Wonderfully written history that provides a challenging perspective on what it is (or what people have thought it is) to be...



The sobering conclusion one reaches at the end of this immensely informative and detailed history of social thought is that there is more to human nature than earlier commentators have imagined.

Degler, (American History/Stanford; At Odds, 1980) is marvelously adept at synthesizing paradigms past and present, quoting the prime movers in anthropology, psychology, biology, and other social sciences. Much of his test is devoted to a chronicle of the nature (biology) or nurture (culture) debate in relation to race, male/female differences, and intelligence. Darwin is seen as partly responsible for Social Darwinism and racism since he deplored the propagation of ``the weak members of civilized societies'' and despised the Tierra del Fuegans as savages. The swing away from biological determinism came with Franz Boas and his followers and later with cultural supremists such as Leslie White and Claude Levi-Strauss. In the decades between came the intelligence-testing movement, sterilization laws, behaviorism, the ``new syntheses'' of evolutionary biology and genetics, ethology, and sociobiology. World War II did much to counter racism, and the postwar years defeated behaviorism. Today, no one paradigm rules the roost, although Degler clearly sees value in the contributions of ethology and such ideas of sociobiology as inclusive fitness. His final chapters present varying contemporary interpretations of the incest taboo, male/female differences, and evolutionary theory in relation to sociopolitical thought. He concludes with conjectures on the evolution of culture itself, with discussions of the continuity from animals to man in self-awareness, planning, and even ethics- a discussion that leads him to conclude that some of Darwin's most radical ideas are only now coming to the fore.

Wonderfully written history that provides a challenging perspective on what it is (or what people have thought it is) to be human.

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-19-506380-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

Did you like this book?