Sunday, January 20, 2008

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Hoisted from the archives: The students strike back!!

UPDATE: This contest was posted two weeks ago.... and frankly, I've been disappointed with the student response. My crack intelligence network at Fletcher tell me that some of the student body was rankled by my "Bad Student Writing contest" from last month -- yet I see no attempt by the Fletcher student body to step up to the plate.

So, I'm reposting this comment, and triple-dog-daring the students of the American academy to "Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article."

Just to make things interesting, I add two additional qualifiers:

1) Judith Butler entries will not be accepted. Booooring. And it's been done to death.

2) Extra-special bonus points if you can find a God-awful sentence written by the author of this blog. C'mon, students of mine -- I've assigned a fair amount of my own crap work. If you can't find a bad sentence in my published oeuvre, you ain't trying hard enough.

Get to it, students -- or the professors of the world will be able to claim that students can't even procrastinate as efficiently as the professoriate!

The Bad Student Writing Contest was a great success -- but it came at the expense of students. Already, commenters are concluding that this is emblematic of the sorry state of American education, which suffers from a wee bit of the ol' selection bias.

So, students, your time for revenge has come. Why procrastinate during the spring semester when you can procrastinate today? Here is your opportunity to (anonymously) thumb your nose at the guardians of your grades.

I give you.... The Bad Professor Writing Contest:

Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article.
Bonus points if you can provide an active hyperlink to the article.

Winners will receive a prize of unspecified but clearly inestimable value.

Good luck!!

posted by Dan on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM


Philosopher Denis Dutton has identified this impenetrable gem by Judith Butler:

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways, to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and the rearticulation, brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure, inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony, as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power".

posted by: Dwight Schrute on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

I'm usually a bit of a snob about these things, but I can barely tell if there was even a subject in that sentence. It feels like she spread all of her old grad school notes on the floor and threw darts. We're lucky it didn't read "didactic informational regression manifests itself as a positive feeback loop massaging the message of the self-referential media with regard to historical materialist post-structuralist alienated agents of the patriarchy towards existential angst in the Golan Heights. Kabuki. Dada. I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob."

posted by: Reality Man on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Thanks for accepting my suggestion.

Here there are a few examples:

1) Michael Sheehan, International Security: An Analytical Survey (2005). In the Chapter about Economic Security he makes the bold (embarassing?) assertion according to which famines are produced by market economies. More specifically, he claims that people die because of a dearth of food that are in turn due to allocation problems - not to absolute scarcity of food. And then, "even Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen has demonstrated that monetary economies led to starvations".

2) During his lectures, Professor Michael Cox (LSE) uses to explain American Foreign Policy in the following rigourous, falsifiable terms: Bush's stupidity.

Excellent. Prof. Drezner, how do you grade this outstanding piece of research?

3) Anything written by Friedrich Kratochwil is barely understandable, absolutely illogical. Read his 1993 articles and you will see what I am speaking about.

5) David Held: in an article he wrote a few years ago (sorry, I do not use to remember that useless stff), he claimed that we have to preserve the "social value" of production each good contains. To do this, and thus promote international peace, development and harmony he claimed that transportation costs should be added so that people could travel and trade less. I do not exactly understand ho his theory can be labelled "cosmopolitan".

6) James Der Derian, Virtuous War (2001): xx
“What is qualitatively new is the power of the MIMENET to seamlessly merge the production, representation, and execution of war. The result is not merely the copy of a copy, or the creation of something new: it represents a convergence of the means by which we distinguish the original and the new, the real from the reproduced.
Where once the study and practice of war began and ended with the black box of the state, new modes of production and networks of information have created new demarcations of power and identity, reality and virtuality. My intention is to map how new technologies and media of simulation create a fidelity between the representation and the reality of war; the human mimetic faculty for entertainment and gaming join forces with new cyborg programs for willing and waring; and, as our desire for peace and order confronts and increasingly accelerated, highly contingent, uncertain future, virtuous war becomes the preferred means to secure the global interests of the United States”

... I am sure a lot of people are wondering what did he smo... LOL

7) In his "Die Postnational Konstellation", Habermas claims that the economic crisis of the 1970s was brought about by neoliberal economic policies...

The guy must have had terrible teachers of history, but I am sure when he will grow up he will show his value.

8) I stop here, it'd be too long.


posted by: former grad on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Former Grad, our esteemed host asked us to:

Post, in the comments, the most confusing, badly-written or long-winded sentence a professor of yours has written in a published article.

He did not ask us to list a bunch of stuff we do not agree with for unspecified reasons.

To be fair, your #6 fits the bill nicely. And I have nothing to post myself...

posted by: rcriii on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Actually, shouldn't the collected works of Judith Butler be retired to some sort of Bad Writing Hall of Shame?

posted by: Rich Horton on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Actually, shouldn't the collected works of Judith Butler be retired to some sort of Bad Writing Hall of Shame?

posted by: Rich Horton on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

"R&D expenditures are financed by government for the simple reason that no private firm can hope to appropriate all of the benefits that might occur." - Lester Thurow, The Zero-Sum Society, 1980, p. 93

Never mind that Thurow ignores the historic fact that most technological development existed without the benefit of government subsidy. He commits a basic math error, failing to note that a firm doesn't have to reap the benefits of all applications of a particular technology in order to profit off of it.

I bought the book on sale for far less than half price - Thurow's ideas have gone to the bargain bin of history.

posted by: Alan K. Henderson on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Paul Rogers (2005):

"There may well be an argument that neo-conservatives are idealists of a sort, but the
impact of 9/11 was certainly to embed the realist discourse in the US body politic,
with a vigorous and global military response."

Rogers is not probably the most confusing - certainly he is the most confused. As Mearsheimer replies later in the file, Realism-bashing has really no limits. Rogers pulls it till the point where he accuses Realism of what it actually condems.

I think however that the the winner of this category is the following: Richard Ashley, 1986.

"For eschatological discourse (evident in phenomenology, ethnomethodology, and some hermeneutical science) the objective truth of the discoure lies within and is produced by the discourse itself".

No better comment that Gilpin explains this passage: "Unfortunately, International Organization failed to senf an English translation with the original text [...]. I have no idea what it means".,M1

posted by: superstar on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

This is a transparent ploy by Dr Drezner to trick students into reading their professors' published works. On the other hand, it offers a reasonable prospect of just desserts since the likely contenders will be the profs who assign their own work.

posted by: Gene on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Bonus points if the entry comes from a Drezner work!

posted by: nova on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

I believe it was Nussbaum who first picked out that sentence. Obviously, context helps. It didn't help *Nussbaum,* who then provided a "simplification" that got Butler backwards in a way that proved she had no idea what she was talking about. I nominate that passage from "The Professor of Parody."

I'll diagram Butler's sentence:

The move from (a structuralist account in which capital is [understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways]), to a (view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation) (brought [the question of temporality] into [the thinking of structure],) and (marked a shift from a form [of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects] to one [in which {the insights into the contingent possibility of structure} inaugurate a renewed {conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.}])

I'll admit, Reality Man, that the extra commas and particles which Dwight threw in did not help matters, but all in all this is not a horribly confusing sentence... a bit long, perhaps, but no more confusing than if Butler had split it into three sentences. I suspect that the problem which the man on the street has with such a sentence is that he has neither read any books which argue that capital structures social relations homologously, nor any which argue the inverse, and so it's rather difficult for him to picture what Butler is claiming about the latter set of arguments.

posted by: sdlkjj on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Um, actually, that is a pretty good explanation. It doesn't make it true, though.

posted by: blogobus on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

"It" referring to... ?

posted by: sdlkjj on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Apologies on behalf of Fletcher students for such tardiness in replying to your post. Please do not think that we are ignoring you or do not feel up to the challenge. On the contrary, what we want is a worthy challenge, and unfortunately that’s not what you have in mind. You commented on sentences students wrote under time pressure and never had a chance to review. Then you suggested that students “strike back” (sic!) by commenting on PUBLISHED work that was at the student paper level some 10 revisions, 3 conferences and 3 peer reviews ago. If you use the language of war here, show us the ethics of war and we’ll deliver… If you want peace, we hope that your frustration with our writing can turn into something positive: for example, getting personally involved into strengthening
of the graduate writing program (ask for more people, more money, and more minutes per week!)..

posted by: Princess Leia on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

In response to Princess Leia's point, perhaps you should limit students to professors' blog entries.

posted by: Virginia Postrel on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Can I just submit Paul Krugman: His Complete Body of Work?

Worth a shot, anyway...

posted by: Useless Sam Grant on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Isn't it a problem for this contest that profs read student work but not vice versa?

posted by: Phoebe on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

What about Alexander Wendt's entire oeuvre? I could just provide a Google Books link to STIP.

posted by: M on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Alright, maybe just a question of specialisation/theoretical approach, but I got the following CFP and ... erm didn't understand a word:

Europe in black and white intends to address conflicting definitions of what ‘Europe’ was, is and should be.
We depart from the assumption that postcolonial Europe cannot ignore colonial histories on a national and transnational level. Thus there is the need to redefine priorities and identities in an increasingly multicultural space, taking at the same time into account the virulent conflicts that permeate contemporary interactions that cannot be understood as a mere “clash of civilizations” but rather as complex sites of conviviality (Gilroy), contact zones (Pratt), in which the unevenness of former dependencies are prolonged and contested.
Such issues cannot be isolated from debates on the possibilities and limits of postcolonial theory, as recent developments in postcolonial studies show, and have been analyzed by several disciplines with different emphases and agendas.
We wish to address and discuss these topics in a conference bringing together specialists from diverse disciplines and fields, located in different countries, and continents, thus hoping to promote a sustained discussion on a comparative basis in order to probe the limits and possibilities of postcolonial approaches to specific geographic and disciplinary contexts.

* What is the relevance of such concepts as identity and difference, race and ethnicity, or hybridity, when applied to precise social or geographical contexts, disciplinary fields, and issues related to the politics of representation?
* How are discourses on, and the production, of difference (Gupta, Ferguson) to be articulated with the role of universals in human rights and citizenship claims?
* How are representations of religion and secularism to be analysed according to the specificity of local contexts in contemporary Europe? How are the corresponding discourses to be read according to specific colonial histories?
* What about the role of emergent forms of diasporic expressive cultures in music, film, and art? How are these to be considered in regard to other narratives such as those suggested by literature, history or anthropology?
* How far are these tendencies able to contribute to an unthinking of Europe (Shohat/ Stam)?

posted by: Roland on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

I nominate Peter de Marneffe, a political philosopher at Arizona State. Here are the first three sentences of his most-cited article "Liberalism, Liberty, and Neutrality":

"Liberalism has been defended in recent years as neutral between conceptions of the good. If more neutral than other political doctrines, liberalism
would seem to be fairer because more impartial. But the claim of neutrality would be of interest to liberal theorists only if an important
connection between neutrality and rights to individual liberty were believed to obtain."

I don't understand how the latter two sentences slipped past an editor.

posted by: blejkrajli on 01.20.08 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

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