Tag Archives: politics

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming piece in The British Journal for the History of Science on the politics of cognition in Victorian Britain. Full details below.

The Politics of Cognition: Liberalism and the Evolutionary Origins of Victorian Education,” by Matthew Daniel Eddy. Abstract:

In recent years the historical relationship between scientific experts and the state has received increasing scrutiny. Such experts played important roles in the creation and regulation of environmental organizations and functioned as agents dispatched by politicians or bureaucrats to assess health-related problems and concerns raised by the public or the judiciary. But when it came to making public policy, scientists played another role that has received less attention. In addition to acting as advisers and assessors, some scientists were democratically elected members of local and national legislatures. In this essay I draw attention to this phenomenon by examining how liberal politicians and intellectuals used Darwinian cognitive science to conceptualize the education of children in Victorian Britain.

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History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!

In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.

Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.

“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:

This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.

“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:

This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.

“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

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Edited Volume on Cold War Social Science

The history of Cold War era American social science has been ably documented in a new edited collection, Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Library Democracy, and Human Nature. Edited by historians Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens, the volume includes contributions on linguistics, social relations, anthropology, psychology, as well as the social sciences more broadly, from a number of accomplished scholars. The volume, comprised of three sections, on knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature, respectively, is described as follows.

From World War II to the early 1970s, American social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion. This volume offers fascinating perspectives on the rise of U.S. practitioners as global leaders in the field, exploring how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with Cold War politics. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of ‘Cold War social science,’ the histories gathered here reveal how scholars from established disciplines and new interdisciplinary fields of study made important contributions to long-standing debates about knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature.

Table of Contents
Foreword: Positioning Social Science in Cold War America – Theodore M. Porter
Cold War Social Science: Spectre, Reality, or Useful Concept? – Mark Solovey
PART I: Knowledge Production
The Rise and Fall of Wartime Social Science: Harvard’s Refugee Interview Project, 1950-54 – David C. Engerman
Futures Studies: A New Social Science Rooted in Cold War Strategic Thinking – Kaya Tolon
‘It was All Connected’: Computers and Linguistics in Early Cold War America – Janet Martin-Nielsen
Epistemic Design: Theory and Data in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations – Joel Isaac
PART II: Liberal Democracy
Producing Reason – Hunter Heyck
Column Right, March! Nationalism, Scientific Positivism, and the Conservative Turn of the American Social Sciences in the Cold War Era – Hamilton Cravens
From Expert Democracy to Beltway Banditry: How the Anti-War Movement Expanded the Military-Academic-Industrial Complex – Joy Rohde
Neo-Evolutionist Anthropology, the Cold War, and the Beginnings of the World Turn in U.S. Scholarship – Howard Brick
PART III: Human Nature
Maintaining Humans – Edward Jones-Imhotep
Psychology, Psychologists, and the Creativity Movement: The Lives of Method Inside and Outside the Cold War – Michael Bycroft
An Anthropologist on TV: Ashley Montagu and the Biological Basis of Human Nature, 1945-1960 – Nadine Weidman
Cold War Emotions: The War over Human Nature – Marga Vicedo

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New History of Psychology: Reputation, Politics, and Archives

The May 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the role of reputation in academic life via a study of psychologist Kenneth James William Craik, the intersection of science and politics in communist Germany, and the work of Italian Catholic psychologist Agostino Gemelli (left). Other pieces include a discussion of Gantt charts as a means of visually depicting history and a look at the Piaget Archives in Geneva, Switzerland. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The reputation of Kenneth James William Craik,” by Alan F. Collins. The abstract reads,

Reputation is a familiar concept in everyday life and in a range of academic disciplines. There have been studies of its formation, its content, its management, its diffusion, and much else besides. This article explores the reputation of the Cambridge psychologist Kenneth Craik (1914–1945). Having examined something of Craik’s life and work and the content of his reputation, the article concentrates on the functions that Craik’s reputation has served, particularly for psychology and related disciplines. The major functions of that reputation are identified as being a legitimation and confirmation of disciplinary boundaries and discontinuities in the period shortly after World War II, an exemplification of how to be a modern scientist and of the values to embrace, a reinforcement of science as having a national dimension, an affirmation of psychology as a science that can serve national needs, and a creation of shared identities through commemoration. The article concludes that studies of reputations can illuminate the contexts in which they emerge and the values they endorse.

“Science in a communist country: The case of the XXIInd International Congress of Psychology in Leipzig (1980),” by Wolfgang Schönpflug & Gerd Lüer. The abstract reads, Continue reading New History of Psychology: Reputation, Politics, and Archives

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Roundtable Discussion: Psychoanalysis & Politics

A round-table discussion on Psychoanalysis and Politics was held in London earlier this month on May 4th. Arranged by the Departments of Psychosocial Studies and of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck University of London, the Freud Museum, and the Raphael Samuel History Centre the discussion explored various facets of the relationship between psychoanalysis and politics. The event included opening remarks and discussion by professor of modern history, Sally Alexander and three talks: Masculinity and its Vicissitudes in the early 20th Century, by historian Timothy Ashplant; Nazism and Psychoanalysis in the 1940s and beyond, by historian Daniel Pick; and Forms of Denial and Re-remembering, by psychologist Stephen Frosh. Complete audio of the event, including audience questions following the talks, can be both heard online and downloaded here.

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Eugenics to Make a Comeback in Louisiana?

John LaBruzzoThe New Orleans Times-Picayune reported on September 24 that a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives named John LaBruzzo “is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied” in order to contain the state’s welfare costs. The article says that LaBruzzo is worried that “people receiving government aid such as food stamps and publicly subsidized housing are reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government.”

He said his program would be voluntary. It could involve tubal ligation, encouraging other forms of birth control or, to avoid charges of gender discrimination, vasectomies for men. It also could include tax incentives for college-educated, higher-income people to have more children, he said.

The district LaBruzzo’s represents “is the same district that sent white supremacist David Duke to the Legislature in 1989″ according to the article. Continue reading Eugenics to Make a Comeback in Louisiana?

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