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The Essential Ellen Willis$
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Ellen Willis and Nona Willis Aronowitz

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816681204

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816681204.001.0001

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What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about The Bell Curve

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about The Bell Curve

(p.327) What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about The Bell Curve
The Essential Ellen Willis

Nona Willis Aronowitz

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter discusses Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein’s The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, a book that explains the variations in intelligence in American society. More specifically, the book uses IQ as the preeminent criterion of social worth and attacks intelligence as a means of allocating social power. Contradictory as they sounded, these arguments converged in a paradoxical vision: invoking the authority of science. The Bell Curve rejects the whole enterprise of modernity by reviving decades-old claims about IQ: that there is such a thing as a quantifiable general intelligence, measured accurately and objectively by IQ tests; that this intelligence is largely genetic, highly resistant to change, and unevenly distributed among races; that high IQ correlates with economic and social success, while low IQ is associated with the abject condition and deviant behavior of the poor. The Bell Curve takes advantage of the frustration of a middle class that, whatever its IQ scores, sees its choices narrowing, its future in doubt.

Keywords:   intelligence, Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein, The Bell Curve, IQ, social power, science, race, deviant behavior, middle class

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