It is Allan Chase's thesis that the legacy of the Industrial Revolution has been to elevate old-fashioned ""gut racism""...


THE LEGACY OF MALTHUS: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism

It is Allan Chase's thesis that the legacy of the Industrial Revolution has been to elevate old-fashioned ""gut racism"" into the pseudoscience of eugenics. From Spencer and Malthus and Galton through Shockley, Jensen, and Herrnstein, an elite of demented aristocrats, benighted liberals, and pompous academicians has perpetuated the belief that bad genes cause pauperism, poor brains, pellagra, or prostitution. The remedy: sterilize the unfit and render not one cent to charity. Chase's monumental demolition project takes the villains in turn, quotes them at length, and then assails them with facts as they were known then or appear now. The result is a huge tome, essentially successful, but burdened with excessive repetition and the kind of righteous prose Chase so often demonstrates in The Enemy. (Chief culprits are often referred to by their full Christian names, accompanied by a rich epithet; if a villain is related by blood, marriage, or friendship to some other celebrity, this too is mentioned, leaving the reader to wonder whether he means guilt by association or a refutation of genetic linkage!) But the tide of information and sanity is clearly on Chase's side. His excellent presentation of the counterarguments and population studies that give the lie to the Jensenites in the IQ controversy as well as his final chapters on recent studies of genetic/environmental interaction at the cellular level win the day. His ""modest proposal"" that the state of Mississippi be chosen for all-out social and public health programs to see what several generations of good nutrition, preventive health measures, enrichment programs, and environmental health reduction would do to medical and psychological measurements is challenging. He is also to be congratulated for naming names--like Margaret Sanger, William McDougall, and other distinguished figures who paid homage to the eugenics cant and encouraged, directly or indirectly, Immigration Restriction Laws, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust. With some cutting and much less sermonizing, this very fine and useful book would have been a gem.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1976


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1976