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LQD: Living in a 'Legitimated Scam'

by ARGeezer Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 01:13:47 PM EST

  The ideological structure of a legitimated scam
  by LAWPROF at Inside the Law School Scam  (H/T  epochepoque)

"Ideology" can mean a number of things.  I'm using it here in the sense of the received consciousness of a particular social order, which legitimates that order and helps reproduce it.  The lawyer and sociologist David Riesman aptly described how ideological modes of thought produce a kind of  "sincere" mental state that allows someone to habitually believe his own propaganda.  A dominant ideology generates a set of views that distort social reality in a particular way: in a way which advances the economic interests of the dominant group, without the members of the group becoming conscious of the fact that they believe what they believe because it is in their self-interest to believe it.

A simple example might be how the ideology of free enterprise capitalism in early 21st century America creates a sincere belief in the mind of a hedge fund manager that paying himself a salary of one billion dollars, which is then taxed at a lower rate than the salary of the average American full-time worker, is wealth maximizing for society as a whole, and therefore by definition a good thing.

Indeed! How is our present world anything but competing legitimated scams? (More below the fold.)

An unavoidable difficulty that arises when one points out that in many respects contemporary American legal education functions as a scam is that this observation creates a defensive reaction, which involves claiming that it isn't a scam because no one consciously intends that it be one.  Now this claim about the scam's lack of intentionality is for the most part true.  I very much doubt that, even now, more than a small minority of people in legal academia understand themselves to be participating in a scam, and the size of the subset of people within that group who intend that it should be one may well be literally zero.

The overwhelming majority of legal academics would most sincerely and vehemently deny that law school is a scam.  Now if, despite this deeply sincere belief, law school functions as a scam anyway, then what we're dealing with is what can be called a legitimated scam.  A legitimated scam is a scam which is not understood to be such by those profiting from it, but which is interpreted as being something else altogether.  It will be seen that what a legitimated scam requires is an ideology -- a set of beliefs that allow those who profit from the structure of the enterprise to misunderstand the nature of that structure, in a way that allows them to behave in a fashion that advances their own interests, while at the same time believing (again, with all sincerity) that the purpose of their behavior is something else.

This is what makes the law school scam fundamentally different, as a qualitative matter, from something like Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.   Madoff, assuming he hadn't become what the mental health profession would characterize as delusional, did not understand himself to be doing anything other than ripping off his customers.  He was not, in other words, functioning under any ideological misapprehensions.  He was simply stealing from people, and he knew it (some of the people from whom he was stealing surely suspected what he was doing, in which case they, too, were stealing from fellow participants in the scam).

Then proceeds a list of all the supposed justifications for Law School.  

Does anyone know of where David Riesman set forth his ideas on the legitimated scam?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 01:18:26 PM EST
The article linked above contains a number of references in footnotes to works by Riesman.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 01:36:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read the linked Horowitz article on Reisman and skimmed several other links that google brought up, as well as the title link without finding a specific reference to where Riesman developed the idea of a legitimated scam. That is why I posted the question. Looks like I should boost Lonely Crown to the top of my reading list. Perhaps it is there. I have been familiar with summaries of the book since the early '60s.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 02:32:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So if one realises that it is a scam, one must refrain from doing it or live with the knowledge of being a crook. While if one does not look to hard at the justifications given one can participate in a legitimate scam while retaining a self-image as an upstanding citizen.

Which would be one answer to the question of "if you are so smart, why aren't you rich?"

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 03:27:10 PM EST
On personal experience I long ago noted that the chief beneficiaries from an unfair system or a scam were often the last to see the true nature of that system when events revealed it. It is much more comfortable to believe you benefited due to your own abilities and merit. Being smart, perceptive and in possession of a conscience is almost a prescription for marginalization.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 04:33:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Being smart, perceptive and in possession of a conscience is almost a prescription for marginalization."

It was late 1979, I was finishing my Ph.D. in biochem., sending out resumes and fielding interviews for my first career job. More than once I was told during an interview that "company policy" was to hire people with "work experience" and a first time person like myself wouldn't be considered. I thought at the time, "Well, this world of corporate America is different from academia so that's life". What I found curious at that time is that they never explained to me EXACTLY what knowledge "work experience" would provide that I didn't get in school. I figured that they thought that all people right out of school wake up in the morning, swill down a beer, take a hit off a joint, and then head off to work. That kind of behavior works in school but not in the hard-nosed competitive business world.

Nope. So what DO you learn from "work experience"? Middle managers, your likely first boss, is a lazy stupid do-nothing who fears for his job. Never do anything which will make him look bad and don't don't don't threaten his job by being productive and showing upper management what real capability looks like. I tell that to my students (tutoring clients) just to let them know what most, if not all, life looks like in the research business. Take home lesson: If you're good, have your own business or you're screwed.

Had to get that off my chest.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2014 at 06:08:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And, by the way, I don't think you have to be all that smart and perceptive to be at risk for marginalization. A big factor is being insufficiently able to mask recognition of unpleasant realities. It can be dangerous to you career, at a minimum, to let it be seen that you see through certain pretenses or scams.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2014 at 11:53:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me tell you about the manual therapy world and how one month of digging into the science side of it makes me have to keep my mouth shut 95% of the time if I want to be employed outside of running a business myself...

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Mar 15th, 2014 at 05:02:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds interesting.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 15th, 2014 at 05:11:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This rant, written by a physical therapist, gets at some of the history. That particular site has some better threads on the topic but that's the best I can find at the moment. The paradigms that have appeared since the 19th century in manual therapy:

  1. Spine / joint focus (where chiropractic originated and still largely occupies)
  2. Muscle focus
  3. Fascia focus
  4. Nervous system focus (stemming from the past ~20 years of neuroscience)

So if someone comes in with chronic low back pain stemming from an injury they had a few years ago the various paradigms will say:

  1. Your spine is out of alignment so we will adjust it.
  2. You have a postural or muscle balance issue and we can fix it by working out knots / trigger points / adhesions / etc in your muscles, and you might need to do some strength exercises.
  3. You have a postural issue and we can fix it by working out knots / trigger points / adhesions / etc in your fascia.
  4. Your brain has decided that your lower back is under threat and is generating a pain experience as a result. Your body is healthy and there are some things we can try to "convince" your brain that the threat is gone. This will also help you as an individual gain control of your pain without the need of someone like me.

Number 4 is the correct answer as best as science knows it today. 95% of chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists operate within paradigms 1 through 3. Disturbingly most MDs operate within 2 and 3, so we end up with low success rate treatments like spinal fusions. My schooling has been paradigm 2, 3, and 4, and for number 4 I lucked out with teachers who are into modern pain science. I've since dug deeper into the neuroscience myself, and there has been a lot of cognitive dissonance involved because it undid a lot of cultural beliefs I had about how the body works and what pain is.

A lot of the massage world serves a different purpose - if people are going for a "relaxation massage" then it's a leisure purchase and that's up to the person as to how they want to spend their time and money. We're also social animals and most of us are short on "social grooming." I think a lot of massage is a professionalized version of social grooming that has emerged as an agreement out of what our "creature" brains demand with what the neocortex under command of modern culture demands (or where ever culture sits in there, I have no real idea).

But if someone comes to me with chronic low back pain then I have to appeal back to science, at least in part (caring and empathy and such come from a different place). I'm mostly looking to work on people like this.

A lot of chiropractors hire massage therapists and I had an interview with one last week. I did a deep tissue massage on him (out of paradigm 2). Afterwards he said I wasn't using much pressure, and personally what I was giving was the absolute max I was willing to do, as causing pain will produce the opposite of your goals and might injure your client. He says to me "We get these guys in here that have been working on computers for 20 years. They need extremely deep pressure to break up the fascial adhesions they've built up from years of slumped posture sitting at desks. That's how they get better."

You can't physically alter fascia - it takes something like 2000 pounds per square inch to deform it. What you can do is work on the nervous system, which is what you do when you touch the skin. Nerves (including cutaneous nerves) can get physically entrapped (carpel tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, etc) which often causes pain and manual therapy can help free them with light pressure. Also, with chronic pain, touch and movement can help convince the brain that the threat the brain perceives has passed.

If I bring any of this up he's going to look at me funny and I'm not going to get hired. If I do get hired and bring this stuff up with patients I'll probably get fired.

The other problem that muddies the water is that it's entirely possible to get positive results from any of the four paradigms. Placebo effects and therapist confidence play a role, and you were still treating the nervous system even if you thought you were softening someone's fascia.

Some other issues that will be recognizable to anyone alive today:

The chiropractor is interested in having patients come in continually "for maintenance." This is how he profits. I'd like to help people resolve their pain and send them on their way. The body heals itself just fine, but our culture of professionaliztion has learned to feed off our culture of learned helplessness.

The manual therapy world is filled with gurus and borderline cults. "Check out this magic method. My seminar costs only $10k." (some of the people on the forum I linked to above were threatened with lawsuits for calling out one of these guru systems).

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sat Mar 15th, 2014 at 09:59:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]

If I bring any of this up he's going to look at me funny and I'm not going to get hired. If I do get hired and bring this stuff up with patients I'll probably get fired.

i find it's perfectly possible to work at both levels simultaneously, as in reality there is no separation, the neural connections are so profusely multidirectional.

you meet the patient at his level, if he thinks you're channeling angelic energy it's not your problem, you just take your ego out of the game, don't deny them their choice of how they frame inner, subjective experience, just do your work.

that blog you link to is a great example of busy egos ranting and bloviating, mad scientism in action.

manual touch therapy has been working well for thousands of years. even with all the magnificent tech that we have now we can't fully explain why, and the argumentation around different approaches reminds me of the hours wasted in the 60's discussing whether jimmy page was better than eric clapton.

why make such a head trip about it? like what you use, and use what you like, no need to make intellectual war around it.

the problem with using as much pressure as the chiro advocates is that you can be inaccurate and hurt someone while trying to make them better, much safer to just work with moderate or light pressure, even if sometimes deep pressure would do the trick while light pressure not so much.

i worked for a chiropractor for a while, made good money but got tired of treating people who were never going to get better, it was so draining compared to working with patients who at least could feel improvements. many of the patients at the chiro would have never got a massage (if they hadn't had a car accident), and without their having at least a little faith in the practice, i felt up against a wall treating them.

that's where the brain kicks in so importantly.

rational materialism demands we treat bodywork as purely mechanistic, and you end up with sterile argumentation because it is so much more than that, but science isn't there yet to explain the whys and wherefores.

it's commercial, this desire to find a Master Theory that Works Universally, and if you are ahead of a curve, like Ida Rolf, you can franchise a modality and do well financially.

it's so academic, this ideology-chasing, attacking and subverting, undermining and debunking, a wankfest of cosmic proportions.

that's what we do... meanwhile people suffer from skin hunger, we touch them in ways they enjoy and want to repeat, partly for remedial reasons, partly for the pleasure of surrendering to a pair of wise, experienced hands/elbows/feet.

if you don't give deep enough fascial pressure you may lose the gig. it you use that amount of pressure inaccurately, you lose the gig. so either you work so well lightly that everyone wins and you get to stay (if you want), or you figure out how to give people the deep worl they believe they want and provide relief to their illusion-ridden brains!

illusion or not, deep work from a good practitioner can make a patient feel 20 years younger in one session, but you can't just use that on anyone anytime and expect it always to work, sometime that same patient may need CS or some similar almost physical force-less approach.

it's all good, in its time and place, no need for arguments really, imo.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 16th, 2014 at 05:54:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Scientism is a bit strong for that crowd. I think scientism rejects manual therapy period. Administration of double blind testing in impossible in manual therapy, and we don't have diagnostic tests for pain (much less a full theory of pain) nor do we have them for soft tissue dysfunction.

I think they're being pressed from one side by doctors and surgeons who go at them with what I said above, and from the other side by the acolytes of guru x.

Much of the draw of that site is that one of their core beliefs among the main contributors is that there is no master technique or theory. I find it useful because massage falls prey to that as much as any field, like Rolfing as you mentioned. A lot of the talk on the site certainly devolves into people clinging to theory x or trying to wrap their heads around working without a framework.

As far as working in a chiro office, I'm primarily contemplating how to play the game - working with the chiropractor's ego, income and belief systems. While I'm inexperienced I think the bodywork is the easier part.

I am totally fine with clients believing whatever they want to believe about the work I am doing. I have never had an issue with that. When it comes to pain, though, I think we're at a point where knowing the science is an important tool because there is a large gap between cultural beliefs about pain and what science knows about it, and it can impact healing.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Mar 16th, 2014 at 03:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't resist posting  LAWPROF's concluding paragraph:
In short, ideology patrols the borders of acceptable thought in a way that is designed to maintain the status quo, without those either benefiting from or being harmed by that status quo becoming aware of that design.  Thus "design" should be understood here to be a metaphor for the unconscious circulation of social power, rather than a description of a conscious conspiracy.  Conscious conspiracies to defraud, after all, are, as any law professor could tell you, illegal.  Unconscious ones, on the other hand, tend to be much more successful.

I would submit that the histories of our cultures are, in basis, mostly a tangle of such legitimated scams. We all like to think well of ourselves and such a mechanism is wonderfully effective especially in that regard.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Mar 10th, 2014 at 08:15:32 PM EST

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