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Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Populationby Matthew Connelly
Synopses & Reviews
Listen to a short interview with Matthew Connelly
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane
Fatal Misconception is the disturbing story of our quest to remake humanity by policing national borders and breeding better people. As the population of the world doubled once, and then again, well-meaning people concluded that only population control could preserve the "quality of life." This movement eventually spanned the globe and carried out a series of astonishing experiments, from banning Asian immigration to paying poor people to be sterilized.
Supported by affluent countries, foundations, and non-governmental organizations, the population control movement experimented with ways to limit population growth. But it had to contend with the Catholic Church's ban on contraception and nationalist leaders who warned of "race suicide." The ensuing struggle caused untold suffering for those caught in the middle--particularly women and children. It culminated in the horrors of sterilization camps in India and the one-child policy in China.
Matthew Connelly offers the first global history of a movement that changed how people regard their children and ultimately the face of humankind. It was the most ambitious social engineering project of the twentieth century, one that continues to alarm the global community. Though promoted as a way to lift people out of poverty--perhaps even to save the earth--family planning became a means to plan other people‘s families.
With its transnational scope and exhaustive research into such archives as Planned Parenthood and the newly opened Vatican Secret Archives, Connelly's withering critique uncovers the cost inflicted by a humanitarian movement gone terribly awry and urges renewed commitment to the reproductive rights of all people.
"Passionate and troubling, this study by Columbia University historian Connelly (A Diplomatic Revolution) tells the story of the 20th-century international movement to control population, which he sees as an oppressive movement that failed to deliver the promised economic and environmental results. According to Connelly, some proponents of the movement thought it was the key to women's health and well-being; others saw it as a way to eliminate the poor population; still others believed it would protect the environment. But Connelly also shows how larger economic and social contexts shaped the movement. For example, during the 1930s international Depression, ordinary people increasingly felt that couples planning families should focus on financial considerations; at the same time, as the state offered increased economic aid, it became acceptable to believe the state should also have a role in regulating reproduction. Far from disinterested, Connelly challenges many of the population control movement's claims: to those who argue that the slowed population growth in Asia has helped save the planet, Connelly notes tartly that 'if Asians have 2.1 children, but also air conditioning and automobiles, they will have a much greater impact on the global ecosystem than a billion more subsistence farmers.' Ambitious, exhaustively researched and clearly written, this is a highly important book. 22 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Matthew Connelly is Professor of History, Columbia University.
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History and Social Science » Geography » Population