Tag Archives: Jamie Cohen-Cole

Somatosphere Review of Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind

The blog Somatosphere has posted a review of Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature. The book is described on the publisher’s website as follows,

The Open Mind chronicles the development and promulgation of a scientific vision of the rational, creative, and autonomous self, demonstrating how this self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates how from 1945 to 1965 policy makers and social critics used the idea of an open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics. They reshaped intellectual culture and instigated nationwide educational reform that promoted more open, and indeed more human, minds. The new field of cognitive science was central to this project, as it used popular support for open-mindedness to overthrow the then-dominant behaviorist view that the mind either could not be studied scientifically or did not exist. Cognitive science also underwrote the political implications of the open mind by treating it as the essential feature of human nature.

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New Books in STS Interview: Jamie Cohen-Cole on The Open Mind

Historian Jamie Cohen-Cole (left), author of the recent book The Open Mind:  Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, has been interviewed by New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network. As the site describes,

Jamie Cohen-Cole’s new book explores the emergence of a discourse of creativity, interdisciplinarity, and the “open mind” in the context of Cold War American politics, education, and society. The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature (University of Chicago Press, 2014) considers how open-mindedness took on a political role (as a model of citizenship contrasted with that of totalitarian states), an academic role (as a model of a scientist or thinker), and a broader role as a model of human nature in the mid-late twentieth century. Cohen-Cole’s book not only offers a fascinating glimpse into the development of mid-century psychology and cognitive science, but also shows the deep connections among what was happening in what might otherwise be considered separate social and political spaces that include laboratories, classrooms, cocktail parties, conferences, academic departments, and various physical and textual loci of political and social engagement. It is exceptionally clear in its narrative structure, prose style, and argument, and it offers a fresh perspective on how we understand the co-creation of science and society in Cold War America.

Listen to the full interview here.

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New Book: Jamie Cohen-Cole’s The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature

Cohen-Cole_the open mindHistorian Jamie Cohen-Cole‘s new book, The Open Mind:  Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature, is now available. The volume explores how the human sciences crafted a particular vision of autonomous, rational, and creative selfhood in the post-war years. Although first used to promote centrist political policies, the open-minded self – and its attendant scientific technologies – later came to divide individuals into increasingly polarized political factions.  As Cohen-Cole writes,

If psychology could explain everything, there was one aspect of the self that held special importance to the intellectual and policy worlds: open-mindedness. Open-mindedness was a kind of mind characterized by autonomy, creativity, and the use of reason. To the scientific experts, intellectuals, and policy makers who developed and utilized the concept of the open mind, this type of self served simultaneously as model and ideal of national and intellectual character. They projected upon the open mind their aspirations for the American character and liberal pluralist democracy, for scientific thinking and true intellectual inquiry. Indeed, for some of these individuals the open mind transcended the academic and political, as its traits were even conscripted to serve as criteria for human nature itself. Cold War intellectuals and policy makers saw in open-mindedness solutions to the most pressing problems faced by the nation. Those who defined American foreign policy believed that open-minded autonomy, a hallmark of American virtue, posed a threat to the communist system. Traditional or authoritarian societies could not be sustained in the presence of a citizen body that thought autonomously, but for a modern democracy like America, open-mindedness would have the opposite effect, offering social cohesion. The open mind meant a respect for individuality, tolerance of difference, appreciation of pluralism, and appreciation of freedom of thought. If citizens were sufficiently equipped with these virtues, thought policy makers and social critics, the nation would flourish.

An extended excerpt from The Open Mind can be read online here. The University of Chicago Press describes the volume as follows,

The Open Mind chronicles the development and promulgation of a scientific vision of the rational, creative, and autonomous self, demonstrating how this self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates how from 1945 to 1965 policy makers and social critics used the idea of an open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics. They reshaped intellectual culture and instigated nationwide educational reform that promoted more open, and indeed more human, minds. The new field of cognitive science was central to this project, as it used popular support for open-mindedness to overthrow the then-dominant behaviorist view that the mind either could not be studied scientifically or did not exist. Cognitive science also underwrote the political implications of the open mind by treating it as the essential feature of human nature. While the open mind unified America in the first two decades after World War II, between 1965 and 1975 battles over the open mind fractured American culture as the ties between political centrism and the scientific account of human nature began to unravel. During the late 1960s, feminists and the New Left repurposed Cold War era psychological tools to redefine open-mindedness as a characteristic of left-wing politics. As a result, once-liberal intellectuals became neoconservative, and in the early 1970s, struggles against open-mindedness gave energy and purpose to the right wing.

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CfP: 1st Annual Conference on the History of Recent Social Science

The First Annual Conference on the History of Recent Social Science, to be held in France June 13-14, 2014, has issued a call for papers. The conference aims to bring together scholars working on the history of post-war social sciences, including psychology. Submissions of roughly 1000 words are due January 15, 2014. The full call for papers follows below.

CALL FOR PAPERS
FIRST ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON THE HISTORY OF RECENT SOCIAL SCIENCE (HISRESS)
École normale supérieure de Cachan, France
13-14 June 2014

This two-day conference will bring together researchers working on the history of post-World War II social science. It will provide a forum for the latest research on the cross-disciplinary history of the post-war social sciences, including but not limited to anthropology, economics, psychology, political science, and sociology as well as related fields like area studies, communication studies, history, international relations, law and linguistics. We are especially eager to receive submissions that treat themes, topics, and events that span the history of individual disciplines.

The conference aims to build upon the recent emergence of work and conversation on cross-disciplinary themes in the postwar history of the social sciences. A number of monographs, edited collections, special journal issues, and gatherings at the École normale supérieure de Cachan, Duke University, the London School of Economics, New York University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere testify to a growing interest in the developments spanning the social sciences in the early, late, and post-Cold War periods. Most history of social science scholarship, however, remains focused on the 19th and early 20th centuries, and attuned to the histories of individual disciplines. Though each of the major social science fields now has a community of disciplinary historians, research explicitly concerned with cross-disciplinary topics remains comparatively rare. The purpose of the conference is to further encourage the limited but fruitful cross-disciplinary conversations of recent years. A related purpose is to consider the creation of a Society for the History of Recent Social Science, with the aim to bring together scholars working in the area on an annual basis.

Submissions are welcome in areas such as:

– The uptake of social science concepts and figures in wider intellectual and popular discourses
– Comparative institutional histories of departments and programs
– Border disputes and boundary work between disciplines as well as academic cultures
– Themes and concepts developed in the history and sociology of natural and physical science, reconceptualized for the social science context
– Professional and applied training programs and schools, and the quasi-disciplinary fields (like business administration) that typically housed them
– The role of social science in post-colonial state-building governance
– Social science adaptations to the changing media landscape
– The role and prominence of disciplinary memory in a comparative context

The two-day conference, hosted at the École normale supérieure de Cachan, 15 minutes from Paris, will be organized as a series of one-hour, single-paper sessions attended by all participants. Ample time will be set aside for intellectual exchange between presenters and attendees, as all participants are expected to read pre-circulated papers in advance.

Proposals should contain roughly 1000 words, indicating the originality of the paper. The deadline for receipt of abstracts is 15 January 2014. Proposals will be evaluated by the end of January and final notification will be given in early February. Completed papers will be expected by May 15, 2014.

The organizing committee consists of Jamie Cohen-Cole (George Washington University), Philippe Fontaine (ENS Cachan), Nicolas Guilhot (CIRHUS – NYU), and Jeff Pooley (Muhlenberg College).

All proposals and requests for information should be sent to: philippe.fontaine@ens-cachan.fr

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