Classic Essays

The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman (Part 11)

As part of our commitment to the celebration of forgotten classics—i.e., great works of the past which have been intentionally flushed down the memory hole by our Orwellian overlords—National Vanguard is proud to present a condensed edition of Lothrop Stoddard’s pioneering treatise The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Underman, originally published in 1922.

To appreciate the significance of this work, one must understand that in his day Stoddard was a certified member of America’s (now-former) WASP establishment. An old-stock Yankee from Brookline, Massachusetts, Stoddard held a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and was one of the most prominent intellectuals in the country prior to the Second World War. It is only because of the triumph of Jewish propaganda from that war that racialists like Stoddard have since been relegated to obscurity.

By Lothrop Stoddard

The NOVELTY OF the psychological approach to the problem is evident when we realize that, whereas biology has been investigating mainly the individual’s ancestry or actions, psychology examines the mind itself. The best-known instruments of psychological investigation are the so-called “Intelligence Tests,” first invented by the French psychologist Binet in the year 1905. From Binet’s relatively modest beginning the mental tests have increased enormously in both complexity and scope, culminating in three gigantic investigations conducted by the American army authorities during the late war, when more than 1,700,000 men were mentally tested in a variety of ways. [15] Furthermore, despite the notable progress which it has already made, the psychological method appears to be still in its infancy, and seems likely to yield far more extraordinary results in the near future.

Yet the results already attained are of profound significance. It has been conclusively proved that intelligence is predetermined by heredity; that individuals come into the world differing vastly in mental capacities; that such differences remain virtually constant throughout life and cannot be lessened by environment or education; that the present mental level of any individual can be definitely ascertained, and even a child’s future adult mental level confidently predicted. These are surely discoveries whose practical importance can hardly be overestimated. They enable us to grade not merely individuals but whole nations and races according to their inborn capacities, to take stock of our mental assets and liabilities, and to get a definite idea as to whether humanity is headed toward greater achievement or toward decline.

Let us now see precisely what the intelligence tests have revealed. In the first place, we must remember the true meaning of the word “intelligence.” “Intelligence” must not be confused with “knowledge.” Knowledge is the result of intelligence, to which it stands in the relation of effect to cause. Intelligence is the capacity of the mind; knowledge is the raw material which is put into the mind. Whether the knowledge is assimilated or lost, or just what use is made of it, depends primarily upon the degree of intelligence. This intellectual capacity as revealed by mental testing is termed by psychologists the “I.Q.” or “intelligence quotient.”

Psychology has invented a series of mental yardsticks for the measurement of human intelligence, beginning with the mind of the child. For example, the mental capacity of a child at a certain age can be ascertained by comparing it (as revealed by mental tests) with the in telligence which careful examination of a vast number of cases has shown to be the statistical average for children of that age. This is possible because it has been found that mental capacity increases regularly as a child grows older. This increase is rapid during the first years of life, then slows down until, about the age of sixteen, there is usually no further growth of mental capacity — albeit exceptionally superior intellects continue to grow in capacity for several years thereafter.

A large number of careful investigations made among school children have revealed literally amazing discrepancies between their chronological and their mental ages. In classes of first grade grammar-school children, where the chronological age is about six years, some pupils are found with mental ages as low as three while other pupils are found with mental ages as high as nine or ten. Similarly, in first year high-school classes, where the chronological age is about fourteen years, the mental age of some pupils may rank as low as ten or eleven, while the mental age of others may rise as high as nineteen or twenty.

And, be it remembered, the “I.Q.” of any individual child, once discovered, can be counted on as a constant factor, which does not change with the lapse of time. For example: Take two children rated by their birth certificates as being both four years old, but with mental ages of three and five respectively. When they are chronologically eight years old, the mental age of the duller child will be about six, while the mental age of The brighter child will be about ten. And when they an chronologically twelve years old, their respective mental ages will be approximately nine and fifteen. Assuming that growth of mental capacity stops in both children at the chronological age of sixteen, the ratio of their mental ages as then attained will remain constant between them all the rest of their lives. That is why the mental ages of persons over sixteen, once ascertained, can be regarded as fixed quantities. The only exceptions are those comparatively rare individuals of very superior mentality whose intelligence continues to grow a few years longer, and who are consequently very far in advance of their fellows. Two methods of mental grading are employed: children are graded according to “years”; adults are graded according to qualitative ratings ranging from “very superior,” through “average,” to “very inferior.”

Space forbids any detailed discussion of the actual make-up of mental tests. Their number is legion and their specialization is minute. Yet they all yield the same general results. “No matter what trait of the individual be chosen, results are analogous. If one takes the simplest traits, to eliminate the most chances for confusion, one finds the same conditions every time. Whether it be speed in marking off all the A’s in a printed sheet of capitals, or in putting together the pieces of a puzzle, or in giving a reaction to some certain stimulus or in making associations between ideas, or drawing figures, or memory for various things, or giving the opposites of words, or discrimination of lifted weights, or success in any one of hundreds of other mental tests, the conclusion is the same. There are wide differences in the abilities of individuals, no two being alike, either mentally or physically, at birth or any time thereafter.” [16]

We thus see that human beings are spaced on widely different mental levels; that they have a variety of mental statures, just as they have a variety of physical statures, and that both are basically due to inheritance. Furthermore, it is extremely significant to observe how closely intelligence is correlated with industrial or professional occupation, social and economic status, and racial origin. Nowhere does the power of heredity show forth more clearly than in the way innate superiority tends to be related to actual achievement. Despite the fact that our social system contains many defects which handicap superior individuals and foster inferiors; de- spite the fact that our ideas, laws, and institutions are largely based on the fallacies of environmentalism and “natural equality”; nevertheless, the imperious urge of superior germ-plasm beats against these man-made barriers and tends to raise the superior individuals who bear it — albeit only too often at the cost of their racial sterility through their failure to leave children.

Another noteworthy point is the way psychology has confirmed biological and sociological theories. Both biologists and sociologists have long been coming more and more to regard social and racial status as valid indications of innate quality. Now comes psychology, approaching the problem from a new angle and with different methods, and its findings coincide closely with those which the other sciences have already made. …

We have already indicated how great are the possibilities for the practical employment of mental tests, not merely of the army but also in education, industry, and the evaluation of whole populations and races. [17] “Before the war mental engineering was a dream; to-day it exists, and its effective development is amply assured.” [18]

As yet psychology has not succeeded in measuring emotional and psychic qualities as it has done with intellectual faculties. But progress is being made in this direction, and the data accumulated already indicate not only that these qualities are inherited but also that they tend to be correlated with intelligence. Speaking of superior military qualities like loyalty, bravery, power to command, and ability to “carry on,” Majors Yoakum and Yerkes state: “In the long run, these qualities are far more likely to be found in men of superior intelligence than in men who are intellectually inferior.” [19]

Furthermore, whatever the direct correlation between intellectual and moral qualities, there is an undoubted practical connection, owing to the rational control exerted by the intellect over the spirit and the emotions. As Professor Lichtenberger remarks concerning the statement just quoted: “It would seem almost superfluous to add that loyalty, bravery, and even power to command, without sufficiently high intelligence may result in foolhardiness. They are forces of character, and we should devise methods of evaluating them, but, like all forces, organic and inorganic, they are valuable to the extent to which they are disciplined and controlled. The case is somewhat similar with respect to the emotions. . . . Probably it will not be long until we shall have some method of measuring the quality of emotional disturbances, and this will increase the accuracy of our judgments; but to whatever degree of independence the emotions may be assigned, their utility is determined by the discipline of intelligence. Emotional control is weak in those of low mental level. The higher the level, the greater the possibility of rational control.” [20]

We have thus far considered the nature of intelligence, and we have found it to be an inborn quality whose capacity is predetermined by heredity. Biologically, this is important, because a man may not make much actual use of his talents and yet pass them on to children who will make use of them. In everyday life, however, capacity is important chiefly as it expresses itself in practical performance as evidenced by knowledge and action. We here enter a field where environment plays an important part, since what a man actually learns or does depends obviously upon environmental factors like education, training, and opportunity. Let us once more recall the distinction between “intelligence” and “knowledge”. Intelligence being the capacity of the mind, knowledge the filling of the mind. Let us also remember the true meaning of the word “education” — a “bringing forth” of that which potentially exists.

Now precisely how does environment affect performance? In extreme cases environment may be of major importance. A genius, condemned for life to the fate of Robinson Crusoe, would obviously accomplish very little; while, on the other hand, a man of mediocre capacity, if given every possible advantage, might make the utmost of his slender talents. But how is it under ordinary circumstances — especially under those substantially equal circumstances which it is the avowed aim of modern democratic ideals to produce?

Before discussing this point in detail, however, let us stop and find out just what we mean by “equal circumstances.” Do we mean equality of opportunity? Or do we mean equality of performance and recompense? The two ideas are poles asunder; yet they are often confused in thought, and frequently intentionally confused in argument. Equality of opportunity means the freedom of different individuals to make the most of similar conditions, and, by logical implication, the freedom to reap rewards proportionate to respective achievements. Equality of performance and recompense, on the contrary, means the fixing of certain standards according to which action will be stimulated and rewards apportioned. This last is what most of the hot-gospellers of levelling “social equality” have in the back of their heads. They may camouflage their doctrines with fine phrases, but what they really intend is to handicap and defraud superior intelligence in order to “give everybody a fair show.” Even in our present social system we see many instances of the waste and injustice caused by “levelling” practices: bright pupils held back to keep step with dullards and bright workmen discouraged from doing their best by grasping employers or ordered to “go slow” by union rules setting the pace by their less competent fellows.

This distinction being understood, let us now see how environment affects performance with individuals under conditions of equal opportunity. How, for example, does equality of training or education affect individual achievement? The answer is another striking proof of the power of heredity. Not only is such equality of conditions unable to level the inborn differences between individuals; on the contrary, it increases the differences in results achieved. “Equalizing practice seems to increase differences. The superior man seems to have got his present superiority by his own nature rather than by superior advantages of the past, since, during a period of equal advantage for all, he increases his lead.” [21] As McDougall justly remarks: “The higher the level of innate capacity, the more is it improved by education.” [22]

We thus see that even where superior individuals have no better opportunities than inferiors, environment tends to accentuate rather than equalize the differences between men, and that the only way to prevent increasing in equality is by deliberately holding the superiors down.

Certainly, the whole trend of civilization is toward increasing inequality. In the first place, the demands made upon the individual are more and more complex and differentiated. The differences in training and education between savages are relatively insignificant; the differences between the feudal baron and his serf were comparatively slight; the differences to-day between casual laborers and captains of industry are enormous. Never before has the function of capacity been so important and so evident.

The truth is that, as civilization progresses, social status tends to coincide more and more closely with racial value; in other words, a given population tends to become more and more differentiated biologically, the upper social classes containing an ever larger proportion of persons of superior natural endowments while the lower social classes contain a growing proportion of inferior. The intelligence tests which we have previously considered show us how marked this tendency has become in advanced modern societies like England and the United States, and there is every reason to believe that unless the civilizing process be interrupted this stratification will become even sharper in the future.

Now precisely how does this increasing stratification come about? We have already discussed this point in a general way. We have seen how the dynamic urge of superior germ-plasm surmounts environmental barriers and raises the individual socially; while, conversely, inferior individuals tend to sink in the social scale.

Let us now look at the matter more closely. This process, by which individuals migrate socially upward or downward from class to class, is termed “The Social Ladder.” The ease with which people can go up or down this ladder depends on the flexibility of the social order, and social flexibility in turn characterizes progressive civilizations. In the less advanced types of civilization, social flexibility is rare. Society crystallizes into closed castes, sons are compelled to follow the callings of their fathers, superior individuals cannot rise, and high-born inferiors are kept from sinking to their proper levels. This means waste, inefficiency and imperfect utilization of human resources.

However, as civilization progresses, its very complexity and needs compel greater efficiency; society becomes more flexible; and the “social ladder” works better and better. Latent talent rises more easily from the ranks, while the upper class cuts out more of its dead-wood, and thus tends to free itself from degenerate taints which have ruined so many aristocratic castes. The abounding vigor of American life, for example, is largely due to the way in which ability tends to be recognized wherever it appears and is given a chance to “make good.” Thus, in course of time, the superior strains in a population rise to the top, while the inferior elements sink to the bottom. The upper classes are continually enriched by good new blood, while the lower classes, drained of their best elements, are increasingly impoverished and become increasingly inferior.

This segregation of populations according to racial value is produced, not merely by the social ladder, but by another process known as “assortative mating.” Contrary to certain romantic but erroneous notions, careful scientific investigation has proved conclusively that “like tends to mate with like.” Giants am not prone to marry dwarfs, nor do extreme blonds usually prefer dark brunettes. And what is true of physical characteristics is equally true of mental and emotional qualities. People tend to marry those not too unlike themselves. And, in addition to the action of personal preference, there is superadded the effect of propinquity. Individuals are usually attracted to those with whom they associate. These are usually of their own clan, with common standards, similar tastes, and like educational attainments. But those are the very persons who are apt to be of the same general type. Thus, as populations get more differentiated, assortative mating widens the class gaps. Superiors tend more and more to marry superiors, mediocrity tends to mate with mediocrity, while the inferior and the degenerate become segregated by themselves.

At first sight it might seem as though the action of the social ladder would nullify the action of assortative mating. But when we look at the matter more closely we see that this is not the case. Where social flexibility permits individuals to migrate easily, like tends oftener to associate and hence to mate with like. The “self-made man” is more apt to find a wife of his own caliber, and is not compelled to choose exclusively from among the women of the lower social class in which he was born. On the other hand, high-born incompetents or “black sheep,” sinking rapidly, are less likely to drag down with them high-type mates. Thus the social ladder and assortative mating, far from conflicting, reinforce each other and sift the population according to true racial values with cumulative effect.

The sustained intermarriage of a well-selected upper class raises society’s apex into a sharply defined peak or core. Woods has termed this process “Social Conification.” [23] The members of such “conified” groups display clearly marked traits and possess high average racial value. On the other hand, the lowest social classes, segregated and drained of their best elements, similarly “conify” into well-marked racial inferiority.

The extent to which these selective processes, working for generations in a highly civilized society, may drain the lower social classes of their best racial elements, is strikingly shown by the case of England. That marked differences of inborn capacity exist between the British upper and lower social strata has, of course, long been realized, but the rapidity with which the gap has been widening has been recently shown by two historical measurements of the social distribution of genius and talent in the United Kingdom conducted respectively by Havelock Ellis and Doctor Woods. The results of these studies have been ably summarized by Alleyne Ireland, whom I will quote.

Says Ireland:

What these investigations disclose is that over a period of several centuries there has occurred a striking and progressive decline in the cultural contribution from the ‘lower’ classes in the United Kingdom, and, of course, a corresponding relative increase in the contribution from the ‘upper’ and ‘middle’ classes.

It appears that, from the earliest times to the end of the nineteenth century, the contribution to eminent achievement made by the sons of craftsmen, artisans, and unskilled laborers yielded 11.7 per cent of the total number of names utilized in the inquiry; that the representatives of that class who were born in the first quarter of the nineteenth century yielded 7.2 per cent of the names; and that those born during the second quarter of the nineteenth century yielded only 4.2 per cent. These figures are of great interest and importance when considered in relation to the social and political history of England during the nineteenth century.

Everybody knows that in England the nineteenth century witnessed a rapid and all-pervading democratization of social and political conditions. It was during that century that the English parliamentary system became, for the first time in the six hundred years of its existence, an institution representative of the great mass of the people; that schooling was made available for all; that in industry, in politics, in society, the gates of opportunity were opened wide for any person, of whatever parentage, who could make any contribution in any field of achievement; that peers became business men and business men peers; that any one whose talents had made him prominent in his calling could entertain a reasonable hope of finding wealth in the favor of the public, and a title of nobility in the appreciation of the political leaders.

With every circumstance of life growing constantly more favorable to the self-assertion of genius and talent in the ‘lower’ classes in England, how was it that the contributions to eminent achievement from that group fell from an average of 11.7 per cent of the total to a proportion of 4.2 per cent?

It seems to me that as the vast improvement in environmental conditions had not only failed to produce an increase in high achievement by those whom this improvement had done most to serve, but had, on the contrary, taken place pari passu with a very serious decline in achievement, the cause must be sought in an influence powerful enough to offset whatever beneficent effects improved environment might actually exert upon a stationary class during a single generation.

This influence I deem to have been that of assortative mating. Its operation appears to have been of a dual character. On the one hand, the effect in heredity of intelligence mating with intelligence, of stupidity with stupidity, of success with success — to put the matter roughly — has been to perpetuate and to increase these traits in the respective groups. On the other hand, the practical social consequences of these effects being produced under conditions of an ever-broadening democratization of social life has been that the more intelligent and successful elements in the ‘lower’ classes have been constantly rising out of their class into one socially above it. This movement must have the consequence of draining the `lower’ classes of talent and genius, and, through a process of social migration, of increasing the genius and talent of each succeeding upper layer in the social series. [24]

We thus see that, as civilization progresses, inborn superiority tends to drain out of the lower social levels up into the higher social classes. And probably never before in human history has this selective process gone on so rapidly and so thoroughly as to-day.

But it may be asked: Is this not a matter for rejoicing? Does this not imply the eventual formation of an aristocracy of “supermen,” blessing all classes with the flowerings of its creative genius?

Unfortunately, no; not as society is now constituted. On the contrary, if these tendencies continue under present social conditions, the concentration of superiority in the upper social levels will spell general racial impoverishment and hence a general decline of civilization. Let us remember that fatal tendency (discussed in the preceding chapter) to use up and exterminate racial values; to impoverish human stocks by the dual process of socially sterilizing superior strains and multiplying inferiors. The history of civilization is a series of racial tragedies. Race after race has entered civilization’s portals; entered in the pink of condition, full of superior strains slowly selected and accumulated by the drastic methods of primitive life. Then, one by one, these races have been insidiously drained of their best, until, unable to carry on, they have sunk back into impotent mediocrity. The only reason why the torch of civilization has continued to flame high is because it has been passed on from hand to hand; because there have always been good stocks still racially protected by primitive conditions who could take up the task.

To-day, however, this is no longer so. The local civilizations of the past have merged into a world-civilization, which draws insistently on every high-type stock in existence. That is why our modern civilization has made such marvellous progress — because it has had behind it the pooled intelligence of the planet. But let us not deceive ourselves! Behind this brave show the same fatal tendencies that have wrought such havoc in the past are still working — working as never before! In the next chapter we shall consider closely these factors of racial decline. Suffice it here to state that in every civilized country to-day the superior elements of the population are virtually stationary or actually declining in numbers, while the mediocre and inferior elements are rapidly increasing…


15. The data gathered by the United States army intelligence tests have been published in detail in: Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. XV, edited by Major R.M. Yerkes. A useful abridgement, containing many of the chief conclusions, etc., is the smaller volume by Majors Yerkes and Yoakum: Army Mental Tests, New York, 1920. See also valuable discussions of this matter in: Publications of the American Sociological Society, vol. XV, pg. 102-124. For further discussions, see books by Conklin, Ireland, and McDougall, already cited.

16. Popenoe and Johnson, pg. 77-78

17. For these wider applications, see Yoakum & Yerkes, op. cit., 184- 204; J.P. Lichtenburger, “The Social Significance of Mental Levels,” Publications of the American Sociological Society, vol. XV, pg. 102-115 R. H. Platt, Jr., “the Scope and Significance of Mental Tests,” World’s Work, September, 1920.

18. Yoakum and Yerkes, pg. 197.

19. Ibid., pg. 24.

20. Lichtenberger, op. cit. pg. 104.

21. Popenoe and Johnson, pg. 92. The authors cite several careful psychological tests by which this principle is clearly established.

22. McDougall, pg. 48.

23. Doctor Frederick Adams Woods has made a number of careful re- searches on this question, his latest being a genealogical study of leading Massachusetts families, with special reference to their intermarriages, traced over a period of approximately three hundred years from the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1630) to the present day. His data have not been published, but Doctor Wood has shown them to me in MSS. Furthermore, at the Second International Congress of Eugenics, held at New York City in September, 1921, Doctor Woods read a paper summarizing the results of this study which will be published in the Congress’s Proceedings.

24. Alleyne Ireland, Democracy and the Human Equation, pg. 139-142 (New York, 1921).

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Source: Dissident Millennial

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