Armed with Expertise: The Militarization of American Social Research during the Cold War - American Institutions and Society (Hardback)
  • Armed with Expertise: The Militarization of American Social Research during the Cold War - American Institutions and Society (Hardback)

Armed with Expertise: The Militarization of American Social Research during the Cold War - American Institutions and Society (Hardback)

Hardback 224 Pages / Published: 01/08/2013
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During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon launched a controversial counterinsurgency program called the Human Terrain System. The program embedded social scientists within military units to provide commanders with information about the cultures and grievances of local populations. Yet the controversy it inspired was not new. Decades earlier, similar national security concerns brought the Department of Defense and American social scientists together in the search for intellectual weapons that could combat the spread of communism during the Cold War. In Armed with Expertise, Joy Rohde traces the optimistic rise, anguished fall, and surprising rebirth of Cold War-era military-sponsored social research.

Seeking expert knowledge that would enable the United States to contain communism, the Pentagon turned to social scientists. Beginning in the 1950s, political scientists, social psychologists, and anthropologists optimistically applied their expertise to military problems, convinced that their work would enhance democracy around the world. As Rohde shows, by the late 1960s, a growing number of scholars and activists condemned Pentagon-funded social scientists as handmaidens of a technocratic warfare state and sought to eliminate military-sponsored research from American intellectual life. But the Pentagon's social research projects had remarkable institutional momentum and intellectual flexibility. Instead of severing their ties to the military, the Pentagon's experts relocated to a burgeoning network of private consulting agencies and for-profit research offices. Now shielded from public scrutiny, they continued to influence national security affairs. They also diversified their portfolios to include the study of domestic problems, including urban violence and racial conflict. In examining the controversies over Cold War social science, Rohde reveals the persistent militarization of American political and intellectual life, a phenomenon that continues to raise grave questions about the relationship between expert knowledge and American democracy.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801449673
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 21 mm


"Armed with Expertise represents an important addition to the debate over how the Cold War affected the American natural and social sciences. Rohde balances detailed, behind-the-scenes analyses of who did what, where, and when with close readings of published and unpublished sources that illustrated their changing assumptions about the relationship between science, values, politics, and institutions. She explores the 'gray area' of hybrid military-academic work undertaken by social scientists at federal contract research centers such as the RAND Corporation and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies, focusing especially on American University's Special Operations Research Office (SORO). Rohde's compelling book offers an invaluable guide to that shadowy world in its formative decades."

* American Historical Review *

"By now the militarization of Cold War science is a familiar theme, yet Joy Rohde's deftly crafted volume illustrates how the literature has missed important components of this story. Rather than focusing on military funding of university faculty or well-known Federal Contract Research Centers such as the RAND Corporation, Rohde highlights less-studied entities, including the Special Operations Research Office run by American University, which became central channels for military funding of social science research.... Crisply written and carefully documented, Armed with Expertise shows that militarization did not end after the Vietnam War; it merely went underground, ready to resurface for a new war on terror."

* Journal of American History *

"Joy Rohde tells a well-crafted story based on extensive documentary research about the intimate embrace between the military establishment and key aspects of the postwar social sciences. Starting immediately after the end of the Second World War, Armed with Expertise explores the development of the Special Operations Research Office SORO in 1956 and then the remarkable development of Project Camelot, elaborated in the early 1960s, which drew in leading social scientists to develop an ambitious project examining the origins and causes of insurgency using a 'state-of-the-art' behavioral model.... [T]here is no doubt that Joy Rohde has performed sterling service in this thorough and detailed book that will be a valuable building block for further critical reflections on the role of the social sciences in projects of governance."

* American Journal of Sociology *

"Rohde makes a significant, highly readable, relevant contribution to understanding the relationship between social science expertise and the US national security state.... Recent authorized and unauthorized revelations about the domestic and foreign programs of the National Security Agency, the role of psychologists during the interrogation of suspects, and the roles of the Defense and State Departments in the war on terror suggest that Rohde's work has much to say to Americans today. Summing Up: Highly recommended."

* Choice *

"The bulk of Rohde's succinct book investigates the social scientists who informed the Pentagon from the 1950s to the 1970s. The contemporary context frames the narrative and illustrates the enduring utility of academics in developing military strategy.... In a useful corrective to the reflexive view of a left-leaning ivory tower, Rohde offers stimulating insight into the complicated lives and ideological persuasions at play. And in an age when research funding has never seemed more important to academics' career prospects, Armed With Expertise offers a historical lesson worth heeding."

* Times Higher Education Supplement *

"In Armed with Expertise, Joy Rohde analyzes a pivotal debate over expert knowledge and democracy in the context of the Cold War. As she convincingly argues, the attack on university-centered, state-sponsored social research produced powerful, unintended consequences. Rohde's writing is clear and direct, and this impressive book will appeal to a broad range of scholars interested in the histories of social science, the Cold War, public policy, and education. Rohde also raises compelling questions about the relationship between academia, intelligence, and national security in our own time."

-- Michael E. Latham, Fordham University, author of The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development, and U.S. Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present

"This accomplished and important book shows how the social sciences became enmeshed in a militarized system which has persisted, even grown, in recent years even as it moved off campus, making it less visible and therefore less controversial. Joy Rohde offers especially striking and disturbing material on the blowback of social science collaboration with the armed forces, as individuals and institutions moved beyond addressing threats abroad into assessing domestic disorder and attempting to control it."

-- Michael Sherry, Richard W. Leopold Professor of HistoryNorthwestern University, author of In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s

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