Friday, 19 December 2008

The value of interviews

The video in which Benjamin Wiker discusses his Ten Books that Screwed up the World has much more to offer even to those who do not agree with his viewpoint that just finding out the title parodies a famous socialist work about the Bolshevik Revolution.

In my initial post about Wiker's book, I noted several books that are regarded as extremely destructive by the Right but which were not included by Wiker. These included Democracy and Education by John Dewey, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes and The Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno.

In his interview Wiker says that all the books he chose for Ten Books that Screwed Up the World were pamphlets. Wiker says that it is pamphlets, and not detailed and properly referenced books, that can persuade people to adopt a particular idea. He says that applies both to good and bad ideas, but of course wants to focus on what he sees as bad ones. Having tried to read The Authoritarian Personality more than once with no success in comprehending it, I can confidently say Wiker believes that people cannot be persuaded by The Authoritarian Personality the way most workers in Europe and eventually Asia and Latin America were by The Communist Manifesto or young women by The Feminine Mystique, which at the very end of his interview Wiker describes as a "perfect execise in rhetoric" that "repeats ideas that could be summed up in half a page".

I have heard that The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (which I have never touched) is even harder to understand and I don't imagine most ordinary people were ever remotely influenced by it. Two other books listed by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute as among its 50 Worst Books of the Twentieth Century that fit the same criteria (but which I have read without understanding them) are:

- Beatrice and Sidney Webb's Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation
- John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society

The question of the omission of The Population Bomb I still have not resolved. It might be:
- Wiker thinks Sanger makes The Population Bomb superfluous
- Wiker does not want to include anything by a living author (he had trouble gaining information about Kinsey and those with the details would likely not give it with Ehrlich)
- Wiker might, as I do in my review think The Population Bomb with hindsight just too silly to have influenced enough people.
- Wiker might think The Population Bomb simply too recent to have had enough destructive influence. this would explain the omission of such common Right targets as The Greening of America or Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Besides providing insight into Wiker's character, the video tells one a lot about how people really develop views - very seldom, as I have, by serious study, but by much simpler persuasion, even if (as with myself) not all of it is one hundred percent logic.

No comments: