From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon 29 Mar 2004 - 00:38:12 GMT

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    In the course of researching James Chowning Davies (I will post what led me to looking into his work) I found a review on a book.

    The review is in _Political Psychology_ Vol 19 No. 2 and can be seen here:

    It is on pages 7-9 in this .pdf file.

    Research In Biopolitics. Volume 2, Biopolitics and the Mainstream: Contributions of Biology to Political Science. Edited by Albert Somit and Steven A. Peterson. Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press, 1994.

          "The field of biopolitics was initially based upon a fairly simple set of premises. At its core was the belief that evolutionary pressures and biological predispositions affect humans as well as animals, influencing. not only their physiological functions, but also their behaviors. These genetic and evolutionary predispositions do not, typically, completely determine people's actions; however, they can exercise a substantial influence on all aspects of contemporary life, including politics. If seems, therefore, reasonable to look for the explanation of some aspects of political behavior in the biology of the person, rather than concentrating only on sociological and psychological mechanisms.

          "While some may feel that biopolitical approaches are quite old, for most scholars, this kind of reasoning sprang into view in the 1960s, with the publication of Konrad Lorenz's On Aggression in 1966, and Robert Andrey's series of books, of which The Teniroriallmperative, from 1966, is probably the most familiar. Far many researchers, the current shape of the field was defined by Edward O. Wilson's Sociobiology, 1973, and the group of books authored or co-authored by Lionel Tiger beginning in the early 1970s. It was thus somewhat of a surprise to find that these authors and works were not well cited in Research in Biopolitics. When referred to at all, most were dealt with quite critically, with modifiers such as "the now rejected theories" or "a theory in need of drastic modification." In fact, the chapter by Albert Somit, Kyoungkyo Sea and Steven A. Peterson, which surveys references to biopolitical approaches in contemporary textbooks, finds that the predominant references to biopolitics are still to these earlier works. This, the authors complain, is evidence of the inadequacy of the treatment of biological contributions to political science in instructional writing.

          "What, then, is the "new" biopolitics outlined in the present collection of chapters? To this reader it is not at all clear. It certainly is far from the original premise based upon a search for evolutionary and genetic pressures that influence political behaviors. Judging from the content of the chapters, it seems to include any discussion of any matter that has the prefix "bio" in the name. Thus there are discussions of biotechnology and biological warfare, which, although interesting in their own right, seem to have tittle or no connection to the central thrust of the field."


          "The closest approach to my conception of a traditional biopolitical approach is a well-written contribution by James Chowning Davies. He presents a discussion of some innate predispositions that may help to explain revolutions and other political violence. This is, perhaps, one of the most interesting chapters in the book . . . . ."


          "If this is the best insight that contemporary biopolitics can offer to us, then I think that I will go back and reread the "now discredited" works of Lorenz, Ardrey, and Wilson. At least they were lacking in pretension and provided interesting examples and thought-provoking analyses."

      Stanley Coren
      Department of Psychology
      University of British Columbia


    It looks to me as if this is an example of a field being fought over by the EP oriented folks and the traditional sociology people. The book is now ten years old though so the battle might have gone one way or the other in that length of time.

    Keith Henson

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