Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature

From World War II to the early 1970s, American social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion. This volume offers fascinating perspectives on the rise of U.S. practitioners as global leaders in the field, exploring how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with Cold War politics. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of ‘Cold War social science,’ the histories gathered here reveal how scholars from established disciplines and new interdisciplinary fields of study made important contributions to long-standing debates about knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature.

In connecting issues of knowledge and power to questions of human nature, the essays in this volume often unknowingly suggest possibilities for moving beyond the facile distinctions between repressive and emancipatory social science that have shaped the critique and defense of social science since the era of the cold war.” – U.S. Intellectual History

‘In this ambitious volume, leading historians assess the shared moves—intellectual, institutional, political—that characterized the social sciences in Cold War America. Engaging examples range from area studies to linguistics, psychology to economics, each grappling with hard questions about military patronage and the tensions between pure and applied research. Authors reveal important continuities to earlier periods even as they hone in on what was special about the bounded historical moment of the Cold War. A must-read for anyone interested in relations between knowledge and power and the changing place of the academy in American life.’— David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

‘This exciting collection proves that the history of Cold War social science has come of age. It is at once a collection of fascinating case studies and a volume that probes the big questions about science and politics. To what extent did Cold War imperatives shape knowledge about social relations, cultural difference, individuality, human nature, motivation, and behavior? How was the stunning mid-century expansion of American social science also rooted in institutional developments that predated and outlasted the Cold War? Above all, what were—and are—the consequences for democracy?’—Ellen Herman, professor, Department of History, University of Oregon

Mark Solovey is an assistant professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, and for 2011-2012 a Charles Warren Fellow at Harvard University. His research focuses on the political, institutional, and intellectual history of the social sciences in the United States since WWII. He has several articles in scholarly journals, including Annals of Science, History of Political Economy, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Radical History Review, and Social Studies of Science. He is the author of the tentatively titled Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America (forthcoming).

Hamilton Cravens is a professor emeritus of history at Iowa State University, writes about science in American culture and the tensions between expertise and democracy. He has authored or edited a dozen books, including The Triumph of Evolution (1978, 1988), Before Head Start (1993, 2003), The Social Sciences Go To Washington (2005), Race and Science: Scientific Challenges to Racism in America (2010), as well as about sixty articles and chapters in books. He is wrapping up a new book, Imagining The Good Society: The Social Sciences in the American Past and Present (forthcoming, 2012).