The Myth of Intelligence

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email

The Myth of Intelligence

by Susie Orbach, Laura Schwartz, Mike Schwartz, & Joe Schwartz

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 10, No. 2, March/April 1978, p. 7–14

For the past several years we have been trying to come to grips with some of the underlying problems raised by theories that human nature is biologically determined. Our concern for these issues derives from the IQ debate. Despite tremendous progress in refuting the particulars of the arguments for hereditary intelligence, despite the discovery and publicity of Burt’s fraud, and despite the impressive political attacks against the individual proponents of scientific racism, there is no sense of permanent success. In part this failure to complete the victory is a consequence of consistent support for these pernicious ideas from foundations, extensive coverage in the media, and continued tolerance from the scientific establishment. But in part it is a consequence of the failure of anti-Jensenists to confront the underlying premises of the debate.

We suggest that a problem with most critiques of hereditary IQ theories is the uncritical acceptance of the concept of intelligence itself. We believe that intelligence as a biological entity does not exist; it is purely a social construct. From this perspective we look behind IQ testing to question the underlying assumption that intelligence is a valid description of human behavior. The label “intelligent” is the other side of an oppressive coin and words like dumb, slow, stupid, smart, quick, bright, and intelligent should all be examined for their latent (fuller) meaning, dropped from our vocabulary and replaced by accurate descriptions of what we observe. In this way we can start to free ourselves from one of the worst aspects of our socialization, the classification of people according to an oppressive myth, the myth of intelligence.

Biological determinist arguments continue to be influential in spite of the complete lack of evidence to support them. Since Spencer’s Social Statics in 1851,1 each generation has been forced to confront the same arguments over and over again. Biology and sex role stereotyping were used against the first wave of feminism in the 1870’s and reappeared as a weapon against the suffragette movement. Genetics, crime and intelligence were repeated themes for social commentators from the latter part of the 19th century through the early 20th century.

Our generation has had to face virtually the same arguments as our predecessors. The XYY syndrome (the so-called criminal chromosome theory), the new theories of biologically ordained sex roles (from different amounts of brain Iateralization to sex-linked behavior-determining genes), genetics and IQ, and the treatment of social issues as medical problems—it’s the same old stuff. And even though this new round has been successfully discredited by SftP activists and others, these theories have continued to be promulgated throughout the country at one level or another.

We suggest that our own lack of clarity about what part biology does in fact play in the development of human capacities has limited the depth of our attack on the ideologies proposed by Jensen, Wilson and Herrnstein.2 Our analysis has fallen short because we have not thought through key dimensions in the debate which in and of themselves raise questions about a socialist view of human development and human nature.

As we see it, the effectiveness of the determinist argument derives not so much from highly elaborate mathematized theories but from the repeated appeals to the common sense observation that after all people are different— some have blue eyes, some have brown, children look like their parents, or if not like parents at least like uncles and aunts. The simplicity and obvious truth of this observation has backed us into a corner: One of the most effective public arguments used by Jensen et al. when all else has failed, is to accuse their critics of rejecting biology completely. This accusation has force because it is born of and feeds into the dominant western concept of human nature. We have been taught to see human nature as profoundly asocial. Developed human beings are presented as individual biological entities who then “interact” with society, grouping together out of self-interest. This view very neatly describes the prescribed behavior of people in capitalist economies. We are supposed to pursue our self-interest as relentlessly as our morality allows, joining forces with others only insofar as it aids our own selfish “pursuit of happiness.” This individualism is presented as the unalterable essence of human behavior, determining and constraining the structure of social relations in all human society.

These ideas are either actively taught to us or consistently represented in the culture through the main socializing institutions—the family, the school, the media and work. However, alternative views of human nature do exist. They arose most persuasively in the 19th century in Europe as the theoretical point of view of working people. Marx has given the most concise expression to a perspective that recognizes that the human essence is social:

… the essence of human beings is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of social relations.3

We understand Marx to mean that the biological being becomes human through social activity. It is the specifically social activities that make us human and, indeed, those biological beings raised in isolation do not become human in a way which we can comprehend. Perhaps the most startling example is the so-called wild children who have been abandoned at an early age and who do not subsequently develop as human beings.4

By “social activity” we do not mean passive environmental determinism. The human essence is not only the ensemble of social relations—human beings create those social relations. In other words, humans create themselves through social activity.

The present system of social relations has been created by human beings; it did not arise by natural law. A biological point of view effectively mystifies this fundamental fact. It is in the interest of those in control to try to persuade us that the system is natural, inevitable and unchangeable because it is in the biological nature of people to create capitalist patriarchal social relations. The few who control a social system at the expense of the many then turn around and say it is human nature that produces such an arrangement as if it were rational and expedient.

Paradoxically, Marx’s perspective that the human essence is social, not biological, is difficult to accept because of our social environment. In response to these conditions, we often seek to retain an image of ourselves as being human apart from the present culture. We imagine that there is an intrinsic, indivisible self who lives in the present system (world) and a self who lives outside of and in spite of it. That is, we imagine that we express our human natures outside the existing social institutions. We look to our ‘private lives’ to contact our humanity and express our individual uniqueness.

Dennis Foster

We understand this feeling as an alienation from the existing culture and an insistence that we are human in spite of our alienation. But this inner core of nonalienation isn’t biological. (The real me is not my DNA.) The nonalienated part of ourselves has developed in the family and in other intimate relationships. Thus, our sense of autonomy and independence is derived not from biology but is learned primarily from interpersonal relationships. We are not born autonomous. The state of nature is a myth.

It is important to enlarge this understanding because by permitting our individual sense of selves to be defined biologically, even a little bit, we cooperate in our own oppression. “The real me is my biology” deflects us into a stubborn passivity when what is really required is an active sustained mobilization to enlarge the area of nonalienated activity. This is why it is so important to recognize that we are social beings to the core. It seems to us that as long as we feel that the real self exists apart from culture we will not undertake to fully challenge those who presently control society. The biological picture mystifies the underlying social realities which need to be changed if we ourselves are to change.

The relevance of these thoughts for the IQ issue can be demonstrated by distinguishing three basic left responses to Jensenism which differ widely as to how the question of the biological basis of human intelligence capacity is dealt with: One approach is to ignore this question in favor of a direct attack on the data offered by Jensen et al. This has been done exceptionally well by Leon Kamin.5 A second approach is to ignore the data offered by Jensen in favor of a theoretical attack on the premises of a society that elevates intellectual work above manual work. The possibility of innate differences in intelligence is conceded but is declared to be irrelevant. This is the position adopted by Noam Chomsky.6 The third position attempts to synthesize the biological and environmental perspectives by arguing that the genes and the environment interact in such a way that it is impossible to sort out the relative weights of nature vs. nurture. Layzer has presented the essence of this approach in terms of a mathematical theorem.7

Each of these positions has strengths. But all of them share with Jensen an uncritical acceptance of the reality of individual human intellectual capacity.[note8][/note] Thus the hereditarians and the critics alike assume the existence and importance of intelligence as a desirable individual character trait. And this is where the question of biology and human nature comes into the IQ issue—not as a question of how the environment “interacts” with the genes to form the human being, but in the very conception of a biological individual intelligence. The concept of intelligence serves to disguise the social processes which are the essence of the human being.

The failure to address the question of intelligence itself has considerably weakened the critique. When one has learned to think of one’s value as intrinsically tied to one’s intelligence, it is hard to step back and ask just what this value system means. So it is important to explore what is meant by intelligence as a description of an individual’s behavior.

The basic definition most people use describes intelligence as the “capacity to learn.” Since this capacity is internal (it resides somewhere in a person’s brain), the judgment of its presence or absence is very tricky. In fact, that judgment can only be made inferentially—by observing behavior which is asserted to be symptomatic of great or lesser capacity. Thus, if a person learns something more quickly or more thoroughly than others, it indicates only that the individual has learned at a particular speed. It may also indicate a greater capacity to learn, but it may not. The observation of “intelligence” is always an inference of this sort and it is therefore always ambiguous. It is always a judgment. The trait “intelligence” is considered to be completely internal. But this is a contradiction. On the one hand what is sought is an individual capacity to learn, while on the other hand all learning is in fact a social process. Such conceptions of intelligence transform the results of collective efforts into commodities which are privately owned. Intelligence becomes private property

The ideologists of the heritability of intelligence are quite straightforward in acknowledging the judgemental meaning of the concept:

Even at best, however, data and analysis can take us only so far in saying what intelligence is. At some point it becomes a matter of definition. For example, we would reject any intelligence test that discounted verbal ability or logical power, but how about athletic prowess or manual dexterity or the ability to carry a tune or qualities of heart and character? More data are not the final answer, for at bottom, subjective judgement must decide what we want the measure of intelligence to measure. So it is for all scales of measurement—physical as well as psychological. The idea of measuring length, weight, or time comes first; the instrument comes thereafter. And the instrument must satisfy common expectations as well as be reliable and practical. In the case of intelligence, common expectations center around the common purposes of intelligence testing —predicting success in school, suitability for various occupations, intellectual achievement in life. By this standard the conventional IQ test does fairly well. [Italics added] 8

This is right from Herrnstein’s pen. It could not be clearer if it came out of a radical analysis. Intelligence is a judgement. The present judge is doing what it’s supposed to do; it is selecting some people for success (or reinforcing and legitimizing selection per se) and tracking the rest into suitable occupations.

Herrnstein can afford to be candid for his Atlantic Monthly audience. He is assuring them that this definition of intelligence works in their interest. For Herrnstein, mental activities that the few perform are difficult while the activities that the many perform are simple.

But this judgement, as Herrnstein admits, is simply arbitrary. He has no proof and he proposes none. It is an assertion based on the perspective of his own race, sex and class and grounded in his own prejudice.

But his prejudice is a prejudice shared by many radicals. People have come to believe in intelligence in much the same way that men (and to a lesser extent women) came to believe in the inferiority of women. The “common sense” that mathematics requires intelligence to learn while mothering does not is grounded in the entire structure of our society. Mathematics is highly rewarded, mothering is not paid. Mathematics is done by the few, mothering by the many. Mathematics is abstract, mothering is concrete. Mathematics is “analytic”, mothering is “intuitive”. But there is no evidence at all that mathematics is more difficult to learn than mothering. Our society has decided to call it so—to reward mathematics with prestige and status and to justify this reward by reference to the unproven assertion that mathematical skill is rare and precious.

If this contrast seems strained, we believe that it reflects the degree to which our thought has been conditioned by the Jensenist paradigm. In fact we can only barely conceive that mothering is a highly complex skill because the women’s liberation movement is now powerful enough to articulate and disseminate the straight facts of women’s oppression. The perceived “superiority” of “abstract” thought rests on the assertion that abstract thought is harder to do, but at the heart of this perception is a simple and arbitrary assumption.

Why make this assumption? Indeed, why bother with the quest for the “capacity” to learn at all?

Herrnstein (and the other Jensenists as well) has ample reason to pursue this quest. His task is a political one: he desires a proof that capitalism is just —that those on the top deserve their status and those at the bottom do not have the capacity to rise above their station. Such a demonstration could and does justify the status quo and therefore gives theoretical backbone to the resistance to change. It is for this reason that his work—and that of the other hereditarians—has addressed the issue of “educability” so emphatically. His work is practical. It seeks to justify a system of differential treatment, a tracking system in which most people are refused access to decent jobs and decent material conditions in general.

The concept of “intelligence”, therefore, is tailored to fit the realities of capitalism. The long process of division of labor has placed those whose role is least practical at the very top and those whose role is more practical beneath them. A class-based definition of intelligence must therefore declare abstraction as superior —thus establishing the superiority of those whose mental efforts are most removed from practical realities. Beyond this, the theory of intelligence must justify the claim which those particular people have on those elite jobs. This justification then accompanies the search for individual “capacity”. But those who have been oppressed by the system have understood these tests and classifications differently. The black liberation movement did not demand nonracist, “culture-free” I.Q. tests; it demanded the elimination of intelligence testing. It asserted the existence of equal intellectual capacity and attacked tracking on its fundamental assumption of differential capacity. Militants in the movement saw no purpose in the search for individual essences in the matter of learning; their approach was that the success of those already in “high places” was proof that anyone could do those jobs.

The concept of intelligence is a weapon of the ruling class. It validates the claim of elites to their position by supporting their claim of superior intellect. It is used to justify the resistance to the demands of working people, national minorities and women in the name of innate “capability”. And it forces each individual personally to defend their own intellect and in so doing to validate the theory of individual achievement, thus negating the reality of social knowledge.

In short, intelligence is a concept which justifies and consolidates the broadest form of tracking in capitalism. Moreover, in daily usage the term is a pernicious destroyer of individual understanding and unity. Our lives are pervaded by judgements of the “intelligence” of other people, and these judgements serve the same destructive role in personal life as they serve in the life of our society.

The imputation of “intelligence” carries with it a stricture to heed what the other person says; a label of nonintelligent is a license to ignore. Let’s face squarely what this means in our daily lives. We each establish consciously or unconsciously—our own deference system. There are those whom we accept as our “equals”, those who intimidate or inspire us as our “betters” and those whom we reject or pity as our “inferiors.”

In the case of “inferiors,” we have no need to listen and attend their opinions. We perceive them as incapable of digesting and analyzing information in a useful way. Their arguments are baseless and their attitudes are uninformed. It is this judgement that most interferes with our own development because our judgement of intelligence rests on our assessment of someone’s thought in those realms we know best. A lack of knowledge or facility quickly leads us to the conclusion that we have nothing to learn from them. In particular, this bias acts to separate university-trained people from those with practical experience.

In sum, by refusing to respect those who society and our intuition define as unintelligent we separate ourselves from the knowledge, insight, and information those of us trained as scientists have the least opportunity to acquire on our own. By using the concepts of the ruling class we do the work of the ruling class. Just as immigrant groups tried to pass for white, we in our thinking unknowingly imitate ruling class habits of thought and perception. We have been trained to do so. The “big picture”, the distaste for applied research in favor of “pure research”, the increasing status attached to academic disciplines which stress abstraction (“you have to be smart to do mathematics”) and, in some sections of the left, the tendency to theorize without doing the hard practical work on which genuine understanding and theory can be based, are all reflections of the status attached to a certain kind of thinking—a thinking that is called more disciplined, thorough and refined than practical thinking—”intelligent thinking”. It is important to bear in mind that ruling class habits of thought are based on exploiting the practical experience of others in order to get results.

At this point we would like to suggest that as far as the concept of intelligence goes we should stop using this term. We suggest that we begin to isolate and name correctly exactly what is going on when we think of someone as being “intelligent” or “stupid”. These terms assign a pernicious judgement to the observation of human activity. A student who is quick to understand the teacher is quick to understand the teacher. Calling such a person intelligent attempts an explanation for this behavior. But it is an explanation that is entirely baseless. Calling the student “intelligent” automatically clouds the social process by which the student came to be quick to understand the teacher. In its place an implied biological capacity is substituted. This is a mystification that is not in our interest because it disguises the fundamental social process that is at work.

There is an another important reason for giving up the word intelligent. We are hesitant to call anyone “stupid”, preferring instead to seek “environmental” explanations for someone’s mental “deficiency”. Thus, a student’s failure to understand the teacher quickly is something to be “corrected” rather than a valid response in its own right. By rejecting the label “intelligent” we can begin to liberate ourselves from this kind of judgemental thinking.

There is a useful precedent for our suggestion. The women’s liberation movement is demanding that people stop referring to women as being beautiful. The reasons are obvious. “Beauty” is a construct, a perpetually changing standard generated by a multibillion dollar fashion, diet, movie and magazine industry. It picks out correct ways to look and to be. It is clearly oppressive to women (and to men). Similarly, the word “intelligent” is a social construct. It exists as a label for behavior and it is employed to stigmatize and isolate people from each other. It creates distinctions where none should exist and it is time we began to realize this and do something about it. Rejecting the use of the word itself is an important first step to bring to awareness the buried social processes that have been hidden under the label “intelligent”.

We would like to make two further points. One is about biology; the other is about genius. Some biologists and geneticists have argued that everything ultimately has a genetic basis to its variation. This is not so. We know for certain that there is no genetic component to the variation in human languages. There exist between 5000 and 10,000 human languages. A Chinese infant raised in Brooklyn by Brooklyn parents will speak perfect (Brooklyn) English and vice versa. The variety in human language is entirely cultural-historical, according to present understanding, an understanding that had to be fought for. Even now some reactionary social theorists try to resurrect the theory of “primitive” languages. In Britain a theory has been proposed that working-class speech is inferior to middle-class speech, characterised by a restricted code instead of an elaborated code.9 In the US, analogous attempts to downgrade the speech of Black Americans have required a defense of Black English.10 So, as a second step in giving up the label intelligent, we urge readers of SftP to examine their attitudes towards the regional, racial and class accents of their fellow Americans. These accents are learned, pure and simple. The Brooklyn accent, the Boston accent, the Southern accent and the William Buckley accent carry lots of information, but it’s cultural information, without the slightest genetic component.

We see the same attitudes expressed about intelligence as are expressed about accents. There is nothing biological in this. It’s a case of social prejudice and class attitudes. Some accents are thought to be superior to others. Some people are thought to be smarter than others. The prejudice in the case of accents is more transparent once it is brought to awareness. In the case of intelligence the latent attitudes are more buried but they are the same attitudes formed by growing up in a culture predicated on sex, race, and class oppression. Based on our own experience, we anticipate that increasing awareness of what is actually meant by the word intelligent will provide the mechanism for giving up this idea in favor of the social understanding that is to be found.

One powerful weapon used by the biological determinists has been the ease with which one can construct plausible biological models of human thought processes. For example, consider the transmission of nerve impulses. Enzymes exist that break down the neurotransmitter, the substance that is involved in this transmission. Every enzyme has a gene that codes for it, that is, a piece of the DNA molecule that makes up a chromosome contains a sequence of atoms that participate in the manufacture of that specific enzyme. So if there is variation in the gene that codes for the enzyme, there will (usually) be variation in the composition of the enzyme. And if there is variation in the composition of the enzyme there will (probably) be variation in the efficiency with which the neurotransmitter is formed or broken down. And if there is variation in the rate at which the neurotransmitter is formed or broken down then there you have it: genetic variation in how fast people think.

This kind of biological argument is often advanced, at least by implication. But we have never asked whether there is any relevance at all to this biological characterisation of human mental activity. For even though humans are composed of tissues, organs and cells, and cells are composed of molecules and molecules composed of nuclei and electrons it is clear that the resolution into finer and finer parts must at some point become irrelevant.

As we argue the fundamentally social character of human activities, a reference to biology now may seem out of place. We have done it because the biological images are powerful and it is important to demonstrate how off the point they are. To support our earlier argument we too could draw on “science” and propose (for example) an evolutionary argument: The development in evolution of bipedalism (i.e., walking upright) produced a narrowing of the birth canal resulting in the birth of offspring which are smaller and less developed than other primates. Thus the overwhelming part of brain development of the human infant occurs in culture, in interaction with other human beings, rather than in the womb. And it is this quality, the growth of the infant in culture, that makes the human being. Apart from this development in culture the infant does not become a human being.11

We suggest that biological analyses are a sterile atomistic approach. Rather, the factor relevant to human development is an understanding of human social activity.

The final point in our argument is about the question of genius. Last year, the curators of the Whitney Museum in New York City produced a show titled: Masterpieces of American Art: The Collection of John D. Rockefeller III. Radical artists in New York organised against this show. Eighty people met weekly for a year to discuss the so-called “neutrality” of art, and to analyze and expose its hidden values and its class basis. They produced an Anti-Catalogue dissecting the paintings and exposing their appeal to the vanity of rich Americans, the absence of women and Black artists, the absence of images depicting the fight that ordinary people of America have wages against a brutal ruling elite. In order to do this they had to thrash out a position on genius, because artists, even more than scientists, are chained by the ideology of genius into accepting the legitimacy of the control of painting by the museums, the schools, the media, and the wealthy under the guise of rewarding genius. Artists must overcome the feeling that if they didn’t “make it” they “weren’t good enough.” This is the position of the Artists Meeting for Cultural Change on the question of genius:

Genius is the slow nurturing of a sensibility through countless developmental steps. It is no more intrinsic to individuals than are the clothes on their backs. An appeal to genius is a mystification of the social process whereby art is created, distributed and criticised.12

This is the last step. Without genius the ideology of intelligence is finished. There is only human effort in culture. Genius is the ultimate mystification of human effort in science as well as art. In physics, the high culture of the sciences, there is an old cynical saying: “Great discoveries are made one year before they are absolutely inevitable.” James Watson’s description in The Double Helix of his compulsive race against Linus Pauling toward the discovery of the structure of the chromosome illustrates this very well. Knowledge is created by a social process; it is only stolen by individuals. The belief in genius is the linchpin of the myth of intelligence which is the linchpin of the myth of individual achievement, which in our present arrangement is the linchpin in the justification of the theft of social production by the ruling class.

We should begin by rejecting the word intelligence altogether and end its influence on our judgments and actions.

The ideology of science holds sway. In the face of detailed images from biology, critiques of the I.Q. issue to date have failed to come to grips with the deeper issues raised about the essentially social aspect of the human essence expressed individually and culturally. In our experience—as we talk with students, colleagues and political comrades—addressing the question of individual and social alienation has led us to exciting new dimensions of thinking about how our world is constituted: we must think in terms of what people do socially and how they interact; we must actively reject biological models of human social activities.


In 1931, a young Soviet psychologist, A.R. Luria, set out to the remote Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan and Kirghizia to “test the Marxist-Leninist thesis that all fundamental human cognitive activities take shape in a matrix of social history.” The Soviet Union had just completed its most radical restructuring, which included collectivisation and the elimination of illiteracy. The time was ripe to “observe how decisively all these reforms affected, not only a broadening of outlook, but also radical changes in the structure of cognitive processes.” A faultless goal and an important thesis indeed. Let us see how Luria, an academically trained psychologist, proceeded to test the presence of a revolutionary transformation in thinking among the farmers of Uzbekistan.

Luria notes that “the majority of our subjects had never attended school and hence had no systematic training in theoretical operations.” He was interested in, among other things, the process of generalisation and abstraction and naturally enough asked his subjects to group objects in a list according to an abstract principle. Here is Luria’s account of his encounter with Rakmat (the sentences in parentheses are Luria’s notes on the interaction):

Subject: Rakmat, age 39, illiterate peasant from an outlying district. He was shown drawings of a hammer, a saw, a log and a hatchet and asked which one did not belong.

R: They’re all alike. I think they all have to be here. See, if you’re to saw you need a saw, and if you have to split something you need a hatchet. So they’re all needed here. (Employs the principle of ‘necessity’ to group objects in a practical situation)

L: Look, here you have three adults and one child. Now clearly the child doesn’t belong in this group.

R: Oh, but the boy must stay with the others. All three are working you see …. the boy can do the running for them … The boy will learn; that’ll be better, then they’ll all be able to work together. (Applies the same principle of grouping)

L: Look, here you have three wheels and a pair of pliers. Surely the pliers and the wheels aren’t alike in any way, are they?

R: No, they all fit together. I know the pliers don’t look like the wheels but you’ll need them if you have to tighten something in the wheels. (Again assigns objects functions in a practical situation) Luria picks up with the original group (hammersaw-log-hatchet).

L: Which of these things could you call by one word?

R: How’s that? If you call all three of them a ‘hammer’ that won’t be right either. (Rejects use of general term)

L: But one fellow picked three things—the hammer, saw and hatchet—and said they were all alike.

R: A saw, a hammer and a hatchet all have to work together. But the log has to be here too! (Reverts to situational thinking)

L: Why do you think he picked these three things and not the log?

R: Probably he’s got a lot of firewood, but if we’ll be left without firewood we won’t be able to do anything. (Explains selection in strictly practical terms)

L: True, but a hammer, a saw and a hatchet are all tools. R: Yes, but even if we have tools, we still need wood—otherwise we can’t build anything. (Persists in situational thinking despite disclosure of categorical term)

It seems clear that everyone is going to be better off if Rakmat brings in the crops than if Luria does. But what is significant is that revolutionary changes in Soviet society stimulated the intelligentsia to investigate revolutionary changes in thinking without first examining their own preconceptions. Luria brought with him the class biased conceptions of thinking with which we are all too familiar. “Hammer-saw-hatchet” versus “log” is the way our thinking has always been tested by those in authority. The class with the power can define who is smart and who is stupid. “Hammersaw-hatchet” versus “log” is a ruling class way of thought, characterized by a remoteness from the world of work. Hence this thinking easily characterized hammer-saw-hatchet as tools, to be used by someone else, apart from the actual purpose of the tool. But in truth “We still need wood, otherwise we can’t build anything.”

Susie Orbach is a feminist psychotherapist practicing in London. Laura Schwartz and Mike Schwartz teach history and sociology respectively at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Joe Schwartz teaches physics at the College of Staten Island. 

>>  Back to Vol. 10, No. 2  <<


  1. Eight years before Darwin published the Origin of the Species, Herbert Spencer, a nineteenth-century apostle of determinism, argued in Social statics: The conditions essential to human happiness specified. and the first of them de vel oped. (london: Chapman, 1851, p. 353) that it was unnatural to attempt the eradication of poverty by social welfare schemes since “the poverty of the incapable, the distresses that come upon the imprudent, the starvations of the idle … are the decrees of a large, far-seeing benevolence … under the natural order of things society is constantly excreting its unhealthy, imbecile, slow, vacillating, faithless members … “(See Sociobiology—A New Biological Determinism” by the Sociobiology Study Group of Science for the People.)
  2. Arthur Jensen’s most important work is “How Much Can We Boost IQ and Scholastic Achievement?” Harvard Educational Review Prep Series #2 ( 1969). See also Educability and Group Differences (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), and Genetics and Education (New York, Harper & Row, 1972). E.O. Wilson’s ideas are contained in Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1976). Richard Herrnstein’s principal error is “IQ,” Atlantic Monthly (Sept. 1971), pp. 43-64, expanded and elaborated in his book IQ in the Meritocracy (Boston: little Brown, 1973).
  3. Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” The German Ideology (New York, International Publishers, 1947).
  4. Lucien Maison, Wolf Children and the Problem of Human Nature (New York, Monthly Review Press, 1972).
  5. Leon Kamin, The Science and Politics of IQ (Potomac, Md., Erlbaum Associates, 1975).
  6. Noam Chomsky, “Psychology and Ideology,” Cognition I (1972), pp. 11-46.
  7. D. layzer, “Heritability Analyses of IQ Scores”, Science 183, p. 1259-1266 (1974).
  8. R. Herrnstein, Atlantic Monthly. VoL 228, pp. 43-64 (1971).
  9. Basil Bernstein, Class, Codes and Control, vol. I (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971). For an excellent critique of this theory, see the pamphlet by Harold Rosen, “Language and Class: A Critical Look at the Theories of Basil Bernstein,” (Bristol, England, Falling Wall Press, 1972).
  10. See William Labov, “The Logic of Non-standard English,” in P. Giglioli (ed) Language and Social Context (London, Penguin, 1972).
  11. S. Washbirn, “Tool and Human Evolution”, as annotated in D. Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur, Harper and Row, NY (1977). (Sonia Ragir pointed out this argument to us)
  12. Artists Meeting for Cultural Change, Anti-Catalogue, NY (1977).