My research examines the development of the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences in various contexts, i.e., intellectual, biographical, disciplinary, political, and institutional. Most of my work concentrates on the period since World War Two, especially the Cold War era. I am particularly interested in the following issues: scientific boundary work for the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences; controversy over their intellectual foundations, normative implications, and scientific identities; the evolution and impact of private and public patronage for research in these fields; debates about their social relevance and public policy uses.
My book Social Science for What? Public Funding for the “Other Sciences” at the U.S. National Science Foundation (MIT Press, July 2020) examines the contested position of the social sciences at this major U.S. science agency. The NSF’s 1950 enabling legislation made no mention of the social sciences, although it included a vague reference to “other sciences.” Nevertheless, as I show in this book, the NSF soon became a major—albeit controversial—source of public funding for them. My analysis underscores the long-term impact of early developments, when the NSF embraced a “scientistic” strategy, wherein the natural sciences represented the gold standard, and created a social science program limited to “hard-core” studies. Along the way, I show how the agency’s efforts to support scholarship, advanced training, and educational programs were shaped by landmark scientific and political developments, including McCarthyism, Sputnik, reform liberalism during the 1960s, and a newly energized conservative movement during the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, I assess the NSF’s relevance in our “post-truth” era, question the legacy of its scientistic strategy, and call for a separate social science agency—a National Social Science Foundation. This study of the battles over public funding is crucial for understanding the recent history of the social sciences as well as ongoing debates over their scientific status and social value.
My book Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America provides the first extensive examination of a new patronage system for the social sciences that emerged in the early Cold War years and that took more definite shape during the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of enormous expansion in American social science. By focusing on the military, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, I show how this patronage system presented social scientists and other interested parties, including natural scientists and politicians, with new opportunities to work out the scientific identity, social implications, and public policy uses of academic social research. I also examine significant criticisms of the new patronage system, which contributed to widespread efforts to rethink and reshape the politics-patronage-social science nexus starting in the mid-1960s. Based on extensive archival research, Shaky Foundations addresses fundamental questions about the intellectual foundations of the social sciences, their relationships with the natural sciences and the humanities, and the political and ideological import of academic social inquiry.
I am also co-editor of the book Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy and Human Nature. From World War II to the early 1970s, social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion in the United States, which became the world’s acknowledged leader in the field. This book examines how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with the Cold War. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of “Cold War Social Science,” the contributions 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 in an era of diplomatic tension and ideological conflict.
Solovey, Mark, July 2020, Social Science for What? Battles over Public Funding for the “Other Sciences” at the National Science Foundation (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)
Solovey, Mark and Deborah Weinstein, co-editors, Fall 2019, “Living Well: Histories of Wellbeing and Human Flourishing,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, v. 55, pp. 271-357.
Solovey, Mark and Deborarh Weinstein, “Introduction: Living Well: Histories of Wellbeing and Human Flourishing,” Fall 2019, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, v. 55, pp. 275-280
Solovey, Mark, 2019. “The Impossible Dream: Scientism as Strategy for Containing Distrust of Social Science at the U.S. National Science Foundation, 1945-1980,”International Journal for History, Culture, and Modernity7 (2019), 209-238.
Solovey, Mark, 2014. “Una Nueva Politica del Conocimiento: La Propuesta del Senador Fred Harris de una Fundacion Nacional de las Ciencias Sociales,” Revista Anales de la Academia de Ciencias de Cuba 4, 1-12.
Slotten, Hugh R., editor, with Mark Solovey as one of the associate editors, 2014, The Oxford Encyclopedia of American History Science, Medicine, and Technology, two volumes (New York: Oxford University Press).
Solovey, Mark, 2014, “The Social Sciences in America, Post-1945,” 466-472 in Hugh Slotten, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in America (New York: Oxford University Press)
Solovey, Mark, 2014. “Social Science Research Council,” 463-464 in Hugh Slotten, ed., Oxford Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in America (New York: Oxford University Press).
Solovey, Mark, 2013hb/2015pb. Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press).
Solovey, Mark & Hamilton Cravens, eds., 2012hb/2014pb, Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy and Human Nature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
Solovey, Mark, 2012. “Project Camelot,” online, in Thomas Teo, ed., Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, March 24, 2012.
Solovey, Mark, 2012. “Cold War Social Science: Specter, Reality, or Useful Concept?” 1-22 in Mark Solovey & Hamilton Cravens, eds., Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy and Human Nature (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
Solovey, Mark, 2012. “Senator Fred Harris’s Effort to Create a National Social Science Foundation: Challenge to the U.S. National Science Establishment,” ISIS 103, 54-82.
Solovey, Mark & Jefferson Pooley, 2011. “The Price of Success: Sociologist Harry Alpert, the NSF’s First Social Science Policy Architect,” Annals of Science 68, 229-260.
Solovey, Mark, 2010. “Project Camelot and the 1960s Epistemological Revolution: Rethinking the Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus,” in Howard Lune, Enrique S. Pumar & Ross Koppel, eds., Perspectives in Social Research Methods and Analysis: A Reader for Sociology (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010), 166-194. This is a republication of my 2001 journal article with the same title.
Pooley, Jeff & Mark Solovey, 2010. “Marginal to the Revolution: The Curious Relations between Economics and the Behavioral Sciences Movement in Mid-Twentieth-Century America.” History of Political Economy 42 Annual Supplement, 199-233.
Solovey, Mark, 2004. “Riding Natural Scientists’ Coattails onto the Endless Frontier: The SSRC and the Quest for Scientific Legitimacy,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, v. 40, no. 4, 393-422. (Winner of the 2005 Best Article Prize from The Forum for the History of the Human Sciences, for best article in the field published during the previous three years)
Solovey, Mark, 2001, guest editor, “Science in the Cold War,” thematic volume of Social Studies of Science, v. 31, no. 2. https://journals.sagepub.com/toc/sssb/31/2
Solovey, Mark, 2001. “Project Camelot and the 1960s Epistemological Revolution: Rethinking the Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus,” Social Studies of Science, v. 31, no. 2, 171-206.
Solovey, Mark, 2001. “Science and the State during the Cold War: Blurred Boundaries and a Contested Legacy,” Social Studies of Science, v. 31, no. 2, 165-170.
Kleinman, Daniel & Mark Solovey, 1995. “Hot Science/Cold War: The National Science Foundation After WWII,” Radical History Review, v. 63, 110-139.
Solovey, Mark, 1993. “Guy Orcutt and the Social Systems Research Institute: Interdisciplinary Troubles,” in Robert Lampman (ed.), Economists at Wisconsin: 1892-1992, Madison, Wisconsin, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin, 178-184.
- I am co-editor with Christian Daye (an Austrian sociologist and historian of sociology) for a book of essays on the theme “Cold War Social and Behavioral Sciences: International and Transnational Entanglements.” Target publication date 2020.
- I am also working on the following essays for scholarly journals:
- Solovey, Mark, “History of Sociology as History of Science: Five Issues, Many Opportunities.”
- Solovey, Mark, “Not Merely Minor Tinkering with the Machinery of Government: A Reconsideration of U.S. Senator Walter F. Mondale’s Effort to Institutionalize Social Science Expertise in the Executive Office and Its Significance for American Liberalism.”
- Solovey, Mark, “Reconstructing Social Inquiry, Social Inquiry for Reconstruction: Marcus Raskin, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Critique of Scientism.”
Member of Ph.D. Committees
Filippo Sposini, on the history of diagnosis and confinement of the insane in England, the U.S., and Canada (co-supervisor, in progress)
Fan Zhang, on the history and philosophy of computer simulations in archaeology, (co-supervisor, in progress)
Paul Patton, on the history and philosophy of direct and indirect perception, (in progress)
Mariya Boyko, “Soviet Mathematics Curricular Reforms (1958-1985): Redefining the Purpose of Mathematics Education,” (internal examiner, completed 2019)
Carolyn Elizabeth Koestner, “‘The Public Good’: Eugenics and Law in Ontario, 1910 to 1938,” (completed 2018).
Kira Lussier, “Personality, Incorporated: Psychological Capital in American Management, 1960-1995” (completed 2018).
Sebastián Gil-Riaño, “Historicizing Anti-Racism: UNESCO’s Campaigns Against Race Prejudice in the 1950s,” (completed 2013)
Michelle Hoffman, “Constructing School Science: Physics, Biology, and Chemistry Education in Ontrario Secondary Schools, 1884-1965,” (internal examiner, completed 2012)
Janet Martin-Nielson, “Private Knowledge, Public Tensions: Theory Commitment in Postwar American Linguistics,” (completed 2009)