Charles Murray Is Not a Sociologist – Letters – Blogs

To the Editor:

In your Ticker article, “Here’s Where Charles Murray, Whose Presence Inflamed Middlebury, Is Speaking Next” (The Chronicle, March 21), you refer to Charles Murray as a sociologist. Murray is NOT a sociologist. His Ph.D. is in political science and his bachelor’s degree is in history.

His infamous, and probably best known, work, The Bell Curve, is not a sociological analysis. The book argues that intelligence shapes social class, crime, and other social facts. He further contends that intelligence varies with race, and thus implies that racial minorities are disproportionately poor because they are less intelligent than whites. That is about one of the most anti-sociological arguments one can make. His perspective does not exhibit a sociological imagination. It is biological essentialism masked as social science at its best, a peddling of crackpot lay analysis at its worst.

For those wanting to protest his speaking engagements, they have a right to do so. However, these critics should not overestimate his significance. While he may be popular in some circles, his “research” is of little consequence. It is a curiosity some of us use in introductory sociology courses as an example of scientific racism and reductionism, among other things. No one in sociology takes him seriously as a scholar, but some might see him as a purveyor of racists ideas with a certain political capital that affords his arguments the ears of people in power. Still, worrying about Murray should be the least of anyone’s concerns.

There are people with far worse ideas that have more significant ramifications, such as the resurgence of Carl Schmitt in the more “intellectual” racist circles of The Occidental Observer, or the ramblings of demagogues that now have the ear of power as evidenced in recent conspiracies about wiretapping. Instead of writing about where Murray will be next, perhaps The Chronicle should publish the itineraries of notable…

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