McGrath, Malcolm (Frederick) 1963-
McGrath, Malcolm (Frederick) 1963-
PERSONAL: Born January 30, 1963, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; son of Malcolm (an engineer) and Joy (a lawyer; maiden name, Ferry) McGrath; married Barbara Zschoch, July 11, 1998; children: Helen. Education: University of Western Ontario, B.A., 1985; London School of Economics, M.Sc., 1987; Oxford University, D.Phil., 2002. Politics: Liberal. Religion: "Vaguely Christian." Hobbies and other interests: Carpentry, philosophy, social theory.
ADDRESSES: Home—195 Willowdale Ave., Toronto, Ontario M2N 421, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Building contractor, consultant, and author. Carpenter, 1981-94; renovation contractor in Moscow, Russia, 1993-97, and in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1998-; project management consultant in Moscow, Russia, 1997.
Demons of the Modern World, Prometheus (Amherst, NY), 2001.
Contributor to periodicals, including Woodstock Road Editorial.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "A work on the relationship between micro economics, cognitive psychology, and development economics based upon my five years working in Russia while it was an 'emerging market' in the nineties; a general-interest philosophy book examining the "politics of fashion, the concept of freedom in rock music, and the search for 'meaning' in advertising."
SIDELIGHTS: Malcolm McGrath's Demons of the Modern World looks at several contemporary manifestations of irrational beliefs, including the idea that Satanic cults are running child day-care centers and that innocent people have been victims of alien abductions. These ideas, McGrath argues, have their roots in the traditional Western dichotomy between the real, external world and the personal, interior world. We learn this split in childhood, McGrath believes, but always retain a memory of a childhood consciousness in which the real and the fantastic are not so strictly defined. As a result, he contends, irrational beliefs regarding the proliferation of Satanic cults and extensive illiteracy among certain suspect populations continue to hold sway. "His basic argument," explained David V. Barrett in an online review for Fortean Times, "is that young children don't distinguish between fantasy and reality in the same way adults do—but that neither did adults until a couple hundred years ago, when the age of reason created modern, rational man." "Because we remember our rich childhood fantasy life, we unconsciously suspect that dark, supernatural forces may break down this differentiation," William P. Collins added in a review for Library Journal. While Barrett viewed McGrath's thesis as somewhat simplistic and inadequate in that it does not take into account "the ignorance and credulity" of the less-educated population, Demons of the Modern World was praised as "a terrifically contextualized debunking that is sure to generate debate among the faithful," by a critic in Publishers Weekly. Collins concluded that "the content [of Demons of the Modern World] is superb."
McGrath told CA: "Demons of the Modern World is an attempt to write a popular philosophy book based on some of the theoretical developments in my D.Phil. thesis. My thesis is an examination of the relationship between Soviet political and economic theory and modern western political and economic theory. In other words is Soviet Marxism a modern political philosophy or something inspired by Russia's non-western past? In the process of this research I was forced to reexamine in detail problems surrounding 'intellectual modernization.' What are the philosophical foundations of our modern, rational way of seeing the world? As I was developing these ideas, I became aware—in particular while drinking beer and watching Children of the Corn, a cheesy horror movie based on a Stephen King story—that modern horror-story plots have a simple but unchanging structure, and that this structure is based on the way that modern Western culture draws the line between fantasy and reality. Further, casual research into the 'great witch hunts' and the 'Satanism scare' revealed the same recurring pattern. This was the beginning of Demons of the Modern World, which began as an idea for an article, became extended into a proposal for a short book, and ended up as a full monograph."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, November 1, 2001, William P. Collins, review of Demons of the Modern World, p. 100.
Psychology Today, July-August, 2002, Paul Chance, review of Demons of the Modern World, p. 72.
Publishers Weekly, October 15, 2001, review of Demons of the Modern World, p. 59.
Skeptical Inquirer, May, 2002, Kendrick Frazier, review of Demons of the Modern World, p. 55.
Fortean Times Review, http://www.forteantimes.com/ (January 26, 2004), David V. Barrett, review of Demons of the Modern World.