Gottfried-Ryn dialogue deficient.

Author:Woltermann, Chris
Position::Paul Gottfried, Humanitas, vol. 14, p. 96, 2001; Claes G. Ryn, Humanitas, vol. 14, p. 100, 2001 on power

The tone of scholarly discourse affects its quality. Although this observation may not prove invariably true, its general validity gives me confidence to cite it in order to introduce my disappointment with the recent dialogue on power, political and otherwise, between Paul Gottfried (1) and Claes G. Ryn. (2) The authors' contrasting styles of presentation initially struck me as more salient than their substantive differences. Rereading and reconsideration allowed me to appreciate the latter, but also to recognize that some were superficial and that the differences that were truly profound received an insufficiently sharp explication from the authors themselves.

I can best understand the essential opposition between the two pursuant to an unequivocal affirmation of Professor Ryn's stronger arguments. He rightly insists, for example, on the significance of beautiful women in many real-life discussions of power, specifically including political power. Professor Gottfried's objections in this respect are feeble and unbelievable. He cannot be serious. As a historically aware scholar, he surely has read the old saw that most wars, at least until recent times, have had their origins in disputes over women and cattle (with there being room for debate on their relative importance). Admittedly, Professor Ryn falls short of forensic perfection when he adduces the hoary examples of Caesar and Mark Antony to bolster his position on female beauty and power. These examples are plausibly geared to HUMANITAS'S erudite readers, but wouldn't JFK And Bill Clinton have been more germane? Still better would have been a discussion of contemporary promiscuous sex and concomitant high incid ences of illegitimacy, venereal disease, and "fatherless" children. Who can deny the impact of these developments on governmental power in modern America? Professor Ryn, who justifiably denounces "reductionist theory" and "overly abstract... key terms" (BSV, 100-01), should know that weak examples can also achieve irrelevance.

A less abstract approach on the part of both dialogists might have enabled Professor Gottfried to accept Professor Ryn's correct assertion about power occurring in a broad societal context, "within an already existing intellectual and imaginative mind-set with its corresponding desires." (3) Professor Gottfried seems displeased by this statement only because, well, it's too abstract. Be that as it may, I cannot detect much difference between the dialogists regarding their ostensibly contentious positions on the powerful welfare state. Referring to its beginnings, Professor Gottfried writes of its having been "endorsed" by "people of little learning, who believed the state would provide for their needs by redistributing income and by 'helping out' with their families" (PIC, 98). Professor Ryn pounces on this claim with his retort: "Persons of little learning may in fact, sometimes because of their limited...

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