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Money and the Social Scientist

By Jay Burke

ANYONE WHO expected to hear thoughtful criticism of the Center for International Affairs during the guided tour last week must have been disappointed. Like most school-boy trips to a zoo, the November Action Committee's visit to "our own local jungle" was dominated by a feeling of juvenile amusement rather than educational interest.

Sight-seers on the tour gawked at the offices and laughed at the guides' descriptions of members of the Center. However, they carefully heeded the solicitous warnings coming from the loudspeakers that radicals always seem to have available: "Don't talk to the animals. These animals are dangerous, so don't talk to them."

Perhaps they felt that conversation with the objects of their protest would have destroyed the togetherness which radicals groove on during pseudo- revolutionary moments. Or possibly the guides knew that much of the information they were dispensing could have been easily challenged by members of the Center.

Some charges made against professors were trivial. (For example, one was condemned for having worked in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II.) Other accusations were more serious, although some of these misrepresented the facts. For example, one guide told his listeners that Thomas C. Schelling, Professor of Economics, had submitted recommendations to the "Senate National Security Subcommittee" on ways "McNamara's planning system for the Department of Defense could be applied to the Department of State." Actually Schelling's statement was prepared for the National Security and International Operations Subcommittee of the Senate's Government Operations Committee. In fewer than ten pages Schelling generally examined the Planning-Program Budgeting System, told why it would not fit foreign affairs as it did defense, and explained why Congress probably would not want it to be used in the State Department. Scholars from other universities prepared statements on the same subject for the subcommittee.

The fact that radicals did not present an effective indictment of the Center during the tour, however, does not mean that it would be impossible to do so. At the least, there are serious questions to be asked about the nature of the work members of the Center and other social scientists are doing.

THE CENTER directs three main activities. Probably the most important is research, which is conducted by faculty members associated with the Center and by research associates, some of whom are junior faculty members. Several projects are supported by a Ford Foundation grant which will expire in two years, but most work is financed by government and foundation grants to individual professors or research associates. Sometimes the individual has his grants assigned to the Center for "administrative convenience," according to Raymond Vernon, Professor of International Trade and Investment at the Business School and Acting Director of the Center from 1966 to 1968.

Members of the Center are especially concerned with political and economic development. One branch of the Center, the Development Advisory Service, contracts with governments of poor countries to provide assistance in planning economic growth. The advisory service has its own director and is financed by contracting governments, the United Nations Development Program, and a separate Ford Foundation grant.

The Center also invites 12 to 15 middle-career bureaucrats, or social scientists who might become bureaucrats, to spend a year as Fellows, with the opportunity- according to its tenth annual report- "to examine and reflect on some of the basic problems in foreign affairs." Although Fellows are regularly accepted from the U.S. armed services, State Department, and other agencies, many foreign Fellows are recruited. Ben Brown, director of the Fellows program, said that the Center has had a Yugoslav Fellow and has tried to attract Fellows from Rumania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. According to Vernon, the Center still has an invitation outstanding to a Russian official to be a Fellow.

Other members of the Center have little contact with the Fellows. Vernon said "they lead too much of an intern life" and "the contributions they make to our research usually turn out to be marginal."

THE DEVELOPMENT Advisory Service is a much more important function of the Center. It has been condemned by radicals. Responding to this criticism of its efforts to foster economic development, Vernon said the main consideration in planning economic growth should be, "Is there something you can do for the people despite the character of the government?" He points to Mexico and Venezuela as examples of nations where the citizens have benefited from economic development. These countries have "marked income mal-distribution," Vernon admitted, "but there has been marked improvement in welfare" throughout society in both countries.

Radicals could argue endlessly with Vernon and members of the development service whether the citizens of the developing country are helped much by economic growth "despite the character of the government." Vernon readily conceded that the point involved the "old philosophical question- whether you think the time has come to operate by the revolutionary device of smashing everything, or whether you should operate by change within the structure without the brutality and pain of revolution..."

That the choice is a personal one and that it does have political effects are the central points. Radical attacks on faculty research have been met with firm replies about the sanctity of "academic freedom." Professors steadfastly resist the notion that there should be political tests for scholarly work, or that students should have any influence on the direction of that scholarship.

This position assumes that there are objective standards for measuring scholarly research, and that these standards are non-political. Whether this belief is true. whether the nature of political science and the activities of political scientists are political, is of fundamental importance in considering the argument in favor of absolute academic freedom.

"In recent years," says a public-relations circular the Center tried to distribute to the November Action people, "funding from the U.S. government has increased." The funds have been used "to support research originating in the Center." Vernon added that, since the Center's major grant from the Ford Foundation will expire in two years, "we have been under strict instructions from the University administration to try to reduce our dependence on that Ford grant." The federal government looms at the only major source of new research money.

In The New Industrial State, John Kenneth Galbraith discussed the prospect of government and corporation financing of the social sciences:

If individual university disciplines are directly subsidized by the state or business enterprise and continue to have and expand contractual relationships with these sources of funds, the result is nearly certain. Not only will the subjects so favored have a distorted growth in response to the needs of the system but those involved with tend to identify themselves increasingly with the goals of the contracting agencies and enterprises.

VERNON objects, and many political scientists would probably agree, that government grants carry a "very broad, very loose mandate." "When the government gives someone funds for economic development research." Vernon said, "there are no instructions. It helps us to understand the development process, and they just get the output" of the research.

But Vernon admits that "if they thought we would produce an attack on the U.S. government, the likelihood of our getting funds would be reduced."

At present, the most important point is that the government and the researcher were interested in the same problem, defined in the same way: if the researcher were interested in another problem, or a different formulation of the problem, he would not have received the funds. This government research grant would be for the purpose of "understanding the development process." not for determining whether it should be initiated, under what conditions, or by which government. Essentially the development problem is transformed into a technical question with the underlying issues obscured or taken for granted.

The hidden political questions in social science research can also be seen by considering advisory work performed for the government. Vernon feels that most consultants with government agencies lends the adviser an opportunity to press for "new initiatives, bright departures" in established policies. A political scientist who gave advice on counter insurgency warfare or political development in Vietnam. for example, would probably justify his activity by saying that he was merely offering technical assistance: the question of whether the policy was appropriate was irrelevant to his own technical, non-ideological role. By saying nothing about the purposes of counter-insurgency warfare, he has been "politically neutral."

Again it is important to note that the political scientist and the government are interested in the same problem, formulated in the same way. The social scientist's research has been designed in such a way that he can easily slip into an advisory role for the government. Although his own research has been "value-free," it actually depends on assumptions about policy which the government shares but makes explicit. By taking an established point of view as a frame of reference for his work, the political scientist can pursue what seem to be neutral, objective studies.

IT IS possible to imagine a prevailing viewpoint which would expose the basic value judgments implicit in the decision to do counter-insurgency research. In Gulliver's Troubles, for example, Stanley Hoffman discusses a possible international system which would require

not only the sharpest possible reduction of interstate violence, but also a gradual withdrawal of one state from the manipulation of another's domestic policy. A world in which some leading powers tried to prevent revolutions in other societies and others tried to forwent them would be exposed to all the dangers that revolutionary wars create even in today's wold.... Universal involvement in revolutions would make moderation impossible.

In such an atmosphere, research on counter-insurgency warfare would contradict the general consensus, and its purposes would be critically examined.

In an essay called "Common Sense and Theories of International Relations," Hans J. Morgenthau has examined both the tendency of political scientists to refrain from considering the basic policy questions about their research fields, and the practical, political effects of their "neutral" research:

I Current theories of international relations operate within a social context in which truth, superstition, and different conceptions of ends and means struggle for influence upon thought and action. It is not by accident that they are lavishly supported by foundations, highly prized by academic institutions, and influential at least at the margins of governmental action. For they perform two important ideological functions, one for themselves, the other for the official doctrines of international relations.

The contemporary theories of international relations provide a respectable shield behind which members of the academic community may engage in non-controversial theoretical pursuits. International relations in our period of history are by their very nature controversial. They require decisions concerning the purposes of the nation and affecting its chances for physical survival. By leading with the subject matter but not with the issues underlying these decisions without actually doing so....

Although contemporary theories of international relations are by and large neutral with regard to the great controversies over truth and superstition and different national ends and means, they inevitably tend to support the status quo, that is, the official doctrine.... By saying nothing against it,

Social studies can be viewed as neutral about values and purposes if the observer stays within the value framework in which the research is conducted. Herbert Marcuse's One Dimensional Man discusses the character of social science which does not question the basic values underpinning its investigations:

If the given form of society is and remains the ultimate frame of reference for theory and practice, there is nothing wrong with this sort of [social science].

But the rationality of this kind of social science appears in a different light if the given society, while remaining the frame of reference, becomes the object of a critical theory which aims at the very structure of this society, present in all particular facts and conditions and determining their place and function....

The criteria for judging a given state of affairs are those offered by (or since they are those of a well-functioning and firmly established social system, imposed by) the given state of affairs. The analysis is "licked"; the range of judgment is confined within a context of facts which excludes judging the context in which the facts are made, manmade, and in which their meaning, function, and development are determined.

RESEARCH on the techniques of counter-insurgency warfare could be viewed as neutral so long as there were a general consensus on the framework of American foreign policy. Once a radical perspective became established and challenged this consensus, however, the value assumptions and political effects of the counter-insurgency research became clearer.

The value judgments that are implicit in research which is considered technical within its own social context can be seen most easily when that research is applied outside its own consensus. Hoffman, again in Gulliver's Troubles. discusses an example:

Optimistically, Americans have contrived a new notion- that of political development- which assumes that in the realm of economics there is a clear direction, and a set of norms, measurements, and strategies for moving in that direction. This notion rests on the shallowest reading of history and corresponds to a belief that the curses honors of advancing societies must be that of the United States; the criteria adopted by political scientists are all a transfer of American standards.

American political scientists have considered stability to be an important feature of social and political systems, or at least one important enough to be studied extensively. It seems possible, though, that with a different notion of "political development," different types of research would be conducted.

For example, social scientists who believe that "social justice" is a significant feature of "developing" societies might be interested in finding what social and cultural factors lead peasants to join a social revolution. Given the commonly accepted American notion of political development, however. studies like Project Cambridge- which seeks to find what factors make a peasant patriotic- appear to be neutral or objective.

This kind of reasoning suggests that it is at least highly probable that some kinds of research in the social sciences are biased in favor of certain value assumptions. Such bias naturally has political effects, although these might not be apparent until a new perspective challenges the general consensus in the society's frame of reference.

A thoughtful, reasoned dialogue between practicing social scientists and radicals who challenge their assumptions and perspective should help make the problem clearer. But the dialogue would not consist of another trip to the zoo, and the solutions probably would not include either closing down research institutes like the Center or ignoring political criticism from students.

Rather, it should become even more apparent that social scientists must make their frames of reference explicit in order to understand their own assumptions. It should also become clear that academic freedom consists of assuring that all political viewpoints are represented in the world of scholarship. To safeguard academic freedom, the University should recruit and support social scientists who can transcend the common American framework by producing admittedly "political" research.

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