_Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848 - c. 1918_ (1989, Cambridge, Ideas in Context) by Daniel Pick traces the history of the notion of degeneration as it arose in European thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Degeneration was seen as a general decline in humanity from a previous age as seen in poverty, disease, destitution, degradation, and misery in general. Degeneration was seen as the opposite of progress (which occupied an alternative though rejected view of history) and was expressed as a theory to explain crime, poverty, and the lack of moral character by various European writers and thinkers. In particular, the thinkers Morel, Lombroso, Maudsley, and Nordau wrote extensively on the issue of degeneration as it applied to crime and art. Other European figures focused on the horror of the crowd (as seen in various revolutions in particular the French Revolution) or the rise of Social Darwinism and eugenics. Authors also focused on the themes of degeneration in their novels including those which mentioned the issues of mental deterioration, psychoanalysis, and the decline brought about by entropy. These ideas occupied a prominent place on both the political left among various proposals for socialism and the right which often advocated eugenics (and which came to emerge in the Nazi terror). This book considers these ideas as they developed in European thought during this period and their role in the continuing history of the twentieth century.
The book includes the following parts and chapters -
Introduction - explains the contradictory notions of progress versus regression and decline explaining how each arises from optimism versus pessimism. Considers the role of evolutionary theory and the influence of Darwinism in the Victorian era. Notes the importance of degeneration theory as it developed in the new fields of psychiatry, criminology, and anthropology. Explains the role of Literary Decadence and the appearance of degeneration theories in contemporary literature. Notes the prominence of decline in the theories of individuals such as Morel and Lombroso, Maudsley, and others including Buchez, Taine, Le Bon, Sorel, and Zola. Considers the role of progress and degeneration noting its importance for various evolutionary scientists, anthropological criminologists, and medical pysychiatrists as it concerned late nineteenth century evolutionary naturalism. Notes in particular the influence of Chambers, Spencer, and Darwin, also explaining the influence of progress as it was believed to be behind the French revolution and the theories of Marx and Engels. Explains the role of the First World war and its relationship to degeneration including the theories of Nietzsche and Spengler. Notes the prominence of degeneration theories among criminologists and psychiatrists such as Morel, Lombroso, Kraft-Ebing, Lankester, and Nordau. Considers the role of degeneration theories and their relationship to the Final Solution of the Nazis. Notes the prominence of some degeneration theories behind English Fascism including racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and anti-democratic and elitist theories.
Part I. France.
Degenerescence and revolution - notes the role of degeneration theories in France behind the "degeneration within" explaining the various theoies of Edward Said concerning "orientalism",the theories of Michel Foucault on madness, the role of revolution and the criticism of laissez-faire, and the theories of Eugen Weber and Morel. Considers the theories of Morel concerning the role of biological and social degeneration. Notes the role of the "empire of pathologies" in which psychological pathologies such as cretinism or feeble-mindedness were seen to be at the root of "degenerescence" and social degeneration. Notes the role of Comteian positivism, as well as the traditionalist Catholic response to the revolution of de Bonald and de Maistre. Notes the role of degeneration theories in Buchez and Taine, explaining the prominent influence of Morel on their theories of social degeneration.
Zola's Prognosis - explains the prognosis of Emile Zola who considered theories of degeneration in his _Dr. Pascal_. Considers the question of heredity as it appears in the writings of Zola, Wilde, Huysmans, Poe, and Bauedelaire. Explains the prominence of the theories of Lombroso and especially Max Nordau who considered poets and artists to constitute degenerate types. Notes the prognosis from doctor to patient in the writings of Zola concerning Dr. Pascal and the decline of the Enlightenment. Explains the role of "crowd regression" in the theories of Zola and Le Bon. In particular, Le Bon was to argue that the crowd took on atavistic impulses and saw great concern in the revolutions of the era (especially the bloody French revolution) and the rise of socialism.
The wake of degenerescence - explains the role of degeneration in the 1870s in which a flood of books appeared discussing the topic. Authors lamented the rise of "hyper-civilization" and the decline of society which accorded well with the recently discovered second law of thermodynamics. This chapter considers carefully the writings of Zola and Taine, as well as the studies of Durkheim, Renouvier, the theories of Morel and Lombroso, and even the role of degeneration theories as they influenced Sigmund Freud and philosophers Bergson and Sorel.
Part II. Italy.
Lomboso's criminal science - considers the role of criminology as it was developed by the Italian theorist Cesare Lombroso. Notes the role of atavism and anarchy as written about by Lombroso who traced criminal and anarchist tendencies in atavistic facial features. Notes the role of Lombroso's _Criminal Man_ and the influence of Darwinism and positivism on his findings. Explains Lombroso's creation of the science of criminal anthropology as well as his fatalism concerning criminal characteristics. Explains how metaphors from Pasteurian bacteriology were used to apply to the criminal case. Notes how Lombroso's theories came under attack from Dallemagne, Ferri, Gentile, and other Italian and French theorists. Notes the role of social theory and the science of socialism including the socialism of the Marxists as it influenced Lombroso's theories. Further notes the influence of spiritualism on Lombroso and his conflict with the scientific establishment over these matters.
Part III. England.
Fictions of degeneration - explains the role of degeneration theories in fiction, especially those influenced by the theories of Lombroso and later Nordau. Notes the role of degeneration theories as they played a prominent role in the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle concerning Sherlock Holmes, the writings of H. G. Wells in _The Time Machine_, the role of Thomas Carlyle, the writings of Joseph Conrad (especially in _The Secret Agent_ about an anarchist), Oscar Wilde's _The Picture of Dorian Gray_, the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson in _The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde_ showing the role of atavism in a split personality, and especially Bram Stoker's _Dracula_ which made especial emphasis on the criminal type in the character of Dracula.
Crime, urban degeneration, and national decadence - considers the question of crime and urban degeneration as it concerned degeneration theorists. Notes the role of the question of crime in the theories of Morel and Lombroso, the relationship between Mill and the Benthamites, and the problem of crime as it related to atavism and notions of impurity. Notes the role of "centres of decay" as ideas of race degeneration were developed by Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, and the eugenics of Francis Galton. Considers the prominent role of Henry Maudsley in proposing psychiatric and medical theories of degeneration. Considers the role of degeneration as a "chapter in Darwinism" noting the influence of Social Darwinism and theories of socialism in Lankester, Galton, Wells, Wallace, Darwin, and Huxley.
Concluding remarks - explains the role of the "language of degeneration" and how this language was used to refer to social problems in a bio-medical model of civilization. Notes the role of Romanticism and the theoies of Freudian psychoanalysis in the Victorian era. Explains the theories of Nietzsche as well as the Freudian "pleasure principle". Notes the problem of the First World War and the role of "shellshock" as a form of degeneration following that war and its influence on psychiatry. Notes the role of the notion of a "tainted heredity" and how theories of an Aryan race were developed which later played a prominent role for the Nazis. Explains how the theories of Lombroso and Nordau influenced individuals such as Mussolini as well as the role of the Nazis. Also explains how individuals such as George Bernard Shaw became enamored of eugenics and totalitarianism as well as the subsequent role of the Frankfurt School.
This book offers an excellent study of the role of degeneration theories on European culture in the late nineteenth century up until the time of the First World War. Degeneration theories as developed by individuals such as Morel, Lombroso, and Nordau were to influence better known thinkers such as Nietzsche and Freud as well as literature. The language of degeneration was used to describe social decay, hereditary taint, and other issues that concerned late nineteenth century civilization. The role of degeneration also influenced social theories of the socialists and eugenicists. This book explains how these theories arose and the influence of the idea of degeneration on European thought during this period.