jones-bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Oct 21 13:18:00 MDT 1994

I am hoping that we can use this line to think through our responses to
Murray and Herrenstein's latest "research".

I want to raise here two points: their concern with differential birth
rates and the critique of  positivism. For those of you whose appreciation
for the delete key  grows as my posts grow, I do recommend skipping to the
passage which I quote on positivism.

1. So-called race suicide

What strikes me  is their complete revival of the fears of race suicide.
They are  concerned with not only the intellectual potential and
reproduction rates of the oppressed but  with the alleged differential
reproduction rates of classes bifurcated by their IQ's.  In the Atlantic
Monthly in 1989, Herrenstein lamented that high IQ women are not having
enough children, while Murray is now openly arguing that the welfare system
is a defacto fertility policy--"The technically precise description of
America's fertility policy is that it subsidizes births among poor women,
who are also disproportionately at the low end of the intelligence

Of course IQ has been collapsed here with intelligence without argument,
and Murray has intimated once again that AFDC increases birth rates,
instead of merely ameliorating poverty especially among children. But if
further cutbacks in AFDC do not further his programme to control the
already declining birth rate among the most oppressed, what other means
will be available to him--see Troy Duster's disturbing book Backdoor to
Eugenics. Already they are proposing to make birth control devices and
information more widely available to the poor.

And one wonders what means will be proposed to increase the birth rates of
high IQ women.  Remember people like George Gilder have argued that  the
total re-subordination of women in patriarchal, nuclear families is the key
prop to rekindling the spirit of enterprise: only when bourgeois men have
children and dependent wives (family ties) do they work hard enough to and
have the motive to save--which then cures the economy of the savings
shortfall engendered by a rising depreciation rate. Savings and investment
are treated as subjective variables. The influence of Gilder's
neo-Schumpeterian theories on contemporary family policy has been noted by
Pamela Abbot in the Family and the New Right, as well as indirectly by
Stephanie Coontz in The Way We Never Were.

What seemed at first  as a right-wing attempt to resubordinate all women in
patriarchal families is turning out to be a policy directed towards
curtailing the reproduction of some women and at the very least lamenting
the lack of births among others.  It seems to me that the Moynihan thesis
is now being used to justify a policy approaching eugenics: since Black men
cannot be the heads of the Brady Bunch (on genetic grounds) and since
children should not be raised in women-headed households, Black women
should  be discouraged from  having children at all.  So whereas before
Black men were to be singled out for job training, while Black women were
induced to become dependent upon them, they are now both to be ignored--on
account of a good deal of poverty getting down to an intractable core. But
then again, as Adolph Reed has pointed out, the job program the goal of
which was putatively to make good patriarchs of Black men was service in
the man-short army during the Vietnam War. Quasi-genocidal policies from
that recommendation to the very process of ghettoization have been part of
America...since its inception.

In other words, the concern here is not simply  excessive reproduction of
the oppressed but with differential reproduction between "classes", which
has often been the object of "corrective" state policy in the twentieth
century. It seems to me that what we need a rigorous marxist theory of such
policy, theory which clarfies what is at stake: socialism or barbarism.

2. the critique of M and H's positivism

It may be most effective to strike at Murray's very methods. From John
Hoffman's 1975, Marxism and the Theory of Praxis:

Positivism tries to restrict science to the world of "appearances" and thus
leaves it vulnerable to fetishism of every kind. The truth of a phenomenon
is only intellible when we really *understand* it, when we can begin to
explain it, relate it, dig out its causes, in short, reasn about it....if
people of different classes or "races" look different, behave differently,
think differently, then this is somehow "empirical" proof that class and
"race" can only be explained in physiological terms.  The historical forces
which make people what they are, which shape them and mould them, giving
them a specific appearance at a specific moment in time--these are simply
ignored--and the momentary form is ossified into a timeless reality.  No
real change is possible: all that remains is for charlatans and mystics to
carry out their fascist-type experiments in order to coerce the "defective"
and the "aberrant" to "genetically adust" to a capitalist status quo.
Postivism with its dogmas of socially irresponsible (allegedly
"value-free") science, of theory without practice, brings to an ugly head
the age-old philosophical activity of trying to freeze historical
development into timeless "verities", mental abstractions, which leave the
world the world as it is.  Sacrificing objective reality for its empirical
fragments, postivism strikes viciously at the roots of reason, our ability
to control the world around us, and defends instead a religion of passivity
and helplessless in the name of "science": we are all victims of
circumstance, genetic inheritance, accident, instinctual impulses which
nobody can control, and the only bit of philosophy we have to guide us
through life is to follow the will of those who know better (p.15-16)



More information about the Marxism mailing list