Tag Archives: Joel Isaac

Interview: Joel Isaac on the Interstitial Academy

The online interview series New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, part of the New Books Network, has released an audio interview with historian Joel Issac on his recent book, Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (right). In Working Knowledge Isaac explores how the human sciences developed at Harvard University in a variety of interdisciplinary spaces in the mid-twentieth century.

As described on the New Books Network website,

In Working Knowledge: Making the Human Sciences from Parsons to Kuhn (Harvard University Press, 2012), Joel Isaac takes readers into the interstitial academy of Harvard University in the middle of the twentieth century. Isaac traces a kind of early history of interdisciplinarity in the American academy in the course of an elegantly wrought argument for situating one of the most pivotal texts of the history and philosophy of science, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, within the emergence of what have become known as the human sciences. Twentieth century philosophers and social scientists sought to replace Kant’s transcendental notions with concepts more firmly rooted in the activities of working scientists and mathematicians, creating an epistemology that was deeply rooted in social practices. Maturing in this context and coming of intellectual age largely in the interstitial academy, Kuhn developed a notion of scientific paradigms that were “revealed in its textbooks, lectures, and laboratory exercises,” grounding his philosophy in a fundamental concern with pedagogical practices. At the same time, Isaac’s book is about so much more than Kuhn: it treats the history of American universities, the sociology of Pareto, the development of the case method in legal education, the changing disciplinary relationships between philosophy and psychology, the development of an idea of “social sciences,” among many other themes and stories. It is an exceptionally rich and persuasive story, and well worth reading – be it on the beach or elsewhere.

The New Books in Science, Technology, and Society interview with Isaac can be heard online here.

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The Human Sciences and Cold War America

The Summer 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has just been released online. This issue is a Special Issue on The Human Sciences and Cold War America, guest edited by Joel Isaac (left) of Queen Mary University of London. Articles in this special issue address, among other topics, 1960s Pentagon-funded psychological research in Vietnam, efforts to use projective tests as mental “X-ray” machines, and the relationship of rational choice models and international relations theory. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: The human sciences and Cold War America,” by Joel Isaac. The abstract reads,

Studies of the history of the human sciences during the Cold War era have proliferated over the past decade—in JHBS and elsewhere. This special issue focuses on the connections between the behavioral sciences and the culture and politics of the Cold War in the United States. In the recent literature, there is a tendency to identify the Cold War human sciences with two main paradigms: that of psychocultural analysis, on the one hand, and of the systems sciences, on the other. The essays in the special issue both extend understanding of each of these interpretive frameworks and help us to grasp their interconnection.

“The last stand of the psychocultural Cold warriors: Military contract research in Vietnam,” by Joy Rohde. The abstract reads, Continue reading The Human Sciences and Cold War America

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