M. Solovey u.a. (Hrsg.): Cold War Social Science

Cold War Social Science. Transnational Entanglements

Solovey, Mark; Dayé, Christian
Basingstoke 2021: Palgrave Macmillan
Anzahl Seiten
400 S.
€ 139,09
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Clara Oberle, Dept. of History, University of San Diego

In this volume Mark Solovey and Christian Dayé, doyens of social science history, have gathered the work of eleven international scholars who explore how the social sciences became entangled with the global Cold War. While the contributors do not dispute the continued power of the nation state, many of them argue it was transnational encounters, often catalyzed by the Cold War, which fundamentally shaped the social sciences during the 1940s-1980s. As opposed to some of the very subjects it examines, the book also does not pose as a triumphant history of the inevitable progress of the social sciences.

The book is impressive in its range. Fields examined include anthropology, area studies, economics, education, political science, psychology, data science, and sociology. Sources range from ego documents and field notes to scholarly publications, policy papers and institutional records such as by the US American Social Science Research Council, Radio Free Europe or the UNESCO Social Science Division. In geographic scope, the projects consider cases spanning the United States, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Western and Eastern Europe, Turkey, China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Latin America.

The volume opens with a superb foreword by Odd Arne Westad who places the cold war social sciences in longer historical context, including the Enlightenment idea that scientific methods could reveal universal laws of human development and find application in governance. In a helpful introduction, the editors outline the field, central questions, and reveal how this research is indebted to earlier work, e.g. Naomi Oreskes’ and John Krige’s volume on Science and Technology in the Cold War1, studies on the history of cold war political patronage in the social sciences2 or of Modernization Theory3, and Nils Gilman’s proposed categories for discerning cold war ideological complicity.4

Turning to Iron-Curtain crossings, Ekatarina Babintseva presents an outstanding chapter on the rise of Algorithmic Thinking in the Soviet Union. Rather than simply mimicking American computer-assisted instruction, Soviet institutions around Lev Landa “mathematized” it away from its American behaviorist psychology origins. A response to cold war systemic competition and Soviet specific labor needs, after 1956 it was also embraced to ensure Stalinist excesses could be prevented by promoting a computer-assisted hyper-rationality. Next, Elena Aronova turns to the rise of “Scientometrics” and Data Science in the Soviet Union and its entanglement with the Social Science Citation Index, developed in the 1950s by Eugene Garfield. A flop in the US, the Index found a welcoming market in the Eastern Bloc before it was adopted by the West. Thereafter, Simon Ottersbach shows how Radio Free Europe, despite its CIA origins, became a significant producer of social scientific knowledge about Eastern Europe for Western scholars and publics. His study is a welcome reminder for the need to include non-academic actors into our histories of the social sciences.

Turning to Modernization Theory and nation building questions, Sebastián Gil-Riaño examines American anthropologist Charles Wegley’s shifting away from a US-centric, cold warrior perspective following his work in Brazil. Next, Christa Wirth explores the trajectory of US-trained native Filipino Felipe Landa Jocano and his involvement as anthropologist in nation-building under the Marcos regime. In the process, she argues, “modernization theory, one of the most influential forms of Cold War-inflected social science in the US, became decolonized” (p. 175). In an important chapter on Dependency Theory and its Latin American origins, Margarita Fajardo argues that contrary to common assumptions, it was originally not solidly placed in cold war discussion but rather a more complex response to regional conditions. Developed among social scientists working for the Chile-based CEPAL (the UN Commission for Latin America), only after its adaptation in the United States did it turn into an ideological counterpart to Modernization Theory.

In a section on socialist crafting of “good citizens,” Vítězslav Sommer examines Czechoslovak sociologists engaged in leisure studies. In the wake of the Prague Spring, these reformist sociologists turned into cold-war hardliners, increasingly removed from realities on the ground. Next, Zhipeng Gao presents an excellent study of the pedagogical transformations in 1950s China, including the decline of American Deweyan and then Soviet Pavlovian pedagogy, to be replaced by a labor-based, distinctive Chinese pedagogy. He challenges cold war-exclusive frameworks, arguing that “whether in dealing with economic development or disgruntled graduates, educators drew upon their previous wartime experiences to inform new pedagogical approaches for China amid the Cold War” (p. 270).

In a fourth section, titled “Social Science Under Debate,” Per Wisselgren examines the impact of encounters and work in India on Alva Myrdal’s thinking. Once an ardent UNESCO Social Science Division universalist, she came to acknowledge the need for polycentristic social sciences which took into consideration cultural difference. Next, Markus Arnold studies Western discussions of Anthony Bell’s concept of the “knowledge society.” He argues that both cold war and transnational entanglements by the debates’ key participants (from Popper and Hayek to members of the New Left) created a common social science language. In a methodologically sophisticated chapter, Begüm Adalet turns to comparative politics and the construction of scholarly identities. Focusing on two US American scholars, Dankwart Rustow and Frederick Frey, she reminds us how cold-warrior US patronage of the social sciences had proclaimed the social sciences’ value-neutrality and objectivity, even as e.g. racist projects remained much intact. Training and rituals, such as through the Social Science Research Council, reinforced such identities. Work in Turkey resulted in Frey’s and Rustow’s increased epistemic anxiety about their claim to scientific objectivity. Hesitant to publicly disavow this stance, we see what Adalet calls scholarly “splintered selves” (p. 332).

Taken together, the essays deliver well on the book’s promise to show how transnational entanglements shaped the cold war social sciences. While we learn a bit about the social sciences’ relations to natural sciences, readers interested to learn more about their relation to the humanities or academia at large can turn, as David Engerman5 has shown, to a lively and much contested field of research since Noam Chomsky’s edited volume on The Cold War and the University.6 For a narrative overview of trends in the cold war social sciences, their increased democratization in the West, their mathematization, and engagement in political and business consulting, but also for a greater emphasis on the debates within cold war and social science historiography, not foregrounded in this volume, readers may turn to Fabian Link’s still valuable essay on the same or to compilations such as the Cambridge History of the Cold War.7 Readers looking for a comprehensive global history of cold war social sciences will likewise not find it in the book at hand, for this is not its aim, nor is it possible to do so in one volume. Fields such as gender and race studies are not considered, the Francophone social sciences are largely missing, and Africa is entirely absent in this volume. Might interpretations change in the wake of Robert Bates, V. Y. Mudimbe and Jean O’Barr’s by now classic work on Africa and the Disciplines8, Sujeet George’s work on South Asian social sciences9, or insights from journals such as the Revue d’Histoire des Sciences Humaines10? Some of the chapters leave us curious to learn more about the non-European or American outlook, e.g. the Brazilian or Indian social scientists’ side of the story of entanglements. Postcolonial and queer histories, among others, provide a rich methodology for reading biased archives against the grain. Solid funding for graduate language training and the inclusion of scholars from outside Europe and the United States will also matter for this type of research. Indeed, one hopes sequels to this volume and future scholars will continue this important project.

For Cold War Social Science: Transnational Entanglements has true merit. It shows the benefits of a geographic opening of the field. By including and bringing into relation areas and actors outside the western and northern parts of the globe, it decenters our understanding of the history of the social sciences, at times even provincializing the super powers. And it convincingly refutes neat bloc divide frameworks and concepts of the linear transfer or ideas, making a strong case for transnational history as approach.11 In many of the stories, the entanglements are multidirectional and messy. There are some common threads, such as the teleological outlook in much of the social scientists’ work, the centrality of Modernization Theory, its appropriation and refutations by the 1960s, and the scientism of many actors. And while the nation state and the super powers’ power is very real, the volume shows we do well to take into account the complex web of relations, where biographies, earlier experiences, institutional, financial, and local factors intersected with the “force field” of the global Cold War. Considering the book’s audiences, many of the short chapters can work as discussion basis for seminars on cold war history. Scholars writing cold war and transnational intellectual histories will find a model for the range of methods and questions to be asked about ideas, actors, funding and structures, and sites of these encounters. And finally, this collection of disciplinary (self-)reflections should be required reading for social scientists themselves. For many of the aspects examined here—from data science, algorithmic thinking, and area studies, to the scientific objectivity posture and funding structures—are with us today. In short, this book deserves a wide readership.

1 Naomi Oreskes / John Krige (eds.), Science and Technology in the Cold War, Cambridge 2014.
2 Mark Solovey, Shaky Foundations. The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America, New Brunswick 2013.
3 Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future. Modernization Theory in Cold War America, Baltimore 2003; Nils Gilman, The Cold War as Intellectual Force Field, in: Modern Intellectual History, v. 13, n. 2 (2016), pp. 507-23.
4 David Engerman / Corinna Unger (eds.), Special Issue on Modernization as a Global Project, in: Diplomatic History, v. 33, n. 3 (2009).
5 David Engerman, Rethinking Cold War Universities. Some Recent Histories, in: Journal of Cold War Studies, v. 5 n. 3 (2005), pp. 80-95.
6 Noam Chomsky et al. (eds.), The Cold War and the University. Towards an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years, New York 1997.
7 Fabian Link, Sozialwissenschaften im Kalten Krieg. Mathematisierung, Demokratisierung und Politikberatung, in: H-Soz-Kult, 15.05.2018, https://www.hsozkult.de/literaturereview/id/fdl-136859 (30.06.2023). See also Mark Solovey, Cold War Social Science. Specter, Reality, or Useful Concept?, in: Mark Solovey / Hamilton Cravens (eds.), Cold War Social Science. Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature, New York 2012; Melvin Leffler / Odd Arne Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Cambridge 2010.
8 Robert H. Bates / V. Y. Mudimbe / Jean F. O'Barr (eds.), Africa and the Disciplines. The Contributions of Research in Africa on the Social Sciences and Humanities, Chicago 1993.
9 Sujeet George, Constructing an Indian Sociology. ‘Karimpur,’ U.S. Area Studies, and Cold War Social Sciences, in: Harald Fischer-Tiné / Nico Slate (eds.), The United States and South Asia from the Age of Empire to Decolonization. A History of Entanglements, Leiden 2022.
10 For example, the volume edited by Yann Renisio and Camila Orozco Espinel on Being Scientific, Faire Science, in: Revue d’Histoire des Sciences Humaines, v. 31, 2017.
11 For a helpful discussion of the approach and its history, see Katherine Pence/ Andrew Zimmerman, Transnationalism, in: German Studies Review v. 35, n. 3 (October 2012), pp. 495-500, as well as Philip Gassert, Transnationale Geschichte v. 2, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 29.12.2012, https://docupedia.de/zg/Transnationale_Geschichte_Version_2.0_Philipp_Gassert (30.06.2023).

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