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Lasswell, H.D. (1943). Race: Science and Politics: By Ruth Benedict. New York: Modern Age Books, 1940. 274 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 12:278-279.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:278-279

Race: Science and Politics: By Ruth Benedict. New York: Modern Age Books, 1940. 274 pp.

Review by:
Harold D. Lasswell

Professor Benedict belongs to the category of scholar who keeps an eye on the crises of her own time and puts her knowledge at the convenient disposal of her contemporaries. She has planned the present book on race to give the nonspecialist a clear view of what biologists know about race and what social scientists know about racism. Nowhere is there to be found a more authoritative treatment of the scientific and ideological aspects of the subject. The book is rather short; the outline is bold; the writing is firm and clear. At the end of chapters pertinent quotations add color and authority to what is in the text. For all who see the need of making better use of our modern means of communication, each technical feature will be welcome. It is to be regretted that modern graphical devices are not utilized; the volume is still the deadly dull object that passes for a book, even in these days of fertility in portraying things vividly as well as plainly.

Psychiatrists will benefit most from the chapters that describe the modern history of 'racism'; there is no ancient history. 'Racism' is a special case of 'prejudice' and its determinants must be found, not only in recurring factors in all human relations, but in the specific configurations of recent world developments. Benedict's basic orientation is indicated in these sentences: 'In-group ethics are as "innate" as out-group ethics, but they occur only when certain social conditions are fulfilled. We cannot get in-group ethics without meeting those conditions. In our country this means that a better America will be one which benefits not some groups alone but all citizens; so long as there is starvation and joblessness in the midst of abundance we are inviting the deluge. To avert it, we must "strongly resolve" that all men shall have the basic opportunity to work, and to earn a living wage, that education and health and decent shelter shall be available to all, that regardless of race, creed, or color, civil liberties shall be protected' (pp. 252–253).

Although Benedict is aware of the personality factors that contribute to the exacerbation of such an 'ism' as 'racism', she does not deal with them in the present book.

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