Bertrand Russell’s Scientific Outlook, the CIA, & Social Engineering

Bertrand Russell

The Congress for Cultural Freedom was an anti-communist advocacy group created by the CIA in 1950, via the Ford Foundation. The CCF had a magazine called Encounter, which attracted some of the leading intellectuals of the period and beyond. It’s been only half-jokingly called “some of the best money the CIA ever spent.” Bertrand Russell was one of the CCF’s chairmen during the early years. Since Russell was viewed as a great philosopher and humanitarian, it’s easy to see how the CIA would want someone of his caliber to lend credibility to their cultural battleship. On the other hand, a chairman has power to steer the ship, so it seems unlikely the CIA would take a chance on someone not already in intelligence employ—or perhaps that of a higher governance body? While trying to ascertain Russell’s possible intelligence connections, I ended up reading online passages from Russell’s 1931 work, The Scientific Outlook (Routledge, 2009). I was somewhat taken aback to see that it reads like a manual for totalitarian control.

“[T]the scientific rulers will provide one kind of education for ordinary men and women, and another for those who are to become holders of scientific power. Ordinary men and women will be expected to be docile, industrious, punctual, thoughtless, and contented. Of these qualities, probably contentment will be considered the most important. In order to produce it, all the researches of psycho-analysis, behaviourism, and biochemistry will be brought into play. . . . All the boys and girls will learn from an early age to be what is called ‘co-operative,’ i.e., to do exactly what everybody is doing. Initiative will be discouraged in these children, and insubordination, without being punished, will be scientifically trained out of them. . . . Except for the one matter of loyalty to the world State and to their own order, members of the governing class will be encouraged to be adventurous and full of initiative. It will be recognized that it is their business to improve scientific technique, and to keep the manual workers contented by means of continual new amusements. . . . In normal cases, children of sufficient heredity will be admitted to the governing class from the moment of conception. I start with this moment rather than birth since it is from this moment and not merely the moment of birth that the treatment of the two classes will be different. If, however, by the time the child reaches the age of three it is fairly clear that he does not attain the required standard, he will be degraded at that point. [T]here would be a very strong tendency for the governing classes to become hereditary, and that after a few generations not many children would be moved from either class into the other. This is especially likely to be the case if embryological methods of improving the breed are applied to the governing class, but not to the others. In this way the gulf between the two classes as regards native intelligence will become continually wider and wider. . . . Assuming that both kinds of breeding are scientifically carried out, there will come to be an increasing divergence between the two types, making them in the end almost different species.”

Russell was my grandfather’s colleague, correspondent, and fellow Fabian and they collaborated on several progressive Leftist causes (such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). So where exactly does socialism or the avowed concern for the rights of “the common man” fit into Russell’s plan for a scientifically engineered society in which the division between classes would—as in an H. G. Wells novel—eventually become a species divide?

Roughly as a sheep’s clothing fits into the strategy of wolves?

Read the full piece here.


Jasun Horsley

Jasun Horsley

Existential detective. Liminalist author. Movie autist in chronic confessional mode. You only think you don't know who I am.
Jasun Horsley
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