Blum, Jeffrey M. Pseudoscience and Mental Ability: The Origins and Fallacies of the IQ


Blum, Jeffrey M. Pseudoscience and Mental Ability: The Origins and Fallacies of the IQ
Controversy. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978.

This is Blum's dissertation in sociology at Stanford. It is a Marxist history of the psychometric
movement in the U.S. It is reasonably told except that he insists that assumptions are "obvious";
certainly his own are clear enough. He is clearly against the assumptions of the meritocracy; he
detests the assumptions on which the hereditarians have constructed their views. He, correctly,
sees that the IQ test was a pseudoscience one still accepted by educators and educational
administrators. (My only regret is that he sees none of the injustice of this and isn't angry. With
these data in hand, his should be a cause and not an argument.) He develops this thesis
throughout: the Spencer-Galton-Terman paradigm is defective.

There are many good quotes. "Opposition from the proletariat compelled the capitalists to justify
this inherited wealth, but their heritage of conflict with the feudal nobility constrained them from
using any concept of birthright directly. They needed some mysterious notion of talent or virtue
which theoretically anyone could possess, but which in practice usually coincided with
possession of property and wealth. Concepts of intelligence and hereditary natural ability were
devised and met this need. Meritocratic ideology emerged as a way of reconciling formal equality
and substantive inequality." (p. 164)

Blum's best point is the clear location of the entire movement of psychometry as within the
biological reductionistic model of the Eugenicists. Indeed, psychological testing is but an
ideologically nice way of saying that we are "dealing with" the "inferior stocks" of this world.