Thursday, March 31, 2016

Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During the Cold War

Universities and Empire

This collection of essays edited by Christopher Simpson (Science of Coercion), an assistant professor at the School of Communication at American University, deals with the influence of foundation, government and corporate funding on academic scholarship. The eight authors, most of them professors at American universities, agree that the effects of the U.S. military, intelligence and propaganda agencies on academics were particularly strong during the Cold War. Contracts often specified research projects intended to contribute to the defeat of communism abroad and stem revolution in the Third World. After the Cold War, this emphasis has shifted to projects intended to help multinational corporations in their quest for foreign markets. One or two of the essays are riddled with jargon, but most explain the situation in terms all can follow. Particularly interesting is Ellen Herman's essay on Project Camelot, an ill-fated attempt by the U.S. military in the 1960s to utilize the efforts of academic behavioral scientists in order to control social change in the Third World. The project came to grief when it was exposed as a clandestine attempt to undermine popular movements in Chile. The importance of research funds from outside the campus, more than one essay argues, resulted in a hierarchy among faculty based on professors' ability to attract money to their institutions. Collectively, these essays make a strong, though not surprising, case that to the military-industrial complex should be added the additional adjective "academic."


My undergraduate years, courtesy of IBM, the CIA, and the Frankfurt School

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