Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines (Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, 1853–1855) is the famous work of French writer Joseph Arthur, Comte de Gobineau, which argues that there are differences between human races, that civilizations decline and fall when the races are mixed and that the white race is superior. It is today considered to be one of the earliest examples of scientific racism.
Expanding upon Boulainvilliers' use of ethnography to defend the Ancien Régime against the claims of the Third Estate, Gobineau aimed for an explanatory system universal in scope: namely, that race is the primary force determining world events. Using scientific disciplines as varied as linguistics and anthropology, Gobineau divides the human species into three major groupings, white, yellow and black, claiming to demonstrate that "history springs only from contact with the white races." Among the white races, he distinguishes the Aryan race as the pinnacle of human development, comprising the basis of all European aristocracies. However, inevitable miscegenation led to the "downfall of civilizations".
Gobineau was a Legitimist who despaired at France's decline into republicanism and centralization. The book was written after the 1848 revolution when Gobineau began studying the works of Xavier Bichat and Johann Blumenbach.
The book was dedicated to King George V of Hanover (1851–66), the last king of Hanover. In the dedication, Gobineau writes that he presents to His Majesty the fruits of his speculations and studies into the hidden causes of the "revolutions, bloody wars, and lawlessness" ("révolutions, guerres sanglantes, renversements de lois") of the age.
In a letter to Count Anton von Prokesch-Osten in 1856 he describes the book as based upon "a hatred for democracy and its weapon, the Revolution, which I satisfied by showing, in a variety of ways, where revolution and democracy come from and where they are going."
Gobineau and the Bible
In Vol I, chapter 11, "Les différences ethniques sont permanentes" ("The ethnic differences are permanent"), Gobineau writes that "Adam is the originator of our white species" ("Adam soit l'auteur de notre espèce blanche"), and creatures not part of the white race are not part of that species. By this Gobineau refers to his division of humans into three main races: white, black, and yellow. The biblical division into Hamites, Semites, and Japhetites is for Gobineau a division within the white race. In general, Gobineau considers the Bible to be a reliable source of actual history, and he was not a supporter of the idea of polygenesis.
Josiah Clark Nott hired Henry Hotze to translate the work into English. Hotze's translation was published in 1856 as The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, with an added essay from Hotze and appendix from Nott. However, it "omitted the laws of repulusion and attraction, which were at the heart of Gobineau's account of the role of race-mixing in the rise and fall of civilizations". Gobineau was not pleased with the version; Gobineau was "particularly concerned that Hotze had ignored his comments on 'American decay generally and upon slaveholding in particular'."
The German translation Versuch über die Ungleichheit der Menschenrassen first appeared in 1897 and was translated by Ludwig Schemann, a member of the Bayreuth Circle and "one of the most important racial theorists of imperial and Weimar Germany".
A new English language version The Inequality of Human Races, translated by Adrian Collins, was published in Britain and the USA in 1915 and remains the standard English language version. It continues to be republished in the USA.
Steven Kale argues that Gobineau's "influence on the development of racial theory has been exaggerated and his ideas have been routinely misconstrued".
Gobineau's ideas found an audience in the United States and in German-speaking areas moreso than in France, becoming the inspiration for a host of racial theories, for example those of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. "Gobineau was the first to theorize that race was the deciding factor in history and the precursors of Nazism repeated some of his ideas, but his principle arguments were either ignored, deformed, or taken out of context in German racial thought".
German historian Joachim C. Fest, who wrote a biography of Hitler, describes Gobineau, in particular his negative views on race-mixing as expressed in his essay, as an eminent influence on Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Fest writes that the influence of Gobineau on Hitler can be easily seen and that Gobineau's ideas were used by Hitler in simplified form for demagogic purposes: "Significantly, Hitler simplified Gobineau's elaborate doctrine until it became demagogically usable and offered a set of plausible explanations for all the discontents, anxieties, and crises of the contemporary scene." However, Professor Steven Kale has cautioned that "Gobineau's influence on German racism has been repeatedly overstated".
Although cited by groups such as the Nazi Party, the text implicitly criticizes antisemitism and describes Jews in positive terms, the Jews being seen as a superbly forged race of "ancient Greek-like strength" of cohesion. Implicitly, the folk of Judah merely represented a wandering, semi-austral variation of Ur-Aryan blood-stock. Gobineau stated, "Jews... became a people that succeeded in everything it undertook, a free, strong, and intelligent people, and one which, before it lost, sword in hand, the name of an independent nation, had given as many learned men to the world as it had merchants." Philo-Judaic sentiment was intermixed with ethnological theories concerning the primally Indo-Iranian/Indo-Aryan archeogenetic matrix whence sprang the Jews. In these lines of speculative anthropology, the Jews were anciently (supposedly) primordially interpreted as of atypical Indo-European ethnicity: Judaic racial typology emerged from Iranid–Nordid founders, the details considered inessential, possessors of compatibly "white" "Aryan" blood being the main point. The latter-day "Hamiticized" Jewish folk came into existence from non-Afro-Asiatic Hurrian (or Horite), Jebusite, Amorite or early-Hittite, Mittani-affiliated racial nuclei, the "consensus science" of the time asserted. The blatantly, ironically almost aggressive pro-Jewish attitude of Gobineau, akin to Nietzsche in sheer admiration and lionization of the Jews as one of the "highest races", proved ideologically vertiginous to the Nazi propagandists and Procrustean thinkers—here Gobineau unmistakably contradicted perhaps the main pillar of Nazi political ideology, the schizoid, neo-Gnostic dualism of "Jewish demonology", painfully obvious as reflective of low-grade moral-intellectual barbarism. Incompatible with Nazi ideology, the Count's fervent Judaic positivity and total dearth of antisemitism the Nazis could only attempt to ignore or minimize away in the silence of hypocrisy.
- ^cited in Michael D. Biddiss Father of Racist Ideology: Social and Political Thought of Count Gobineau (1970) p514
- ^Robert Bernasconi and Tommy L. Lott (editors) The Idea of Race Hackett Publishing Co(2000) p45
- ^Lonnie A. Burnett Henry Hotze, Confederate Propagandist: Selected Writings on Revolution, Recognition, and Race The University of Alabama Press (2008) p5
- ^Richard S. Levy (Editor) Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution ABC-CLIO Ltd (2005) p640
- ^Kale, Steven (April 2010). "Gobineau, Racism, and Legitimism: a Royalist Heretic in Nineteenth-Century France". Modern Intellectual History. Cambridge University Press. 7 (1): 59. doi:10.1017/S1479244309990266.
- ^ abKale (2010) p. 60
- ^Fest, Joachim C. (2002). "Vision". Hitler. Mariner Books. pp. 210–211. ISBN 0-15-602754-2.
- ^Sabine, George (1988). Historia de la teoría política. Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica. ISBN 9789681641993.
- ^An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, Section 'The Influence of Locality'
- Gobineau, Arthur (Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau) The Inequality of Human Races translated by Adrian Collins
- Gobineau, Arthur (Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau) The Moral and Intellectual Diversity of Races, with particular reference to their perspective influence in the civil and political history of mankind translated by Henry Hotze
- Gobineau, Arthur (Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau) Versuch Uber Die Ungleichheit Der Menschenracen' translated by Ludwig Schemann
Previous (Arthur Waley)
Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (July 14, 1816 - October 13, 1882) was a Frencharistocrat, writer, diplomat, and social thinker. He became infamous for advocating developing the racist theory of the Aryan master race, in his book, An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853-1855). Gobineau approached his work from a scholarly viewpoint, trying to understand the course of human history and the factors involved in the development of civilizations. He concluded that race was the single most important factor determining the nature of human society, with the white race being responsible for all the great advances in history. He saw the barriers between the races as natural, having existed from the beginning of human history, and that breaking them down through miscegenation would lead to the destruction of civilization. Unfortunately, his ideas were taken and abused by Nazism, leading to genocide against the Jews and World War II. While the issue of racism has indeed been identified as key to resolving problems in the world, breaking down the barriers through marriage between those of different races has come to be seen as an integral part of the solution, and a vital component in the establishment of a peaceful world.
Joseph Arthur de Gobineau was born on July 14, 1816, in Ville-d'Avray, near Paris, France, into an aristocratic royalist family that cherished loyalty to the House of Bourbon. His father, Louis Gobineau, was an officer in the French army, and his mother, Anne-Louise Madeleine de Gercy, was of a Creole origin. When he was seven, his mother left her husband and fled with her lover and children to Switzerland, where young Gobineau attended the local gymnasium in Bienne. His mother tried to give him a solid Germanic and Germanophile education, and the schools in Switzerland were the ideal place for that.
In 1834, Gobineau returned to France to his father, and enrolled into general studies of the classics, folklore, and oriental studies. He tried in 1835, to enroll into the military academy, but failed the entrance exam. Instead, he left for Paris and worked different manual jobs to make a living. Between 1840 and 1848, he published several works, including Mademoiselle Irnois. In 1846, he married Clémence Monnerot.
In February 1848, the revolution broke out, which ended the French monarchy. About the same time Alexis de Tocqueville, an aristocrat and a mentor of Gobineau, became French foreign minister. In 1849, de Tocqueville made Gobineau his private secretary, and later the main chief of the cabinet. Subsequently, Gobineau became the first secretary in the embassy at Bern, and later he held posts in Hanover and Frankfurt.
Gobineau wrote his famous Essay on the Inequality of Human Races between 1853 and 1855. The book did not receive immediate attention, and passed rather unnoticed. In 1854, Gobineau became the first secretary in the embassy in Tehran, and later in 1861, the minister to Persia. There, he wrote several works on Persian society.
In 1864, Gobineau served as French emissary to Athens, Greece, and in 1868, he moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to carry the same position. In Brazil he became a friend of the Brazilian emperor, Dom Pedro II. After Brazil, in 1872, Gobineau moved to Stockholm, Sweden, which was his last post. In 1876, he was forced to retire from the diplomatic corps.
Gobineau spent the rest of his career in Italy, writing novels and sculpting. Many of his works were published posthumously. In 1876, Gobineau met Richard Wagner in Rome, and visited him several times in his home in Bayreuth. Wagner was rather inspired by Gobineau's views and, together with his friends from the Bayreuth circle, helped him propagate those views. Gobineau's racial theories became popular in Germany after his death.
Gobineau spent his last days writing poetry and sculpting, two of the loves he always cherished. He died in Turin, Italy, on October 13, 1882.
Gobineau published his famous Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in the period between 1853 and 1855, and dedicated it to King George V of Hanover (1851-66). He expressed his views on the times he lived in and tried to explain the reasons behind revolutions. Gobineau was a royalist and despised democracy, holding that revolutions and wars were the result of the degeneration of society in general.
In the Inequality of Human Races Gobineau attempted to create a science of history, connecting the rise and fall of civilizations with race. He came to believe that race created culture, arguing that distinctions between the three "black," "white," and "yellow" races were natural barriers, and that "race-mixing" breaks those barriers and leads to chaos.
This map shows the racial classification scheme of the anthropologist Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau.
According to his definitions and the map shown here, the people of Spain, southern France, southern and western Iran, most of Italy, and a large part of Britain, consist of a degenerative race arising from miscegenation. Also he stated that the whole of north India consisted of a yellow race.
Gobineau believed that the "white" race was superior to the others. He thought it corresponded to the ancient Indo-European culture also known as "Aryan," with Germany having just enough of the Aryan strain to revive the white race. He believed himself to be a descendant of Nordic Vikings.
Gobineau claimed that ethnicity was the most important issue in history, and that ethnic differences existed permanently from the beginning of human history. Gobineau considered the Bible to be a reliable source of history. In the Inequality of Human Races he wrote that "Adam is the originator of our white species," and all other races were not part of the human species. The biblical division into Hamites, Semites, and Japhetites, according to Gobineau, is a division within the white race.
In the last chapter of the Inequality of Human Races, Gobineau claimed that throughout human history there have been ten great civilizations, all of them started by the white race:
- The Indian civilization—built by white Aryans.
- The Egyptian civilization—founded by an Aryan branch from India.
- The Assyrians—to which are attached other civilizations such as the Jewish and the Phoenician. According to Gobineau, these are Hamites and Semites. Gobineau places the Iranian civilizations here, but mentions that they are Aryans.
- The Greeks—originally Aryans, but with Semitic elements.
- The Chinese civilization—like the Egyptian founded by an Aryan colony from India.
- The old civilization of the Italian Peninsula—became a mosaic of Celts, Iberians, Aryans, and Semites.
- The Germanic races transformed in the fifth century the western spirit—they were Aryans.
- The Alleghanian civilizations in America.
- The Mexican civilizations in America.
- The Peruvian civilization in America.
Gobineau believed that civilization appeared as the result of conquest by a superior Aryan race over inferior races. He wrote that Aryans were brave, intelligent, and strong, but had a weakness in creativity. A small influx of blood of other races, especially Semitic, improved this weakness. However, Gobineau warned, too much race mixing would result in the ultimate destruction of civilization.
Gobineau also wrote novels, notably Les Pléiades (1874). His study, La Renaissance (1877), was also admired in his day. Both of these works strongly expressed his reactionary aristocratic politics, and his hatred of democratic mass culture.
Although his racial theories did not receive immediate attention in Europe, it was through the influence of the Bayreuth circle and Richard Wagner that his views became popular, and his anti-Semitic theories developed.
Josiah Clark Nott, a leader of the polygenist movement (that suggested that Whites and Blacks were two distinct species), translated Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines into English. Gobineau's work has been continuously republished, most recently by contemporary white nationalist groups.
Adolf Hitler and Nazism borrowed much of Gobineau's ideology, though Gobineau himself was not particularly anti-semitic. Gobineau saw Jews as strong, intelligent people who were very much a part of the superior race and who, if anything, stimulated industry and culture. As such, when the Nazis adopted Gobineau's theories, they were forced to extensively edit his work, much as they did in the case of Nietzsche's writings.
To Bahá'ís, Gobineau is known as the person who obtained the only complete manuscript of the early history of the Bábí religious movement of Persia, written by Hâjji Mirza Jân of Kashan, who was put to death by the Persian authorities in 1852. The manuscript is now in the Bibliothèque nationale at Paris.
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1988 (original 1846). Mademoiselle Irnois and Other Stories. University of California Press. ISBN 0520059468
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1999 (original 1855). The Inequality of Human Races. Howard Fertig. ISBN 0865274304
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 2002 (original 1859). Trois ans en Asie. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1421228114
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1971. The World of the Persians. Gifford. ISBN 9993636460
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1978 (original 1874). The Pleiads. H. Fertig.
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1913 (original 1877). The Renaissance. G.P. Putnam's Sons.
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 2001 (original 1879). Histoire d\'Ottar Jarl pirate norven conqunt du pays de Bray, en Normandie et de sa descendance. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 054392274X
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1984. Etudes critiques: 1842-1847. Klincksieck. ISBN 2865630692
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1993. Au royaume des Hellènes. M. Nadeau. ISBN 286231112X
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 1995. La danseuse de Shamakha. Serpent à plumes. ISBN 2908957795
- Gobineau, Arthur de. 2006. The Crimson Handkerchief and Other Stories. Pomona Press. ISBN 1406794244
- Gobineau, Arthur de, & Richard Wagner. 2001. Correspondance 1880-1882. Nizet. ISBN 2707812587
- Biddiss, Michael D. 1970. Father of racist ideology: The social and political thought of Count Gobineau. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0297000853
- Boissel, Jean. 1974. Gobineau, l'Orient et l'Iran. Klincksieck. ISBN 225201623X
- Boissel, Jean. 1993. Gobineau: Biographie - mythes et réalité. Berg International. ISBN 2900269849
- Raeders, Georges. 1996. Conde de Gobineau no Brasil. Paz e Terra. ISBN 8521902050
- Smith, Annette & David Smith. 1987. Comte Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82). Retrieved February 15, 2007.
- Spring, G. M. 1995. The Philosophy of the Count de Gobineau. Scott-Townsend Publishers. ISBN 1878465139
- Tocqueville, Alexis de. 1968. The European revolution: Correspondence with Gobineau. P. Smith.
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