Book Review: The Supremacist Syndrome
Reviewed by Liam Anthony
How has human supremacism shaped our sociopolitical history?
The Supremacist Syndrome by Peter Marsh highlights how the role of human supremacism has informed fundamental moments of our past. The book is divided into three sections, analyzing the Holocaust in Hungary, the rule of King Leopold II in the Congo, and the suffragette movement in England.
The book explores many angles including the connection between supremacism and our treatment of animals, the author’s own evaluations, and contributions from thinkers across the spectrum of social sciences.
The author writes with perfect equilibrium, oscillating between an academic, learned tone and an organized narrative structure. Each chapter manages to convey both a detailed and digestible account of the historical context and introduces readers to the advocates who played an instrumental role in changing the status quo.
“Votes for Women” is my favorite chapter in this book. Not only does it capture the formidable force of the suffragette movement, it also provides sharp commentary regarding social class. The chapter follows important figures of the suffragette movement, one being Constance Lytton. It focuses on a scene at Holloway prison in London that paints an influential human with intrigue as she’s able to rise as a pillar of political activism.This section is also punctuated with quotes from the essayist Francis Power Cobbe, like this one:
”When other groups, such as children working in Dickensian factories, were endangered or tyrannized by those with power over them, the law stepped in to protect them. Not so with women.”
After discussing these topics, the book analyzes how human supremacism has informed how we treat animals. While it’s going in an interesting direction, there are parts in this section that lean heavily into philosophy and social investigations that, while supporting the author’s discourse, feel like digressions away from the topic of supremacy. It feels perhaps like this section would simply just fit better in a separate book.
The Supremacist Syndrome is a much-needed contribution to our current society. To understand the present, one has to travel back in time, to consolidate our knowledge of history and navigate our lives with it. The book is didactic, providing its readers with the impulse to not only be more socially conscious but to champion the contribution of the people who have encouraged the dismantlement of supremacist regimes.
Peter Marsh is a talented communicator who can transmit complex information in an appealing fashion that doesn’t feel diluted; the reader is given the full picture. Even readers who might be discouraged by a book like this will find the writer’s style compelling and the topic too important to dismiss.
Publisher: Lantern Publishing & Media
Genre: Nonfiction / Social Sciences / Discrimination
Print Length: 324 pages
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