Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race

Author: Ashley Montagu

Publisher: Read Books Ltd


Category: Biography & Autobiography

Page: 320

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DR. ASHLEY MONTAGU’S book possesses two great merits rarely found in current discussions of human problems. Where most writers over-simplify, he insists on the principle of multiple and interlocking causation. And where most assume that “facts will speak for themselves,” he makes it clear that facts are mere ventriloquists’ dummies, and can be made to justify any course of action that appeals to the socially conditioned passions of the individuals concerned. These two truths are sufficiently obvious; but they are seldom recognized, for the good reason that they are very depressing. To recognize the first truth is to recognize the fact that there are no panaceas and that therefore most of the golden promises made by political reformers and revolutionaries are illusory. And to recognize the truth that facts do not speak for themselves, but only as man’s socially conditioned passions dictate, is to recognize that our current educational processes can do very little to ameliorate the state of the world. In the language of traditional theology (so much more realistic, in many respects, than the “liberal” philosophies which replaced it), most ignorance is voluntary and depends upon acts of the conscious or subconscious will. Thus, the fallacies underlying the propaganda of racial hatred are not recognized because, as Dr. Montagu points out, most people have a desire to act aggressively, and the members of other ethnic groups are convenient victims, whom one may attack with a good conscience. This desire to act aggressively has its origins in the largely unavoidable frustrations imposed upon the individual by the processes of early education and later adjustments to the social environment. Dr. Montagu might have added that aggressiveness pays a higher dividend in emotional satisfaction than does coöperation. Coöperation may produce a mild emotional glow; but the indulgence of aggressivness can be the equivalent of a drinking bout or sexual orgy. In our industrial societies, the goodness of life is measured in terms of the number and intensity of the excitements experienced. (Popular philosophy is moulded by, and finds expression in, the advertising pages of popular magazines. Significantly enough, the word that occurs more frequently in those pages than any other is “thrill.”) Like sex and alcohol, aggressiveness can give enormous thrills. Under existing social conditions, it is therefore easy to represent aggressiveness as good. Concerning the remedies for the social diseases he has so penetratingly diagnosed, Dr. Montagu says very little, except that they will have to consist in some process of education. But what process? It is to be hoped that he will answer this question at length in another work. ALDOUS HUXLEY

Man's Most Dangerous Myth

The Fallacy of Race

Author: Ashley Montagu

Publisher: AltaMira Press


Category: Social Science

Page: 302

View: 517

Man's Most Dangerous Myth was first published in 1942, when Nazism flourished, when African Americans sat at the back of the bus, and when race was considered the determinant of people's character and intelligence. It presented a revolutionary theory for its time; breaking the link between genetics and culture, it argued that race is largely a social construction and not constitutive of significant biological differences between people. In the ensuing 55 years, as Ashley Montagu's radical hypothesis became accepted knowledge, succeeding editions of his book traced the changes in our conceptions of race and race relations over the 20th century. Now, over 50 years later, Man's Most Dangerous Myth is back in print, fully revised by the original author. Montagu is internationally renowned for his work on race, as well as for such influential books as The Natural Superiority of Women, Touching, and The Elephant Man. This new edition contains Montagu's most complete explication of his theory and a thorough updating of previous editions. The Sixth Edition takes on the issues of the Bell Curve, IQ testing, ethnic cleansing and other current race relations topics, as well as contemporary restatements of topics previously addressed. A bibliography of almost 3,000 published items on race, compiled over a lifetime of work, is of enormous research value. Also available is an abridged student edition containing the essence of Montagu's argument, its policy implications, and his thoughts on contemporary race issues for use in classrooms. Ahead of its time in 1942, Montagu's arguments still contribute essential and salient perspectives as we face the issue of race in the 1990s. Man's Most Dangerous Myth is the seminal work of one of the 20th century's leading intellectuals, essential reading for all scholars and students of race relations.

Man' most dangerous myth

the fallacy of race

Author: Montague Francis Ashley Montagu




Page: 304

View: 996