The following is my first response paper for my Racial Patterns of Urbanization class:
The Mismeasure of Man
This chapter frames scientific objectivity with social prejudices and sheds light on the fact that science cannot exist in a vacuum bereft of cultural and social biases. Gould begins his argument with Socrates. Socrates stated that people “should be educated and assigned by merit to three classes: rulers, auxiliaries, and craftsmen” (as cited in Gould, 1981, p. 51). However, Socrates knew that there was no “logical argument” for this creation of a societal hierarchy (Gould, 1981). In order to propagate his societal structure, Socrates “fabricates a myth” Gould, 1981). People were assigned a metal respective of their fabricated position. Gold was the highest metal. It was the metal of the ruling class. The next class was silver. Brass and iron made up the lowest class. This was for husbandmen and craftsmen. According to Socrates, citizens were to be told that “God has framed you differently” (as cited in Gould, 1981, p. 51). Glaucon expressed doubt that the fabricated myth of the God-based hierarchy would succeed. He tells Socrates that “there is no way of accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale, and their son’s sons, and posterity after them” (as cited in Gould, 1981, p. 51).
Gould focuses a lot on the ways in which science is used as a means to validate myth. Specifically, how biological determinism is used to create hierarchies via race, class, and gender. Gould (1981) says that “a principal theme within biological determinism” is the “claim that worth can be assigned to individuals and groups by measuring intelligence as a single quantity” (p. 52). Two ways in which this has been measured have been intelligence tests and “craniometry.” According to Gould, intelligence as defined by science, within the context of IQ tests, is fundamentally flawed due to the limiting nature of the tests. Gould (1981) emphasizes that “Socrates knew he was telling a lie” while the present “strategy has [been] altered” (p. 52).
Biological determinism is “based on two deep fallacies,” says Gould (1981, p. 55). The first fallacy is that science tends to reify concepts into things. This serves to take complex concepts and creates a simple construct for science to apply “standard procedures.”
The second fallacy is “ranking.” This is our “propensity” for creating hierarchies. In the context of biological determinism, this means that people need to be grouped in an ascending order.
The combination of both fallacies works to create hierarchies in which people are ranked in a hierarchy based on worth. It is in this fallacious structure that people in “oppressed and disadvantaged groups — races, classes, or sexes” are found to be “inferior” and deserving of their “status” (Gould, 1981, p.57).
Gould states over and over again that science does not operate outside of the realm of cultural subjectivity. Science cannot “shuck the constraints” of worldview and culture. According to Gould (1981), science should strive to “reduce the ratio of data to social importance” (p. 55). This means that science is highly influenced by the social structures in which it operates and that it should work towards a lessoning of societal pressures.
I think that Gould’s writings are an excellent primer for individuals who are proponents of social justice. It gives insight into how science has been used as lever to create the dominant paradigm within our global society. The tactics of Socrates resonate with my public relations background. If you tell someone something over and over again then it ceases to be false and takes on a perception of truth. Various powers, including: the Romans, the colonial British, and the present day U.S., all relied on Socrates’ tactics.
The cooptation of nature to uphold and create inequality is appalling. Science is a human endeavor and as such, it cannot ever strip away the subjectiveness of humanity.
In social justice work, self awareness is essential to a strong foundational starting place. Science, it seems, is a field in which self awareness has been denied in order to veil subjectivity with the guise of objectivity.
As a student affairs practitioner, I am constantly faced with modern day versions of the fallacy of reification. SAT scores and high school GPA’s are used as indicators for future success. However, these intelligence measuring sticks fail to showcase the breadth and depth of an individual. They usually serve to maintain the dominant paradigms membership in higher education while marginalizing people in subordinate groups.
Toward the Final Solution
This chapter provides a historical context for the rise of racism in eighteenth century Europe. Mosse writes about the struggle between the “Enlightenment” and Christianity and how both groups/ideologies contributed to European racism.
According to Mosse (1978), “Ever since ancient times the unity of man, nature, and God had been defined as a hierarchy which, like a chain, stretched from heaven down to earth” (p. 4). This “chain” is a consistent theme throughout Toward the Final Solution. The chain is the metaphorical equivalent of a power structure or hierarchy. The “chain of being” was the rationale for the need to find the “missing link” (Mosse, 1978, p. 4). The chain is inherently linked to racism.
An early form of racism, although not yet named, was the “belief that the ‘inner man’ could be read through his outward appearance.”(Mosse, 1978, p. 5). Europeans were light skinned and were seen as matches for the period’s “ideal of classical beauty.” Thus, a white, European person was seen as pure while a Black person, whose outward appearance diverged from the beauty ideal, was seen as ugly and inferior. This chapter talks about early fears of miscegenation and “a crystallization of racial feeling” (Mosse, 1978, p. 14).
Power over “others” seems to be the presiding theme with this chapter or at least, the act of finding ways to have power over. The power of myths and symbols is astounding. The dissenting voices of the period must have been squashed by those who were power hungry. The next piece, and its reflections on capitalism, seems to forecast the need for a power hierarchy. Race is a social construct that has been wrongly created and willfully abused.
The Ideology of Power
The Ideology of Power is a chapter that summarizes the structures of baroque capitalism and the power structures that maintain said structure. Mumford (1961) states that “the two arms of this new system are the army and the bureaucracy” (p. 363). These “arms” represent the “temporal and spiritual support of centralized despotism” (Mumford, 1961, p. 363). The shift toward capitalism occurred when the economy changed from a “goods economy to a money economy” (Mumford, 1961, p. 363). The strategies to increase capital were to increase land as well as population. Expansion was seen as a good thing. In fact, this period provides the historical context of the “notion of an indefinitely expanding economy” (Mumford, 1961, p. 366).
An important aspect of the baroque ideal was the association of time, space, and motion. This represented a change in the “entire conceptual framework” (Mumford, 1961, p. 364). Time became mathematical.
It is fascinating how a chapter like this can illustrate the flaws of present day, U.S capitalism. Imperialism, hegemony, militarism, trade imbalances, I could go on and on. I think it’s important to recognize the importance of time within this system.
The section on law, order, and uniformity really resonated with me. I agree that the law exists to keep power for those who have power and to maintain privilege. I appreciate the contradictions of uniformity within bureaucracy.
Movement and the Avenue
The avenue was a means of access for trade and armies. Medieval cities were not equipped for wheeled vehicles nor were they convenient for marching armies. Capitalism needed “rapid transportation” to transport goods while armies needed “straight lines” to march. According to Mumford (1961), “To achieve the maximum appearance of order and power on parade, it is necessary to provide a body of soldiers either with an open square or a long unbroken avenue” (p. 369).
The avenue played an important role in control. An army could more easily control an urban environment if it contained avenues. Mumford (1961) states, “To rule merely by coercion, without affectionate consent, one must have the appropriate urban background” (p. 370).
Avenues also created class distinctions via transportation options. The rich went down the center while the poor were on the margins or sidewalks.
It is amazing to me how the simple creation of a seemingly innocent urban structure can perpetuate further injustices. Having been to London, I can attest that it is indeed difficult to travel in a non-grid-based city.
The literal nature of the class imbalance of an avenue was very striking to me. Persons with money were in the center while people in lower economic strata were forced to the margins.
Gould, S. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: WW Norton and Company.
Mosse, G. (1978). Toward the final solution: a history of European racism. New York: Harper and Row.
Mumford, L. (1961). The city in history: its origins, its transformations, and its prospects. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.