Elements of the alt-right consider themselves to be ‘race realists’. Generally, this view relies on genetics as a partial way to explain human differences, and on the fact that natural selection can operate at a fast enough rate in human populations to select for differences over relatively short time spans. Not all people who buy a genetic explanation are race realists, of course, but race realism depends on a Darwinian view of things.
The left definitely does not like race realism and tends not to like bringing genetics into discussions of human difference. But just because the left cannot articulate a genetic view of difference does that mean it is unwilling to admit to it in disguised form?
Consider, from the left, Jonathan Capehart’s interview of Justin Gest, a professor at George Mason University. Gest makes a seemingly compassionate argument about white working class supporters of Trump. No, we should not just look at them through the simple lens of racism. We must look deeper, and come to grips with the fact that these people feel silenced and ignored. And that those feelings are not unwarranted.
But note how the article ends. Gest concludes:
The only way of addressing their plight is a form of political hospice care. These are communities that are on the paths to death. And the question is: How can we make that as comfortable as possible?
Gregory Clark’s 2007 book A Farewell to Alms suggested that the Industrial Revolution broke the Malthusian trap in a pretty brutal and Darwinian way.
In Britain, however, as disease continually killed off poorer members of society, their positions in society were taken over by the sons of the wealthy. In that way, according to Clark, less violent, more literate and more hard-working behaviour – middle-class values – were spread culturally and biologically throughout the population. This process of “downward social mobility” eventually enabled Britain to attain a rate of productivity that allowed it to break out of the Malthusian trap. Clark sees this process, continuing today, as the major factor why some countries are poor and others are rich.
As Steve Sailer pointed out in reviewing the book, Clark does not tackle the question of genetics head-on. But as Sailer suggests, recent work on the speed of human cultural evolution is consistent with a genetic reading of Clark’s points. And in any event, Clark’s thesis is plenty Darwinian.
So is Gent a class realist?
The left as a intellectual force and the Democrats as a political force have been debating since the election what’s the matter with Kansas. And Ohio, and West Virginia, and so on. There is a lot of mea culpa discussion out there about finding a way back to these stranded sources of historic Democratic support–or at least a better “message”.
But there is another thread out there, too, apparent in Gest’s conclusion.
And might there not be something to be said for that view, if not as morality at least as realist description? The habits, values and behaviors of the deplorables may not be consistent with where the world is headed. And if you are inclined to the Darwinian view of things, where the world “is headed” is not primarily a function of morality but of adaptive fit in a changing ecological niche.
Interesting, but I don’t see in Gest’s statement about at-risk communities anything to do with race and/or genetics/IQ/etc. It’s more about social ills and decades of neglect and stagnation, with both external and internal causes, and the empathy towards these communities to attempt to, if not address, at least redress some of these symptoms.
Fair point. The hospice reference sticks but yes Gest does seem to reserve that concept for the dying communities made up largely of individuals who are themselves old and poorly equipped to deal with the challenges of the current era. And yes he does fall back on education as the great equalizer, implying that people are malleable and that education can prompt a leap in a generation to all the things that are currently demanded: technical facility, flexibility in dealing with job demands, an aversion to rootedness, etc. So yeah I don’t see Gest himself saying “hey look these people are going to be at a disadvantage as a result of their natures.”
So I grant you that despite the hospice talk he is on the side of those who would pay attention to the issue, and that’s a good thing even if he ends up being overly optimistic about malleability. And from a larger perspective neither Dems nor Rs have paid significant attention to these problems for a long time. Trump activated energy around the issue but it is far from clear how he or successor Trumpists will deal with it. Reasons to be mindful, still, about the analogy from history.