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|Every century has its few books which prove to be so innovative that their epochal value is only recognized by later generations. By challenging established opinions and vested interests these books often meet hostile criticism and may even be ignored in the media for their "political incorrectness". The Scientifization of Culture by the Dutch physicist Wim Rietdijk is one of these books. |
From the Introduction by Hans J. Eysenck:
"This book has great potential importance because it recognizes the essentially irrational nature of many of our social practices, and suggests that we should instead adapt the principles of science, of rationality, of enlightened self-interest in dealing with our problems - whether in education, crime prevention, industry, or whatever. This premise is worked out in great detail, relies to a considerable degree on established facts, and will for that very reason encounter violent, emotional and unreasoned opposition."
"This book takes issue with this outburst of insanity, absurdity, and egalitarianism, uncovers its many Hydra heads, and suggests the underlying causes. It is not necessary to agree with every detail; the author has well identified the target, and has suggested credible causes. The book is important because normally we don't mention these things; to do so would go against our most ingrained habits, and, worse, offend orthodoxy. Let us offend orthodoxy and rejoice that a lonely voice has found the courage to say: 'But the emperor has no clothes!'"
The Scientifization of Culture: the Book
C.W. Rietdijk: The Scientifization of Culture, with an Introduction by H.J. Eysenck, Assen (Van Gorcum) 1994. 637 pp. ISBN 90 232 2919 3. EU 43.10 / $ 57.50.
1. The book, inter alia, undermines taboos in a thoroughly scientific way by explaining them, viz. as subtle, indirect kinds of censorship operative in serving social interests. Among the concrete taboos exposed in this way:
a) The one against emphasizing IQ, the "measurement of man" in general, eugenics and the idea that men are unequal, even in moral quality and value;
b) The one against ridiculing or openly criticizing incoherent and fuzzy "modern" art that does not even aim at evoking emotion;
c) Sexual taboos and repressive sexual morals at all;
d) The taboos protecting many impostor-friendly laws, procedures and ideas against criticism, thus preventing the judicial system from simply being an instrument to enforce integrity and to help put in the right who are right (think of the role of technicalities, needless complication, "rights" having nothing to do with guilty or not guilty,...).
Why did sociology fail in explaining such taboos?
2. "Leftist" taboos, such as a) and b) above, appear to have similar less-than-sympathetic origins as "rightist" ones such as c). Moreover, scrutinizing such origins leads to a new, simpler and more coherent general social theory in which the historical awakening and "articulation" of reason, ethics and emotional life are at the centre. It is the very taboos and repressions - "political correctness" in a broad sense - that up to now prevented socio-cultural thinking from discovering various vital social processes and their coherence.
Within this scope, the book has the rare quality of both being progress-minded and emphasizing human quality: moral, genetic, as to IQ,... Of course, this is a prori logical: who is truly progressive, favours progress in human quality too. That is, he instinctively favours "measuring man" and everything which can discriminate between quality and its absence, and also eugenics and genetic engineering.
More generally, the left-right controversy appears to be muddled to the utmost now. E.g., why should there be a contrast between our favouring enlightened ideas about progress - also genetic progress as to man -, sex, a rational ethic, euthanasia, and Promethean technology on the one side, and, on the other side, our supporting most "bourgeois" values, law and order, discipline and back to basics in education, as well as our considering underclasses, anti-socials, addicts etc. as mainly moral and/or genetic rearguards? Actually, associating progress with equality became a dogma.
It is a pity that opponents of political correctness are divided among themselves, often lacking coherent dynamic ideas because of their frequent conservatism. Think of nationalism, anti-abortion, and sympathy for the far from enlightened past. If anything, this book offers the relevant coherent dynamic ideas. It may become a powerful weapon against well-organized vested interests, bureaucratic or ideological. It is practically unique in its coherent, progress-minded and optimistic socio-cultural theory that also explains taboos and political correctness as modern kinds of censorship serving major parts of the establishment.
3. What causes particularly our "progressives" to object most against the above-mentioned emphasis on human quality? Where did they take a U-turn by making various kinds of rearguards their favourites? Rietdijk argues that two factors are essential here:
a) The left got "institutionalized". That is, leftist and liberal parties as well as helping professions and organizations got an inherent interest in the number of "deprivileged" being large. Denouncing "bourgeois values" and condoning underclass values helped. Kindly accepting "disadvantaged" immigrants did a similar thing (and was also welcomed by many seeking cheap labour). A "new class" got an interest in playing down IQ, genes and moral quality, and in positing the primacy of socio-political factors. The Stephen J. Goulds, Lewontins and Kamins are its self-interest-disguising ideologists.
b) Intellectuals, partly as such "new class" of bureaucrats and policymakers, and their "progressive" ideas were integrated into the establishment, getting an interest in power wielding, the status quo and especially in - compare a) - not reducing the number of "deprivileged" via bourgeois values, law and order and eugenics. Hence, e.g., the taboo against the latter and against everything implying that largely genetic factors such as IQ cause their bureaucracies and "help" to be less effective than better ("bourgeois") values and eugenics.
4. The very core of the book is the idea that an (often ideologically disguised) continuous contrast and struggle appears between two central socio-cultural forces:
a) The main thrust in historical evolution - i.e. a progressive awakening, articulation and wider application of reason, and analogous awakenings and articulations as to human conscience and emotions -, that could be characterized as progress in the broadest sense;
b) Forces that are prejudiced by such evolution; prototypical examples of them are nobility and clergy in the 18th and 19th centuries, which lost power and privilege by the Enlightenment and related developments. But also more general vested interests, corruption, misleading ideology, dogma, convention and those thriving on troubled waters have to fear from the "red thread of enlightenment" meant under a). Hence the forces in question will (hiddenly, disguisedly) turn against it; against reason, emphasis on rational ethics and emotional awakening.
The book shows that most important socio-cultural problems and enigmas can be solved by conceiving them as specimens of the struggle in question. It also explains why, in the continuing conflict between the forces meant under a) and b), respectively, the first will ever more gain on the second by the very scientifization of culture: rationalization (also of values), new technology and more transparency and understanding which contrast with the troubled waters in the broadest sense on which negative forces will thrive.
5. Inter alia, concrete explanations in the book refer to:
a) Philosophical relativism and incoherent "modern" art that pervade our cultural climate, relativism doing so among other things with respect to sociology and about all philosophical "schools", from existentialism to postmodernism. Their basic common message is: The world is chaotic, man is irrational, values are subjective, hence reason and moral exertion are powerless as to our real problems. That is, progress is impossible or does not even make objective sense, just like good and evil. The book explains that such heavenly music for all conservatives - and for those having an uneasy conscience - by unconscious forces became the predominant ideology among them. It shows that the relevant irrationalism and relativism - far from being "progressive" - can best be conceived as twentieth-century successors, as anti-enlightened forces, of former traditionalism and clericalism.
b) The practically "incurable mess" in education (especially in US high schools). It is elucidated how it mainly originates from some convergent "leftist" and "rightist" influences. Viz. anti-intellectualism, which is prominent in the forces meant under 4 b) above, egalitarianism in which the left has an interest, and also the interest especially the consumer industry has in producing an easy-going, here-and-now-oriented, not very disciplined and socially rather than intellectually interested, pretty superficial and conformistic type of man. Hence, "back to basics and discipline" remains more theory than practice.
c) The equally almost incurable mess in law enforcement. Are conservatives sincere in fighting it? Lawyers as well as rehabilitation officers, the rich who can afford expensive lawyers as well as social workers (and those who for political reasons propagate that crime has social rather than moral and genetic causes) all have an interest in the same thing. Viz. that complication and technicalities, various rules excluding still relevant evidence, and innumerable "rights" keep the legal system far from becoming a simple, transparent instrument enforcing integrity and moral justice by practically all available means.
6. Within the scope of the fundamental contrast between the two forces indicated in (4) above, the author also fundamentally extends a theory of sociologist Helmut Schelsky. The latter posited that most (especially leftist) ideologues used to be distrustful of technology because it makes man less dependent on the overwhelming powers of nature. And, Schelsky adds, it is precisely such powers on which the ideologists - whom he calls "Heilsherrschaften" - based their power from time immemorial.
Rietdijk extends this: Not merely technology but also reason, rationalism, and the idea that the world is coherent and shows a factual and moral order, and hence can be improved, are inimical to both the vested-interests-shielding and manipulating ideologues and establishments. Moreover, these do not merely want man to be dependent on the overwhelming powers of nature, from which technology frees him, but even more want him dependent on the overwhelming powers of society, of "the others". Hence they love uncertainty and relativism, and the idea that man has nothing as a mainstay besides those others and society, that is, besides the establishment and those who ideologically dominate. Objective values, therefore, "do not exist". Genes "are not important" as compared with social factors.
7. Rietdijk is the very antipode of the ideologists: he optimistically expects that science and technology (such as Internet) will make individuals ever more independent of the powers that be, this continuing an historical trend. Social and ideological sieves will be ever more circumventable, especially by Internet. Relatiocratic establishments that are neither meritocratic nor democratic will be gradually undermined by our increasing capacities to measure human quality, also via gene research.
Technological lie-detection will become important as a future weapon against lying, immoral politicians and bureaucrats. So will electronic referenda. Egalitarianism and power based on it will as well succumb by our increasing capacity to measure human quality (IQ and more and more other factors). Apart from this, as an ideology it will follow in the footsteps of orthodox religion and nationalism that cannot stand in the Promethean world shaping up in consequence of irreversible forces emanating from the laboratories.
Further note that egalitarianism and relativism are narrowly related. For egalitarianism means: the difference between quality and non-quality in men is not very important after all, e.g., by not being objective. Conversely, relativism devalues quality.
It will hardly be surprising that this book explains political correctness in its most general sense as a mere ideological instrument of dominating social interests, without the work being in the least rightist or conservative. On the contrary, the author - who in earlier reviews has been called more than once a "twentieth-century Voltaire" - is firmly on the side of the rationalistic, technological and Promethean forces of progress. Within this scope his book - inter alia in a separate chapter on sexuality - exposes repressive sexual morality as an unconsciously applied form of censorship on the emotional level. He says: sexual taboos and frustration of experiment and catharsis amount to frustration of free trade in emotions, just as "intellectual" censorship frustrates free trade in arguments and ideas. Both kinds of censorship are in line with each other and have similar intentions: psychologically manipulating and subduing people.
8. Generally, the book makes no difference between "leftist" and "rightist" taboos and ideological prejudices in its exposure-by-explanation. They merely appear to serve dissimilar unenlightened vested interests, but all amount to forms of misleading that violate the scientific point of view, moral integrity and/or social progress. That is, they form part of the instances indicated under 4 b) above, which oppose the "red thread of enlightenment".
For the rest, sometimes a "rightist" and a "leftist" taboo unconsciously aim at the same thing. E.g., we may see both sexual taboos and the sacred cow of the spirit emanating from incoherent and emotionless "modern art" highly from the same point of view. Viz. as aiming at emasculation and anti-catharsis on the emotional level, unconsciously intending to keep unawakened, incoherent and inarticulate major parts of our emotional life by denying them catharsis and the Aha-Erlebnis. The relevant art does so by emanating confusion and utter relativism, and by undermining the idea of meaning, sense and direction at all. It unfocuses emotions, the exact opposite of what art should do.
9. It appears as "the tragedy" of the intelligentsia and its "progressive" ideas that they failed in joining in with the all-dominating revolution of our era: the Promethean techno-scientific one. So much so that as a rule even the right is more sympathetic to it (of course, predominantly because of economic self-interest rather than idealism).
In line with the above, Rietdijk expects the solution of major human problems from techno-scientific rather than independent policical or socio-cultural developments. As characteristic instances, he posits that our intelligentsia even fails to understand that such problems will be of the kind of natural shortages, or shortages as to information, rather than of a purely social one. Examples:
a) Real sexual problems are mainly two:
- An enormous scarcity of physically and emotionally truly attractive men and women (the ultimate solution being relevant genetic engineering);
- The absence of a rational, transparent and large-scale "market" in which people looking for a love-partner can do so in an advanced way by its making a "massive" comparison of qualities easy, rather than people's being dependent on chance meetings in an ambiance of uncertainty.
b) Applying advanced lie-detection to groups of politicians as well as electronic referenda (on alternative policies rather than persons) will do more in reorganizing politics than new ideologies or parties.
10. In a separate chapter the author - himself an active physicist specialised in quantum mechanics and relativity - goes into the "last problems" of life too. Quoting Einstein, he agrees with him that "the world almost certainly has a meaning". Within this scope, very strange recently discovered phenomena are discussed, that suggest that a deep factual and moral order exists in the world, which may be utterly relevant with respect to human destiny. Just as in the rest of the book, the author does not satisfy himself here with vague abstractions, but gets right to the (concrete) point. Some probable links between "the new physics" and parapsychology are discussed.
In short, the broad and innovatory scope of this book could make it highly contribute to the radical re-emergence of an inspired intellectual vanguard led by coherent enlightened ideas. This also means: to a continuation of the Enlightenment into the intimate and the unconscious.
Quotations from the book
"The ultimate dysgenics (anti-eugenics) was the Nazi murder of Jews."
"In what sense is torture-as-a-hobby wrong if it is not objectively wrong?"
"Happiness is a question of information and genes; that is, of information."
"Culture is efficiency in increasing happiness and in reducing suffering."
"The essential reason why most people reject the idea of a coherent world reflecting a deep moral order is their sensing it to be not in their best interest."
"A vital problem of life is: translating essential issues, difficulties and frustrations into rational and coherent terms and answering them by intelligent and/or moral action. The gist of anti-enlightened tendencies and philosophies is their aspiring at preventing just that."
"Some do not like the idea that everything of an individual could be measured. Is it difficult to see why?"
"The institutionalization and decline of the left corresponds to its failure to join with the primary revolutionary force of our era, viz. the techno-scientific revolution, in addition to its yielding to the idea that John Doe is the ultimate aim of Creation."
"The fault of the absolute truths of the past was not that they were absolute but that they were no truths."
"Evolution and emotion about the moving, the beautiful and the impressive are the very essential in the human condition.
There is little about which our philosophers speak less...
Progress is the central phenomenon in society.
There is little about which our sociologists are more tacit..."
"About all our thinkers are soporific. May someone want to have us asleep?"
"Thinking about man and the human, about suffering, loneliness, death, sex, anxiety and ethics in terms of 'alienation', 'the absurd' and 'the void' rather than of clear reason, new scientific discoveries and technologies, enlightened religion and well-ordered emotions is worse than wrong: it is sterile."
"Up to now the main thing causing reason to have failed in making the world a paradise is that most people have so little of it. Could one blame reason for that?"
"If Calvin and Robespierre would have had a consistently rational value system and an intense compassion for all suffering, the only thing I would yet have wished them is that their fanaticism would have been greater."
"Most religious people had little difficulty with killing people 'for king and fatherland', for offenses like a soldier striking an officer, or because of homosexuality. But they always had great difficulty with euthanasia: killing for mercy."
Finally, two somewhat "condensed" quotations:
"Fundamental relativism and censorship have something vital in common: Censorship suppresses the free exchange of arguments, while relativism actually implies them to be irrelevant. For, if you say that all reasoning starts from extra-rational 'premises' - either culturally defined or subjectively chosen -, you actually say that arguments do not matter much: 'truth', 'good' and 'evil' are already implied in the premises some establishment or prejudiced individual may prefer. This accounts for much of the popularity of relativism in twentieth-century philosophy and social science, and for why they expose and, therefore, explain so little: much ideology has been integrated into them. This also generally makes it clear why not many taboos or troubled waters fell victim to them. Partly summarizing: any group that has an interest in troubled waters or irrational privileges has one, too, in undermining, censoring or relativizing reason and rational ethic. As a rule, the relevant people feel this instinctively, and act accordingly. But in our century, this happens much more indirectly and unconsciously, e.g., via pushing postmodernism or incoherent 'modern' art."
"Within the above scope, vested interests and disguised ideology have so much impact on socio-cultural thinking, artistic fashion etc. that seriously criticizing powerful established forces, sacred cows and taboos will be 'not done'. Again, this contributes to our understanding why current social science, philosophy and public discussion will be so 'tame' and politically correct, mostly lacking coherence and substance. They will neither criticize taboos nor advance new explanations that implicitly expose vested interests."
If you prefer the "poly-interpretable" or "political" indirectness and abstraction, or feel happy with our establishment, you are positively advised not to read this book. It could even damage your health.
Introduction by Hans J. Eysenck
Chapter 1. The Triumph of Reason; Anticipating the Bio-Technetronic Civilization.
§ 1. Coherence as the nuclear concept of positive science, philosophy and even religion. Progress as the natural ideal of conscious beings.
§ 2. Electronic markets increasingly replacing social markets, excluding position and social relations in favour of quality and efficiency in economic and other selection processes. Conformism on the decline.
§ 3. Evolution's quantum leap; biotechnology and man's genes.
§ 4. Science and technology generally revolutionizing society.
§ 5. Scientific, technological and economic progress rationalize and humanize values and collective purposes; the "cultural lag".
§ 6. On drawbacks of "technocracy" and cornucopian tendencies.
§ 7. The beta transformation and the demoralization of much of the alpha culture; man demythologized.
Chapter 2. The Moral Dimension; Emerging Integrity-Enforcing Technologies as a Top Priority.
§ 8. Basing moral values independently of social convention.
§ 9. If moral values have no objective basis, nihilism is the only ultimate alternative; the scientifization of myth and common inspiration.
§ 10. There are innate moral qualities just as there is innate intelligence; preliminary to the nature-nurture problem.
§ 11. The emerging role of technology in enforcing integrity.
§ 12. Modern conformism, other-directedness and man's identity.
Chapter 3. Emerging from Erotic Primitivism; Sexual Repression and Taboos as an Emotional Equivalent of Censorship.
§ 13. Why authoritarian cultures, religions and societies will repress sexuality and associate it with "dark instincts", sin and the irrational rather than beauty and catharsis.
§ 14. More about our main legacy from age-long suppression: an under-developed sexual market; the scarcity of physical and inner attractiveness.
§ 15. Even dominating theories of sexuality, neurosis and adjustment to life are also molded by conventional prejudices.
Chapter 4. The Red Thread in Social Dynamics; What Culture and Progress Essentially Amount to.
§ 16. The central phenomenon in history: increasing consciousness, quality and sophistication, and/or expanding application fields, of reason, ethics and emotional life; the meaning of culture.
§ 17. Progress in more concrete terms: homo sapiens consciously in charge; ever more sophisticated free markets countervailing some meritocratic tendencies.
§ 18. An essential mechanism of progress: survival of the fittest and market processes relevant to competing human qualities, ways of life and production, ideas, institutions etc.
§ 19. Why so many favour anti-rationalism and other anti-red-thread tendencies; modern anti-enlightenment.
§ 20. Current methods of devaluing truth, arguments, good, evil and beauty, and of pushing incoherence, as modern successors of censorship and anti-enlightenment.
Chapter 5. The Concept of Institutionalization; Why so many Problems Remain Unsolved.
§ 21. Institutionalization as a general socio-cultural process; historical and present-day examples.
§ 22. The evil empires of the past and the inhumaneness of various traditional "rightist" values.
§ 23. Many ideas originate from interests; "experts of the second kind" and partial institutionalization of the intelligentsia and of some well-known concepts.
§ 24. Current progressiveness and the new class as institutionalizations of the left and of the intelligentsia, appearing on their integration into the establishment; emphasizing equality and "nurture" rather than quality and progress.
§ 25. Third-world cultures and societies.
§ 26. The Munich phenomenon: one more consequence of substituting the moral dimension by the "political" one or "realism".
§ 27. Education as a modern example of how ideology can dominate thinking and frustrate solutions.
§ 28. Crime-fighting as another major example of institutionalization and of the way vested interests dominate thinking and frustrate solutions.
§ 29. Divide and rule: disuniting the psyche's rational, moral and emotional faculties as an anti-red-thread instrument.
§ 30. Updating both progressiveness and the generation of elites to the bio-technetronic era; the institutionalization of the left to one more kind of conservatism.
Chapter 6. Solving Economic Problems and why it is so Inadequately Practised; The Dismal State of the Dismal Science.
§ 31. The Japanese, U.S. and European ways of managing the economy; a question of priorities.
§ 32. A first proposal aiming at optimizing (qualitative) economic growth, also in view of the Mancur-Olson phenomenon.
§ 33. A second proposal to accelerate material progress.
§ 34. Some more problems, non-problems and waste of time in academic economics.
§ 35. The primary capital good; selecting and educating managers and elites in general.
§ 36. Alternatives of capitalism (neo-Marxisms) laying primary economic decisions with collectives rather than individuals.
Chapter 7. The Dynamics of Government and Power: Institutionalization and Repression versus Free Markets and Invention.
§ 37. The less than impressive moral level of present power elites.
§ 38. The tacit agreement: major interest groups playing into each other's hands. The primary function of taboos: repressing potential opposition against this core phenomenon in non-meritocratic and undemocratic establishment formation and in corruption.
§ 39. The indirect method of propaganda: double-talk and the manipulation of language.
§ 40. Reforming politics: intellectual, emotional and moral awakening, in conjunction with techno-science, can make arguments and integrity prevail on hidden manipulation.
Chapter 8. Institutionalized Egalitarianism as an Implicit Negation of Human Quality and Evolution; Tabooing the Concept of the Inferior.
§ 41. Egalitarianism means: the difference between quality and non-quality is not very important after all; sujectivism and the canonization of man.
§ 42. The moral, intellectual and economic underclasses: a problem of genes and values.
§ 43. Eugenics: a completion of genetic engineering as a means of solving social and human-quality problems; the opposition of "category 2 experts" reflects their self-interest.
Chapter 9. The Counter-Revolution Against Reason; Further Investigating Modern Philosophy, Sociology and Art.
§ 44. The degree of institutionalization of present-day philosophy, social science and art; the interests and associated repressions they will avoid to expose.
§ 45. The nonsense industry and the elaboration of non-problems: "Looking into the pitch dark for a black cat that isn't there"; more on openly empty authors, ideas and art as cultural pass-words; the institutionalization of "language".
§ 46. More about the function of art, and on its degradation.
Chapter 10. The New Physics, the Paranormal and Fundamental Questions of Being.
§ 47. The new Physics; some far-reaching consequences of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.
§ 48. On the nature of natural law; nonlocal "orchestration" as a new dimension of it.
§ 49. The New Physics and the paranormal.
§ 50. "God does not play dice"; no, not even with us; an experiment lasting for twenty years.
§ 51. The social function of the paranormal.
§ 52. The rational and religion; once more the red thread in history.
§ 53. The enlightenment or scientifization of religion.
Chapter 11. Completions, Summary and Conclusion.
§ 54. Very lights.
§ 55. A summary in 62 theses.
§ 56. Mene, mene tekel ufarsin.
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