also the norm here in Italy. My daughter's ears were pierced when she was about two weeks old.--Jeanne Boleyn (talk) 06:05, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

UK House of Commons subcommittees[edit]

Followup on my previous questions, e.g. Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2013 May 15, on Lee H. Hamilton. I've just pictures of Hamilton with a panel of others, and the caption reads "England: Defence External Affairs Subcommittee House of Commons". [6] makes me think that it was a committee, but there's a Defence Select Committee; could this be the external affairs subcommittee of the Defence Select Committee? I can't find anything about subcommittees of the House of Commons (List of committees of the Parliament of the United Kingdom only mentions one subcommittee, and it's in Lords), and I don't know the date of the picture. 2001:18E8:2:1020:3C05:EABC:1566:DAE5 (talk) 15:54, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Subcommittees may be more transient than regular committees; they may likely be formed by the committee themselves, and only on an ad hoc or short-term basis, and a subcommittee from 1972 (41 years ago!) may likely not exist anymore, Parliament is a very different place today. A full list of committees is listed here. with no guarantee that it is the same as that long ago. --Jayron32 17:31, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
I only know about the US Congress and its comparatively stable committees and subcommittees. I had no idea that things in the House of Commons changed as you describe, so I'll be careful. Thanks! 2001:18E8:2:1020:E5E2:CABD:1AD7:A3B0 (talk) 19:14, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Digging around the parliamentary archives catalogue, two things: a) all the current Select Committees were established in 1979, and tracing them before that is tricky; b) there was indeed a "Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee" but of the Expenditure Committee, and it appears to have existed in the 1970s. Andrew Gray (talk) 19:21, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Incidentally, if you can find someone with access to the Chadwyck-Healy parliamentary papers database (I sadly don't any more) the subcommittee reports may be digitised for that period, which would tell you why they were there. From the title, and the Expenditure link, I suspect equipment purchasing or other military contracting (base leases?). Andrew Gray (talk) 19:31, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
The Expenditure Committee and its sub-committees were the predecessors of the present Select Committee system. Andrew Gray is pointing you in the right direction, and I can tell you that the publications of the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee in 1972 were House of Commons Papers 141, 310 (published in 20 parts), 344 and 516 of session 1971-72. If you are on the database, you can put 1971-72 in the session field, and those numbers in the 'Paper number' field, and you will go straight to it. Unfortunately I only have the membership of the Expenditure Committee which was very large, but the chairman of the Defence and External Affairs sub-committee in 1972 was Sir Harwood Harrison. Sam Blacketer (talk) 21:27, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Why long tail is important?[edit]

From what I undertood about it long tail rule can fit on those rules: x<y x=amount sold by 20% most sold itens y=amount sold by the 80% least sold items x=a*1, y=b*4 a>b a=amount that the 20% most sold products sold at average b=amount that the 20% least sold products sold at average The 1 and 4, its because 80% is 4x more products than 20% ones.

So the only thing that need to happen here is that the 20% most sold products can't sell at average more than 4x the amount that the least sold 80% sell. I dont think that its too hard? (talk) 18:12, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Yes, if you are only interested in revenue. You should factor in production costs. IBE (talk) 18:36, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

The New York Times Book Review[edit]

Can someone get access to this source for me? It'd be greatly appreciated, it's for a quality improvement project. Let me know back at User talk:Cirt, please, — Cirt (talk) 18:54, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

If you ask this over at WP:REX you are almost certain to get a response. Just make sure you have "Enable email from other users" checked in your preferences. --Atethnekos (DiscussionContributions) 19:06, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
I found it, and left it on your talk page. --some jerk on the Internet (talk) 19:18, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks very much! — Cirt (talk) 02:54, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

New Deal debate[edit]

Hello, I will be formally debating the New Deal, and will be in favor of its "economic success." There will be a period where my team can ask questions to our opposition. What questions do you think of that that I can ask, and can strengthen my case in support of the New Deal? What I come up with my head right now:

  • How exactly did government intervention prolong the Depression, as you say?

Anything else? Thanks --Colonel House (talk) 21:36, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

Look for any publications by right-wingers like Limbaugh, talking about FDR, and you will find no shortage of questions that others might raise. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:58, 29 May 2013 (UTC)
You are not going to find bullet points with Limbaugh. As a "right-winger" (Mwahahahahahaha...) I would come at you with the difference between what is seen and what is not seen. In other words, the fact that certain people were paid to dig ditches and fill them in may seem beneficial as far as their getting visible paychecks, but did the unseen effect of taxes put others out of work? You might also watch this entertaining debate, in which the right-wingers specifically address such questions as the benefit of FDR's policies. μηδείς (talk) 00:52, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
  • The question you're proposing is a bad one because it is exactly what your opposition wants to be asked. The standard right-wing line is that the New Deal prolonged the Depression by destroying the confidence of the business community and interfering with their ability to create business, so your question is basically a softball. You really can't have a fixed strategy here. If your opponent simply criticizes you, then you should ask for a realistic alternative plan rather than mere criticism. If your opponent offers an alternative plan, you should ask questions relating to its flaws. (Of course this means that you need to be able to identify its flaws.) Whatever you ask, find a way to bring Herbert Hoover into it. Looie496 (talk) 01:58, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
    • Um, no, Looie, not Hoover....It's George Bush's fault. μηδείς (talk) 02:38, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
      • The elder George Bush (Herbert Walker) was born in 1924, and would have been 5 when the depression hit. He was in no position to make any policy decisions which would have materially affected the economy at that time. The younger two George Bushes (Walker and Prescott) were born in 1946 and 1976, after the depression ended. --Jayron32 03:48, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
        • I think Medeis is being satirical. Hoover is an ironic reference, though, as the Republicans in my parents' generatin said FDR tried stuff that Hoover had tried but was prevented. I'm not so sure that's the case in reality, but it probably has some kernel of truth. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:54, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

I've gotten the impression that two of the most important things which prolonged the Depression were rigid and poorly-thought through trade protectionism (Smoot-Hawley Tariff) and vast numbers of people not having money to buy things that industries would produce. Neither problem can be laid at the feet of the New Deal, and the New Deal was trying to ameliorate the second problem. Many people have pointed out that what put a final end to the Depression was ramping up of production for WW2, and that it would have been nice if the U.S. government could have stimulated the economy sufficiently to end the Depression without having to go to war... AnonMoos (talk) 02:41, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

If your debate opponents are worth their salt you will be hit with what wunderkind David Stockman has been preaching about the last 30 years see C-SPAN segments here and here a NYT op-ed here. His broad points are that the only thing that ended the Great Depression was the world record industrial ramp-up in response to World War II and that FDR's policies (and those of his Federal Reserve) actually took a severe 2-3 year natural cyclical recession and instead extended and compounded it into a massive depression that would have continued if not for the economic boom that was launched by war production and military payrolls.
Also as a former NFL nationals qualifier it's always helpful to remember the Day 1 lesson, we got our assignments, researched them, prepared them, practiced them and then the instructor told each of us to argue the opposing view. Lesson is you need to already know the strongest and weakest points of your opponent as if you are preparing to argue their position, other professions have termed this "know your enemy" or "think like a __", not sure how much time you have to prepare but taking a day out about mid-way and actually drawing up an outline of everything you'd ask, state, and present as the opposition may give you some really cool breakthroughs on any blindspots your position had. Market St.⧏ ⧐ Diamond Way 06:41, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
  • After thinking about this, the generally most useful question to ask your opponents is, "Would the economy have done better if Herbert Hoover had been re-elected instead of Roosevelt?" There is no way for them to answer that question that isn't a win for you, if you know how to exploit it. If they say yes, as they are almost forced to, you respond by recapitulating what happened under Hoover's leadership -- in particular emphasizing the catastrophic state of the banking system at the moment Roosevelt took power. If by chance they say no, you ask them how Hoover went wrong. There is a good chance that they will try to duck, but even then you win by pointing out that they are ducking. Looie496 (talk) 16:44, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Or OPs opponents might be real smart and throw a curve ball by saying that Andrew Mellon had left as Treasury Secretary finally so Hoovers 2nd term would have been much different. Market St.⧏ ⧐ Diamond Way 11:03, 2 June 2013 (UTC)