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Fatal Misconception


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Table of Contents

* Preface * Abbreviations * Introduction: How Biology Became History * Populations Out of Control * To Inherit the Earth * Populations at War * Birth of the Third World * The Population Establishment * Controlling Nations * Beyond Family Planning * A System without a Brain * Reproducing Rights, Reproducing Health * Conclusion: The Threat of the Future * Notes * Archives and Interviews * Acknowledgments * Index

Promotional Information

This is history written from the heart. The story it tells is of misplaced benevolence at best and biological totalitarianism at worst. Deeply researched and elegantly written, it is a disturbing, angry, combative, and important book, one which raises issues we ignore at our peril. -- Jay Winter, Yale University Matthew Connelly bravely and eloquently explores the dark underside of world population policies. It is a clarion call to respect individuals' freedom to make their own reproductive choices. -- William Easterly, author of The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good One of the most gifted historians of his generation has given us an exciting and thought-provoking new way to understand the making of the ever-globalizing world of today. -- Akira Iriye, author of Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World Connelly raises the most profound political, social, and moral questions. His history reveals that the difference between population control and birth control is indeed that between coercion and choice. -- Mahmood Mamdani, author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror This is a superb global history. By focusing on NGOs and transnational networks, the United Nations and nation states, Connelly has given us an important new way of seeing world politics. -- Emily Rosenberg, University of California, Irvine

About the Author

Matthew Connelly is Professor of History, Columbia University.


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. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Passionate and troubling...Connelly 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...Ambitious, exhaustively researched and clearly written, this is a highly important book. Publishers Weekly (starred review) 20080114 [A] disturbing and compelling global history of population control programs...Drawing from records in more than 50 archives in seven countries, including those from Planned Parenthood and the more recently opened Vatican Secret Archives, Connelly provides extensive examples of movements to adjust populations...The world population growth is slowing and the age of population control appears to be over for the moment, but Connelly writes that his book is not just about history: It is a cautionary tale about the future. -- Lori Valigra Christian Science Monitor 20080325 [A] voluminous history of global population policy. -- Elizabeth Pisani New Statesman 20080505 Highlight[s] the importance of knowing who speaks for whom...Fatal Misconception describes a historic clash of opposed interest groups wrestling to impose their own population policies on the developing world. -- Michael Sargent Nature 20080515 Connelly's book is an excellent work of reference on the history of the population-control movement...It gives important insights into the emergence and the workings of the population-control lobby. -- Frank Furedi Spiked Review of Books 20080530 The shocking theme of Connelly's book is how Western governments--and most especially successive U.S. administrations--supported a policy which would have appalled them if it had been imposed on their own families. -- Dominic Lawson The Independent 20080520 A devastating account of the population-control movement; he demonstrates, detail by shocking detail, how a movement that believed it was acting from the highest humanitarian ideals became responsible for callous abuses of human rights on a global scale, ruining millions of lives in a grotesque eugenic experiment. -- Dominic Lawson Sunday Times 20080518 Connelly decisively confronts the historical baggage of reproductive rights by detailing the confluence of social Darwinists, Malthusians, racist eugenicists, public health advocates and feminists who coalesced around the century-long effort to control world population. -- James J. Hughes Times Higher Education Supplement 20080529 Mr. Connelly's story is a global one, partly because so many of the groups seeking to influence the reproduction of others were transnational, but also because often it was those in one country who wished those in another to have fewer children...Mr. Connelly's most devastating critique of population control is not that it destroyed lives, or was based on imperialist or eugenic ideas, but that it did not work. The Economist 20080524 Though painful to read, [Fatal Misconception] contain[s] many valuable lessons for anyone who cares about making development programs work, both technically and politically. -- Helen Epstein The New York Review of Books 20080814 This book provides the best historical record yet of how our culture was shaped by the acceptance of birth control. -- Patrick Carroll Catholic Herald 20081017 The subject of population control--perhaps the most ambitious social engineering project of the 20th century--has been somewhat neglected by historians...Fatal Misconception is a welcome contribution to the field, original and thought-provoking. -- Clive Cookson Financial Times 20080602 [This] brilliant new history of the population control movement is useful not simply on its theme but for the light it sheds on the political corruption that inevitably accompanies these world-saving enthusiasms...As Connelly lays out in painstaking detail, population control programs, aimed chiefly at developing nations, proliferated despite clear human rights abuses and, more importantly, new data and information that called into question many of the fundamental assumptions of the crisis mongers. -- Steven F. Hayward Claremont Review of Books 20081201

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