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 email@example.com
About This Issue
The article by Freda Salzman in this issue traces biological determinism from 19th century Social Darwinism and the Eugenics movement of the 1920’s to present day sociobiological theories. Recent sociobiological writings, both in academic and popular spheres, are examined and the uses of sociobiology in maintaining social stratification and oppression are documented. Human sociobiology is exposed for what it is: political ideology and not science. Although this article explores the consequences of this fact, its emphasis on methodological criticism could be counterproductive. Even when sociobiology is effectively discredited as an academic discipline, other ideologies will arise to justify an economic system based on class differences.
Even though sociobiology has been successfully challenged in academic circles the critique needs to continue in the popular sphere where determinist concepts are becoming increasingly influential. Blaming the victim for their inferior status in society is a useful tool in convincing people that their social status is due to their biology and is therefore preordained and unchangeable.
The ideology of “blaming the victim” extends beyond academic debate and finds practical use in maintaining people’s everyday oppression. Fran Conrad’s article examines how this ideology operates to affect people’s health at home and on the job. The recent plethora of popular health books generally places responsibility for health on the individual by implying that better health can simply be achieved by better personal habits such as quitting smoking, changing your diet, etc., and that poor health is therefore the fault of the sick person. Conrad emphasizes other influences on people’s health such as the unnecessary imposition of occupational hazards, environmental pollutants, food additives and unhealthful advertising propaganda.
The article gives an overview of the literature, rather than a separate, indepth analysis of each topic. She shows how the factors affecting our health are the products of an economic system based on profit rather than peoples’ well-being. More healthful conditions can be achieved as people struggle for safer work places, a more stress-free and cleaner environment, non-toxic foods, etc. However, a society in which good health becomes a possibility for all people will only be realized when the system of private and corporate profits is abolished.
The article by Frank Bove is a brief summary of the status of solar technology, and it critiques current and proposed government strategy. The article demonstrates how capitalism misdirects and inhibits solar development despite its enormous potential. Short-term reforms are suggested to initiate a more rapid and more rational transition to solar energy under our present capitalist system. As Bove argues, these reforms are necessary, since the longer we wait, the more difficult and expensive it becomes to introduce alternative technologies like solar. This is because the products of these reforms, e.g. solar buildings, will be part of our material means of production for a long time to come. This contrasts with reforms in other areas such as education and health care, where it is the impermanent, social organization of science and technology which is at issue.
We cannot expect the present economic system to create or even distribute solar energy for the people, unless it generates large corporate profits. A question still remains: Do we work within the system for such reforms to achieve popular control of energy production?
Although Bove’s article does present new information about the debate over solar energy, it does not provide a really thorough analysis of the political strategies being pursued with respect to solar technologies by the giant corporations which comprise the energy industry. Such an analysis would form a logical sequel to the present article.