RACISM – THE NEW INIIIRITORS
PART I – THE NEW RACISM
“1 think the nation can expect that, when they
are announced, the Conservative proposals on
immigration will be common-sense proposals. ”
(William White law , March 1978)
“Common-sense is the practical ideology of the
ruling class. ” (Gramsci)
The resurgence of organised racism, and the
successful re-rooting of a fascist organisation in
Britain, raises big questions for socialists. They
are questions, answers to which ,have for some
time now been partial, untested and inadequate.
Not only have many people been taken by surprise
at the quick successes of the National Front, but
also the picture of racism which has be~n widely
accepted, has been sorely undeveloped. 1 want to
try to develop that picture.
1 want to explore five arguments:
A – the customary picture of racism is hopelessly
B – a r.ew style of racism is emerging, for which
a systematic theory is being groomed;
C – this racism is not only politically, but conceptually, connected with a possible fascist
D – the language of much “common-sense”
discussion of race has conceded the ground to this
E – defences against racism – often starting
from liberal stances – which are posed in this
language, reveal inconsistencies and are, therefore, liable to very rapid demise in the face of a
cons is tent racis m .
1 want, finally to present a critique of the new
“By ‘racism’ is meant any claim of the natural
superiority of one identifiable human population,
group or race over-another. By ‘scientific racism’
is meant the attempt to use the language and some
of the techniques of -science in support of theories
or ‘contentions that particular human groups or
populations are innately inferior .to others in terms
of intelligence, ‘civilisation’, or other socially
defined attitudes. ” (1)
“[Racialism is] the belief that intellectual,
cultural, and moral qualities are genetically
transmitted, and differ among the main racial
groupings of mankind, that racial groups can be
graded according to these qualities as-inferior,
with the racialists’ own group at the apex. ” (2)
These two quotations are typical of a view that
is deep in many people’s understanding, of what
constitutes racism. To be a racist is to thirik that
Indians are inferior, or Jews morally corrupt, or
blacks uncivilised who will go back to the jungle
at the first beat of the tom-tom.
1 S. R.o~e: ‘Scientific Racism and Ideology’, in Sand H Rose (eds), The
PolItical Economy of Science, Macmillanl976. p113.
2 A. Sherman: ‘Why Britain can’t be wished away’, Daily Telegraph,
8 September 1976.
Very few people will admit to being racist in
these senses. If we read diSCUSSions of the iar
Right in Brifain since the war, (3) it is- clear that
until recently most movements were taint~d with
Hitlerism. They found it very difficult for that
reason to gain public acceptability. The antiimmigration organisations that grew up in the
1950s went out of their way to avoid overt connections with the Hitlerists. It was-for this reason
that there was a return to metaphors. There was
obsessive diSCUSSion, in semi-moral terms, of
disease: leprosy, T. fr., syphilis and other more
exotic illnesses were predicted, discovered and
agitated over. This emphasis on metaphors of
pollution is to be found in Powell’s early racist
speeches (in 1968). A moral panic was in process
of creation. In order to take hold effectively, it
had to be cast in a language that did not recall the
h’orrors of Nazi anti-semitism.
The frantic attempts of the National Front and
National Party, as they began to achieve some
success, to detach themselves from their Nazi
past, are further evidence uf their awareness that
the old racism was unacceptable. The hatred of
fascism still goes ‘very deep.
My argument is that, after Powell’s 1968
speeches, a new and equally dangerous version
of racism emerged. It is curious to re-read these
speeches, especially his infamous- ‘rivers of
blood’ oration. For there is a total absence of
any theory of race. It is all and only rigged
statistics, cries of pollution, and moral panics (4).
The trouble wi th metaphors is that they can appear
silly and rhetorical and (for the activists on the
Right) you can’t derive policies from them.
Further, the exaggeratednear-rantings of Powell’s
earlier utterances were all too reminiscent of a
Nuremberg style. With a theory behind you, you
can afford to seem calm and dispaSSionate.
” … having read very carefully Mr Powell’s
recent speech which is somehow held responsible for the recent deterioration in the racial
atmosphere, I find it a remarkably coolune,
baSically analYSing the facts, stating that the
situation was not hopeless if it was dealt with
now, but predicting trouble if it is not’. ” (5)
Having had one’s assumptions’ by and large built
into ‘common-sense’, it is easy to be impassive.
This evolution of racism can teach us much.
When I wa-s learning mY’politics in the 1960s, one
thing I learned more than any other from my
political mentor, Tony ClifL Socialists swim
3 See, for example, P. Foot: Immigration and Race in British Polities
Penguin 1965, and G. Thayer: The British Political Fringe, Blond 19’65.
4 See E. Powell: Freedom and Reality, Elliott 1971.
5 R. Butt: ‘Enoch Powell: wrong man to be labelled “scapegoat”‘, The Times,
10 June 1976.
against the stream of ordinaTY thinking; that is
why they need -a clear, overall strategy, and must
continually apply and reapply it in order to derive
tactics that do-a little to turn the tide. The Right,
on the other hand, with its roots in everyday
thinking, very often is only making better sense
of what appears as common-sense truth, held in
a disorganised way. This article demonstrates
how much frightening truth there is in this notion;
everyday language now embodies a racist ‘-commonsense’, this has come from classic Tory assumptions about society, and a whole racist theory is
waiting in the wings to give organised for m to that
3 The Hidden Theory
If it were not for the presence of a theory behind
the racist ‘common,;.,sense’, the obvious lacunae
and untested assumptions of its afJproach would not
so easily escape scrutiny. The bare starting points
of that ‘common-sense’ were given-by a Labour
Home Secretary in 19’16. He was speaking in a
much-herak!cd Parliamentary debate, that I shall
refer to a lot because of its significance. It was the
first debate for over three years, it came shortly
after Powell’s leaking the Hawley Report which
claimed queues of illegal passport-holders in the
-Indian sub-continent. Unlike the cut and thrust of
the debate we’ve recently grown to know and love
on the radio, it was marked also by MPs on all
sides congratulating each other on their ‘good sense
and moderation’. And yet in all this, a coherent
racist programme was announced. Ray Jenkins,
opening-for Labour, stated his premises:
“Any policy towards immigration and race
relations must start from where we are today …
First, we have a community made up of a
preponderant indigenous majority and a small,
but nevertheless substantial minority of different
ethnic origins with family ties in Africa, Asia
and the Caribbean. This part of our community
is now developing into a second generation.
Secondly, the British people occupy a largely
urban, densely populated, industrialised island
of limited size, possessed-still of great natural
and human Tesources but also with real
economic and social problems and limitations.
Our imperial history, combined with the maldistribution of wealth and prosperity in the
world, has traditionally produced strong
pressures to migrate to this country.
These are the basic facts. They necessitate-both
a strict limit on the amount and rate of inward
immigration for settlement and an acceptance
ofcertainweU-d~fined obligations to those we
have already accepted here and who are
settled. ” (6)
For a- speech evidently written by his leading Civil
Servants (the (Jccasion would allow ‘no other), the
logic is -devastattngly bad. These are not ”the
basic facts” at all. There is not ~ community.
The majority have not come from Africa, Asia and
the Caribbean, i. e. black; more immigrants were
white, from Australia and the like. Nor -do the
blacks necessarily have foreign ties of any
But even if the facts were facts, the conclusion
would not be necessitated unless a theory linking
them was at work. The theory is one hesha·res
with others in the debate, even if Jenkins’ commitment to it is far less. Opening for the Tories,
Williant Whitelaw also discussed the British
6 R. Jenkins. Hansard, 5 July 1976. pp973 -74.
community, its history, and now its fears. In a
stroke bold for its illogicality, he continued:
“. .. there are still far too many stories ofillegal immigration and overstaying which are
widely believed. I do not accept all of them,
but the old saying ‘No smoke without fire’ is
usually true, and so I conclude that there are
some illegal immigrant rackets which need to
be uncovered and smashed immediately. ” (7)
This is incredible, bad and -offensive; but effective.
He has linked up via a trampled syllogis m with a
great new Tory campaign: the ‘genuine fears’
department. Whitelaw has jumped on an assumption
that if the majority community makes a claim, it
must he justified.
Margaret Thatcher’repeated this theme in her
January 1978 speech. The core of it was concern
for the “genuine fears of the British people”. A
subtle play on words has been going orr~ First,
there was genuineness in the sense that the people
were not nut-cases:
“Many genuine people, entirely free from any
racial prejudice, want reassurance. ” (8)
Secondly, genuineness meant’ they weren’t pretending. They really did have fears. Labour was quick
off the mark to concede this.
“I acknowledge the doubts and fears about future
immigration which are felt by many of the
majority community. ” (9)
But finally there was a slide into a claim of
justifiability of fears. Not only were they real
people, not only were they really worried, but
they were right to be worried.
7 W.Whitelaw, iJlli!.. p966.
8 W.Whitelaw, ibid, p971.
9 R. Jenkins, ibid, p987.
At la5t a mall who says what we all think and feel.
The question is one of consistency. Organised
racism produces a nasty, but relatively coherent.
view of tre world. It is wrong, but it is tenable.
A racist theory, consistently applied, make~ many
of its predictions come true. It is held back from
full consistency and from full application by the
resistance offered to it as a body of ideas and as
a political force. But the ease with which a coherent
doctrine can drag half-hearted liberalism in its
direction is something we must recognise. And one
of the processes allowing this is the presence in
the ‘ordinary language’ of race, of a racist worldview.
4, The Politics of the ‘Natural Community’
10 M. Thatcher, front page Daily Mail, 31 Jan 1978. The Daily Mail gave
its entire front page to this.
11 W. Whitelaw. Hansard op. cit. p965.
12 R. Page: ‘To nature, race is not a dirty word’, Daily Telegraph,
3 Feb 1977.
13 R. Page, loco cit.
14 The use of ‘pseudo-biological’ will no doubt be questioned. But, in the
light of what 1 shall say later, ‘I think it fully justified. Tiger and Shepher,
in their study of women in Israeli Kibbutzim, tried to demonstrate the
working out of genetic pressures. These were seen to be undermining
ideological moves to sexual equality. Among the things they cite was the
apparent refusal of children brought up as though they were brothers and
sisters to be sexually interested in each other. Tiger and Shepher conclude that this is evidence of an incest taboo at work, even though the
children are not genetically related. A Horizon programme on their work
called it ‘fooling the genes’. It seems to me quite reasonable to call this
After Thatcher’s January tirade, the Daily Mail
began a series of articles entitled ‘Im migration The Great Debate’. As part of it, on 9 February
an article appeared, supposedly about a Harlesden
(London) man returning to his childhood street,
only to find it overrun with immigrants.’ “Roger
Coultas” the hero of the story called “They’ve
taken over my home town … ” had been there when
the first immigrants had a-rrived, and had welcomed
them. Subsequently, he had emigrated to Australia.
Returning, homeSick, he found a ‘massive’ 24%
black population, and his street ‘taken over’. The
“He slumped against an old Victorian statue and
said: ‘We used to have a community sing-song
round here on New Year’s Day, whole families
of ‘people. We’d end up with a chorus of Auld
Lang Syne.’ He shook his head, said he had
been robbed of his birthright, his roots. ”
“I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of
Britons have been cheated in just the same way.
And· more to the point, HOW MANY MILLIONS
ARE GOING TO SUFFER THE SAME FATE IN
THE FUTURE?”·( 15)
This idea of rootedness is more than picturesque
talk; it is held to be part of ‘human nature’. Ivor
Stanbrook MP expressed this aspect of it clearly:
“Let there be no beating about tile bush. The
average coloured immigrant has a different
culture, a different religion and a different
language. That is- what creates the problem.
It is not just because of race. The people in
our cities feel strongly about im migrants.’ I
believe that a preference for one’s own race
is as natural as a preference for one’s own
family. Therefore, it is not racialism, if by
that one means, as I do; an active hostility to
another race. It is simply humarr nature. ” (16)
15 ‘They’ve taken over my home town … ” Daily Mail, 9 Feb 1978. The last
sentence was set in very large tYPe.
16 I. Stanbrook, Hansard, p1409.
This is a peculiar notion of human nature. It is a
human nature to which culture, a way of life, are
not merely the present historical configuration of
human actions, a summary of the -past and a-continuation of it. Culture is essentially national, and
a population has no specific character without it.
~(~;~ … ,t·.~·
What this means can be seen further from a speech
by Powell. He had attacked the danger of having a
permanent minority in our midst who would, he
predicted, play endlessly on our guilt feelings. To
avoid this, heroic measures were called for:
“They would indeed be heroic measures,
measures which radically altered the prospective
pattern of our future population, but they would
be measures based on and operating with human
nature as it is, not measures which purport to
manipulate and alter human nature by laws,
This idea of a 1,000-year continuous’ develop.ment
bureaucracy and propaganda. ” (17)
either a sheer fiction, or it is so all-embracing
The change in population so elliptically referred to
there is no reason why it- shouldn’t continue
would of course come from repatriation. But why
developing happily even if blacks became 75 %of
should this be in accord with human nature-?
the population overnight. ‘But it has its place, and
Because there is a special sense of unity, and of
has a logic, if put in touch with this special idea
individuality, without which society will founder:
“The dis ruption of the homogeneous we, which
“National consciousness is the sheet anchor for
forms the essential basis of parliamentary
the unconditional loyalties and-acceptance of
democracy and therefore of our liberties, is
duties and responsibilities, based on personal
now approaching the point at which the pa1itical
with the national community, which
mechanisms of a ‘divided community’ take charge
underly civic duty and patriotism. “~2) .
and begin to operate autonomously. ” (18)
But then a big step, the big step, is taken even
Occas’ionally a suggestion is allowed to creep in that
we had accepted the idea of national
only the British are capable of this~special unity.
But this is unnecessary in a way, and clouds the
“Parliament can no more turn a Chinese into an
issue. Let the milder ve·rsion do the work; Edward
than it can turn a man into a woman. ”
“The strength of any nation, of any people, lies
Why not? Because our ‘genuine fears’ have been
in its unity, and unless a Government is prepared
We have felt our cultural barriers go up.
to deal with the problems of numbers, unless
But also because that Chinaman-, or whatever he or
they are prepared to make finite and known what
she is, must also have a thousand years.of cultural
is at present infinite and unknown,- I believe that
development behind him. Suppose the Chinaman
the hopes of all of us of creating a homogeneous
turned himself into an Englishman, by adopting
nation composed of both the immigrant and
this ‘way of life’. That just couldn’t work, because
indigenous parts of our nation will and must
a person is so interwoven with his or her natural
inevitably begin to go. ” (19).
that existence outside it is just not on.
For all the milder tone, Gardner’s statement
put it with due, honest nastiness in
somehow tells more than the hard-liners. For in
discussing a woman deserted by her husband while
what does this unity lie? Clearly, Britain has not
living in this country:
had a continuous indigenous population. Waves of
“The Home Secretary agreed with me that the
immigration have produced a rare’ old mixture
most sensible action would be to return the
since the Romans brought their candles. In what
family to their natural environment in Sierra
sense does unity give strength? It is something
Leone. ” (24)
in. the notion of nationhood.
.The com.monplace piece of sociology that human
“Britain is not a geographical expreSSion or a
beings don’t have natural environments – they
New-world territory open to all comers with one
create human, cultural environments – is overfoot in their old home and one in their new. It is
turned. Now the phrase ‘natural environment’
the national home and birthright of its indigenous
carries an enormous- theoretical loa-ci. If a group
peoples. ” (20)
has long been separated, ties of real strength
It is a tradition, inherited along with the land.
make it sensible and necessary to put them back
‘Cu~ture’, ‘way of life’, ‘tradition’, all express
again ~ even if they don ‘t want to go.
the same fundamental idea.
Racial separation now has two theoretical grounds.
What is tradition? That requires some reThey should return to their natural environment;
writing of history:
and our race feels threatened, ‘genuinely’. If we
“Of course the dominant culture in this country
don’t act on this, disaster awaits us:
is going to be the culture that has been developed
“Here is a criminal phenomenon-which is
here over a thousand years. ” (21)
with social diSintegration. My
17 E. Powell, Speech to Stretford Young Conservatives, full text in Daily
prognosis is extremely grave. It is the’ conTelegraph, 22 Jan 1977. It must be noted that there is a clear continuity
here with traditional Tory thinking. Clas~ic conservatis m stresses the
sequence of a divided society. ” (25)
separation of our natural ‘instincts’, and »OUtics with its dangers of
This was Powell on the causes of ‘mugging’. We
bureaucratic planning ‘contrary to human nature’, and excessive use of
examine this view, for it reveals that the
18 E. Powell, Speech to Hampshire Monday Club, quoted in The Times, 10
reclassification of a variety of offences (from
April 1978. Powell has forgott~n both his history of Parliament. and his
history of political thought. Far from being derived from a ‘homogenous
”we” ” Parliament arose from the need to reconcile competing interest groups and individuals.
19 E. Cardner, Hansard 00′ cit. pI 065.
20 A. Sherman, loco cit.
21 N :St. John.;. Stevas , BBC I, 2 March 1978
22 A. Sherman, Hansard.
23 A. Sherman, ‘Britain’s urge to self-destruction’. Daily Telegraph. 9
24 R. Taylor, Hansard p996.
25 E. Powell. quoted in The Times 12 April 1976.
grabbing a handbag, to certain varieties of pickpocketing, to robbery with violence) as ‘mugging
was not jus t a shift in nomenclature. It marked a
shift in theory. Statistics alone, although very
important as a weapon in arguments, will not
defeat the theory.
But this view of ‘national consciousness’,
‘national in~lividuality’ is not just a description,
prediction, or a causal account. It is also a
recommendation. This point must be stressed.
Bryan McGee, in one of the ‘Men of Ideas’ programmes, actually cited the case of racist beliefs
in a defence of the fact /value distinction. His case
was that, even if it ,,Vere proved that some races
are superior to others, no policy-recommen.:iations
could be logically derived from this knowledge.
This ignores two main points. First, facts about
racial differences (whether put in terms of
superiority, or not) come tied up with theories of
the nature of human motivation. In other words,
theories of race talk about how men will act.
Therefore, at the very least, policy-limitations
can be logically derived from those facts.
Secondly, his case completely ignores the point
that even if it were logically improper to derive
policy-recommendations, any racist having such
_’facts’ at his fingertips is going to use them for
policy. Why? Because a racist is not merely in
agreement with the facts, he is politically and
emotionally committed to them. No amount of
R M Hares will dissuade them.
‘What white Englishman will be prepared to
integrate with an Asian Muslim? Very few.
He may work with him and treat him with due
regard and respect, abiding by the letter of the
race relations legislation; but that is not my
definition of integration. We can never pretend
that an Asian Muslim is exactly the same as an
Anglo-Saxon. ” (26)
But who wanted to say they were exactly the same?
Come to that, I’m not identical with my workmates,
next-door-neighbours, wife or children. The theory
Winterton is espousing makes integration sound
like sexual intercourse! In fact, the theory does
run in this direction, for it is a ‘pack-mentality’
view of nationalism:
“National consciousness, like any other major
human drive – all of which are bound up with the
instinct for self-preservation (27) – is a major
constructive force provided legitimate chaIUlels;
thwarted an.:i frustrated, it becomes
explosive. ” (28)
There are clear policy implications here. We have
been told that it is natural to love our nation. Any
politician believing this has his orders: defend
national integrity. Of course, it must be a matter
of surprise that we have been so tolerant, so long:
‘We should pay tribute to the way in which British
people, with enormous tolerance and friendship
in the majority of cases, have accepted into their
midst a large number of people of an alien race,
culture and religion. ” (29)
But, of course, they remain aliens. And we are a
nation. Tolerance cannot last. The pack will reassert itself. Cultural instincts, blind and assertive, can only be contained so long:
“Conservatives have traditionally stood for the
26 N. Winterton. Hansard p1076.
27 Or, as Powell put it: ‘An instinct to preserve an identity and defend a
territory is one of the deepest and strongest implanted in mankind. I
happen to believe that the instinct is good, and that its beneficent effects
are not exhausted’, E. Powell, BBC1, 9 June 1969.
2‘S A.Sherman, ‘Why Britain can’t be wished away’, Daily Telegraph,
S Sep 1976.
29 W. Churchill, Hansa.rg p99S.
leO’itimacy of the English people ‘s instin~ts.
They would be wise to do so now, in a civilised
manner while there is still time. ” (30)
5 Racism Entails Fascism
I have heard it argued on occasion (by antiracists) that racism for all its objectionable
character is not necessarily connected with
fascism. True, in Germany Nazism made a
meld of the two. But the connection is not a
necessary one (31). I want to suggest the OPPOSite.
Not only is there in general a political connection,
but also there is a conceptual connection between
the new racism and its theory, and the idea of a
strong state and a nation founded on organic bloodrelationships.
Put more simply, when we examine the theoretical
underpinnings of the new racism, it takes much of
its credibility from a theory and a language–which
have implications for all spheres of political and
Listen to Sherman:
“The impOSition of mass immigration from backward alien cultures is just one symptom of this
self-destructive urge reflected in the assault on
patriotism, the family – both as a conjugal and
economic unit – the Christian religion in public
life and schools, traditional morality, in matters
of sex, honesty, puplic display, and respect for
the law, on educational values, thrift, hard work,
and other values denigrated as ‘middle class’,
i~ short, all that is English and wholesome. ” (32)
There is a bitter logic in this. If the theory of
national consciousness is taken seriously, it has to
be asked how it is that we, or our leaders, have
been l>ersuaded’ to allow all this damage to be done
by mass immigration. There are only two viable
explanations: either governments are especially
blind: or there is a self-destructive, perhaps evil
intent in their actions’. Whilst blindness might be
an explanation for a period when the iears and
resentments of the indigenous population were not
fully raised, it won’t account for refusal to act in
defence of the nation once people express their
But the logical outcome of this failure of the
nation to protect itself is that the minority who
press for these self-destructive actions must be
purged. If they do not see the error of their ways,
they put the pack at risk. How exactly they are to
be dealt with is of course opento doubt. But the
theory, with its semi-biological orientation,
would make easy- s pace for the idea that those who
support immigration, those who attack the family,
and so on, are biologicaliailures.
The reason I suggest a possible fascist development from this is that the theory sees iD1migration
as only comprehensible within an alhembracin~
theory of race. That global theory sees an all-out
31 As an example of this. I quote a leaflet from the Workel’S’ Socialist
30 A. Sherman, ‘Britain’s urge to self-destruction’. Daily Telegraph 9
League, distributed at the-AntI-Nazi League’s carnival on 1 April 1975:
“Fascism is the product of capitalist society in a state of criSis and
decay. Though vermin like the National Front begin as fringe lunatics
their hope for growth lies through the support of big business. The
capitalists must drive down wages, create mass unemployment, speed
up production, slash social service;:; and plunge the great mass of
people into misery to do it. If other means fail, fascism will be used
as it was in Nazi Germany.
The main thing about fascism is not its racialism – this is just a
useful tool for the job. The fascists in Britain have already begun
bomb attacks on workers’ trade unions and other organisations.”
The emphasis placed throughout the leaflet on the lesser importance of
racism, on its just being a “useful tool for the job”, actually gives a
semblaree of a conspiracy theory: racism is adopted because it will
32 A. Sherman, op. cit.
war emerging between Lfue nation’, and its
enemies, both internal and external. The fight for
‘the survival of the nation is one of the chief
” characteristics of fascism.
It must be pointed out that this far Right view of
national traditions has odd implications, -once held
at all consistently. On this view, Christianity gains
its importance, for example, not from any truth it
might embody, but solely from its involvement in
‘our national identity’. For, provided you are
convinced that the lies you- tell are crucial to
national survival – and that is the source of all
values – you can afford to be as cynical as you like
about the truth of the ideas (33).
Let me reiterate that 1 am-not performing a
reductio ad absurdum, and proving that all Tories
are fascists because, if you press their ideas,
they can be shown to have links with a JJrotofascist theory. Rather, I am arguing that it will
be all too easy for a real fascist movement- such
as the National Front to ride on the coat-tails of
the new Tory racism. Conceptual slides are easy
once you share a language to describe the world.
And if the situation requires consistency, resistance to a fascist use of this language will dissolve
Let me illustrate this from Dr Rhodes Boyson,
the Tory spokesman on education. In his campaign
around the war-cry ‘Return to traditional methods’ ,
Boyson has tramped from end to end of traditional
Tory doctrines. In ore of his many articles in the
Daily Mail, he summed it all up. After attackingthe ‘trendies’ (Who have characteristics remarkably
like those who embody Sherman’s rself-destructive
urge’~ for undermining our national capacities, he
33 I wonder if Peter Winch has ever realised these possible consequences of
his relativistic views in social science? His theory of social knowledge
revolves around the existence of independent ‘ways of life’, or unified
cultures. David Lamb, in-fact, has performed a useful job recently in
exploring the political sources and ramifications of his doctrine. See
D. Lamb: ‘Preserving a Primitive Society’, sOciological Review, 1977.
The consequences of this sort.of relativism can be seen in Ivor Stanbrook’s
contribution to the pollution of the Commons:
”It is part of the British way of life for the father to provide a home
for the family, and it is the same in India. The husband is expected
to provide the house for his wife. There is no rational argument in
favour of saying that a wife in another country should be in a position
to provide a home for her husband and children. It is contrary to all
common-sense, human nature, and the way of life of both Britain and
the sub-continent. 11
(I. Stanbrook, Hansard p1052)
In other words, wh.’1.t is outside a way of life is against human nature. and
is beyond rational support. For human nature, as expressed in ways of
life, is the sole source of rationality.
34 R. Boyson: ‘Day of the Dunce’, Daily Mail, 1976.
‘We are still a nation of natural competitors.
That same spirit that staked out the Industrial
Revolution and Empire can be seen daily everywhere, even at flower shows:
I make no apology for the seeming-absurdity of
the analogy. You look at Britain taking part in
the flower show and you can see the competitive
spirit at its very best.
You find the natural law of competition prevailing
there … only the best is on display; there’s no
sentimentality about rejecting but not destrOYing
those that don’t come up to the mark, no matter
how pretty-they might seem. ” (34)
That qualificatio”n has frightening imp1ications~
If a natural law of competition goes against any
sentimentality towards failures, why should we
stop short of destruction? No doubt Boyson would
have reasons, and one can surmise what they might
be. But why retain the qualification when the going
,gets hard? Presumably, when the greenhouse gets
overcrowded – and think-of the number of references
to overcrowding in debates on race – we rub out the
weaklings, the less-than-perfect. Boyson’s argument for ‘not destroying those that don’t come up
to the mark’ is the same as Tom Lehrer once put
in song: “Be nice to someone who/iS inferior to
you/You can do it if you try. ” But there is no
reason within the theory why I should do so.
-ThiS is the theory, then. Any individual quotation
I have given could have been seen as- picturesque,
metaphorical. But the sheer continual weight of it
makes it clear that a world-view is emerging. That
is why I have used so many quotations. It is a
theory of biological culturalism; a community gains
itsindividuaiity from its continuity, and from its
relation to a special environment. Hostility to outgroups is endemic and natural, but need not become
a problem as long as they stay largely separate.
If something isn’t done soon, if the state does not
act to prese rve national identity now, the situation
will inevitably and naturally become exPlosive.
People recognise outgroups by their living out of
a different biologically-based culture.
There are names for this theory: they are,
variously, human ethology and sociobiology.
These theories provide systematic versions of
the new racism. What is significant, as far as I
am concerned, is not only that they do the job, bJt
that they are beginning to be recognised as doing it.
PART 11 – THE NEW PHILOSOPHY OF RACISM
Ethology is a serious branch of natural science,
studying the patterns of behaviour of animals in
their natural environment: human ethology, as
understood by a particular group of writers, now
appearing in a new form as sociobiology, is an
unwarranted excursion into human politics. That
description would not be accepted by the growing
number of converts to this way of considering
human beings. I shall try to justify the description.
The human ethologists and sociobiologists make
no attempt to hide the politics of their ‘science’.
All their writings, without exception. spell out
consequences for human social ,life, and without
exception they are pessimistic.
Some of the ethologists have always been
‘popular’. Desmond Morris in particular, has
never found difficulty in persuading newspapers to
purvey his ideas. The Daily Mail, for instance,
ran a week-long pull-out serialisation of his book
Intimate Behaviour. But recently, there has been
a flurry ‘Of attention to these gentlemen and their
<new friends, the sociobiologists. There have been
two long TV documentaries devoted to their work,
several radio interviews, a full page 'advertisement' in the Daily Mail, and articles in women's
magazines. These are only the ones I have come
Sociobiology has already put down roots within
sociology. The Americ~ciologisi devoted the
whole of a 1977 edition to a speculative projection
of the ‘Decline and Fall of Sociology’. This cannot
be put down Simply to sociobiology, as though it
were a new discovery. Even before it appeared, the
influence of such views was spreading. Not untypical was an article by Pierre van de Berghe:
“For all the plasticity and diversity of behaviour
on which we pride ourselves, our behavioural
repertoire, though probably greater than that
of any animal known to us, is far from infinite.
There is such a thing as human nature, just as
there is a chimp nature, or an elephant
nature. ” (35)
What must be stressed is the extent to which the
human ethologists agree in their fundamental conceptualisation. They also carry little placards for
each other, to the point of silliness. (The hardback edition of Dawkins’ book has on its dustcover
a dreadful painting by Des mond Morris. ) This
common doctrine (with differences that I shall try
to explore) must be the source of their popularity.
2 The New Instinctivism
What then is this theory? ~ts take -off point is
a rejection of a ‘nature-nurture’ division. They
believe that traditional treatments of instincts and
environment miss the point:
‘We wish to avoid being hung up on the classical
dichotomy of ‘heredity versus environment’ or
‘nature versus nurture’ … When in such a frame
of mind, it is all too easy to look for a single
deterministic factor or cause which determines
behaviour. We do not think of the biological
factor simply in this way. ” (36)
Alternative terms are found for the word ‘instinct”‘,
for example ‘behavioural repertoire’ or ‘biological
35 P. van de Berghe: ‘Bringing Beasts Back In’. American Sociological
Review Vol. 39, 1974.
36 R. Means: ‘Sociology, Biology and the. Analysis of Social Problems’.
Social Problems 1967.
imperative’. What is important in the change of
title is the indication that inherited patterns must
be seen as occaSioning behaviour via reference to
the environment. The environment triggers the
inherited tendency. Behaviour is stimulated; and
once it begins, it is in a process of continual
interaction with elements within the environment.
These give it shape, force and direction.
Nor do they accept an opPOSition between heredity
and learning. Learning improves the chances of
survival, because it makes a species more flexible
in its responses. At a simple level, learning
completes already present processes; the chaffinch’s
song is partially present in a young bird; it is
completed by copying the full adult song.
But for all the emphasis on interaction between
heredity and learning, one key point carries forward
from the older conception of instincts. Robert
Ardrey expresses it with typical Churchillian
“The territorial imperative is as blind as a
cave fish , as consuming as a furnace, and it
commands beyond logic, opposes all reason,
suborns all moralities, strives for no goal
more sublime-than survival. ” (37)
Instincts, whatever we may call them, are preconscious. They function despite any knowledge a
species might have. An analogy with dams
expresses it well: let some through, or the dam
will burst, or at least flood over.
Because instincts are blind, they have too often
escaped our attention. They want to put this right:
“The ignorance of ourselves which needs to. be
stressed today is ignorance about our behaviour lack of understanding of the causes and effects of
the functions of our brains. A scientific understanding of our behaviour, leading to its control,
may well be the most urgent task that faces
mankind today.” (38)
The core is Darwinian, the key term is survival.
Wilson puts it graphically at the beginning of his
“Samuel Butler’s famous aphorism, that the
chicken is only an egg’s way of making another
egg, has been modernised: the organism is
only DNA’s way of making more DNA. ” (39)
It must be said that here is the strong point in the
instinctivists’ case (I shall use the term ‘instinctivism’ to apply to those doctrines shared by ethology
and sociobiology). They aim to treat humans as
compatible with animal evolution. A successful
organism is one which is adapted and organised
such that it will survive in particular environments,
and 1;>e able to replicate its kind. Note that all
species are adapted to particular enviroIlments.
Every species has a best environment in which its
ability to reproduce will be most advantaged. A
‘way of life’ is an adaptation to environmental conditions, or a particular life within an environment.
Whatever the environment, the goal is survival.
Not of the individual, but the genes. (The two
schools within instinctivism differ here: the
ethologists stress survival of the gene-pool, or
the group; the sociobiologists stress, rather,
survival of the individual gene-pattern. Later,
37 R.Ardrey: The Territorial Imperative, Collins 1967.
38 N. Tinbergen: ‘Of War and Peace in Animals & Man’ in H. Heinz (ed):
Man and Animal, Paladin 1972, p1l8.
39 E. Wilson: Sociobiology – the New Synthesis, Harvard UP 1975. p3.
I shall discuss the difference. It does not matter
for the moment. ) Survival is, by definition, selfish.
The necessity of selfishness gives the two schools
their fundamental concerns:
“A selfish gene is the opposite of an altruistic
gene, and an altruistic gene is defined as one
which has the effect of increasing the chances
of survival of a rival gene, at the exPense of
its own survival. By definition an altruistic
gene propagages fewer copies of itself than its
selfish rival. Therefore, automatically, the
genes whose effects we see manifested in living
bodies are selfish genes. ” (40)
The logic of this is faultless, provided two
assumptions are made. First, that genes aim at
nothing better than survival; second, that ‘gene
machines’ aim at nothing better than survival.
This second one will prove very problematic. If
the two-assumptions could be proved correct, all
genes are necessarily selfish and those that are
around us are there because of their selfishness.
Sociobiology gets its theoretical concern set by
” … the central theoretical problem of sociobiology [is]: how can altruism, which by definition reduces personal fitness, possibly evolve
by natural selection?” (41)
This central problem is given directly from the
definition of the subject-area. The same applies
to human ethology even though its issue is
apparently very different:
“Man is the only species that is a mass
murderer, the only misfit in his own society.
Why should this be so? I! (42)
This is ethology’s dominant question, because it
views survival in terms of species-survival.
In that context, intra-specific killing is surely
self-defeating. That does not mean that all
aggreSSion is evolutionarily unnatural, far from
it. What I am pointing to is the way the central
problem for ethologists derives from their definition of the subject. Aggression is natural to
species -‘survival; human aggression appears
unnatural – how can this be accounted for?
Instinctivism, as I have called it, is the
‘science of species in their natural environment’.
All species exist in natural environments, and
attain their chances of survival by being adapted
in complex ways to those environments. We must
not operate with a crude nature /nurture division.
We are dealing with a single complex, summed up
thus by Wilson;”The principal goal of a general theory of sociobiology should be an ability to predict features
of social organisation from knowledge of the
population parameters combined with information on the behavioural constraints imposed by
the genetic constitution of the species. ” (43)
Instinctivism is a theory of the whole relation of
a species to its environments. From that, the
forms and limits of internal species-life will be
derivable. In this complex, social organisation
a-ppears as the end-term to which analysis moves
after learning the pature of the specif~c genepatterns, the consequent behavioural repertoire,
and the nature of the interaction of these in population dynamics with the natural environment of the
species. We end by being able to understand the
society; it is the cons’equence of all the others.
R.Dawkins: ‘Sex and the Immortal Gene i , Vogue, April 1977.
E. Wilson, loe. eit.
N. Tinbergen, 00′ eit. p122.
E. Wilson, 00′ eit, p5.
The correspondence with the claims of the new
racis m must be apparent. Culture was, we saw,
a biologically limited and determined mode of
behaviour and thinking, existing in relation to a
natural environment. From this was derived a
belief in the necessary separateness of other
‘populations ‘ .
3 Induction and Analogy
We know ~hY they want to apply a hard Darwinism to humans. The question is: how do they
justify it? They have a number of strategies.
The first, I want to call ‘naive inductivism’.
Their basic problem is that they need to show the
presence in men and women of -significant biological
drives. A number of them at various points in their
writings adopt an inductivist strategy to prove their
case. Listen to Professor Eysenck:
“Consider, for instance, what Steven Goldberg,
in a most interesting book has called ‘The
Inevitability of Patriarchy’ … He concludes that
male dominance is a universal fact, and that its
emergence in hundreds of separate and independ ent societies is unthinkable unless there-is a
powerful biological cause of its universality. ”
This is inductive reasoning of a quite fallacious
sort. It runs: all known societies have male
dominance; therefore all conceivable societies
have male -dominance; therefore there is a biological reason for male dominance. That is bad
science and bad logic, quite apart from the
questionable nature of the initial premise.
Ironically, lurking behind this fallacious step is
an assumption which, if true, would make senSe of
this ‘leap into faith’. This assumption derives
from a lurking -environmental determinism:
“It is true that we shared a common ancestor
44 H.Eysenek: ‘Why ean’t a woman be like a man?’, Vogue. February 1978.
Examples of this argument ean also be found in L. Tiger: Men in Q!’S’.!ill§..
Panther 1972, and in many other of their writings.
with baboons, way back in our evolutionary
history, but that is not the point. The point is
that baboons, like our early human forbears,
have moved out of the lush forest environment
into the tougher world of the open country,
where tigher group control is necessary.
Forest-living monkeys and apes have a much
looser social system; their leaders are under
much less pressure. The dominant baboon has
a more significant role to play and I selected
him for this reason. ,. (45)
There is only one possible sense to this. Moving
into a new environment required a specific genetic
change. This implies than an environment, even
one as general as ‘the open country’, only allows
one sort of social organisation among primates.
That is a staggering claim, and amounts to a new
form of environmental determinism.
In that quotation from Morris, in fact, is contained the second strategy of the instinctivists:
the human/animal analogy. It is primarily the
ethologists who use such analogies; but they use
them liberally. Often, of course, we are not
invited directly to say: animal, therefore man.
Rather, we are given a description of a group of
animals, and then a description of a human
. characteristic in much the same terms; or, we
are told about a problem in grasping human
behaviour genetically, and then a non-human
species is indicated by means of which an explanationmight be possible. The list of such analogies
is large: baboons (Morris), lepilemurs (Ardrey),
ants (Wilson) , rats (Lorenz), phalaropes (Dawkins).
Immediately following the passage I have quoted,
”The value of the baboon/human comparison
lies in the, way it reveals the very basic nature
of human dominance patterns. The striking
par~Jlels that exist enable us to view the human
power game with a fresh eye, and see it for what
it is: a fundamental piece of animal behaViour. ”
(46) [my emphasis, MBj
This is only acceptable if the analogy has worked.
What is an analogy? It is a comparison-between
two separate items or processes; they are found to
be similar in one-Significant respect. When a
consequential-quality is found in one of them,
analogical reasoning suggests the other might
have it. But it depends wholly on the assumption
that the two were significantly similar in the first
place. Morris does not show this. He assumes
that there is a significant parallel. He then us’es
the parallel to account for where analogical
In pursuing the analogy between baboons ‘and
humans, he asserts:
“It is always the dominant male baboon that is
in the forefront of the defence against an attack
from an external enemy. He plays the major
role as protector of the group.” (47)
By the logic of analogy, the same ought to -be true
in human societies. But it-isn’t. Morris, quite
unabashed, does not declare ‘here the analogy
ends’ – for that would require an account of why
it had broken down. Instead, he turns it into a
method of condemnation:
“If only today’s leaders were forced to serve in
the front lines, how much more -cautious and
‘hu mane’ they would be when making their initial
decisions. ” (48)
D. Morris: The Human Zoo
D. Morris, loe. elt.
D. Morris. OD’ eit. p50
Corgi 1971. p51.
~arwin did not know wh3t a bitter s~tire he
wrote cm mankind when he showed tr.a t free
competition, the struggle for existence, which
the econoT:lists celebr3.te as the highest
historical achieve’;lent, is the normal sta. te of
t,:e animal kin6rlom.
What has become of the baboon/human analogy?
Dominant male baboons lead in a fight. Human
leaders don’t. Therefore, they ought to. Morris’
judgement flatly contradicts his facts. His analogy
turns out to be more of a moral fable, more like
Lafontaine, than a piece of scientific argument.
What enables this slide from apparent description
to evaluation? It is the environmental determinis m.
Morris’ argument runs: moving into open country
required genetic changes towards group territoriality. This put humans in a position analogous to
baboons. WhaLdisrupted this close relationship
was a separate ability in man to develop tools, and
culture. This has led to a wrecking of the close
relationship to a natural environment, and left us
with (dangerous) residual drives.
The shift to evaluation is now accounted for on
general ‘a priori’ grounds; because of a general
,commitm~nt to genetic explanation, a specific case
is investigated in these terms. No definitive piece
of evidence of genetic drives has been uncovered.
All these slides, glides and conceptual illegalities
indicate something, much the same as in Part I:
under the jumps is an ‘a priori’ theory that justifies
what are otherwise appalling moves. If so, the
theory had better pass some pretty string,ent tests
for consistency and internal coherence. If facts
are to be dismissed, if problems are dodged, there
must be good reasons. What we need to know,
therefore, is the pattern of concepts central to
instinctivist theory, and their structure.
4 Altruism and the Group
Many writers, commenting on instinctiv:ism
have noted a tendency to group human activities
into arbitrary units. We are told, for example,
that human behaviour exhibits ‘aggression” or
‘territorialityt. What makes my shouting at my
children the same as a street brawl; how can a
suicide be traced to the same root-cause as a
torturer IS sadistic impulse? In what Significant
way is war similar to two dogs barking at each
other? Something of the weakness of these groupedactivity concepts is given away by Burtt:
‘Man considers it his inherent right to own
property, either as an individual or as a
member of a grotrp, or both.” (49)
The slippage indicated between individual and group
makes a nonsense of the claim. First, how could
two such diverse systems of organisation as
communes and private property be given the same
49 W. H.
wrt. quoted in R.Ardrey,
explanation? And second, if this is conceivable,
it is hard to see why the ‘group’ should not be
infinitely large: in which case, the concept
‘property’ would cease to have meaning. ~ing
everybody’s, it would be nobody’s.
However, Fromm, Lewis and others are wrong
to suggest that these groupings are purely arbitrary. In terms of surface evidence, they certainly
appear so. But the re- is a pregiven conceptual
requirement to group isolable activiUes within
Lorenz, to explore one typical case, roots all
behaviour in ‘the big 4’ drives – feeding, reproduction, defence, and flight. Of course, in actual
behaviour all sorts of combinations are revealed,
but the-re are impo-rtant senses in which we can
still talk of the m as separate. Julian Huxley,
introducing Lorenz’s famous study, notes that he
is operating with a notion of ‘behaviour-units’:
“Are these little nartial drives comnletely
indenendent of each ‘”)ther? Do they form a
mosaic which owes its functional completeness
only to the construction of evolution? . .. In the
early days of comparative research it was thought
that one drive at a time exclusively governed the
whole animal. . .. In reality, all imaginable
interactions can take place between two impulses
which are variable independently of each other. ”
(50) [my emphasis ,ME]
Lorenz himself analysed a most famous interaction.
His study of greylag geese led him to postulate that
their pair-bonding is the evolutionary correlate of
displaced aggression; their mating rituals could be
seen as deflected attacks. They turned potential
aggreSSion towards each other into both a bonded
union and aggreSSion towards outsiders. In
Lorenz’s analysis, it is unthinkable that the bonding
should last if the external aggreSSion were done
away with somehow. One can draw pretty obvious
conclusions, if the claim is that humans pair-bond
like geese. It is the logic, in fact, underlying the
peculiar end-game of Wilson:
‘With .our nresent inadequate understanding of
the human brain, we do not know how many of the
most valued qualities are linked to more obsolete,
destructive ones. Co-operativeness towards
group-mates might be coupled with aggressivity
towards strangers, creativeness with a desire
to own and dominate, athletic ,zeal with a tendency
to violent response, and so on …. If the planned
society – the creation of which seems inevitable
in thfJ coming century – were to deliberately steer
its members past the stresses and conflicts that
once gave the destructive phenotynes their
Darwinian edge, the other phenotypes might
50 K. Lorenz: On AggreSSion, Methuen 1966, p73.
dwindle with them. In this, the ultimate genetic
sense, social control would rob a man of his
What we may call ‘higher’ responses remain
constructs of the lower drives. They do not gain
independence from them; they merely, by interaction, alter their direction. But their fundamental
orientation, which is selfish survival, remains
It is this necessary commitment to breaking
behaviour up into units, genetically determined,
that marks instinctivism more than anything else.
This is what leads to conceptualisations of
‘aggression’, ‘territorialism’, ‘pair-bonding’ and
“Our basic question is: why is man so aggressive
compared with other animals, and especially
with other primate species? My work, derived
in large part from the work of zoologists,
palaeontologists and ethologists … runs as
follows: the root cause of aggreSSion is competition for resources. There are two basic ways of
regulating that competition: territoriality which
establishes monopoly rights over resources within
a portion of usable space, and hierarchy which
creates an order of precedence in access to, and
distribution of, resources. ” (52)
Supposing we were prepared to accept these separable behaviour units, it does, of course, leave the
instinctivists in a difficult position. Not only do
they need adequate grounds for determining what
units there are (so that combinations can be understood), but they must be able to measure for their
presence. Polly Toynbee quite rightly emphasises
the difficulties of the latter in her critical piece on
Eysenck. She points out that variables that Eysenck.
claims to isolate such as ’empathy’ and ‘leadership’
are just not measurable attributes. (53) .
Nevertheless, the instinctivist project depends
upon isolating such units. Earlier, I showed how
the fundamental problem and project of the ethologist and the sociobiologist, respectively, was
re4ched by deduction from a ‘Darwinian’ premise.
Let us reconsider those examples. Dawkins and
Wilson, for the sociobiologists, have argued that
selfishness characterises the main process of
evolution. But Dawkins is quick to point out that
selfishness has a behavioural, not a subjective,
definition. This is why it is self-defeating. To be
altruistic would be to behave “in such a way as to
increase another entity’s welfare at the expense
of its own” (54). A gene for such a characteristic
would prevent itself surviving: that is why altruis m
presents such a problem for their doctrine. If
there is altruis m, it must be what we can call a
‘second-order construct’. It is particularly a problem for the sociobiologists, given their opposition
to the ethologists’ assertion that evolution favours
group-survival. This construct must make altruism compatible with individual gene-selfishness:
“Do selfish genes necessarily make selfish
bodies? Often they do, but not always ….
Consider a gene which makes its bodies behave
altruistically toward only close relatives, say,
by sharing food with a brother, or saving him
51 E. Wilson, 00. cit. p575. Once again we find evidence that instinctivism.
like the new racism, is not at all incompatible with old conservatism.
The tory dislike of planning, of social control, is notorious. That dislike
has always been based on a distrust of rationality with its ‘abstractions’.
in favour of men’s natural tendencies or ‘instincts’. On no other grounds
does dislike of planning as a generality make any sense. (And it is just as
clnexplained how planning in this way is possible. let alone such a threat.
if our ‘natural instincts’ are so strong and deeply-rooted. )
52 P. van de Berghe, 00. cit. p778.
53 P. Toynbee, Guardian, 27 Feb 1978.
54 R. Dawkins. The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press 1976. p4
THE SCENE 15 A ,I;4/HIJ…IAR ONE .•. A P~:A(‘;EJr::aL.
TAKES PLACE AT
from danger. Since there is a good chance that
an identical coPY of the very same gene is sitting
in the body of the relative saved, there is a good
chance that the gene for kin-altruis m is saving
Of course, this prescribes close limits to the
possibility of altruism – except where the genes
can be ‘fooled’. Altruism must always be .secondhand or disguised selfishness; for this version of
genetic determination conceives that all behaviour
retains its direct connection with the process ().f
survival, and onward transmisSion, of genes.
Their definitions of selfishness and altruis m only
work if they are defined in relation to survival.
If we alter the definition of altruism, for example,
to remove the reference to damaging the chances of
survival, there would be no difficulty in altruism
being recreated in a new generation. Equally, if
the altruistic behaviour was not directly rooted in
a genetic characteristic, but represented a development to be located in the ‘machine’ rather than the
‘genes’, there need be no problem of survival.
These are not empirical discoveries; they are
‘a priori’ expectations. The sophistication with
which the derivation is performed, the subtlety of
these second-order constructs, varies between
writers. But the logic of their production is the
same in all cases. And therefore the consistency
tests are generally applicable.
5 Levels of Reductionism
The first main inconsistency annears when we
examine the hard reductionis m implicit in all their
theorising. The ethologists argue that the basic
unit with which we must be concerned is the group,
or the ‘gene pool’. The gene pool is the total set of
genetic characteristics within a ponulation of a
species that enable the renroduction of that snecies.
A population is a finite group, with limits. This is
not an arbitrary point, for it makes part of the
definition of a gene pool clearer. For a nopulation
will have limits which it will maintain by having
mechanisms that exclude outsiders, and encourage
breeding in specifiable patterns. This entails that
a gene pool cannot be defined without reference to
its behavioural characteristics. It is this that leads
to one of Morris’ conclusions. All men are basically the same, but their sameness conSists, among
other things, in their group-comnetitiveness.
Dawkins, on behalf of the sociobiologists, agrees
on some particulars with the ethologists, but thinks
they have missed the central point:
55 R. Dawkins, ‘Sex and the Immortal Gene’, op. ciL
“They got it wrong because they misunderstood
how evolution works. They made the enormous
assumption that the important thing in evolution
is the good d the species (or the group) rather
than the good of the individual (or the gene).” (56)
I don’t want to enter the debate about reductionis m
as such; enough has been said, and more by
others (57). But what might make one assumntion
preferable to the other? While Dawkins might
claim that his version of Darwinism will account
for more facts, that is not the source of the reinterpretation. It is a general theory, and Dawkins
prefers it on gener::ll theoretical grounds.
But for my purposes, the two halves of instinctivism agree on one fundamental noint, and it is
this I find inconsistent, and want to challenge; for
they share what I can only call a ‘base / superstructure’ picture of the gene-body relationship.
I shall concentrate on Dawkins because·at least
he often sees where nroblems lie. He calls the body
a ‘gene machine’.
“l prefer to think of the body as a colony of
genes, and of the cell as a convenient working
unit for the chemical industries of the genes.”
Dawkins recognises that the relationship between
gene and machine is not always a simple one. As
he says, the genes may dictate that the body learn
from its environment. But the logic of survival
remains; the aim and the rationale of all behaviour
is always the onward trans mission of genes. In
this sense, the genes always determine ‘in the last
analysis’ the possibilities of behaviour; that is why
I call it a base/superstructure model. Anyautonomy the body possesses, is autonomy for the
benefit of gene-survival.
This is an impossible account. Dawkins notes that
at an. early evolutionary stage genes with a capacity
to co-operate had a greater capacity for survival.
This is to say, when a group of genes could associ56 R.Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p2.
57 See the interesting review of recent literature on reductionism by Eileen
Barker (,Apes and Angels’, Inquiry 19, 1976). One aspect of many such
discussions that worries me is that they very often restrict themselves
to arguing that emergence is logically possible. For real compatibility
with evolutionary explanation, we need arguments to demonstrate its
material necessity. Therefore, it is nQt enough to try to show, as many
philosophers have, that mind calUlot be reduced to brain, or whatever.
A ~ account of the necessity of emergence of mind, and an account
of the specific characteristics of mind, is the only definite answer.
An example of this softness of assertion can be seen in an otherwise very
useful reply to Ellis’s attack on sociology:
“Ellis asserts that scientifiC explanation must take a reductionist form.
This is utter nonsense.- One can view a phenomenon either on its ‘own’
level, as an emergent property, Q!: as a result of various underlying
phenomena. There is nothing in the philosophy of science which gives
a clue about which way to go. In fact, there is much dispute over this
question … , and the choice must ultimately be a personal one. ”
(D. Eckberg: ‘Sociobiology and the death of sociology’, The A.merican
58 R.Dawkins, ‘Sex and the Immortal Gene’.
ate together, producing comnlex reactions, the
chances of survival were increased. This would
increase still more when those genes evolved a
body, capable of behaviour. What Dawkins, with
his reductionist spectacles, has failed to understand is that even at this stage something qualitatively new has emerged. By co.-operating to form
‘gene machines’ the genes have taken the bold step
of making an environment for themselves (59).
They constitute an environment for each other, and
co-operate to make it as favourable as possible.
Of course, for a relatively inert ‘gene machine’
(into which category come most plants, etc.) it is
only an internal environ ment that is regulated. The
external context is not controlled. But to the extent
that a species evolves learning, and develons a
capacity to act on the results of learning, it gains
a canacity to manipulate elements of its external
How does this present a problem to Dawkins?
It is not the genes that do the manipulating, though
the conditions of its possibility are laid down
genetically. Nor do the genes do the learning.
It is the body that does both, with its motile implements and its organs of awareness. By what
mechanisms does a body determine its process of
. learning and its pattern of responses? Dawkins
recognises that the body receives, at most, a
general programming. From that point on, it has
to learn, and incorporate the results of its learning
into later decisions. The wider the spectrum of
learning, the more asnects of a species’ behaviour
it involves, the less sense can be made of a notion
of direct genetic determination.
It is, therefore, the ‘gene machine’, not the gene,
that learns; Dawkins grants all this. But he does
not see that it fundamentally subverts his whole
reductionist programme. Among the many aspects
of learning are the following: recognition of relevance; development of a capacity for judgement;
awareness of consequences. I have picked on these
almost at random; but they illustrate a general
point. It is possible for a species to have innate
recognition of relevance, but it is not at all flexible.
A young gull recognises its parent’s beak by an
orange spot; there is a judgement of relevance to
food-getting, and an apnropriate piece of behaviour.
The young bird necks at the spot, and the adult regurgitates food for it. The gull cannot advance its
learning one iota on this point.
But flexibility requires that an organis m can
learn what is relevant. To do this, it has to have
a certain autonomy.
A species can have innate awareness of consequences. Species that ~hare an environment with
rattlesnakes often display an innate reaction to the
sound of the snake’s tail. That is a form of awarenesS of consequence, with appropriate behaviour.
But such species cannot thereby learn about a new
possible danger, or its attendant consequences.
To be flexible, a species must be able to exercise
judgement, and learn new things about its environment. To do that, it has to have a certain autonomy.
What is this autonomy? Since its learning, its
responses cannot, by definition, be pre-programmed,
genetic determination has to take the form of the
program ming of desires: desire to learn, desire
to develop appropriate responses. The significance
of this is overwhelming: where flexible learning is
at all present, to that extent patterns of species
behaviour are mediated by a rationale which is
.other than, more than, survival.
59 I owe my understanding of the significance of this to Steven Rose, op. cit.
This does rrot at all imply incompatibility with
survival. The species is naturally concerned now
with more. These new mediations have to be
explored for their own logic, the structure of their
expression. On Dawkins’ own premises, such mediations cannot be simply regarded as an evanescent
expression of the genes’ selfishness. If they we re,
they could not fulfil their evolutionary functions of
What does Dawkins have to say about all this? He
gets in a great tangle. He admits the significance,
as do all the others, of what he calls ‘culture’.
I quote at length from the conclusion of his discussion of ‘parental investment’ and its genetic
“I have not exniicitly talked about man but
inevitably, when we think about evolutionary
arguments such as those in this chapter, we
cannot help reflecting about our own species
and our own exneriences. Notions of females
withholding copulation until a male shows
some evidence of long-term fidelity may strike
a familiar chord. . .. Most human societies are
indeed monogamous. In our own society, parental
investment by both narents is large and not obviously unbalanced …. On the other hand, some
human societies are promiscuous, and some are
harem-based. What this astonishing variety
suggests is that man’s way of life is largely
determined by culture rather than by genes.
However, it is still possible that human males
in general have a tendency towards nromiscuity,
and females a tendency towards monogamy, as
we would nredict on evolutionary grounds. Which
of these two tendencies wins in particular societies denends on details of cultural circumstance,
just as in different animal species, it depends on
ecological details.” (60)
This won’t do. It offends some baSic ground-rules,
of a sort that Ourkheim outlined in his classic essay
on dualisms. Discussing quite different dualisms,
“To say that we are double because there are two
contrary forces in us is to repeat the proble m in
different terms; it does nut resolve it. It is still
necessary to explain their opposition …. We
understand even less how these two worlds which
are wholly oPPosite, and which, consequently,
should repulse and exclude each other tend, nevertheless, to unite and interpenetrate in such a way
as to produce the mixed and contradictory being
that is man …. ” (61)
Durkheim’s lesson is a good one for us: an unresolved dualism between genetics and culture is
no better than one between good and evil, body and
soul. If human males still may have a tendency
towards promiscuity, how is it restrained by something as evidently different as ‘culture’? The answer
had better be a good one.
It isn’t; he gives a very curious answer. Imnlicitly
recogniSing the need for an account of culture that is
compatible with gene determination, he writes that
a new form of evolution has taken over:
“The new soup is the soup of human culture. We
need a name for the new replicator, a name which
conveys the idea of a unit of cultural trans mission,
or a unit of imitation.” (62)
This form of evolution has taken over from simnle
60 R.Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, pp176-77.
61 E. Durkheim: ‘The Dualism of Human nature and its Social Conditions’ in
K. Wolff (ed): Emile Durkheim Ohio State UP 1960, p333.
62 R.Dawkins, op.cit, p206 .
By analogy with the life-generating ”’orimevalsoup’ which biologists and
chemists believe constituted the seas some 3-4 thousand million
years ago” (ibid. p16).
‘Vvhenever conditions arise in which a new kind
of replicator can make copies of itself, the new
replieators will tend to take over, and start a
new kind of evolution of their own. Once this new
evolution begins, it will be in no necessary sense
subservient to the old.” (63)
In no necessary sense would it be subservient; but
equally, in no necessary sense would it take over.
Unless and until an account is given of the actual
characteristics of this new form of evolution, it
will be quite impossible to say whether it is even
compatible with the old.
Dawkins seems to realise this. He therefore
develons his line of investigation to make the
picture of culture compatible with evolution. So,
since behaviour ha:! to be reduced to units, associable with drives, culture has to be also broken into
units. This is a very odd idea, as even Dawkins
realises. What will count as a ‘me me-unit ‘? A
statement? A whole argument? What about a
whole play of Shakespeare – how many units does
it contain? Dawkins’ proposal to avoid these
ludicrous outcomes reveals how far he will go in
making culture compatible with genetic reductionism:
“The ‘gene’ was defined, not in a rigid all-ornothing way, but as a unit of convenience, a
length of chromosome with just sufficient copyingfidelity to serve as a viable unit of natural selection. If a single phrase of Beethoven’s ninth
symphony is sufficiently distinctive and memorable
to be abstracted from the context of the whole
symphony . .. then to that extent it deserves to
be called one me me. ” (64)
Out of sheer exasperation, let him pursue his case.
If a me me is so much like a gene that it can be said
to have ‘conying-fidelity’, presumably it also
competes for survival? Yes, but how? It competes
for our attention. Take an example – belief in hellfire and damnation .. A highly effective belief, notes
Dawkins, one could almost believe it had been
designed by a trained propagandist:
“However, I doubt if the priests were that clever.
Much more probably, unconscious memes have
ensured their own survival by virtue of those
same qualities of pseudo-ruthlessness which
successful genes display. The idea of hellfire is,
quite simply, self-perpetuating, because of its
own deep psychological impact.” (65)
Thus we have idea-units transmitted by imitation.
Even scientific knowledv,e, he claims, will be
trans mitted by students’ ‘imitation’ of a teacher.
Idea-units compete for our attention; they survive
simply because they are successful:
‘What we have not previously considered is that
a cultural trait may have evolved in the way it
has, Simply because it is advantageous to
His examnle is blind faith, which he claims has
survival value because it eliminates the possibility
of its own refutation, by refUSing rational enquiry.
This view of culture is, frankly, peculiar. But it
is the only one that is conceivable for this sor.t of
reductionist. If learning, or culture, is to be anything more than a simple adjunct of the genes in
their effort after survival, it must be of a compatible nature. Dawkins’ account, for all its oddity, at
least matches his reductionis rri.
But the cost of consistency is an absurd doctrine;
it therefore acts as a good check on the coherence
of the original ‘story’. For this view of learning as
imitation of units won’t do the job it was originally
designed to do. In what way can a view which puts
copying at the centre of its paradigm of learning,
explain how animals learn significant facts about
their environment and then modify their behaviour
in order to take account of what has been learnt?
But odder still than this is the complete disapnearance of a concept of truth. When discussing the new
racist defence of ‘traditional values’ as embodied in,
say, Christianity, we noted the effective loss of any
claim to the truth of such doctrines. They were
needed, and any truth was wholly accidental.
Dawkins has, quite consistently, taken the matter
still further. Success in a theory (even a scientific
one) depends on its internal capacity to survive; and
that turns on its capacity to have a powerful impact
on our minds, almost certainly unconsciously.
And yet the whole function of learning-adaptation
was to make animals more responsive to their
environments. Animals need objective information
in order to live. Genes for learning and ‘imitation’,
on this view, would surely die out, no doubt hapnily
indulging their private learned fantasies, but quite
unable to trans mit their capacity for fantasising to
a new generation.
I have spent this long on Dawkins because he, at
least, has the intelligence to realise that he has a
problem. Other instinctivists just don’t seem able
to see what all the fuss is about. Nowhere is this
better seen than in Morris:
“The snag is that when the tribes became supertribes, someone took away our biological safetyhet. It is up to us to make sure that we do not
crash to our deaths. We have taken over evolution and have no one to blame but ourselves.
The strength of our animal properties is- still
carried securely within us, but so are our
animal weaknesses. The better we understand
them and the enormous challenges they are facing
in the unnatural world of the human zoo, the better
our chances of success.” (67)
I leave the spotting of all contradictions in that
one, as an exercise for an idle half-day.
What are the problems the instinctivists have to
overcome? They have to explain not only the
nature and the structure of learning, how it
functions in relation to genetic survival, but also
how it is transmitted, how it grows. They have to
re conceptualise human reasoning and logic so that
they can be talked of in terms of survival and
evolutionary success. And when they have done
all these, they have to explain how it is possible
that culture is the villain of the piece) disrunting
stable patterns of territoriality and limited
What are we offered overall? Culture constitutes
a new form of evolution, where ideas replace genes
as means to survival and as survival machines in
themselves. Predictably, the ethologists – who are
never so open on their view of culture – have a
variant: they represent a whole culture as the unit
that mu’st survive.
This opposition concerning the unit of transmission
represents a tenSion, an opposition concerning the
degree of reduction, that is not accidental. It is
implicit within a general orientation to the world
that is closely related to instinctivism: conservativism. For in that tradition, there has always been a
tenSion, unresolved, between characteristics inherent in the individual, competitive, striving; and
67 D. Morris, op. eit, pl09.
a mode of social resolution of all these individuals’
strivings, a ‘hidden hand’? It is my belief that the
disagree ment about the extent of the reduction to be
performed owes as much to this source as it does
to a scientific disagreement. (68)
6 Instinctivism as Para-behaviorism
A useful way of exnloring the implications of the
instinctivists’ view is to consider what they see
themselves as opposing. And it is here that we run
against a very peculiar fact. The only real alternative they can conceive to instinctivism is
“Genetically, we have not evolved very strikingly
since Cro-Magnon man, but culturally we have
changed beyond recognition, and are changing at
an ever-increasing rate. . .. But I am not alone
in believing that this behavioural adjustability,
like all tynes of modifiability, has its li mits .
These limits are imposed on us by our hereditary
constitution, a constitution which can only change
with the far slower speed of genetic evolution.
There are good grounds for the conclusion that
man’s limited behavioural adjustability has been
outpaced by the culturally determined changes in
this social environment, and that this is why man
is now a misfit in his own society. (69)
Tinbergen is setting up as his opponent a notion of
infinite malleability. No one but the behaviourists
ever held such a view. Tinbergen is in fact reproducing a classic oppOSition of ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’.
This is not surprising in itself, even if it is galling
to find it imputed that instinctivism and behaviouris m constitute the sole alternatives.
What is surprising is that in their view of culture,
of human learning, they reproduce wholesale the
behaviourist view. Again we must go to Dawkins
for clear exposition, but much of it is implicit in
other instinctivists. Learning, says Dawkins, is
an adaptive mechanism allowing greater flexibility,
more movement. Behaviour comes to be at one
remove from genetic determination:
“The genes … control the behaviour of their
survival machines, not directly with their fingers
on puppet strongs, but indirectly like the computer
program mer. All they can do is to set it up beforehand; then the survival machine is on its own, and
the genes can only sit passively inside.” (70)
Imitation provides the main method of trans mission
of culture. To this extent, it is already pure
behaviouris m (71). But how are the ideas generated
in the first place? His answer is simulation:
“Survival machines which can simulate the future
are one jump ahead of survival mach’ines who can
only learn on the basis of over trial and error.”
We must see how Dawkins understands simulation:
“One way for genes to solve the problem of
making predictions in rather unpredictable
environments is to build in a capacity for
learning. Here the programme may take the
form of the following instructions to the survival
machine. ‘Here is a list of things defined as
rewarding: sweet taste in the mouth, orgasm,
68 For a consideration of tJlese two themes by an author who does not
explicitly agree with me that they have essentially the same source, see
D. Bloor: Knowledge and Social Imagery, Routledge and Kegan Paul 1976,
69 N. Tinbergen, Op. clt. p131.
70 R. Dawkins, op. cit. p56.
71 .On the question of imitation, see the Open University text: Socialisation,
the Social Learnino- approach.- It is curio:us also that in recent months
in America, several major lawsuits have been brought claiming that
children have been corrupted by TV. The claim has been that the children
were induced to imitate what they saw. Obviously the behaviourism runs
deep into popular consciousness.
72 R. Dawkins, op. cit. p63.
mild temperature, smiling child. And here is
a list of nasty things: various sorts of pain,
nausea, empty stomach, screaming child. If
you should chance to do something which is
followed by one of the nasty things, don’t do it
again, but on the other hand repeat anything
which is followed by one of the nice things. ”'(73)
What is this but a behaviourism based on genes?
Whereas Skinnerian behaviourists have traditionally
put their stress on the way particular events in the
environment reinforce behaviour in variable ways,
here is an instinctivist merely refocusing attention
on what makes reinforcement possible at all. The
pain/pleasure syndrome – with its roots right back
into English empiricism – is now Simply rooted in
genetics. Dawkins appears to recognise the
weakness of this:
“The evolution of the capacity to simulate seems
to have culminated in subjective consciousness.
Why this should have hanpened is, to me, the
most profound mystery faCing modern biology ….
Perhaps consciousness arises when the brain’s
simulation of the world becomes so complete
that it must include a model of itself. Obviously
the limbs and body of a survival machine must
constitute an important part of its simulated world:
presumably for the same kind of reason the simulation itself could be regarded as part of the world
to be simulated. Another word for this might
indeed be ‘self-awareness’, but I don’t find this
a fully satisfying explanation of the evolution of
consciousness, and this is only partly because it
involves an infinite regress – if there is a model
of the model, why not a model of the model of the
model. … ?” (74)
There is something very wrong here. Firstly, no
explanation can be given apparently for subjective
consciousness. Secondly, this account of simulation
and self-awareness leads quite logically to a para<.lox; that ought to lead to abandonment of the theory.
Dawkins, instead, stands on one paradox in order to
pronounce another. He now claims that subjective
cons ciousness – so inexplicable, so paradoxical gives us the power to “rebel against the dictates of
the genes”. It does not Signal the end of genetic
determination, only a capacity to override. Once
again, this offendS brutally against Durkheim’s
criteria for a satisfactory dualis m; for it posits
learning and consciousness as capacities designed
to serve survival, but then gives them, without
explanation, powers of rebellion against a survival
But look again at that infinite regress. It bears a
striking similarity to that which is implicit in
Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind, and explicit
in David Armstrong’s A Materialist Theiry of the
Mind (75). The problem that dogs all three is selfawareness. In Dawkins, it occurs as a problem
because simulation is seen as an experimental dryrun, as ‘vicarious trial and error’. A simulated
model has to include all those factors in an environment that might be relevant to the intended action.
As Dawkins says, the body enters as a factor in the
model early on, because an animal must reckon with
its own physical capacities. But clearly in selfawareness, the mechanis m of simulation itself
must be part of the model. But that creates a ‘hall
of mirrors’ effect, each reflection has to include
itself. So for self-awareness to be possible, an
infinite regress has to be ove.rcome.
73 R. Dawkins, OD’ cit. p6t.
74 R. Dawkins, Qlh.ru. p63-.
75 See G. Ryle: The Concept of Mind, Penguin 1963, pp186-89, and D. M.
Armstrong: A Materialist Theory of the Mind. R&KP 1958.
Ryle thinks he can avoid the problem. Discussing
“the systematic elusiveness of the I”, he argues
that the tendency to paradox can be avoided by
understanding that all apparent self-awareness is
actually awareness of something just seen, done,
thought, or felt. Self-knowledge always points to
the past. But as Dawkins is honest enough to
realise, simulation concerns the future. It concerns
the intentions, the plans, of an organis m . It refe rs
to what I might do. Either Ryle is going to say that
there is no senSe in which I can meaningfully
consider the future t or he has not saved himself
from the same problem.
Armstrong defines self-consciousness as “a selfscanning mechanism in the central nervous system”
(76). He also realises that this creates the paradox
of ·an infinite regress. If self-awareness is a mode
of perception, as he claims, then strictly to have
self-perception, the scanning-mechanism itself
needs to be scanned; as does that one; and so on.
He in fact resolves it pragmatically by saying that
at some point we do just stop. But that leaves him
with a problem. He himself has noted that perception requires judgement. Each of these scanning
operations requires a corresponding judgement of
the form “And that’s me I’m looking at”. How could
that be achieved? For there is a sense in which it
isn’t ‘me’ – it is a different mechanism. And
because the brain, and behaviour, are, pre.dictably,
regarded as separable into units, one scanning
operation is not identical with another. Selfawareness vanishes.
What do these three models have in common?
They share two connected claims. First, they all
view self-awareness as, in some sense, a species
of perception. Second, they all regard the process,
thought, model or whatever is the object of awareness as a given, an ‘object’ with settled characteristics. In Dawkins, it is the model, the simulacrum;
in Ryle, it is the thought, feeling, action just gone and therefore fixed; in Armstrong, it is the brainprocess going on independently of the scanning
operation. It is precisely these two characteristics
of their notion of self-awareness that pushes all of
them headlong into the ‘hall of mirrors’, the
76 D. M.Armstrong: ‘The nature of “mind'” in C. V. Borst (ed): The MindBrain Identity Theory, Macmillan 1970, p79.
Who are the three? Dctwkins is a genetic reductionist; Armstrong is a mechanical materialist;
Ryle is a behaviourist. All three share a fundamental picture of mind.
Their paradox is only resolveable by making a
shift in the notion of self-awareness. It has to be
seen, not as a monitoring process, seeing a mental
(or dispositional) process already underway,
determined from other sources by other causes.
It is the givenness of what is observed that generates the paradox. If self-awareness is understood,
literally, as a ‘making up of one’s mind’, there is
no independent entity or process to begin the ‘hall
of mirrors’ paradox. But this requires ending the
key assumption underlying Dawkins’, Ryle ‘s ,
Armstrong’s reductionism: that behaviour is determined by processes and causes outside consciousness. Whether it be instincts, brain-processes or
environmental stimuli, all relegate consciousness
to a reflective role.
In reality, the choice between these three
approaches is pretty academic. Gene-determination
estabilishes brain-processes which are triggered
by environmental stimuli: this simple merger of
the three positions suggests that the apparent
opposition between instinctivis m, mechanical
materialis m, and behaviouris m is much less than
one might have supposed. If I am right, it suggests
that the debate on which I was reared, the ‘naturenurture’ debate, was a pretty bogus affair. And the
instability of the environmental-behaviourist view
will have been one of the factors leading to its
easy collapse wh.en its optimistic predictions of
improvement were not borne out. (77)
What I have tried to show is that instinctivists in
general have not bothered to attempt to make sense
of culture. Dawkins, the exception produces a
doctrine of culture that can be summed up in three
propositions. It has the virtue of being broadly
compatible with his genetic reductionist theory; it
has the unfortunate character of making no sense;
and it has the oddly revealing character of being
so largely behaviourist.
77 For a subtle and brilliant analysis of one such collapse, see Finn, Grant
and Johnson: ‘Education, Social Democracy and the Crisis’, Cultural
Studies 10, 1977. Certainly much of the 1950s educational sociology had
behaviourist leanings, as did many community studies.
7 A Liberal RaCism?’
What has all this to do with the ‘new racis m ‘ ?
Let me recall Some of the main characteristics
we have seen of instinctivism.
Human behaviour is naturally selfish and territorial; this naturalness is rooted in our genetic
make-up. We would not have survived until now
were it not for our having these characteristics
T~e drive is for survival, even in human beings’.
WIthout suggesting superiority, or inferiority, we
can say that different groups have different
cultures. A culture is a syste m of learned responses’ limited and shaped by genetic require~e~ts, dedicated to survival. Naturally and
InstInctually, a group will seek to defend its
c~ltur: .. A group that did not have a genetic predIsposItIon to defend ‘its· culture would not have
~u:vived until now. Culture is not a body of truths,
It IS a mode of surviving in relation to a specific
natura~ environment. It is the inherited cunning of
a speCIes, that has made it fit for its life in its
habitat. Ideas appeal, in large measure, to nonrational, unconscious elements in us.
What implications can be drawn from these
beliefs? Of course, the instinctivists like the
. t S ‘ , are rarely consistent. Their
is marked as much by what cannot be supported as
by any positive implications. And the recipes are
always very pessimistic.
At one extreme is the outright ideological use:
“Science now seems to have caught UP with Adam
Smith. To sunport an economic lameduck is not
merely bad economics, indifferent politics but
apparently is also against our deep-seated’
For the most part, however, it is their sheer
imprecision that strikes one. Morris, talking of
what we ought to do to avoid some of the consequences of our biological nature, writes:
‘We may, if we are lucky, remain at peace and
c~nt~nue to one rate efficiently and constructively
WIthIn our group. The internal cohesive force
even without the assistance of an out-group ,
threat, may be sufficiently strong to hold us
together. . .. Only a brilliantly designed supertribal structure can avoid both (external war and
internal strife) at the same time.” (79)
What would be a brilliant design? How would it
reconcile apnarent irreconcileables? We are never
told. It is left wide open for rhetorical exPositions
nronagandist deductions and justifications.
All these are pre mised on a need to try to ston
the aggreSSion. But why should we? It is natural
selfishness an? aggreSSion are in our genes, wh~
try to stop theIr eXpression? As Wilson has argued.
nreventing them will as likely as not damage our
capacity for love. Internal cohesion will disapnear.
It is o~ this point of recommendations and policysuggestIOns that the instinctivists are very like the
new racists. Having stated their version of human
nature, they are scared of the consequences.
Listen to Dawkins:
“I am not advocating how we humans morally
ought to behave. I s tres s this, be cause I know
I am in danger of being misunderstood by those
people, all too numerous, who cannot distinguish
78 P. Greig, -The Startling Secret of Man’, Daily Mail, 7 April 1978.
One wonders how these damned totalitarian socialists managed to
suppress their deep-seated natures so well. Perhaps they’re not really
79 D. Morris. op. cit. ppll5–16
a ‘statement of belief in what is the case from an
advocacy of what ought to be the case.
Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a
society in which individuals co-operate generously
and unselfishly towards a f:!ommon good, you can
eXpect little help from biological nature. Let us
try to teach generosity and altruism, because we
are born selfish.” (80)
It must be· clear by now that I think this absurd.
First, if our nature really is like that, we would
have no interest in fighting it. Second, a good
orator could make ham paste of a logic that
suggests we should, or can, ignore fundamental
biological warnings. Third, he has given us no
coherent account of how we are to go about this
transformation. Having opened his book thus with
an assertion of faith, he ends by suddenly introduc-ing ‘conscious foresight’. On the basiS of this ‘deus
ex machina’, he says we might be able to “turn
against our creators. We, alone on earth can rebel
against the tyranny of our selfish replicat~rs”. (81)
Even if our conscious foreSight could be explained
why should it want to do this? Any true racist
would have no difficulty ‘consciously envisaging
a future’ in which we would ‘live true to our
Far more consistent with the theory is the onen
nastiness of Robert Ardrey. He takes biological
culturis m seriously. Different societies have
different cultures; these reflect stored-up genetic
propenSities. Thus: the jews are a true race, as
evidenced by their capacity to reform after the
Diaspora; the arabs are not a true race. The
Italians are a noyau. Special praise is reserved
for the South Africans:
“Today there is not a black African state which
for all the world’s good will and economic aid
does not stagger along on one side or the other
of the narrow line between order and chaos
solvency and bankruptcy, ueace and blood. ‘
Whereas the pariah state South Africa is attaining peaks of affluence, order, security, and
internal solidarity rivalled by few long established
nations. A degre.e of tyranny has contributed to
the change, but that degree is far smaller than
world feeling is yet willing to grant. What since
1960 has transmuted a divided, unstable, nearbankrupt state on the verge of racial explosion
into a stable, united, incredibly prosnering
nation in which the threat of racial exnlosion is
almost non-existent has been natural alchemy ….
Every law of the territorial principle has been set
in motion; the proprietor’s innate defence
enhancement of the energy, co-operation ~nd
acceptance of leadership … ‘f (82)
His views gain the credence of their concentS.
Where people lack means of access to data, they
conceptualise events. What ethology and sociobiology offer is a conceutualisation of things that
go beyond any individual’s experience. Because of
that, opPOSition to the new racis m, and to its
systematic version ‘instinctivism’, has to shatter
the concents. We are facing the emergence of a
new world-view. It is vicious, and racist in its
implications. But it could work. It is our job to
defeat it in fact and in theory, on the streets and
in argument, before the common-sense of the new
racism becomes the systematic fascism of a lived
80 R.Dawkins. op.cit. p3.
81 R. Dawkins. op. cit. p215.
82 R.Ardrey. ~li. p316.