THE PEOPLE SHAPERS by Vance Packard
Kirkus Star

THE PEOPLE SHAPERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Packard is worried. About behavior mod, psychosurgery, subliminal advertising (back again), jury psych-ing, genetic screening,universal data files, recombinant DNA. All is grist for the rugged individualist mill. Will the family fade, identity pale, democracy topple in the face of Skinnerians, shrinks, surgeons, or scientists pursuing all roads to ""truth"" regardless of risk? Much of what Packard says is on the mark. He is savvy in the ways of psychology and advertising (vide The Hidden Persuaders). He comes up with minutiae across a wide board that is guaranteed to startle/alarm readers. (Item: New Haven became IBM's testing ground for programming everybody within the City. In went all the city's files on people.) He offers information about transplanting brains (you do it by transplanting the whole head) and he quotes Nobel laureates on the chances of achieving human clones or of prolonging life by at least twenty years. Generally he is convincing in his arguments that the people shapers are more interested in what shaping can do for them (quiet hospital wards, obedient schoolchildren, loyal Citizens) that in payoffs for the shapee. Weakest are the sections on human sexuality--natural versus artificial insemination, frozen sperm banks, surrogate mothers, sexing of offspring, etc. Here the viewing with alarm seems far-fetched and the scenarios tinged with male chauvinism. Packard's suggestions that government commissions be established to regulate research or establish priorities--and to protect the individual's right to privacy and voluntary compliance--are in line with those made by other worried citizens and many scientists themselves. But the question of who sits on the commissions, for how long, and with what power, remains unanswered. Packard ends on a note of optimism, making the point that the more people know, the less likely they are to be manipulated. A believable justification for a timely book.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown