The Cultural Contradictions Of Newt Gingrich
an article in New Perspectives Quarterly by Daniel Bell
(our site's article review)
This meandering, disorganized attempt at putting down Newt Gingrich and everything associated with Newt makes a few good points before going off on unintelligible tangents.
The sources of Newt’s appeal were his populism, his advocacy of the ideas of the Tofflers, and the entertainment value of his nasty, bomb-throwing, no-holds-barred brand of speaking, writing, and politicking.
The sources of Newt’s appeal were his populism, his Toffler support, and his bomb-throwing, no-holds-barred brand of speaking, writing, and politicking
Bell’s attempts at also doing a hatchet job on Toffler not only just backfired but blew up in his face. (One assumes he felt the need to do this because he gets little attention or book sales compared to the Tofflers, and this brings out academic snobbery if not jealousy. Bell is a hot-shot professor at Harvard with probably more degrees than a thermometer. But Bell exposes his anachronistic, old-paradigm, mechanistic-reductionistic mindset at every turn. Relative to the Second Wave, he is one of the elite that made it and helps to preserve the traditions of liberal elitist colleges everywhere.)
Bell’s attempts at also doing a hatchet job on Toffler not only just backfired but blew up in his face
The Tofflers have worked for years as stiffs in factories and assembly lines and foundries, and they have empathy for the common person which Bell doesn’t share. The Tofflers speak and write in colorful, easy-to-follow terms designed to communicate clearly to the average person, while Bell seems to aim towards other professors he tries to impress. The Tofflers show compassion and understanding not just toward the little guy but towards all people who are caught up in the future shock of rapid changes in a confusing world. They’d probably be magnanimous enough to show understanding and empathy towards Bell’s foolish denigrations—seeing such things as mere resistance of Second Wave elites for anything that might threaten their positions. (He should realize that to be defensive towards the Tofflers is to shoot the messenger—they didn’t create or launch this Third Wave!)
To be defensive towards the Tofflers is to shoot the messenger—they didn’t create or launch the Third Wave
However, unlike the wise, tolerant overview one gets from the Tofflers, the Bells of the world—and there are many of them—seem to publish to denigrate people, social or ethnic classes, and especially other writers. The article is anything but informative, casting superficial, trite aspersions on the Tofflers in a way that soon exposes that either: (a) he didn’t actually read much Toffler, but instead found a few, choice, out-of-context phrases to lambaste or (b) he didn’t actually understand the Tofflers’ works. The latter seems probable since he confessed his confusion about “exactly what this third wave is about.” This, to us, was the clearest thing Tofflers ever wrote. But then, we’re ready and eager for the Third Wave, while Bell and his peers are in the classic position of scientists whose data explains things less and less well, and the new paradigms that clarify things come along but over and over they find themselves unable to think clearly in new paradigm terms or accept the reality of the new paradigm.
Idea leading to paradigm shift
The rapid devaluation of their obsoleted beliefs challenges their contextual framework mercilessly, but they hang onto these beliefs desperately since they represent a vital element in their climb up the ladder of success. Finally the pressures build too high and the old paradigm is dumped and the new one is adopted by the scientists first and the academicians second, and, for all but a few of the old guard, the new paradigm represents fact, truth and reality and the old paradigm is simply part of history—a process outlined in Thomas Kuhn’s works on paradigm shifts. The more a particular social scientist has a vested interest in the old ideas, the harder it is for him or her to drop them and catch up to his or her peers. Perhaps there’s a betting pool at Harvard regarding the date when Bell finally overcomes future shock and adopts the Third Wave ideas that will define so much about what the 21st century will be—and already is—about.
The rapid devaluation of his obsoleted beliefs challenges his contextual framework mercilessly, but Bell hangs onto these Second Wave beliefs desperately—especially in this tired tome
We totally concur with Bell that Limbaugh and Gingrich both try for extra ratings/money/attention/power/catharsis via the replacement of conventional civility with intentional venting of nastiness and half-truths, and that Gingrich’s hate of elites is more about ignorance, pandering to ignorant and biased constituents, and hypocrisy than it is serious political commentary.
Calling the Tofflers’ The Third Wave book merely “a vast simplification of sociological theories more than 20 years old” is wrong from every perspective. In the first place, whoever it was that supposedly put this wave theory together in 1975 (20 years before Bell’s article) blew it big-time. One of the most important pieces of sociology to ever be created and some incredible jackass sticks it in a footnote in some obscure journal!? This is about as clueless as one can get. Either the person that wrote it is the worst writer in the world and no one would read it—which is quite possible in the world of academic sociology, or the sociologists that read it were so stupid that they couldn’t see the immense potentials of such a world-shaping tool, or those that read it and wrote it were so inundated with abstract sociological jargon that they didn’t even begin to see its significance as they filed it away in some obscure book or journal, secure in the knowledge that Professor X’s tenure is safe because he obviously chose the former in the old “publish or perish” idiom.
Professor Bell’s tenure is safe because he chose to kiss the kings' rings, not rock their boats; Toffler's boat-rocking Third Wave is objective science from a guy who went where the facts led him
Even naďve, brainwashed Scientologists realize that there is no real communication unless you get an indication from the receiver that he “got” what you said. Obviously no one “got” anything—with the possible lone exception of Bell?—20 years ago, so there was no real discovery or idea or communication of same. The only alternative is to believe that academic sociologists stand around and talk only to themselves and each other and in their heart of hearts believe that what they do has no value or application in the real world. If this is true, then it represents true alienation and amorality. If social science isn’t to help people then we say it’s time we close down those departments in all schools and simply replace them with futurism departments.
Bell and his cohorts need to get off their high horses and/or climb out of their ivory towers
It is an empirical, verifiable, testable fact that the Toffers’ books—especially The Third Wave—have had a wonderfully clarifying effect on understanding the modern world for millions of people in dozens of countries; it has probably saved many careers, many businesses, and even some lives. Bell and his cohorts need to get off their high horses and/or climb out of their ivory towers and do some good for once—such as helping to spread the Third Wave message across the face of the world by teaching it and supporting it in their classes rather than turning up their envious little elitist noses and pretending to people that such things are beneath them. Bell, we are simply not buying it! It may or may not be true that such things are ABOVE you, but it is absolutely certain that you are NOT ABOVE such things!
Bell’s liberal proclivities surfaced when he criticized Gingrich’s calling for decentralization and ending welfare and letting states handle such things in empowerment and opportunity contexts with training, not handout contexts. Bell calls instead for “a rethought national program.” In other words, more big government social engineering. Bell, you desperately need to read Tofflers’ books and see where you’re getting confused. The mass, one-size-fits-all era is through. And most of us are saying “good riddance!” But you seem to want to hold us back in the Second Wave. We have a suggestion, and we mean it whole-heartedly: Bell, join the Third Wave. You’ll not only be glad you did and begin making much better sense of the world, but you’ll also be contributing more, and setting a good example for your peers.