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Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population Paperback – November 2, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 49696th edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674034600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674034600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.4 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Billig on December 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fine work of historical scholarship, but I have three problems with it. The first one is that it is too ideological, or, to put it another way, insufficiently dispassionate for a work of history. The second is that he is way too hard on the scholarly discipline of demography, the association of which with population control he overstates. Demography in the 20th-century achieved enormous triumphs in formal/mathematical theory, statistical methods, data collection, and (still incompletely developed) social science understanding of population processes. Connelly seems to suggest that any study or analysis at the population level denigrates individual liberty. I think that is an unreasonable assessment.
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?
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Format: Paperback
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 catastrophe, though guided by eugenic sympathies and pseudo-science hubris. This history challenges the efficacy of state control of reproductive health decisions and the impact of (questionable) policy impulses to steer demographic change. While interesting and humane, this history can get bogged down in details, but is nonetheless useful for students of public health, reproductive policy, and demography.

Connelly shines in constructing a story with many moving parts, making a constellation of agency acronyms and obscure foreign figures legible. For Connelly, the evolution of population control movements was situated in a subtle historical intersection, particularly the strange dovetail between women's health advocates and eugenicists social movements. Both benevolent and racist urges merged at a crucial historical juncture: when the modern state found itself concerned with population movements and the preservation of national identity.

Beyond realizing nativist desires, the emergence of a population control institution paralleled international politics. The family planning ideal intersected with anxieties of a multiplying, threatening Third World. Meanwhile, the rise of demography as a field of inquiry, replete with catastrophic population predictions, fed large-scale Cold War development policy. Connelly is keenly aware of the tragic costs of these programs. The sterilization campaigns of Indira Ghandi's Congress Party illustrate the cruelty of well-funded, top-down demographic campaigns...and their mishaps.

I have two main criticisms.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 the welfare of individuals within nation states or the overall interest of the countries they seek to influence.
The larger point is that international organizations behave in similar fashion to interest groups: i.e., controlled by elites and driven by narrow ideologies.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's no doubt but the pernicious history of the population control movement needs to be written. This book, however, is not it. It's tedious, smug, selective with the facts, in places offensive and that's just the introduction. The body of the book is not much better. It's fairly typical of the style of academic historians who accept a set of preconceived notions and never question them.
A better, much better book needs to be written on this subject, until then buy it if you must but approach with caution.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book.
Valuable historical insight, and fair warning to those societies being tempted, or coerced into commodifying human life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this remarkable book, Connelly writes about the international history of population control movements.

Strengths:
Exceptionally well-written (does not read like a typical university press history book), superbly researched (solid and extensive archival research), and poignantly (and passionately) argued.

Weaknesses:
None.

Recommended for:
the general public, politicians, family planning officials, the Board of Immigration Appeals
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