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“No Operation in an Academic Ivory Tower”: World War II and the Politics of Social Knowledge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 July 2020

Extract

America's sprawling system of colleges and universities has been built on the ruins of war. After the American Revolution the cash-strapped central government sold land grants to raise revenue and build colleges and schools in newly conquered lands. During the Civil War, the federal government built on this earlier precedent when it passed the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant College Act, which created the nation's system of publicly supported land-grant colleges. And during Reconstruction, the Freedmen's Bureau, operating under the auspices of the War Department, aided former slaves in creating thousands of schools to help protect their hard-fought freedoms. Not only do “wars make states,” as sociologist Charles Tilly claimed, but wars have also shaped the politics of knowledge in the modern university in powerful and lasting ways.

Type
60th Anniversary HEQ Forum
Copyright
Copyright © 2020 History of Education Society

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References

1 Tilly, Charles, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,” in Bringing the State Back In, ed. Evans, Peter B., Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 171Google Scholar.

2 Geiger, Roger L., Research and Relevant Knowledge: American Research Universities since World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 3Google Scholar.

3 See, for example, Geiger, Research and Relevant Knowledge; Balogh, Brian, Chain Reaction: Expert Debate and Public Participation in American Commercial Nuclear Power (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Leslie, Stuart W., The Cold War and American Science: The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex at MIT and Stanford (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994)Google Scholar; and Lowen, Rebecca S., Creating the Cold War University: The Transformation of Stanford (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)Google Scholar.

4 On the role of social scientists, see Loss, Christopher P., Between Citizens and the State: The Politics of American Higher Education in the 20th Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 91-120Google Scholar; Sparrow, James T., Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 160-200Google Scholar; and Herman, Ellen, The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)Google Scholar.

5 Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe, “The Politics of Knowledge: The Carnegie Corporation and the Formulation of Public Policy,” History of Education Quarterly 27, no. 2 (Summer 1987), 206CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On the Carnegie Corporation, see Rosenfield, Patricia L., A World of Giving: Carnegie Corporation of New York—A Century of International Philanthropy (New York: Public Affairs, 2014)Google Scholar. On the role of foundations more generally, see Geiger, Roger L., To Advance Knowledge: The Growth of American Research Universities, 1900-1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 140-73Google Scholar.

6 Dzuback, Mary Ann, “Gender and the Politics of Knowledge,” History of Education Quarterly 43, no 2 (Summer 2003), 174CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Dzuback, “Gender and the Politics of Knowledge,” 193.

8 James D. Anderson, “Race, Meritocracy, and the American Academy during the Immediate Post-World War II Era,” History of Education Quarterly 33, no. 2 (Summer 1993), 151-75. For additional information on Wale and the Rosenwald Fund, see Gilbert A. Belles, “The College Faculty, the Negro Scholar, and the Julius Rosenwald Fund,” Journal of Negro History 54, no. 4 (Oct. 1969), 383-92.

9 Jessica Blatt, “Institutional Logics and the Limits of Social Science Knowledge,” History of Education Quarterly 60, no. 2 (May 2020), 203–213.

10 Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine, “Toward a History of the Social Sciences,” in The History of the Social Sciences since 1945, ed. Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Thanks to Dorothy Ross for pointing this work out to me.

11 For works that I have found helpful in thinking about team research and interdisciplinary work more generally, see Hunter Crowther-Heyck, “Patrons of the Revolution: Ideals and Institutions in Postwar Behavioral Sciences,” Isis 97, no. 3 (Sept. 2006), 420-46; Joel Isaacs, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); Joy Rohde, Armed with Expertise: The Militarization of American Social Research during the Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013); Mitchell L. Stevens, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, and Seteney Shami, Seeing the World: How US Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018); and Ethan D. Schrum, The Instrumental University: Education in Service of the National Agenda after World War II (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019). Isaacs studies the “interstitial academy,” Rohde “gray area,” Schrum “organized research units,” and Stevens and his coauthors “not-departments,” which they deploy in their discussion of area studies centers, the exclusive focus of their book. Heyck focuses on the postwar period, while this paper considers earlier developments.

12 Howard Brick, Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998), 37. Brick dates the use of “big science” to 1958, but there were earlier references to it that prefigured Bethe's later use. See, for example, Harry D. Gideonse, “Changing Issues in Academic Freedom in the United States Today,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 94, no. 2 (April 21, 1950), 91-104, in which Gideonse wrote: “Modern wars are won by ‘big’ industry, backed by ‘big’ laboratories and ‘big’ science,” 100.

13 On the spread of “big social science” in the postwar era, see Crowther-Heyck, “Patrons of the Revolution,” 426.

14 Charles J. Holden, The New Southern University: Academic Freedom and Liberalism at UNC (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012), 49-74; Rupert B. Vance and Katharine Jocher, “Howard W. Odum,” Social Forces 33, no. 3 (March 1955), 203-17; Abraham Flexner, Universities: American, English, German (1930; repr. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994), 110-24, esp. 120n70; “For Freud, for Society, for Yale,” Time (March 6, 1939), 51-52; Schrum, Instrumental University, 15-16; and Herman, Romance of American Psychology, 36-38.

15 Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (New York: Harper, 1944).

16 Walter A. Jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience: Social Engineering and Racial Liberalism, 1938-1987 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990). On Myrdal's methodological choices, see E. Stina Lyon, “Researching Race Relations: Myrdal's American Dilemma from a Methodological Perspective,” Acta Sociologica 47, no. 3 (Sept. 2004), 203-17. Maribel Morey of Clemson University is working on a new study of Myrdal that promises to enrich our understanding of his research and its legacy.

17 Samuel A. Stouffer et al., The American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, vol. 1 of The American Soldier: Studies in Social Psychology in World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949), 11.

18 Loss, Between Citizens and the State, 94-95.

19 Jean M. Converse, Survey Research in the United States: Roots and Emergence, 1890-1960 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 169.

20 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, 30.

21 Converse, Survey Research in the United States, 163.

22 Robin M. Williams Jr., “Some Observations on Sociological Research in Government during World War II,” American Sociological Review 11, no. 5 (Oct. 1946), 573.

23 Sarah E. Igo, The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 23-67; W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, (1918; repr., New York: Knopf, 1927); and Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, Middletown: A Study of American Culture (1929; repr., New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1956), 1. In addition to the Lynds, the Middletown “research team” included three other members.

24 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, vii.

25 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, 11.

26 Williams Jr., “Some Observations on Sociological Research,” 573.

27 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, 12.

28 Samuel A. Stouffer and Carl I. Hovland, Studies in Social Psychology in World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1949).

29 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, 29.

30 Stouffer et al., American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life, 11.

31 Samuel A. Stouffer, “Some Afterthoughts of a Contributor to The American Soldier,” in Continuities in Social Research: Studies in the Scope and Method of ‘The American Soldier,’” ed. Robert K. Merton and Paul F. Lazarsfeld (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1950), 200-201. On the “many frustrations” of war work, which Stouffer began to experience after a few months on the job, see Samuel A. Stouffer, “Social Science and the Soldier,” in American Society in Wartime, ed. William F. Ogburn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943), 106-17. On the limited contributions of the Army Research Branch in the area of theoretical knowledge, see Peter Buck, “Adjusting to Military Life: The Social Sciences Go to War, 1941-1950,” in Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives on the American Experience, ed. Merritt Roe Smith (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), 203-52.

32 Samuel A. Stouffer, “Measurement in Sociology,” American Sociology Review 18, no. 6 (Dec. 1955), 592; Converse, Survey Research in the United States, 221-23; and Morton Keller and Phyllis Keller, Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 93.

33 Williams Jr., “Some Observations on Sociological Research,” 574.

34 Williams Jr., “Some Observations on Sociological Research,” 575.

35 Williams Jr., “Some Observations on Sociological Research,” 576.

36 Sheldon Krimsky, Science in the Private Interest: Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Biomedical Research? (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 73-89.

37 Vincent Jeffries, “Pitirim A. Sorokin's Integralism and Public Sociology,” American Sociologist 36, no. 3-4 (Fall/Winter 2005), 66-87.

38 Robert K. Merton, “Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science,” American Sociological Review 22, no. 6 (Dec. 1957), 635-59. For Merton's earliest exploration of the relationship between science and society, see Robert K. Merton, Science, Technology & Society in Seventeenth-Century England (1938; repr., New York: H. Fertig, 1970); and Robert K. Merton, “Science and the Social Order,” Philosophy of Science 5, no. 3 (July 1938), 321-37.

39 Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (1949; repr., New York: Free Press, 1957), 195.

40 Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, 207.

41 Three chapters in Social Theory and Social Structure offer Merton's fundamental position on the bureaucratization of intellect: chapter 6, “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality,” 195-206; chapter 7, “Role of the Intellectual in Public Bureaucracy,” 207-24; and chapter 15, “Science and the Social Order,” 537-49. For a useful synopsis of Merton's key ideas about the sociology of science, see Stephen Cole, “Merton's Contribution to the Sociology of Science,” Social Studies of Science 34, no.6 (Dec. 2004), 829-44.

42 Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, 196-97.

43 Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, 212.

44 Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, 222.

45 Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, 217.

46 Mills, C. Wright, White Collar: The American Middle Classes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1951)Google Scholar; and Mills, C. Wright, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956)Google Scholar.

47 Nathan Glazer, “The Study of Man,” Commentary 1 (Nov. 1945), 84. “The Study of Man” would remain a feature of the magazine for more than a decade, with Glazer as a regular contributor. The goal of “this department,” he explained in the first issue, “[is] to rove the various fields of the social sciences with a view to reporting to the thoughtful general reader what contributions the research, discussion, thought and speculation of social scientists are making to the solution of problems of general concern,” 84.

48 Merton, Robert K., foreword to Science and the Social Order, by Barber, Bernard (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1952), xiiGoogle Scholar.

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