Eugenic thought, practice, and advocacy are best understood as existing along a continuum with degrees of activity. It is therefore misleading and obscuring the complexity of the range of reproductive options to suggest that either a society does or does not have eugenic practices. Most significantly the social setting in which eugenics flourishes or declines is as important as the knowledge base in genetics and biology. The oft cited post-World War II defeat of eugenic thought is actually therefore better framed as its mitigation, its submersion, muting, or transmogrification. These changes came about more because of the defeat of the Nazis, and less because of advances in scientific knowledge of the genetics of race. As early as the 1930s, German and U.S. scientists had conclusive evidence that the ABO blood system did not track along racial or ethnic lines, but this knowledge did not inhibit some of the most vicious racist eugenic practices ever promulgated and perpetrated.
The social and economic setting in the technologically developed part of the world since the mid-1980s is propitious for a strong resurgence of eugenic thinking and advocacy, similar in degree to the social transformations of early-twentieth century Europe and the United States. The decline of the welfare state, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and the erosion of safety nets for the poorest members of a society have set the stage. This is accompanied by transnational migrations of laborers in the increasingly global labor markets of major post-industrial nations. The entry and consignment of these workers to the bottom quartile of the economic order, with the highest rates of poverty, disease, and recorded crime and violence will fuel the re-insurgence of attempts to explain their behavior. The new forms of eugenic insurgency will be disguised, muted, and made more palpable as: (a) the neutral requirements of forensic techniques of ethnic estimation; (b) the convergence of molecular and behavioral genetics in explanations of violent and antisocial behavior; and (c) the over-arching framework of individual choice regarding reproductive options, whether to prevent the birth of a child with a genetic defect, or in the use of new technologies to enhance the prospect of the fetus for competitive advantage.
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