Dalrymple and Mieville

Theodore Dalrymple chides China Mieville.


My respect for Mr Mieville increases. I had not realized that one of my guild, a science fiction writer, was famous enough to earn a tongue lashing from Theodore Dalrymple.

Of course, I know nothing of Mr Mieville aside from what I read of the first hundred pages of PERDIDO STREET STATION, to which my reaction was negative. I have not read the article the good doctor denounces.


  1. Comment by Mary:

    I forget which of Mieville’s books I tried and failed to read.

    But really, what needs to read of the article? Thinking that severe sentence are not suitable for severe crimes? Isn’t that enough?

  2. Comment by lampwright:

    Aren’t they both British? Mieville may be a bigger presense in England.

  3. Comment by Zach:

    I can put up with authors being commies or crackheads or whatever. I can’t put up with them being dull.

  4. Comment by Fabio P.Barbieri:

    I wish Dalrymple hadn’t taken the right-wing-populist position of taking an anthropology degree to be a piece of academic drek that makes you unable to see facts. Especially when he uses an anthropological concept – marking out one’s tribal area – to explain what Mieville had failed to see. My degree is in social anthropology, and I bristle every time that some right-wing scribbler uses anthropology, or for that matter sociology, as a code word for ideological nonsense. It only shows ignorance and prejudice. Besides, a doctor of all people ought to shut up on these matters. Medicine is the last refuge of eugenics, and is all too obviously dominated by this murderous delusion, which leads the mass of doctors to endorse abortion and quietly practise euthanasia. When it comes to the value and end of my life, I would much rather trust a social anthropologist than a medical graduate. Unless, of course, he has trained at SOAS.

    P.S.: Mieville is a moron, but we knew that already.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “My degree is in social anthropology, and I bristle every time that some right-wing scribbler uses anthropology, or for that matter sociology, as a code word for ideological nonsense. It only shows ignorance and prejudice”

      Blame your fellow anthropologists for the low regard in which the field is held, because they let themselves be used by any number of pseudo-scientific peddlers of nonsense for the general crusade against the Church, against liberty, against civilization. The Kinsey Report, that notorious fraud perpetrated by a sexual pervert, because it was adorned in the glamor of science and anthropological and sociological research, had great influence during the sexual revolution, by the leading that same glamor and prestige to adultery and perversion, and making fornication seem as modern and scientific and shining an invention as the motor car.

      It does not show prejudice to mistrust a field with a long history of falsehood and folly. I mean no particular disrespect to your field: indeed, I expect philosophy to be held in the same contempt, because what modern philosophers have done to make the noble speculations of philosophy into word game and nonsense and wretchedness and wickedness certainly has stained the escutcheon of my clan as well.

      I also expect law to be held in contempt, since the judgments of the post-New-Deal courts have severed the threads once linking common law to common sense, and jurists degenerated from interpreters of the law to self-appointed legislators and ephors.

      • Comment by Fabio P.Barbieri:

        Kinsey was neither an anthropologist nor a sociologist. He was an entomologist. AS for his report, it was knocked by responsible scholars when it came out and owes its popularity to the media. If you want dangerous crap produced by an anthropologist, try Margaret Mead’s “Coming of Age in Samoa”, which embarrasses anthropology faculties to this day. But that does nothing more to discredit anthropology as a discipline than many people you might mention to discredit law. What really honked me off is that Dalrymple used an anthropological concept to (justly) trash Mieville and at the same time took it on himself to insult anthropologists. That is parasitical and self-defeating.

        OH, and I take it that Dred Scott was post-New Deal? the law has been used to pervert itself at least since the Socrates subversion case.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I would also have mentioned Margaret Mead as someone casting shame on the field. If you want to distance anthropology from Kinsey, and throw the blame on journalism, which is another of my fields, I will not only admit the justice, but applaud. Never in my life has journalism been so lacking in integrity.

      • Comment by joetexx:

        I must associate myself with Mr Barbieri’s impatience with populist disdain towards the social sciences. This often, and irritatingly, takes the form of excessive veneration for the precision, accuracy, theoretical subtlety, yaddayaddayadda of the ‘hard’ physical sciences coupled with contempt for the sloppy ways of the ‘soft’ disciplines, but by its very nature, ant discipline that involves what Von Mises called ‘human action’ cannot approximate the rigor possible when describing particles, forces, molecules, and even simple organisms.

        Then too, human beings bite. As Stanislav Andreski pointed out, if chemical reagents don’t like what you write about them they will not jump off the shelf and burn you, or get you fired or tossed into the slammer.

        Andreski’s brilliant Social Sciences as Sorcery was unsparing in denouncing the intellectual sins of  the social disciplines (he was a military sociologist and I read him out of sheer curiosity, having grown up in a career Army family).
        But he also led me to a real appreciation of what sound work had been done in the past, and of the limitations which must be accepted to proceed with useful social investigation. His brief section on conducting interviews itself makes the book worth reading.  Besides he is screamingly funny. The book is 40 years old and I reread it every couple of years.

        I also smile remembering the historian Page Smith’ s description of anthropology: 

        ‘It is arguably the funniest academic discipline… The field anthropologist must at all times remember what his mother taught him – that it’s not polite to point.’

    Leave a Reply