The Problem of Lysenkoism

  • Richard Lewontin
  • Richard Levins
Chapter
Part of the Critical Social Studies book series

Abstract

The Lysenkoist movement, which agitated Soviet biology and agriculture for more than twenty years, and which remains attractive to segments of the left outside the Soviet Union today, was a phenomenon of vastly greater complexity than has been ordinarily perceived. Lysenkoism cannot be understood simply as the result of the machinations of an opportunist-careerist operating in an authoritarian and capricious political system, a view held not only by Western commentators but by liberal reformers within the Soviet Union. It was not just an ‘affair’, nor the ‘rise and fall’ of a single individual’s influence, as might be supposed from the titles of the books by Joravsky1 and Medvedev.2 Nor, on the other hand, can the Lysenko movement be regarded, as some ultra-left Maoists do, as a triumph of the application of dialectical method to a scientific problem, an intellectual triumph that is being suppressed by the bourgeois West and Soviet revisionism. None of these views corresponds to a valid theory of historical causation. None recognises that Lysenkoism, like all non-trivial historical phenomena, results from a conjunction of ideological, material and political circumstances, and at the same time is the cause of important changes in those circumstances. It is not particularly surprising that bourgeois commentators have such a view of the Lysenkoist movement, for it is entirely within their tradition that major historical changes can be the result of individual decision and caprice of powerful persons or of unique historical accidents with no special causal relations.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    D. Joravsky, The Lysenko Affair (Harvard University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Z. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko (New York: Columbia, 1969).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    M. G. Kains, Plant Propagation— Greenhouse and Nursery Practice (New York: Orange Judd, 1916) p. 175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    I. I. Schmalhausen, Factors of Evolution (Philadelphia: Blakis-ton, 1949).Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    T. Dobzhansky, Genetics and the Origin of Species, 3rd edn (New York: Columbia, 1951).Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    K. H. W. Klages, Ecological Crop Geography (New York: Macmillan, 1949).Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    For these and other similar experiments and theoretical arguments relevant to Lamarckist interpretations, the following bibliography is representative: N. J. Berrill and C. K. Liu, ‘Germplasm, Weismann and Hydrozoa’, Quarterly Review of Biology, 23 (1948) pp. 124–32;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. H. L. Bolley, ‘Indication of the Transmission of an Acquired Character in Flax’, Science, 66 (1927) pp. 301–2;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. J. T. Cunningham, ‘Evolution of the Hive-bee’, Nature, 125 (1930) p. 857;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. L. Daniel, ‘The Inheritance of Acquired Characters in Grafted Plants’, Proceedings of the International Congress of Plant Sciences, 2 (1926) pp. 1024–44;Google Scholar
  11. W. H. Eyster, ‘The Effect of Environment on Variegation Patterns in Maize Endocarp’, Genetics, 11 (1926) pp. 372–86;Google Scholar
  12. H. Federley, ‘Weshalb lehnt die Genetik die Annahme einer Vererbung erworbener Eigenschaf-ten ab?’, Paleontologische Zeitschrift, 11 (1929) pp. 287–317;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. J. E. Finesinger, ‘Effect of Certain Chemical and Physical Agents on Fecundity and Length of Life, and on their Inheritance in a Rotifer’, Lecaneinermis (Bryce)’, Journal of Experimental Zoology, 44 (1926) pp. 63–94;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. M. F. Guyer, ‘The Germinal Background of Somatic Modifications’, Science, 71 (1930) pp. 109–76;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. J. W. H. Harrison, ‘Experiments on the Egg Laying Instincts of the Sawfly, Pontamia salicis Christ., and their Bearing on the Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics with some Remarks on a New Principle of Evolution’, Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B., 101 (1927) pp. 115–26;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. G. Klebs, ‘Alterations in the Development and Forms of Plants as a Result of Environment’, Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B., 84 (1910) pp. 547–58;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. S. Konsuloff, ‘Über die Dauermodifikationen den tierischen Gewebe’, Zeitschrift der Geselschaft Exp. Med., 89 (1933) pp. 177–82; P. Lesage, ‘Sur la précocité’: étapes du caractère provoqué, au caractère hérité définitivement fixe. Application à la prediction de primeurs’, Comptes Rendues de l’Académie d Agriculture, 182 (5) (1924);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. P. Lesage, ‘Sur la précocité provoqúee et heritée dans le Lepidium sativum après la vie sous chassis’, Revue générale de botani-que, 38 (1926) pp. 65–86;Google Scholar
  19. E. W. MacBride, ‘Habit: The Driving Force in Evolution’, Nature, 127 (1931) pp. 933–44;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. F. Nopsca, ‘Heredity and evolution’, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 2 (1926) pp. 633–65 — ‘the foregoing lines all lead to the idea of heredity being regulated by two antagonistic factors. The conservative factor evidently is the constancy of the germplasma… the other modernising factor that enables all evolution to go on must consist of the cooperation of all these different physiological factors by which the germplasma is either directly affected or indirectly altered by the medium of some hormone.’Google Scholar
  21. W. Pfeffer, The Physiology of Plants, 2nd edn (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900)— ‘External conditions act not so much as direct formative, as indirect inducing agents and thus produce vital changes leading to an attainment of new hereditary peculiarities.’ p. 83;Google Scholar
  22. J. M. Reynolds, ‘On the Inheritance of Food Effects in the Flour Beetle, Tribolium destructor’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London (B) 132 (1945) pp. 438–51; D. E. Sladden and H. R. Hewer, ‘Transference of Induced Food Habit from Parent to Offspring III’, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh B, 126 30–44;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. F. J. Stevenson, ‘Potato Breeding Genetics and Cytology: Review of Literature of Interest to Potato Breeders’, American Potato Journal, 25 (1948) pp. 1–12;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. A. H. Sturtevant, ‘Can Specific Mutations be Induced by Serological Methods?’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, 30 (1944) pp. 176–8;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. P. M. Suster, ‘Erblichkeit aufgezwungener Futterannahme bei Drosophila repleta’, Zoologischer Anzeiger, 102 (1933) pp. 222–4;Google Scholar
  26. T. Swarbrick, ‘Root Stock and Scion Relationship. Some Effects of Scion Variety upon the Root Stock’, Journal of Pomology and Horticultural Science, 81 (1930) pp. 210–28;Google Scholar
  27. H. M. Vernon, ‘The Relations between the Hybrid and Parent Forms of Echinoid Larvae’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 190 (1898) pp. 465–529;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. K. S. Wilson and C. L. Withner Jr, ‘Stock -Scion Relationships in Tomatoes’, American Journal of Botany, 33 (1946) pp. 796–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 17.
    F. Griffith, ‘The Significance of Pneumococcal Types’, Journal of Hygiene, 27 (1928) p. 113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 18.
    B. Zavadovsky, ‘The “Physical” and the “Biological” in the Process of Organic Evolution’, in Science at the Crossroads (London: Kniga, 1931).Google Scholar
  31. 20.
    E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 2 (London: Mac-millan, 1952).Google Scholar
  32. 21.
    R. Levins, Evolution in Changing Environments (Princeton University Press, 1968).Google Scholar
  33. 22.
    R. C. Lewontin, The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Hilary Rose and Steven Rose 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Lewontin
  • Richard Levins

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations