The Unsocial Social Science? Economics and Neighboring Disciplines since 1945

The Unsocial Social Science? Economics and Neighboring Disciplines since 1945. 2010. Edited by Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine. Supplement to volume 42 of HOPE. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

"Introduction: History of Economics as History of Social Science," by Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine (pp. 1–21). Historians of economics have generally neglected the relationship between economics and the other social sciences, even though the expansion of the social sciences after World War II was accompanied by a proliferation of cross-disciplinary ventures.

Part 1. Central Issues in Cold War America

"Psychiatry and the Social Sciences, 1940–2009," by Andrew Scull (pp. 25–52). Changes in the psychiatric profession and in the federal government's involvement with mental health issues had multiple and varying effects on psychology, sociology, and economics.

"Poverty in Cold War America: A Problem That Has No Name? The Invisible Network of Poverty Experts in the 1950s and 1960s," by Romain Huret (pp. 53–76). The people who created the stastics used to uncover the extent of poverty in the United States were economists, home economists, and others who have been hitherto obscure because they did not want to attract the attention of the general public.

"The Enemy from Within: Academic Freedom in the 1960s and 1970s American Social Sciences," by Tiago Mata (pp. 77–104). Social scientists sought to accommodate universities by developing their own codes of conduct, the implication being that threats to academic freedom arose from the misguided behavior of social scientists.

"Rebellions across the (Rice) Fields: Social Scientists and Indochina, 1965–1975," by Teresa Tomás Rangil (pp. 105–30). Economists, in analyzing the economics of Southeast Asian insurgency, helped undermine modernization theory, although the new economic discourse on insurgency that emerged was anything but consensual.

Part 2. Conflicts over Method

"Tool Shock: Technique and Epistemology in the Postwar Social Sciences," by Joel Isaac (pp. 133–64). Hand in hand with the widespread emphasis on the tool-like properties of social and economic theories came a concern for the epistemological status of the new techincal equipment.

"Ground between Two Stones: Melville Herskovits and the Fate of Economic Anthropology," by Heath Pearson (pp. 165–95). Herskovits's vision of economic anthropology, as well as economic anthropology as a whole, was doomed by his methodology—his emphasis, for example, on rhetorical skill over mathematical exposition and on nuanced description over nomothesis.

Part 3. Interdisciplinarity in Practice

"Marginal to the Revolution: The Curious Relationship between Economics and the Behavioral Sciences Movement in Mid-Twentieth-Century America," by Jefferson Pooley and Mark Solovey (pp. 199–233). A case study of the Ford Foundation's Behavioral Sciences Program helps us understand why there was so little serious engagement between economics and the other social sciences.

"The Price of Success: Economic Sovietology, Development, and the Costs of Interdisciplinarity," by David C. Engerman (pp. 234–60). Examining the work of Soviet economists, especially as they addressed questions of economic development, offers an important window into the process and price of changes in the economics profession in the late twentieth century.

"Specializing in Interdisciplinarity: The Committee on Social Thought as the University of Chicago's Antidote to Compartmentalization in the Social Sciences," by Ross B. Emmett (pp. 261–87). The Committee on Social Thought actively pursued a program of study and research to counteract the increasing specialization of the disciplines, becoming in the process a place in which a particular kind of interdisciplinarity was honed.

Part 4. The Economic and the Social

"Economics and Sociology: From Complementary to Competing Perspectives," by Daniel Geary (pp. 291–314). The different ways in which economists and sociologists have defined their disciplines are rooted in a shift from seeing the fields as complements to seeing them as competitors.

"Drawing New Lines: Economists and Other Social Scientists on Society in the 1960s," by Jean-Baptiste Fleury (pp. 315–42). The policy problems raised by the issue of poverty reinforced the expansion of the scope of economics, causing economic theories of education and other poverty-related problems to assume a new importance for public decision making.

"Conclusions: The Identity of Economics—Image and Reality," by Roger E. Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine (pp. 343–51). The self-image of economics revolves around its separation from the other social sciences on the grounds that it has achieved a high level of rigor unattainable by its neighboring disciplines, a self-image that has often been accepted and reinforced by historians of economics.