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Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population Paperback – November 2, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Matthew Connelly bravely and eloquently explores the dark underside of world population policies. It is a clarion call to respect individuals' freedom to make their own reproductive choices. (William Easterly, author of The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good)
One of the most gifted historians of his generation has given us an exciting and thought-provoking new way to understand the making of the ever-globalizing world of today. (Akira Iriye, author of Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World)
Connelly raises the most profound political, social, and moral questions. His history reveals that the difference between population control and birth control is indeed that between coercion and choice. (Mahmood Mamdani, author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror)
This is a superb global history. By focusing on NGOs and transnational networks, the United Nations and nation states, Connelly has given us an important new way of seeing world politics. (Emily Rosenberg, University of California, Irvine)
Passionate and troubling...Connelly tells the story of the 20th-century international movement to control population, which he sees as an oppressive movement that failed to deliver the promised economic and environmental results...Ambitious, exhaustively researched and clearly written, this is a highly important book. (Publishers Weekly (starred review) 2008-01-14)
[A] disturbing and compelling global history of population control programs...Drawing from records in more than 50 archives in seven countries, including those from Planned Parenthood and the more recently opened Vatican Secret Archives, Connelly provides extensive examples of movements to adjust populations...The world population growth is slowing and the age of population control appears to be over for the moment, but Connelly writes that his book is not just about history: It is a cautionary tale about the future. (Lori Valigra Christian Science Monitor 2008-03-25)
[A] voluminous history of global population policy. (Elizabeth Pisani New Statesman 2008-05-05)
Highlight[s] the importance of knowing who speaks for whom...Fatal Misconception describes a historic clash of opposed interest groups wrestling to impose their own population policies on the developing world. (Michael Sargent Nature 2008-05-15)
Connelly's book is an excellent work of reference on the history of the population-control movement...It gives important insights into the emergence and the workings of the population-control lobby. (Frank Furedi Spiked Review of Books 2008-05-30)
The shocking theme of Connelly's book is how Western governments--and most especially successive U.S. administrations--supported a policy which would have appalled them if it had been imposed on their own families. (Dominic Lawson The Independent 2008-05-20)
A devastating account of the population-control movement; he demonstrates, detail by shocking detail, how a movement that believed it was acting from the highest humanitarian ideals became responsible for callous abuses of human rights on a global scale, ruining millions of lives in a grotesque eugenic experiment. (Dominic Lawson Sunday Times 2008-05-18)
Connelly decisively confronts the historical baggage of reproductive rights by detailing the confluence of social Darwinists, Malthusians, racist eugenicists, public health advocates and feminists who coalesced around the century-long effort to control world population. (James J. Hughes Times Higher Education Supplement 2008-05-29)
Mr. Connelly's story is a global one, partly because so many of the groups seeking to influence the reproduction of others were transnational, but also because often it was those in one country who wished those in another to have fewer children...Mr. Connelly's most devastating critique of population control is not that it destroyed lives, or was based on imperialist or eugenic ideas, but that it did not work. (The Economist 2008-05-24)
Though painful to read, [Fatal Misconception] contain[s] many valuable lessons for anyone who cares about making development programs work, both technically and politically. (Helen Epstein The New York Review of Books 2008-08-14)
This book provides the best historical record yet of how our culture was shaped by the acceptance of birth control. (Patrick Carroll Catholic Herald 2008-10-17)
The subject of population control--perhaps the most ambitious social engineering project of the 20th century--has been somewhat neglected by historians...Fatal Misconception is a welcome contribution to the field, original and thought-provoking. (Clive Cookson Financial Times 2008-06-02)
[This] brilliant new history of the population control movement is useful not simply on its theme but for the light it sheds on the political corruption that inevitably accompanies these world-saving enthusiasms...As Connelly lays out in painstaking detail, population control programs, aimed chiefly at developing nations, proliferated despite clear human rights abuses and, more importantly, new data and information that called into question many of the fundamental assumptions of the crisis mongers. (Steven F. Hayward Claremont Review of Books 2008-12-01)
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Top Customer Reviews
The third (and most important) problem is that it gets overly bogged down in the details of who said what to whom, bureaucratic squabbles, power struggles, etc. What gets lost in all these details are the grander historical contexts. For example, in the few decades after World War II, we entered the age of what I like to call "high modernism." The manifestations of this age ramified in music, art, architecture, and social/political theory. In the latter sphere we saw "modernization theory," "development economics," welfare state mixed economies, structuralism, and a general predilection toward management, planning, systems approaches, global governance, the sanctity of science, utopianism, and what would later be referred to as "metanarratives." Population control was one manifestation of this intellectual, political, and artistic movement, but the extent to which this context matters seems to escape Connelly's account. Is it a coincidence that the hey-day of population control was also the hey-day of Robert Moses and Le Corbusier?Read more ›
Nicolas D. Kristof, in his review of Matthew Connelly's "Fatal Misconception," (NYT: March 23, 2008) expresses this faith (and error) when he asserts, "The family planning movement has corrected itself, and today it saves the lives of women in poor countries and is central to efforts to reduce poverty worldwide."
Connelly does not dispute that the ability to control fertility is a welcome and empowering development. However, he makes a strong case that it has been "the emancipation of women, not population control, that has remade humanity." Connelly ably defends his central thesis - "the great tragedy of population control, the fatal misconception, was to think one could know people's interests better than they knew it themselves" - and alerts us to the continued universality and threat of this misconception. International population control efforts of the 1960s and 70s are often characterized today, particularly by feminist scholars, as extensions of imperialist policies. But Connelly's warning that "the spirit of empire lives on when people are unaccountable to those they claim to serve" is something I think we would all do well to contemplate.
Connelly's book is thoroughly researched and extremely well written. Highly recommended.
As Connelly writes, "The idea of population control is at least as ancient as Plato's Republic, which described how a 'Guardian class' could be bred to rule, the unfit left to die, and everyone sold the same myth that political inequality reflected the natural order of things."
This harsh sentiment is reflected in policies ranging from today's One Child policy in China to the eugenics movements in the United States and Western Europe in the 1930s that attempted to limit the reproduction of the 'unfit.'
Of course, today many of the countries that attempted to limit population growth in the past are now desperately trying to foster it. Pro-natal policies abound in North America and Europe, with former president Vladimir Putin's offer to pay Russian women $10,000 for each baby being the most extreme example. In words that echo Phillip Longman (see THE EMPTY CRADLE: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What to Do About It), Connelly writes,
"Some have now declared a new population crisis...and we are told that we should fear too many elderly rather than too many children.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A remarkable history of global population politics and policies, Fatal Misconception details the emergence of a vast policy institution that sought to avert global population... Read morePublished on February 2, 2013 by Nathaniel Lane
There's no doubt but the pernicious history of the population control movement needs to be written. This book, however, is not it. Read morePublished on May 1, 2012 by Liam Foley
This author takes what he wants from the actual facts to twist them to his own agenda. The idea that having no limits to human overpopulation is preposterous.Published on May 4, 2010 by Thomas Young
Valuable historical insight, and fair warning to those societies being tempted, or coerced into commodifying human life.
The author makes a compelling case that population control groups are accountable to no one. Driven by their own particular ideologies, they operate with little regard to either... Read morePublished on July 6, 2008 by Cincinnatus
Connelly manages to write a massive volume without substantively addressing several key issues:
1) the finite availability of natural resources and the limits to growth... Read more
I was a public health activist in the 60s and supported population control as appropriate public health policy. Mr. Read morePublished on April 7, 2008 by Chris Kovner