독서/Cold War2018. 4. 1. 17:44

 What knowledge did the U.S. state/empire utilize in attempting to win hearts and minds of the people in the third world, thereby containing the expanding communist threat? Who were the experts producing such knowledge, and why did they do so in what contexts? Joy Rhode’s Armed with Expertise (2013) is a timely, welcome addition to the body of scholarship that deals with not only the aforementioned questions but also the development and transformation of the American social science in the Cold War period.

Centering on the rise, fall and rebirth of the Special Operations Research Office (SORO) since 1956, Rhode’s book illuminates the fraught relationship between social science and the national security state, democracy and militarization in the Cold War U.S. by tracing the development of “the gray area” and its dismantlement along with SORO’s absorption by the private American Institutes for Research in the early 1970s. Drawing upon primary sources from a presidential library, university archives and national archives, Rhode succeeds in reconstructing the militarization, privatization and undemocratization of the U.S. social science and presenting its historical legacy that lasted up to the present.

 The book consists of seven chapters including introduction and epilogue, opening and closing the story with American social scientists’ direct involvement in the War on Terror. How and why did these contract researchers come to the battlefield? Answering this question, the author offers the genealogy of U.S. social science’s militarization by historicizing the gray area, the “hazy” place between academia and the national security state,[1] where “not-elite intellectuals” tried to solve the entangled problem of democracy, expertise, and state security.

Chapters 1 and 2 respectively examine how the gray area was formed in the mid-1950s and how social scientists conducted research in that area in order to protect and promote democracy home and abroad. As seen in chapter 2, those researchers, Sorons, coming from “a surprising spectrum of epistemological and ethical positions” sought for their niche in the growing military-industrial-academic complex, becoming “engineers” to provide social theories to the American management efforts toward the third world. Project Camelot epitomized this imperial effort and the translation of the project’s unexpected termination into “more clandestine and more militarized” research as well as policymaking constitute chapter 3. Two ensuing chapters chronicle the increasing turf between the State and Defense departments, “two masters,” where it was the Defense department which heavily contracted Soron’s ilk and how “the gray area faded to black” as the Vietnam War ended and public attention to the threat of militarization disappeared.

 The militarizing fate of SORO and Sorons, as Rhode convincingly puts, embodied the inescapable influence of the Cold War. Born out of an American faith that “research could benefit academic social science, the military, and the free world,” they began to support U.S. projects since the mid-1950s. Sorons were by no means monolithic, but they shared certain assumptions that they should produce knowledge in order to protect democracy and that the antithesis to what they saw democracy was communism. These assumptions were ready to be practiced in the name of patriotism. In “third culture,” where was “not quite academic, not quite governmental,” such concerns as the militarization of social science, U.S. interventions on sovereign states and domestic social and political activism against the government were easily overshadowed by demands from the security state. Although its name was changed in 1966 and its institutional relation was severed from the host American University in 1969, knowledge produced by SORO became more militarized and privatized. In contrast to the previous era, since the early 1970s, contract scholars who had inhabited the gray area generating expertise on foreign lands “truly became servants of power” and “unquestioningly affirmed the Cold War status quo.”

 In Rhode’s intriguing account on the gray area, certain points seem to stand out for further discussions. As for “Cold War social scientists” in chapter 2, it would have been more plural if the author had added more researchers who confronted the same issue—“the expert’s proper role in democracy.” This suggestion might expand to the collective biography of “Cold War social scientists” whose narratives and practices virtually shaped the U.S. understanding of the second and third worlds. In this regard, comparison of the SORO works with the contemporaneous self-understanding produced by third world countries themselves would be no less interesting. Speaking of U.S. defense spending and contracting, which Rhode critically engages in, it would have been more helpful if she had suggested some insights that could inform the reader how to approach the situation democratically. Last but not least, it does not seem to be clear to appreciate the book’s main argument.[2] Notwithstanding these issues, Armed with Experts would undoubtedly serve the reader interested in the Cold War, U.S. social science and previously overlooked agencies who really influenced the U.S. understanding of the Other.



[1] In her doctoral dissertation, Rhode used the term “the boundary zone” instead of “the gray area.” Joy Elizabeth Rhode, "'The social scientists' war': Expertise in a Cold War nation" (PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3271806.

[2] Her recent article seems to be written in the same line with Armed with Expertise. Joy Rhode, “From Expert Democracy to Beltway Banditry: How the Antiwar Movement Expanded the Military-Academic-Industrial Complex,” in Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature, ed. Mark Solovey and Hamilton Cravens (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 137-153.


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