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COSMOPOLITANISM AND THE USES OF TRADITION: ROBERT REDFIELD AND ALTERNATIVE VISIONS OF MODERNIZATION DURING THE COLD WAR*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2012

NICOLE SACKLEY*
Affiliation:
Department of History, University of Richmond E-mail: nsackley@richmond.edu

Abstract

The history of the rise and fall of “modernization theory” after World War II has been told as a story of Talcott Parsons, Walt Rostow, and other US social scientists who built a general theory in US universities and sought to influence US foreign policy. However, in the 1950s anthropologist Robert Redfield and his Comparative Civilizations project at the University of Chicago produced an alternative vision of modernization—one that emphasized intellectual conversation across borders, the interrelation of theory and fieldwork, and dialectical relations of tradition and modernity. In tracing the Redfield project and its legacies, this essay aims to broaden intellectual historians’ sense of the complexity, variation, and transnational currents within postwar American discourse about modernity and tradition.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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Footnotes

*

I would like to thank Charles Capper, Daniel T. Rodgers, Hugh West, Eric Yellin, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions on previous versions of this essay.

References

1 Robert Redfield to Lisa Redfield, 9 Nov. 1948, Box 1, Folder 14, Robert Redfield Papers, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library (hereafter RRP); Wen-tsao Wu to Robert Redfield, 21 March 1949, Box 7, Folder 3, RRP; Fei Hsiao-tung (Xiaotong) to Robert Redfield, 22 May 1948, Box 7, Folder 3, RRP.

2 In 1949, Redfield predicted that China would “modify” Marxism and free-enterprise principles to match its own long-standing “ideals of life.” Robert, Robert, “Visit to China,” University of Chicago Magazine 42 (1949), 20Google Scholar.

3 The term first appears on page 4 of Robert, Robert, Tepoztlan, a Mexican Village (Chicago, 1930)Google Scholar. For histories that identify Redfield's interwar scholarship as a model for later modernization theorists see Clifford, Clifford, Robert Redfield and the Development of American Anthropology (Lanham, MD, 2006)Google Scholar; Jordan, Jordan, “Modernization,” in Fox, Richard Wightman and Kloppenberg, James T., eds., A Companion to American Thought (Oxford, 1995), 462–4Google Scholar. Howard, Howard, The Age of Contradiction: American Thought and Culture in the 1960s (Ithaca, NY, 2001), 48–9Google Scholar, positions Redfield as the originator of a “Chicago school” of modernization distinct from a “Harvard school” led by Parsons but does not examine Redfield's postwar work.

4 Neither of Redfield's two biographers devotes much attention to the comparative-civilization project. Wilcox, Robert Redfield; Kathryn Kadel, “Little Community to the World: The Social Vision of Robert Redfield, 1897–1958” (unpublished PhD thesis, Northern Illinois University, 2000); Andrew, Andrew, “Robert Redfield's Comparative Civilization Project and the Political Imagination of Postwar America,” Positions 6 (1998), 3365Google Scholar, has examined the project as a case study in the Cold War uses of area studies knowledge. Gilkeson, John S., Anthropologists and the Rediscovery of America, 1886–1965 (Cambridge, 2010), 218–37Google Scholar, has written on Redfield's postwar “turn to history” and his interest in “civilization” as a conceptual category.

5 Edward, Edward, The Intellectual between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation (Hague, 1961), 19Google Scholar. For a representative cataloguing of the obstacles see Hagen, Everett E., “The Process of Economic Development,” Economic Development and Cultural Change 5 (1957), 193215CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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8 Intellectual historians have traced the domestic origins of social-scientific visions about the Third World, documented tensions and debates among theorists, and examined the institutional formations and social practices upon which theory was built. Historians of US foreign relations have investigated the political uses of modernization ideologies and the hand that social scientists played in policymaking about the Third World. On the rise and fall of postwar modernization theory see Nils, Nils, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America (Baltimore, 2003)Google Scholar; Brick, Age of Contradiction, 44–65. On the social practice of postwar theory building see Joel, Joel, “Theorist at Work: Talcott Parsons and the Carnegie Project on Theory, 1949–1951,” Journal of the History of Ideas 71 (2010), 287311CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For histories that emphasize the connections between social science and US foreign policy see David, David, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (Princeton, NJ, 2010)Google Scholar; Michael, Michael, Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and “Nation Building” in the Kennedy Era (Chapel Hill, NC, 2000)Google Scholar; Joel, Joel, “Tangled Loops: Theory, History, and the Human Sciences in Modern America,” MIH 6 (2009), 397424Google Scholar.

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15 In addition to early graduate studies in Germany and travels in Europe as secretary to Booker T. Washington, Park spent the last years of his career traveling and lecturing in the West Indies, Hawaii, China, India, and Brazil. On Park and the Chicago school see especially Matthews, Fred H., Quest for an American Sociology: Robert E. Park and the Chicago School (Montreal, 1977)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On Park's influence on Redfield see Wilcox, Redfield, 22–32.

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34 Robert Redfield to Margaret Park Redfield, 7 May 1949, Box 1, Folder 15, RRP.

35 UNESCO Department of Cultural Activities, “Comparative Study of Cultures,” 23 Nov. 1949, Box 18, Folder 13, Robert Redfield Cultural Studies Program Records, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library (hereafter RRFF).

36 The Oriental Institute was founded in 1919 with the mission of studying the “rise and development of civilization.” Bruce, Bruce, Puritans in Babylon: The Ancient Near East and American Intellectual Life, 1880–1930 (Princeton, NJ, 1996), 112–14Google Scholar.

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39 Redfield, “Social Science in the Atomic Age,” 123; Robert Redfield to Robert M. Hutchins, 21 March 1951, Box 5, Folder 10, RRFF.

40 Between 1951 and 1961, the foundation provided the project with $375,000 in grants. The foundation's funding of the Redfield project came, in large measure, because of Redfield's professional connection and personal friendship with Robert M. Hutchins, former dean of the University of Chicago, whom the foundation's first president Paul Hoffman had chosen as his second-in-command in 1951. Robert Redfield to Robert M. Hutchins, 18 Dec. 1951, Box 5, Folder 10, RRFF; Sutton, Francis X., “The Ford Foundation: The Early Years,” Daedalus 116 (1987), 4191Google Scholar.

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87 Redfield, Little Community, 141.

88 Redfield, “Folk Society,” 224.