What most interests me in Broad's article is her discussion of the role science and technology play in creating this racist utopia. The most glaring "science" in Lane's utopia is an extreme eugenicist practice supposedly responsible for creating a "perfect" society. Mizora achieved its "perfection" after centuries of eugenic practice: "Crime is evolved from perverted natures, and natures become perverted from ill-usage. It merges into a peculiar structure of the brain that becomes hereditary...The only remedy was annihilation. Criminals had no posterity." As Broad remarks,
In this simplified narrative of historical progression, crime is not an act but a person--the criminal--who disappears along with other social undesirables like men, blacks, and even brunettes. Not surprisingly, the mentally and physically disabled cared for in Looking Backward have no place in Mizora. Scientifically aided and state sponsored evolution works in the name of progress to facilitate the emergence and perpetuity of a superior civilization whose advanced status is determined by the legibility of citizens' biologies and their supposedly corresponding inner pathologies. (258)
Sad to say, the notion that crime is not so much an act but a person comes horribly close to mainstream thought in the US today-- that, at least, is the subtext of current practice (as opposed to the principles of, say, the US Constitution). In short, Lane's assumption is that "criminality" is genetic in origin and found in the genes of brunettes, women of color, and all men.
According to Broad Lane also uses "science" to eliminate poverty and industrialized labor. "Lane achieves egalitarianism only be eliminating the need for laboring classes and the negative associations of low-class and immigrant workers." In Mizora, "cooks are chemists and housekeepers artists who have chosen their highly respected positions through the natural calling of their innate abilities. Once their domestic actities are considered scientific they becme 'respectable', a transformation that simultaneously elevates and undercuts traditionally female activities by granting importance only through scientific validation." (259) This seems less like actual science, though, than job reclassifications. (Spin control!)
But in what sense are any of these techniques "scientific" or "science"-based? It seems to me that science here has become a referent not to a method for producing knowledge, but rather to any set of techniques exerting control over nature and human perception. Lane seems to take science to be nothing more than a set of tools allowing people in power to reshape the world and manipulate human nature and social organization. Utopia is achieved, then, by using such "science" to extrapolate on the basis of one's beliefs.
I should probably note that a reviewer at the SF Site had this to say about Lane's depiction of science:
Lane's portrayal of the Mizoran society's development as largely a result of advancements in science is fairly remarkable. While it ignores any possible detrimental consequences of scientific discoveries, and the issue of unisexual mammalian reproduction is basically ignored, the existence of video-phones, carbon dioxide enrichment of greenhouse crops, and the understanding of food preparation as a form of experimental chemistry are remarkable.
But then he also found the book eminently--and comfortably--"feminist":
Lane's Mizora shows women to be intelligent, cooperative and capable of peaceful productive higher civilization. However, its feminism is in no way strident; men are more ignored and forgotten than hated, and its surface-world female heroine appears largely taken aback by her civilization's barbarity. [...] for women, Mizora will certainly be an interesting look into the mind of an obviously intelligent Victorian woman, and for those other men an interesting cultural and literary landmark of women's literature that at least isn't stridently anti-male.
Hmm. So he doesn't notice the racism, or if he does, it doesn't bother him enough to mention it. But what he does mention is that despite the absence (and exclusion of men) from this "utopia," its "feminism" isn't "strident"! Well Lane's "feminism" doesn't come anywhere near my own notion of feminism, anymore than Lane's view of "science" matches my own notion of science.
Not surprisingly, while I was reading Broad's article, I easily recalled that numerous examples of such "scientific" practices abounded in the 19th century, under the banner of pseudo-sciences like eugenics (aka Social Darwinism), craniometry, phrenology, etc. But after finishing the article, I realized that we constantly encounter fresh examples of the same kind of thinking today, in the 21st century-- particularly in studies designed to establish that characteristics that conform to entrenched beliefs and attitudes about race, gender, and sex differences are biologically determined and not an artifact of social organization. Obviously we often see this in psychological studies designed to establish race, gender, and sex differences. But we also encounter this in studies of the brain. (Think of how frequently MRI scans of particular areas of the brain center on an obsession with establishing differences between the brains of men and women!) And of course in the never-ending search for genetic evidence explaining every sort of social behavior as hard-wired. Such differences are presumably what granting agencies want to fund. But considering the limited resources available for research in the sciences that isn't aimed at either building bigger and deadlier weapons or garnering greater profits for multinational corporations peddling chemicals of one sort or another, such a focus is a terrible waste and distraction.