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Studies of Science Before “Science Studies”: The Cold War and the Politics of Science in the U.S., U.K., and U.S.S.R., 1950s-1970s

Aronova Elena 

This project investigates the history of Science Studies (or Science and Technology Studies, STS) as it became a distinct area of expertise and academic inquiry during the Cold War. I pursue five distinct stories, or case-studies, each focused on a confined mode of analysis of science that articulated, evaluated, and rationalized Cold War sensibilities and concerns.  The case studies in question are: (1) UNESCO and the framework of “scientific humanism” promoted by its two visionary founders, Julian Huxley and Joseph Needham, and implemented in UNESCO’s major history of science project, History of Mankind, in the 1950s and 1960s;  (2) the Congress for Cultural Freedom and its quest, in the 1960s and 1970s, to promote “science studies” as part of its broader agenda to offer a renewed, “post-Marxist,” framework for liberalism,  (3) the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, which in the first ten years of its existence, 1962-1972, undertook the bold initiative of launching a sustained inquiry into social studies of modern biology;  (4) the short-lived “philosophical phase” in medical ethics, marked by medical ethicists’ interest in and appropriations from post-positivist philosophy of science, which I explore by analyzing the series of workshops organized under the auspices of the Hastings Center in the late 1970s and early 1980s; and (5) a particular mode of reflection on science and its intellectual foundations developed by Soviet philosophers in the 1960s – 1970s under the name of “naukovedenie.”

All these modes of analyses of science represent roads not taken. The “vision” of science studies all these groups were promoting is different from science studies as we know it today. Yet these alternative visions, in which the issues of science politics were inseparable from those of science policy, science organization, and science governance, constitute an important “pre-history” of Science Studies.


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