Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America

Numerous popular and scholarly accounts have exposed the deep impact of patrons on the production of scientific knowledge and its applications. Shaky Foundations provides the first extensive examination of a new patronage system for the social sciences that emerged in the early Cold War years and took more definite shape during the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of enormous expansion in American social science.

By focusing on the military, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, Mark Solovey shows how this patronage system presented social scientists and other interested parties, including natural scientists and politicians, with new opportunities to work out the scientific identity, social implications, and public policy uses of academic social research. Solovey also examines significant criticisms of the new patronage system, which contributed to widespread efforts to rethink and reshape the politics-patronage-social science nexus starting in the mid-1960s.

Based on extensive archival research, Shaky Foundations addresses fundamental questions about the intellectual foundations of the social sciences, their relationships with the natural sciences and the humanities, and the political and ideological import of academic social inquiry

Mark Solovey is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He is the coeditor of Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature.

“In this clearly written and thoroughly researched book, Mark Solovey takes a new approach to writing the history of the social sciences in America by ‘following the money’ and examining how patrons and their agendas shaped the development of the field.”
—Nadine Weidman, author of Constructing Scientific Psychology: Karl Lashley’s Mind-Brain Debates