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The First Darwinian Left: Socialism and Darwinism 1859-1914 Hardcover – June 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: New Clarion Press (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1873797389
  • ISBN-13: 978-1873797389
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,557,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Brisk, readable and theoretically savvy . . . a useful contribution to the history of the left." -- Human Nature August 7, 2003

About the Author

David Stack is a lecturer in history at Reading University. He is the author of Nature and Artifice.

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By Paul Turack on August 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The history: there were many Marxist-Darwinists and Darwinist-Marxists, although Marx himself was not a Darwinist and Darwin was not a Marxist.

The argument: Peter Singer called for a "New Darwinian Left" that would take human nature seriously rather than dismiss it as a malleable social construction. David Stack not only notes that many thinkers have already achieved Singer's intellectual synthesis of Darwin and Marx (nothing new here), but also that Singer's rendition of Marxism as dismissing human nature as a malleable social construct is manifestly false. Marx, to the contrary, had a view of man not only as conditioning nature, but also of nature as conditioning man; man does not overcome and totalize his nature.

Conclusion: David Stack denies the value of Peter Singer's prescription for a new Darwinian Left. The heyday of this synthesis, and the viability of the political rhetoric of Darwinism, has past. It is time for the Left to generate a new discourse and utilize new metaphors in order to bring about an egalitarian society.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on March 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This interesting history of the 'first Darwinian left' fills a gap in the literature and is a challenge to the attempted 'sociobiologization' of the left by Peter Singer in his book on Darwinism and the left. The author rightly points out the problems with Singer's false jeremaid about leftist views on evolution. Unfortunately the left has always been confused about Darwin's theory (they aren't the only ones!) and the result has been a consistent confusion on the subject. The author here is careful to assert his allegiance to the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, and the selectionist theory, which isn't surprising, and the text takes its place in the standard critique of evolutionary psychology typical in Gould, Rose, and Lewontin. The problem is that this approach doesn't wash, and yields the debate to the ideologists. Attempts to set the record straight, as here, never succeed, because they bite on the hook of Darwin's theory, whose selectionist holy writ _is_ the source of the ideology the left should have exposed from the start. In fact, Marx did expose it, but his views on the subject never really clarified themselves, and the Engels and Second Internationale mania for Darwin ended up dogma.
In any case, the book has a lot of interesting material on late nineteenth century thinking absorbing Darwinism. It wasn't all 'Social Darwinism', or at least that's the author's take. The point should be granted within limits, but the overall argument fails, I think, because the original Darwinism was flawed. Let it be noted as long as you think natural selection is a valid explanation you will never see the ideology in action in the theory. The left has always fumbled the ball here, and Marx is on record (with his brief interest in Tremaux's weird theory) as expressing his doubts about natural selection.
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