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Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals: Class War and the College Crisis, Part 3

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Walter Lippmann


Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 2: The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

Intellectual history is written by intellectuals and educational history is written by educators; thus, it would be inevitable that the flaws and failures of each are buried beneath, while the advances and accomplishments are exaggerated or over-estimated. There is, however, a seemingly consistent dichotomy which has evolved and persisted throughout intellectual and educational history: on the one hand, you have the much larger element – both in terms of the general purpose of education and in the general activities and ideas of intellectuals – who support and strengthen institutionalized power structures; on the other hand – much more a break from the ‘traditional’ impetus and activities of education and intellectuals – you have the smaller element, the off-shoots and oddities, which empowers the masses against institutionalized power, and with the intellectuals who speak out, articulate, mobilize, and justify the empowering of the people against that of the dominant structures of society. Therein lies the dichotomy: one form of education is for social control and domination, the other is for social uplift and rejuvenation; one type of intellectual is a programmatic priest for the proselytization of power, the other is an energetic and empowering enemy of entrenched elites.

A Eulogy for Education: Situating the Social Sciences as Structures of Social Control

Whether public or private, the key issue at hand is that of the utility – or purpose – of higher education. Conventional wisdom inflates the classical liberal concept of higher education as a social good, one which may be funded by the state in order to promote the general well-being of society, as inherently cultural institutions designed to raise the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and philosophical standards of society. A more critical history of education tends to downplay the “social good” theory in place of a “social control” theory of education, and specifically, of the social sciences. In this conception, education was designed to produce professional ‘technicians’ who would – using the techniques of science, rationality, and reason – study social problems with a desire to find and recommend specific policies and programs to ameliorate those problems – to promote reforms to the social system – in order to maintain “order.” Order, in this case, is understood as maintaining the social hierarchy. We understand “social order” as the security of the “social hierarchy” precisely because ‘disorder’ is understood as the opposite of this: a threat to the prevailing social hierarchy and institutional structure of society. Order is maintained through manufacturing ideologies, implementing policies, and undertaking programs of social engineering all with a desire to establish ‘social control.’

For this to be undertaken, it was essential for the social sciences to be separated into distinct spheres: Sociology, Political Science, Economics, and Psychology, for example. This superficial separation established each discipline as one for “expertise” and “professionalism,” whereby those who were trained to understand and partake in politics would study political science, achieving degrees in their “specialty” which would make them socially acknowledged “experts” in their fields. Academic journals reinforce these divisions, focusing primarily on a particular and specific discipline, providing a forum for academics and intellectuals to discuss, debate, and disseminate ideas related to the study and understanding of that discipline and its related topics. The effect, however, is that each discipline remained isolated from other forms of knowledge and, more importantly, that knowledge remained isolated from the general public, whom it was supposed to inform and empower (in theory).

Logic, of course, will tell you that in the real world, politics, economics, sociology and psychology all interact and become intertwined, intersected and interdependent. To add to that, of course, we have other technological, scientific, spiritual, cultural, environmental and historic factors that all merge to create what we broadly call “society.” If our aim is, as it should be, to understand society – to identify its problems and work to resolve them – we therefore would logically need a broader understanding of the social world, which would necessarily require a far more comprehensive, expansive, and multi-disciplinary historical examination of our world and its interacting forms of knowledge. It can be argued, however, that this is too demanding upon the academic and thus, unreasonable and unlikely. Therefore, it is argued, producing “experts” in specific areas would allow for a simultaneous understanding of these various spheres of society, and to effect change in each sector independent of one another. This raises an important question: is an “expert” in Political Science capable of understanding the political world? If they do not take into account economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological and other historical facets of the social world which all interact with the political realm, how can they logically understand the political realm outside of those interactions? In short, the political world does not operate within a vacuum and outside of interactions with other social phenomena, so the claim that they are “professionals” on understanding the social world as a whole, let alone “experts” in the political world, is dubious at best.The fallacy of this concept to produce useful knowledge was eventually acknowledged and educational managers (such as the major foundations) began to support ‘inter-disciplinary’ research to promote at least a more comprehensive understanding than previously existed.

Despite this inherently elitist self-serving conception of social control, the focus – purpose and utility – of education (and specifically the social sciences) on the study and amelioration of social problems inevitably gave rise to ideas, actors, and movements which saw beyond the rigid confines of the educational and knowledge-production system itself, reaching beyond the disciplines and into a more historically-based understanding. These broader understandings typically emerged from historians and philosophers, who must – as stipulated by their very disciplinary focus – acknowledge a multiplicity of factors, spheres, ideas, actors and areas of relevance to any given time and place of human social reality. History, by its very nature, is interdisciplinary: the historian must always acknowledge economic, social, political, and other cultural phenomena in each circumstance being studied.

As an example of these biases and disciplinary obscurities, let’s take a brief look at Political Science. In Political Science, when studying International Relations, you generally study two major theories of international politics: Liberalism, the idea that peace and prosperity between states grows as economic activity increases between them, and that of Realism/Mercantilism, whereby states are viewed as self-interested and the international arena as anarchic, and thus, nation states simply act to serve their own interests (and should). Both theories, of course, serve power. Unless studying the very specific focus of Global Political Economy (and specifically from a critical perspective), Political Science students are not exposed to or confronted with information or ideas which discuss the roles of financial and economic institutions and actors (banks, corporations, etc.) in determining foreign or public policy. Such perspectives are not studied, but simply assumed to be the product of “interested ideology” as opposed to “disinterested knowledge.” Critical theories are rarely acknowledged, let alone studied, and the general use of the word “ideology” is seen as negative, in that, it is not a legitimate focus for discussion or analysis. I personally know of a political science professor who taught a class on ‘Nationalism’ in which a student wrote an essay on ‘class.’ The professor informed the student that she couldn’t discuss “class” because it was “ideology,” and therefore, not disinterested knowledge. Of course, the fact that he was teaching a course on ‘nationalism,’ which itself, is an ideology, did not even come into consideration.

The difference in ideology then, is that the word is used to deride and dismiss theories and ideas which challenge, critique, or oppose power, hierarchy, and the status quo. Those ideas, theories, philosophies and perspectives which support power, hierarchy, and the status quo, are not presented as “ideology,” but as “disinterested knowledge,” as a fact, not in need of proof, but of an assumed nature. They are simply accepted, and are therefore, not ideology. This is also widely reflected in the differences of the academic journals, between those which are establishment and elitist, and those which are critical and allow for more dissent. An example is Foreign Affairs, the premier foreign policy journal, run by the Council on Foreign Relations, the most influential think tank in the United States. In this journal, the articles and essays, written by various “experts” and active, former, or prospective policy-makers and those who hold seats of power, contain largely little or no citations whatsoever. All the ‘facts’ and ideas stated within the articles do not need citations or references because they are ideas which support the status quo, and therefore, they simply reflect the ‘perceived’ realities of society. Now take a journal like Third World Quarterly, which tends to focus on the effects of foreign policy upon the ‘Third World’ nations of the Global South, often highly critical, allowing for major dissenting scholars to have an outlet for their research and ideas. These journal articles are typically and necessarily flooded with citations, sources and references. This is because ideas and facts which challenge the prevailing perception of social reality – the status quo – are treated far more critically and scrutinized to a significant degree.

Critical scholars put their entire reputation and career on the line in taking on controversial topics, and thus, they must provide extensive evidence and citations for all their assertions. Thus, a scholar who contends that – “the United States is an imperial nation which undermines democracy and the self-determination of people around the world” – must provide extensive, detailed, elaborate and concise references and citations. Even then, the scholar is likely to be either ignored or attacked with rhetoric proclaiming them to be “ideologically biased” or worse. On the other hand, a scholar who contends that the United States is a democratic peace-loving nation which benevolently seeks to spread democracy and freedom around the world requires no supporting evidence, citations, or references, simply because it serves power, supports the status quo, and regurgitates the ideas emerging from the institutions of power themselves (such as the State and media), and therefore, no major institutions will challenge the assertions nor subject them to scrutiny. For example, there are entire books written criticizing Noam Chomsky and subjecting his research and writing to extensive scrutiny, pointing out miniscule mistakes in his citations, presenting them as deliberate methods of manipulation. On the other hand, prominent scholars who refer to America as a “benevolent empire” or as the “protector of democracy” around the world are rarely challenged, let alone scrutinized. If scrutiny occurs, it is from the critical scholars, writing in more critically-inclined journals, and thus, their research tends to be disseminated only to each other and stays confined within that small social group. On the other hand, scholars who support power are invited on television, quoted in newspapers, work with think tanks in formulating policy, take part in international conferences, and are invited into the corridors of power in order to implement policy.

Serving power obviously allows for a scholar to rise through the social hierarchy with relative ease. For those scholars who challenge power and the status quo, while entry into positions of power and influence are generally denied, there is still a necessity for toleration among the powerful. The major foundations (Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation, Ford Foundation, etc.) often fund critical scholars and journals, not out of a desire to promote or support their ideas, but in order to keep critical scholars  “professionalized,” to keep them as institutionalized academics. If there were no forums, journals, conferences or venues for the discussion, dissemination and debate of critical scholars and ideas, they would have to turn to other avenues for the dissemination of ideas and knowledge, which generally leads to the public sphere, of community involvement, activism, or populist politics. With foundations providing funding for critical scholars, journals, and conferences, the academics remain dependent upon the institutional structure of academia, and their ideas do not reach the wider public, and thus, their critiques are ineffective and do not promote change or understanding within the general population. Thus, such a program of financing provides a “release valve” for intellectual dissent, to keep critical or radical scholars institutionalized and prevent them from becoming mobilized and activist-oriented.

Still, in spite of all the deleterious factors for the pursuit of genuine knowledge with the purpose of empowerment through (instead of power over); the fact that the focus was on ‘social problems’ led inevitably to the generation of activist-oriented intellectuals, for those who could transcend the confines of narrow structures of knowledge. It is not to say that when these intellectuals surfaced, so too did the social movements, but rather that as social movements emerged, progressed, and developed, activist-oriented intellectuals took note, and began providing a philosophical and intellectual basis for the movement to exist and move forward. In short, it was a confluence of different circumstances both within the academic institutions and in the wider society – national and global – which led to the origins of these intellectual leaders, critics, activists, and philosophers. These are the individuals that the Trilateral Commission referred to in its report on the “Crisis of Democracy” as “value-oriented intellectuals.”

Dissident Value-Oriented Intellectuals versus Technocratic Policy-Oriented Intellectuals

In the early 20th century, as the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. It was an era of social unrest, radical political ideologies and activists, labour unrest and rebellion, extreme poverty, war, and middle-class insecurity (sound familiar?). Central to this discussion on redefining democracy were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” (as in, not structural or institutional) intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[1] Thus, for elites to maintain social control in the tumultuous new age of the 20th century, they must “manufacture consent” of the people to support the existing power structures.

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[2] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[3] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[4] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[5] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Lippmann was not an idle intellectual whose ideas are anachronisms of history, he was perhaps the most influential political theorist of his day, advising presidents while still in his 20s, Woodrow Wilson invited him to organize his war-time propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information (which was actually Lippmann’s idea to create), and his ideas held enormous resonance and received immense support from elite institutions and individuals. The influence of Lippmann’s ideas can be seen in the political machinery of the party system, the media, academia, think tanks, the construction of the consumer society, the activities of philanthropic foundations and a variety of other avenues and activities.

Several decades later, in the midst of another major social crisis in the 1960s, elite intellectuals again engaged in a discussion on the direction of society, social engineering, social control, and the role of “intellectuals” in society.

McGeorge Bundy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (and later the Trilateral Commission), was the U.S. National Security Adviser, responsible for organizing foreign policy under Kennedy and Johnson (largely responsible for the Vietnam War), and in 1966, he went to become President of the Ford Foundation. In 1967, Bundy wrote an article for Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations which McGeorge’s brother William Bundy (a former CIA analyst and State Department staffer in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations) would be editor of from 1972-1984, after declining the offer from David Rockefeller to be the Council president. McGeorge wrote in his 1967 article that:

The end of 1966 finds the United States with more hard business before it than at any time since 1962. We are embattled in Viet Nam; we are in the middle of a true social revolution at home; and we have undiminished involvement with continents and countries that still refuse to match our simpler pictures of them.[6]

Bundy lamented the idea that, “American democracy has no enduring taste for imperialism,” because despite all of the “nation’s interests overseas, the boys always want to come home.” Bundy then went on to explain the benefits of questioning particular policies the United States pursues, but not to question the entire premise of America’s foreign policy in general (namely, that of imperialism). Instead, Bundy acknowledged that most of the dissent and argument on the Vietnam War was in terms of “tactics, not fundamentals,” though, he acknowledged, “[t]here are wild men in the wings,” referring to those intellectuals who question the basis and fundamentals of foreign policy itself.[7] Such “wild men in the wings” and “value-oriented intellectuals” present such a monumental threat to established elite interests. As the Trilateral Commission’s report noted in 1975:

At the present time, a significant challenge comes from the intellectuals and related groups who assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to “monopoly capitalism.” The development of an “adversary culture” among intellectuals has affected students, scholars, and the media. Intellectuals are, as [Political Economist Joseph] Schumpeter put it, “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs.” In some measure, the advanced industrial societies have spawned a stratum of value-oriented intellectuals who often devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking and delegitimation of established institutions, their behavior contrasting with that of the also increasing numbers of technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals.[8]

The Trilateral Commission report later expanded upon the concept of the role of the intellectual in society. It stated that in the cultural history of Western Europe, “intellectuals are romantic figures who naturally get a position of prominence through a sort of aristocratic exaltation.” However, in periods of “fast changes,” they often come to lead and join “the fight against the old aristocratic tradition.” This, the Trilateral Commission contended, represented an “internal upsetting of the traditional intellectual roles.” This was identified as a “crisis of identity” in which, “[i]t has become a battle between those persons who play the audience, even if it is a protest type, and those who contribute to the process of decision-making.” Claiming that protest-oriented intellectuals are among “the audience” reinforces Lippmann’s assertion some decades earlier that the public are mere “spectators,” not capable of nor desired to engage meaningfully in politics. For the Trilateral Commission, the rise of “value-oriented intellectuals” was the result of the “intellectualization” of the “post-industrial society” in which their particular fields (namely, the humanities) became less useful in “application” and “practical use,” and thus, society “tends to displace traditional value-oriented intellectual disciplines to the benefit of action-oriented ones, that is, those disciplines that can play a direct role in policy-making.”[9] This would of course include the authors of the Trilateral Commission report itself, namely Samuel Huntington, who went on to work on the National Security Council under Zbigniew Brzezinski (co-founder of the Trilateral Commission) in the Jimmy Carter administration.

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte had long discussed the role of radical intellectuals in society and social movements. Following the major youth and student protests and movements of 1968, Sarte felt that the first duty of the radical intellectual is to “suppress himself as intellectual” and put his skills “directly at the service of the masses.” In a 1971 interview, Sarte was asked the question, “What should the radical intellectual do?” Sarte responded:

Today it is sheer bad faith, hence counterrevolutionary, for the intellectual to dwell in his own problems, instead of realizing that he is an intellectual because of the masses and through them; therefore, that he owes his knowledge to them and must be with them and in them: he must be dedicated to work for their problems, not his own.[10]

Thus, radical intellectuals should be creating revolutionary newspapers directed toward the masses, creating “a language that explains the necessary political realities in a way that everyone can understand.” Sarte was then asked, “Are you saying… that the responsibility of the intellectual is not intellectual?” He replied:

Yes, it is in action. It is to put his status at the service of the oppressed directly… the intellectual who does not put his body as well as his mind on the line against the system is fundamentally supporting the system and should be judged accordingly.[11]

As such, it is the responsibility of the radical intellectual to not lead, but follow and support the movements and struggles of the masses. For Sarte, the intellectual’s “privileged status is over.” Thus, “only activism will justify the intellectual.”[12] This is, in fact, a direct counter – or parallel – to the concept of the policy-oriented or technocratic intellectual, who directly partakes in the decision-making process. Just as the “technocratic intellectual” who partakes in the decisions of the institutions of power is “policy-oriented,” the radical intellectual directly partakes in the process of resistance (though not necessarily the decision-making process), and is also “action-oriented.”

In 1967, famed linguist Noam Chomsky wrote an essay in which he voiced his political opposition to the Vietnam War, entitled, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” In the article, which provoked widespread discussion and debate, Chomsky wrote:

With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom if expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us.[13]

As Chomsky explained, “If it is the responsibility of the intellectual to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective.”[14] This is, of course, in counter to the “technical experts” of social science, seeking to remedy “technical problems” of society in a “responsible” manner. In this sense, “responsibility” has a dual use: it is used by elites to denote those intellectuals who are “responsible” to the elite, and it is also used by dissenters to denote a “responsibility” to the truth and the people. Thus, the use of the word – whether one describes dissenters as “responsible” or “irresponsible” – tends to express more about those who use the term rather than those for whom they are applying the term.

This is, it must be acknowledged, not a new phenomenon. It is found throughout human history, though often called different things in different times and places. It can be found among the ancient philosophers and, indeed, the prophets of the Biblical era. As Noam Chomsky has elsewhere explained, “The history of intellectuals is written by intellectuals, so not surprisingly, they are portrayed as defenders of right and justice, upholding the highest values and confronting power and evil with admirable courage and integrity. The record reveals a rather different picture.” Chomsky further wrote:

A large part of the Bible is devoted to people who condemned the crimes of state and immoral practices. They are called “prophets,” a dubious translation of an obscure word. In contemporary terms, they were “dissident intellectuals.” There is no need to review how they were treated: miserably, the norm for dissidents.

There were also intellectuals who were greatly respected in the era of the prophets: the flatterers at the court. The Gospels warn of “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them.”[15]

In his book, Sage, Priest, and Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel, Joseph Blenkinsopp explained the use of the term ‘prophet’ in both historical and contemporary context. In the contemporary context, it is generally associated with “prediction, emotional preaching, [and] social protest,” though the Hebrew term for it (nabi), has been so widely and differently used to describe various individuals, including its usage to describe many who functioned in “sanctuaries and royal courts,” in which case, they would be individuals who serve power. On the other hand, for those that challenged the power structures, Blenkinsopp argued that they were essentially “dissident intellectuals.”[16]

Again, this drew a distinction in ancient times with the word ‘prophet’ to that we hold today with the word ‘intellectual’: denoting both those who serve and challenge power. Blenkinsopp explained that the prophets who were “dissident intellectuals” in the Biblical era “collaborated at some level of conscious intent in the emergence of a coherent vision of a moral universe over against current assumptions cherished and propagated by the contemporary state apparatus, including its priestly and prophetic representatives.” In other words, they challenged the institutions of power which existed during that era. These dissident intellectuals – much like those of the modern era – “often play a socially destabilizing role in taking an independent, critical, or innovative line over against commonly accepted assumptions of a dominant ideology.” In fact, stipulated Blenkinsopp, “radical change rarely, if ever, comes about without the cooperation or intervention of an intellectual elite.”[17]

Blenkinsopp described an era in which these prophets emerged in protest “at the accumulation of wealth and the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many.” The prophet – or dissident intellectual – Amos had lashed “out at those who store of the (fruits of) violence and robbery,” and who “live at ease in houses, the walls and furniture of which are inlaid with ivory.” Amos and another dissident intellectual, Isaiah, had “nothing but scorn for the idle rich and depict.” Blenkinsopp wrote:

The concentration of power and resources in the hands of the few, in this instance the political and hierocratic establishment and its clientele, is always liable to generate protest, especially if it is accompanied by the impoverishment of the many. A few decades after Amos, Hesiod claimed divine inspiration in denouncing unjust rulers.[18]

Thus, whether Hesiod, Hosea, Micah, or Isaiah, “all four belonged to the very small minority of the population that was literate and educated, and it was from that socially privileged position that their protest was launched.” These dissidents, however, were of a very small minority. For literally hundreds of years, the ‘prophets’ (intellectuals) of the era were “almost exclusively supportive” of power, “and there is no breath of challenge to the political or social status quo.” It was “in Israel and, to a lesser extent, Greece [where] a tradition of dissent and social protest develop[ed].” How were these dissident intellectual ‘prophets’ of the era treated? The established powers attempted to silence Amos and Micah, Hosea was ridiculed as “a fool,” and Isaiah was driven into “retirement” after an attempt to intervene in foreign policy matters.[19] So, while we claim them as prophets today, in their time they were treated as pariahs.

So whether in Biblical Israel, nearly 800 years before the arrival of Christ, or in the 1975 Trilateral Commission report, “dissident intellectuals” are to be feared and reviled by established powers, and it is clear that these powers will always attempt and actively take measures to minimize, ostracize, repress or eliminate such forms of dissent.

Thus, we have come to see the corporatization of our universities and the marginalization of dissident intellectuals in the neoliberal era. As Bronwyn Davies et. al. wrote in the European Journal of Education, few radical intellectuals of the 1960s and 70s “imagined how dangerous their work with students might seem to be to those in government or to the global leaders of big business and industry.” This was, of course, addressed by the Trilateral Commission, which above all represents the interests of the financial, corporate, political, and intellectual elite. This elite felt that “they must establish a new order to make the world more predictable, and they saw those radical intellectuals – both academics and journalists – as contributing to the dangerous disorder.”[20]

The Trilateral Commission was founded by two individuals: one a representative of high finance (David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank), and the other a representative of the intellectual elite (Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of political science, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, foreign policy official). Brzezinski wrote a book in 1970, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, in which he laid out the problems of the technological and electronic era (hence, “tehcnetronic”) and elaborated on strategies to resolve them: politically, economically, and socially, including the formation of a “community of developed nations” to jointly work together in managing the world for their own benefit. Rockefeller, who was also a top official at the Council on Foreign Relations and also attended meetings of the Bilderberg group with Brzezinski (another exclusively elitist international think tank linking Western Europe and North America), took note of the book and its arguments, and recruited Brzezinski to help put together this “community,” and in 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed. Brzezinski, in terms of intellectual influence, is perhaps as close to a Walter Lippmann for the globalized era as one could get. For decades, he has been a major foreign policy official with significant influence, sitting on the boards of major elite think tanks that produce policy plans which are implemented in the government, acting in an advisory capacity to almost every president since Jimmy Carter, and in terms of his still close relationship with the ruling financial oligarchy (namely, the Rockefellers).

In his book, Brzezinski discussed the need for “programmatic engineering” to manage and change American culture, of which he emphasized the roles played by education and the mass media over the alternative avenues of churches and traditional customs.[21] The manufacturing of culture, posited Brzezinski, was an American ‘obligation’:

Change in educational procedures and philosophy should also be accompanied by parallel changes in the broader national processes by which values are generated and disseminated. Given America’s role as a world disseminator of new values and techniques, this is both a national and a global obligation. Yet no other country has permitted its mass culture, taste, daily amusement, and, most important, the indirect education of its children to be almost exclusively the domain of private business and advertising, or permitted both standards of taste and the intellectual content of culture to be defined largely by a small group of entrepreneurs located in one metropolitan center.[22]

Brzezinski also discussed one of the more relevant and indeed, concerning facets of the Technological Revolution. Of course, writing of this as a ‘concern’ is in terms of Brzezinski writing from the perspective of an elite academic and strategic thinker, and thus, representing the elite class and their overall concerns. Namely, Brzezinski wrote on the prospects of a revolution against this process and the power structures involved, explaining that these groups are likely to emerge in both the developing world and industrialized world in opposition to the process of ‘modernization,’ which Brzezinski refers to as the advancement of the ‘Technetronic Revolution.’ In the Global South (the “Third World”), the revolutionary class is likely to emerge from the educated classes who are deprived of social opportunities fitting with their intellectual expectations. In the industrialized West, however, this “revolutionary intelligentsia” is most likely to emerge from the “middle-class intellectual equivalents” of the revolutionary class in the developing world. Thus, it would emerge among the educated middle-classes of the West, who are deprived of opportunities attuned to their education, thus creating a ‘crisis of expectations.’ Brzezinski wrote that the Technetronic Revolution had created a “social anachronism,” in which these groups may hold onto anti-industrial values and could possibly, even in the more modern countries, effectively block the modernization of their societies, “insisting that it be postponed until after an ideological revolution has taken place.” Brzezinski explained:

In this sense the technetronic revolution could partially become a self-limiting phenomenon: disseminated by mass communications, it creates its own antithesis through the impact of mass communications on some sectors of the intelligentsia.[23]

Brzezinski’s answer to these profound and potentially revolutionary circumstances was to employ more social engineering, more social control, more integration and coordination among global powers; essentially, to strengthen power structures at the expense of all others. Brzezinski wrote that there was a “mounting national recognition that the future can and must be planned; that unless there is a modicum of deliberate choice, change will result in chaos.”[24] He elaborated:

Technological developments make it certain that modern society will require more and more planning. Deliberate management of the American future will become widespread, with the planner eventually displacing the lawyer as the key social legislator and manipulator… How to combine social planning with personal freedom is already emerging as the key dilemma of technetronic America, replacing the industrial age’s preoccupation with balancing social needs against requirements of free enterprise.[25]

In the same line of arguing in favour of more coordination, planning, and “technical” expertise, Brzezinski also posited an image of where this could eventually lead:

Another threat, less overt but no less basic, confronts liberal democracy. More directly linked to the impact of technology, it involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled and directed society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite whose claim to political power would rest on allegedly superior scientific know-how. Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control…  Persisting social crisis, the emergence of a charismatic personality, and the exploitation of mass media to obtain public confidence would be the steppingstones in the piecemeal transformation of the United States into a highly controlled society.[26]

Thus, we come to understand the ideologies, intent, and actions of two divergent social actors: the technocratic and policy-oriented intellectual and the dissident action-oriented intellectual. One supports power, one supports people. Our educational system is still to a significant degree composed of and designed to produce (like industrial factories for intellectual products) those intellectuals who support power, who engage in social engineering with the purpose of social control. Dissident intellectuals, while they exist, remain confined. They engage in research and write in academic journals which reach only other dissident intellectuals. This is the case not only in the West, but across a great deal of the world. There are, of course, exceptions, but they are few and far between. The knowledge and ideas and dissident intellectuals must be designed not for the purpose of internal discussion and debate among other dissidents within the institutions of academia, but to reach the masses, to empower the people, and to join – actively and actually – with the people as they mobilize for change. In order to do this, new forums, conferences, media, and other sources and organizations should attract the “value-oriented intellectuals” away from Ivory towers of intellectual isolation and into the people-oriented pathways of political action. The language must be made less academic and more accessible, the activities must be more directly engaged with people than distant and distracted.

The rigors of academic life make this a great challenge, not only for students but for professors as well. Professors are expected to publish consistently in journals and other publications, and so when they are not teaching or instructing, they are researching and writing, independently and isolated. There is very little time or opportunity for direct engagement, or for writing for other publications and avenues which could allow their research to reach a wider audience. This keeps intellectuals disciplined and distracted, and ultimately, gives little relevance to their research in terms of actually affecting any meaningful changes in society. However, here we come to understanding the inherent dichotomy of a crisis, in this case, the “Crisis of Education.” As the crisis of education leads to increased costs, increased debts, decreased enrollment, decreased opportunities, increased social unrest, increased student resistance, and ultimately, a decrease in the amount of teachers and professors (this is already taking place), there also opens an avenue through which much of the disciplinary mechanisms which held dissident intellectuals back will be eroded. With nothing left to lose (in terms of job security, financial stability, social prestige and opportunity), dissident intellectuals will be far more inclined toward participation in activism and social movements. Avenues for their participation should be opened up and extended as this crisis continues and deepens.

A simply example of such an opportunity to attract dissident intellectuals would be a type of international conference, media, and educational institute. It could begin with a conference, drawing dissidents from around the world – from Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Spain, the U.K., Canada, Australia, United States, Iceland, Ireland, Chile, Taiwan, etc. – to hold a discussion and debate on the origins, evolution, development and potential for the growing social and activist movements, whether in the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, anti-austerity protests, student strikes, and others. The conference could be televised for free online, so people all over the world could view and engage. A major aim and result of the conference could be to establish an educational institution, which brings together such intellectuals from around the world with more consistency, which organizes a network of globally connected but locally-oriented decentralized schools, designed specifically for a broad, multi-disciplinary and globally-relevant education for social change. They could hold classes in which students and teachers engage as equals, bringing in local activists, alternative media, even filming the actual classes and discussions to post online, even provide a live feed. The aim would be to provide education for the purpose of empowering people to activism and social change. They could establish their own media outlets, providing research and discussion of activities by students and professors, and become engaged in actively planning and helping organize social movements, protests, and other activities.

The point would be to provide a forum where education has an empowering social purpose, where it integrates itself with other elements of society and does not remain isolated and insulated. For example, if one such discussion were to take place in a local decentralized school on the topic of food sustainability, agriculture, GMOs, and the politics of food, the result could be a decision to establish a network of organic farmers who would be willing to produce cheap food for poor areas, establish a space where there could be a cheap organic food market, or cheap (or free) meals made with the food, but dispensing it to poor people in poor areas of major cities, who would otherwise not have the means of good food for decent prices. It’s a very simple program, but the effects can be profound. Not only could it begin to integrate farmers and agriculturalists with such an emerging movement, but it could integrate the poor more closely with such a movement. The poor are, after all, the largest constituency in the world, and the one in the most need of help and empowerment. For the poor, the ideological and power struggles between the middle and upper classes are largely irrelevant, because neither benefit nor empower them. If there is to be a true and genuine revolutionary change in global society, acting without the ideas and support of the poor is a sure way to guarantee failure for genuine change. To get the support of the poor, the poor must be supported; they must be given a stake in the future, empowered to act and participate in change, and the starting point for this is to address the immediate necessities of poor people everywhere: food, clothing, shelter.

The difference between how ‘social control’-oriented institutions (such as foundations and NGOs) address poverty and how revolutionary and radical organizations would address poverty, is the intent and methods in dealing with these immediate concerns. NGOs and foundations seek to establish methods of providing food, clothing, shelter and general necessities so much as to address the symptoms of poverty, not the causes, and thus, to ultimately sustain the system that creates poverty by alleviating the worst conditions just enough to prevent rebellion or resistance. Revolutionary or radical organizations would seek to address the immediate concerns of the poor in order so that they may be empowered and able to begin finding ways to support themselves, to learn from them, and to provide access to forms of knowledge which have been denied to them. Thus, any programs of directly helping the poor would have to be accompanied with opportunities for education, knowledge, and outlets for action. The point is not to simply feed a poor individual, but to disseminate knowledge about why they are poor, how society creates and sustains the poor, the sources and solutions to poverty. Thus, it does not simply alleviate the symptoms, but empowers the individuals. Further, any radical movement must in turn be educated by the poor, for through their very existence, they are better able to understand the nature of the system that exists, because they have always been subjected to its most ugly and oppressive apparatus. While it may be easy for middle class intellectuals and students to promote a revolutionary cause based upon an ideology of how the state can and should function, poor people are able to give a better idea of how the state does function, has functioned, and thus, raise critical questions about the ideas, objectives, and actions of middle class and other radicals. The point would not be to be modern missionaries, providing food with “the Bible,” but to help – not out of pity but out of empathy and necessity – to empower, and, ultimately, to learn from and work with the poor. If any radical or revolutionary movement emerges which does not include a significant number of leaders from the poor population, and without significant support from the poor population, it is inherently anti-democratic and unworthy of pursuit.

This is, of course, just one example. The objective then, would be to find a way to bring dissident intellectuals out of the rigid confines of academia, and into the real world: to embolden, empower, and engage with the people, to participate in activism and social mobilization, and to work with a wide variety of other social groups and sectors in order to collectively participate in the construction of a new and far better world. It is time that this must be the acknowledged purpose of intellectuals, not the exception.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[2]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[3]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[4]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[5]            Ibid, page 92.

[6]            McGeorge Bundy, “The End of Either/Or,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 45, No. 2, January 1967), page 189.

[7]            Ibid, pages 189-191.

[8]            Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy, (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), pages 6-7.

[9]            Ibid, page 31-32.

[10]            Ronald Aronson, “Sarte and the Radical Intellectuals Role,” Science & Society (Vol. 39, No. 4, Winter 1975/1976), pages 436, 447.

[11]            Ibid, pages 447-448.

[12]            Ibid, page 448-449.

[13]            Noam Chomsky, “A Special Supplement: The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” The New York Review of Books, 23 February 1967:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1967/feb/23/a-special-supplement-the-responsibility-of-intelle/

[14]            Ibid.

[15]            Noam Chomsky, “Great Soul of Power,” Information Clearing House, 26 July 2006:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14221.htm

[16]            Joseph Blenkinsopp, Sage, Priest, Prophet: Religious and Intellectual Leadership in Ancient Israel (Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), page 2.

[17]            Ibid, page 144.

[18]            Ibid, pages 153-154.

[19]            Ibid, page 154.

[20]            Bronwyn Davies, et. al., “The Rise and Fall of the Neo-liberal University,” European Journal of Education (Vol. 41, No. 2, 2006), page 311.

[21]            Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era (Greenwood Press, Westport: 1970), page 265.

[22]            Ibid, page 269.

[23]            Ibid, page 278.

[24]            Ibid, page 256.

[25]            Ibid, page 260.

[26]            Ibid, pages 252-253.

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The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

This is part 2 of the series, “Class War and the College Crisis.”

Part 1: The “Crisis of Democracy” and the Attack on Education

Part 3: Of Prophets, Power, and the Purpose of Intellectuals

Part 4: Student Strikes, Debt Domination, and Class War in Canada

Part 5: Canada’s Economic Collapse and Social Crisis

Part 6: The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?

In Part 1 of this series, I examined the elite assault on education – through the Chamber of Commerce, right-wing think tanks, and the Trilateral Commission – which arose in response to the massive social and political activist movements of the 1960s. The threat of popular democratic participation – that is, active and activist participation of the population in the decision-making process of a community or nation – was too much to bear. The fact that a significant degree of this activism had been mobilizing from the universities was enough reason for elites to declare a “crisis of democracy” and demand more apathy, complacency, and pacification from the population, more authority for themselves, and more control over the society as a whole. The result of this was neoliberalism – globally and locally – in government, the media, and the schools. The “Crisis of Democracy” was that there was too much of it. The solution, therefore, was to deconstruct democracy.

The emergence and spread of education – both mass public and university – is generally considered to be the result of the Enlightenment ideals and the emergence of democracies. The idea was that education was developed and designed for the purpose of enlightening individuals, spreading literacy and fostering intellectual pursuits which would yield for the benefit of the whole of society, a benevolent institution. Indeed, there are these elements to the history of education; but like with most things, there are other, deeper, elements to the story. So it begs the question: what is the purpose of education?

The spread of ‘mass education’ of primary and secondary education from the Prussian system in the 18th century was designed to socialize the population into a state-structured ideology (taking the monopoly of education away from the religious and community institutions and into the hands of the emerging nation-state). The aim, therefore, of mass – or public – education was not a benevolent concept of expanding and sharing knowledge (as is purported in liberal thought), but rather as a means to foster patriotism and support the state system in preserving the social class structures. In 1807, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, one of the founding philosophers of this system, explained that educated was the means toward fostering patriotism, as “universal, state-directed, compulsory education would teach all Germans to be good Germans and would prepare them to play whatever role – military, economic, political – fell to them in helping the state reassert Prussian power.”[1] As British philosopher Bertrand Russell explained:

Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished.[2]

It was in the promotion of state formation and patriotism that European nations, one after the other, developed mass schooling systems. In the United States, mass schooling was not directed toward the political process of ‘state formation’, but rather the cultural process of ‘nation-building’ in the 19th century. In the 19th century, the United States remained largely rural and nonindustrial, and thus, “the apparatus of state control was extremely weak in most communities.” As Meyer et. al. argue: in the American Journal of Sociology:

The spread of schooling in the rural North and West can best be understood as a social movement implementing a commonly held ideology of nation-building. It combined the outlook and interests of small entrepreneurs in a world market, evangelical Protestantism, and an individualistic conception of the polity.[3]

In early 19th century United States, many worried about “a new industrial feudalism supplanting the old order.” For such reformers, the complex circumstances in which they found themselves – of a society in which the old ideas and institutions were disappearing and new ones were emerging – could best be addressed by the common school, “serving all citizens, stamping them American and unifying the nation.”[4] This was, in itself, a desire for ‘social control’ in a socially disruptive circumstance of rapid change in all realms of human activity. As Robert H. Wiebe explained, “the instruments of control were themselves the means of improvement,” and schools were viewed as “assimilating, stabilizing mechanisms.” By the 1830s, school reformers “were urgently seeking a new national cohesion, a source of uniquely American wholeness.” The focus on socializing children was of the utmost concern. As one reformer stated, children “must be taken at the earliest opportunity, if the seeds of good are to be planted before the seeds of evil begin to germinate.” Thus, “the role of the educator was to construct a model environment around the child.”[5]

In the early 20th century, most Americans began to view “education as a task specifically of the schools rather than of a general society, a reflection of both the school’s expertise and a modern society’s rational differentiation of functions.” The institutional structure of schools became nationalized and more state-oriented than previously:

Central agencies of education, professionalization and publicity – the major teachers colleges and accrediting agencies, a revitalized National Education Association and a lengthening list of professional journals – set the agenda for discussion and the boundaries of debate throughout the land.[6]

The lower levels of education are directed at producing “general outputs for society,” while the higher levels may actually reflect and affect “socially and politically constituted authority.” In short, the lower levels produce the masses, while the higher levels may produce the managers. The university system is the dominant form of higher education in the world, far outweighing other forms of educational institutions that have existed through history. Universities emerged during the medieval period in Europe, which have been described as “corporations having close relations with both Church and State but possessing considerable independence in relation to each.”[7]

With the universities of medieval Europe, as sociologists Ramirez and Meyer explained, “a more promising strategy considers the relationship between centralized authority and the rise of universities,” as situations of political decentralization tended to favour the establishment of universities.[8] The university which arose during the Medieval period (1150-1500) was a corporation, a guild of masters and scholars, or professors and students. This was the era in which Western civilization was rapidly developing, and this “new and uniquely Western institution resulted from a combination of powerful societal trends.” These trends, wrote John. C Scott in the Journal of Higher Education, included “the revival of mercantilism, growth of cities and the urban middle class, and bureaucratization, along with the 12th-century intellectual renaissance.” Thus:

As European society became more complex, the universal Roman church, secular governments, and municipalities required educated priests, administrators, lawyers, physicians, and clerks for business. Fulfilling this social demand were the universities, which were clearly oriented toward teaching and the learned professions.[9]

There were student-controlled universities, predominantly in the south, such as the Bologna University, as well as universities of faculty governance, such as with the University of Paris. By 1500, the faculty-controlled university became dominant. The aims of the Medieval university was the pursuit of knowledge, “divine truth and learning,” focusing on the areas of law, medicine, and theology. Monarchs and others increasingly relied upon such learned men for their advice in matters of state and court systems, foreign affairs and diplomacy. At the undergraduate level, students came from all social classes and generally studied liberal arts. At the graduate level, however, “students pursued the higher disciplines of theology, medicine, and law. Most alumni served the church, state, or municipality in various capacities.” Save Russia, most of Europe had universities by the end of the Middle Ages, with roughly 80 in the region by then. Predominantly chartered by the Roman church, or by monarchs, these pseudo-autonomous institutions “were subject to the authority of popes, monarchs, local bishops, dukes, or municipalities, depending upon the country and century.”[10]

The medieval university had a cosmopolitan nature, seen as a place of “universal knowledge” which was tied to the “universal ideology of Christendom,” and was not tied to any particular nation-state, largely developing prior to the centralization of nation-states. Scholars traveled all across Europe to the great medieval universities, from Bologna to Paris, to Oxford and Toledo, reflecting their cosmopolitan nature. As sociologist Gerard Delanty wrote in the journal, Social Epistemology:

At first the scholars were generally monks but later they were increasingly secular and became absorbed into the centralization and absolutist state. With the rise of the territorial nation-state from the seventeenth century onwards, the university became increasingly more and more nationalized and gradually lost its transnational character. With this went a decline in its ecclesiastical function: knowledge became a free-floating discourse to be used for domination or emancipation… As an institution the university owed its tremendous power to the fact that it originated at a time when the moral and political power of the Church was in decline but when the modern state system had not yet emerged.[11]

Thus, “the university found itself in a powerful position and could monopolize the field of knowledge.” As the ‘Age of Reason’ descended upon the West, the universal ideology of Christendom that was so paramount in the medieval period shifted to one of rationalizing logic and experimental science. The Reformation and scientific revolution “greatly facilitated this shift in the function of the university.” The university became the institution of knowledge, and as a result, was able to resist both church and state. However, in the transition into the modern period, with the rise of the nation-state, the state quickly sought to ally with the university, which increasingly came under state patronage. The state, whether the British Restoration government or French Absolute state, viewed the universities “as important institutions in the administration of society.”[12]

As the nation-states developed, particularly in England, Spain, and France, the relative autonomy of the first universities started to be eroded. As one academic wrote, “universities throughout Europe in the course of the fifteenth century tended in the same direction – towards the nationalization of Paris as of all other universities.” The University of Paris, then, became subservient to the crown and, thereafter, universities increasingly became national institutions with the mission of “service to the state.”[13]

The role for universities in training a new governing elite became increasingly important as the schools came under the control of new nation-states, municipalities and principalities: “Kings therefore emphasized the acquisition of advanced, secular knowledge and technical skills by students – future public servants – in order to build up efficient state bureaucracies.” Close advisers to kings, princes, and republics would also be expected to be men with legal training from the universities. This era marks the transition from the medieval university to the early modern university:

the early modern university was far more socially responsive than the medieval university because of humanist professors’ emphasis on ethical values for themselves and their students. Early modern universities continued to expand as a movement while making solid scientific and scholarly contributions. The newly consolidated state began to increase visitations, intervention, regulation (curriculum, subjects taught, and publications allowed), and appointment of chancellors.[14]

This was also the era in which these institutions increasingly moved toward professionalization in the modern sense, armed with a new “sociopolitical mission” as “an ideological arm of the state.” As one writer explained it, “The state protects the action of the University; the University safeguards the thought of the state.” Between 1500 and 1800, the university in Europe experienced an enormous expansion, even into Russia, which was untouched by the medieval university, and Europe had roughly 190 universities existing during this period. This era of early modern civilization, with the growth of the nation-state, and the imperial expansion into the New World, the Spanish even put in place state-controlled colonial universities across Latin America, the first of which was founded in Santo Domingo [today Haiti and the Dominican Republic] in 1538. These universities, overtly serving a colonial agenda, “prepared missionaries and jurists for the settlement of the New World.”[15]

With the Enlightenment came a new form of nation-state, the Liberal Nation-State, which further influenced the changing nature of the university during this era. The Enlightenment era saw the further development of the university “under the auspices of the central and national state providing it with a system of knowledge, which was at the same time a system of power.”[16] The aim was to put these universities “to work for the new liberal State and its economic needs.”[17]

Fichte, who was considered one of the intellectual fathers of the Prussian mass schooling system, was also influential in the move toward a modern university system, and his goals were quite similar. Just as mass schooling was established to serve the state, Fichte felt that “the academics should be the new spiritual leaders of society.” The main difference between this Enlightenment model of the university and the medieval one was marked by the shift from city to nation. As the Enlightenment had different effects in different nations, the relationship that developed between the nation and the university was different in each case. In Germany, the university became the cultural center of the nation, while in France its focus was more on producing an actual core of civil servants. In each case, however, the aim of the university was to serve the nation in some capacity, whether functionally, ideologically, culturally, or all of the above.[18]

With the development of the American university system, we still see the objective of serving the nation as inherent in this Enlightenment idea of the ‘modern university.’ In America, the new schools were replacing the old, ill-equipped and elitist colonial colleges. The establishment of universities became a core mission of the founders, as ten key founders also founded academic institutions, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, George Wythe, Benjamin Rush, William S. Johnson, William R. Davie, Abraham Baldwin, and Manasseh Cutler. Thus, many of the schools had inherent within them a ‘nationalizing’ mission, a mission to serve the nation, though it may not be explicitly the State.[19]

At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great debate on the missions of the new distinctly American universities. There were profound social, political, and economic changes that had occurred in the post-Civil War period, as America experienced its Industrial Revolution, rise of the corporations, and with that, the Robber Baron industrialists, who increasingly took over the political culture of the nation, which was increasingly centralizing, increasingly imperialistic, and with the labour class exponentially distrustful, resentful and resistant to the new dominant capitalistic powers that emerged. This was further checked by an increasingly educated middle class, informed largely by the rapid new developments in communications and technology, who were also becoming wary of the excesses of Big Business, but at the same time, worried about the threat of rebellion from the lower classes. In short, it was a socially explosive situation, in what came to be known as the Progressive Era, as middle class reformers took the stage in advocating and implementing major social reforms to establish a more stable, lasting society. Thus, the new modern American universities were to combine the ideals of research, teaching, and public service, as many believed the schools should “advance basic knowledge and provide the technical expertise required by a modern industrial society.”[20] Thus, as Scott wrote:

Faculties in the new applied sciences, emerging social sciences, and even an important minority in the humanities believed strongly in the social utility of their disciplines. Professors in the social sciences were often committed to public service. To this end, schools of political science were established at Columbia, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the 1880s and 1890s. At the same time, within departments of economics and sociology, there were devotees of social utility. Psychology, which was then a part of philosophy, also developed a faction devoted to utility (pragmatism). Social scientists served their society in the capacity of experts, which also involved research. By 1900, the “useful” university was establishing such untraditional fields of study as business administration, physical education, sanitary science, and engineering.[21]

The Robber Baron industrialists of the late 19th century – Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Astor, Vanderbilt, Harriman, etc. – were unquestionably the dominant powers in the country. They controlled the economy, hundreds of corporations, had hundreds of millions or billions in wealth, the banks, bought the politicians, directed foreign policy into an increasingly imperialistic direction, and thus, they saw it as essential to cement their control over society through social institutions, as the masses were hateful of them and needed to be properly controlled. Social control became the major concept of interest for elites and middle class reformers.

In this era of social control, education became increasingly important, not only in terms of mass schooling, which experienced many reforms, but also in terms of the university system. As Andrew Carnegie wrote in 1889, at the top of the list of “charitable deeds” to undertake was “the founding of a university by men enormously rich, such men as must necessarily be few in any country.” It was in this context, of robber barons seeking to remake education, that we see the founding of several of America’s top universities, many of which were named after their robber baron founders, such as Stanford (after Leland Stanford), Cornell (after Ezra Cornell), and Johns Hopkins, who owned the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.[22] This new class of industrialists, who emerged out of the Civil War in America, “challenged the position of the old propertied, pre-industrial elite. This struggle crystallized in particular around the reform of the educational system that had legitimated the old elite’s domination.”[23] The modern university was born out of this struggle between elites, with the old educational system based upon religious and moral values, “and the making of gentlemen,” while the “new education” focused on “the importance of management or administration” as well as “public service, [and] the advancement of knowledge through original investigation.”[24]

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1891, and the President of the University, “initiated a new disciplinary system, which was enormously influential.” Ultimately, it “led to the formation of the department structure of the American university, which was internationally unique,” and was later exported around the world “with the help of American foundations.”[25] This disciplinary system consisted of separating politics from economics (rejecting the notion of ‘political economy’ and its ‘ideologies’), as ideology was “deemed unscientific and inappropriate in social sciences and political scientists have increasingly seen their function as service to the powerful, rather than providing leadership to populist or socialist movements.”[26]

There was an obvious desire to “foster the teaching of practical knowledge and skills serving the development of commerce and industry, against the prevailing academic traditions.” However, it also allowed for “a way of diagnosing the social upheavals caused by the accelerated shift from a still largely agrarian society to an industrial mass society” of which they were the dominant class. In particular, the labor unrest of the 19th century was especially prevalent in the minds of the dominant class. Since “social reform was inevitable,” these industrialists “chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time,” and subsequently, they “promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order,” and instead constructed a “private alternative to socialism.”[27] In other words, it marked the construction of a highly corporatist society, merging state and corporate power through institutions, individuals, and ideology.

The Social Sciences and Social Control

The concept of ‘social control’ emerged from the developing field of sociology as a discipline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As sociologist Morris Janowitz wrote in the American Journal of Sociology, “in the emergence of sociology as an intellectual discipline, the idea of social control was a central concept for analyzing social organization and the development of industrial society.”[28] Social control is largely viewed as forms of control which reduce coercion, and thus, enhance consent to the system or organizations in question. Even a society with an effective system of social control would require a structure of coercion, but depending on how advanced the social control system is, the less need there would be for coercion. Hence, the societies which are the most advanced in social control would also be less dependent upon internal methods of coercion. Thus, it was within liberal democratic states that both the study and implementation of social control became most effective. In this sense, the question was “whether the processes of social control are able to maintain the social order [hierarchy] while transformation and social change take place.”[29]

Sociology largely emerged from the University of Chicago (founded by John D. Rockefeller), with the world’s first department of sociology founded in 1892. The sociologists who rose within and out of the University of Chicago made up what was known as the ‘Chicago School of Sociology.’ The school developed the most influential sociologists in the nation, including George Herbert Mead and W.I. Thomas, two scholars who had profound influence on the development of the concept of ‘social control,’ and sociologists became “reform-oriented liberals, not radical revolutionaries or conservative cynics.”[30]

The new industrial elite accumulated millions and even hundreds of millions by the end of the 19th century: Andrew Carnegie was worth roughly $300 million after he sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901, and by 1913, John D. Rockefeller was estimated to have a personal worth of $900 million. It was with Rockefeller that we see the development of the scientific notion of philanthropy.[31] Rockefeller had founded the Institute for Medical Research in 1901, the General Education Board (GEB) in 1903, and the Sanitary Commission for the Eradication of Hookworm in 1909. Rockefeller, however, wanted to consolidate his philanthropic enterprise as he had his industrial oil enterprise, and so in 1909 he decided he wanted to establish one great foundation, which “would be a single central holding company which would finance any and all of the other benevolent organizations, and thus necessarily subject them to its general supervision.”[32] In 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation received a charter of incorporation from the State of New York.

Between 1881 and 1907, Andrew Carnegie had contributed over $40 million to establishing more than 1,600 libraries in the United States alone, but it was after selling Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $300 million that Carnegie began to look at philanthropy on a much larger scale. In 1902, he founded the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and in 1904, founded the Carnegie Corporation of Washington, of which the mission was, “to encourage in the broadest and most liberal manner, investigation, research and discovery, and the application of knowledge to the improvement of mankind,” much like the original mission statement of the Rockefeller Foundation created some years later, “to promote the well-being of mankind.”[33] Carnegie founded, in 1911, the Carnegie Corporation, chartered by the New York State legislature.[34]

These philanthropic foundations, and the many others that appeared in and around the same time, and thereafter, were largely imbued with the idea of “science in the service of society” as a goal for the foundation, basing its actions upon a new rationality brought on by the scientific revolution, and by the notions of reform pushed forward in the Progressive Era, based largely upon the concept of scientific social planning “to problems that educators, the new sociologists, social workers, and political scientists found important.” However, as the wealth of the foundations and the positions of their patrons attracted criticisms, a Congressional commission was on industrial relations (founded to settle a matter related to a brutal repression of a mining strike by a Rockefeller-owned mining company) expanded its scope to deal with the general issue of the foundations. The Walsh Commission, as it was known (after its founder, Frank P. Walsh), was formed in 1914, and Walsh explained the inclusion of the foundations in the commission by postulating that:

the creation of the Rockefeller and other foundations was the beginning of an effort to perpetuate the present position of predatory wealth through the corruption of sources of public information… [and] that if not checked by legislation, these foundations will be used as instruments to change to form of government of the U.S. at a future date, and there is even a hint that there is a fear of a monarchy.[35]

In 1916, the Walsh Commission produced its final report, the Manly Report (after the research director, Basil M. Manly), which concluded that the foundations were so “grave a menace” to society, that “it would be desirable to recommend their abolition.” No such actions were taken.[36]

David Nugent, an anthropologist at Emory University, wrote a rather lengthy article for the academic journal, Identities, on the role of foundations in shaping the social sciences. Nugent takes a look at the development of the social sciences in relation to the construction of an American Empire. As such, the shaping of the social sciences was designed, at least in part, with an aim to facilitate the emergence and maintenance of a large, globally expanding empire, but an empire unlike previous ones, with no official overseas colonies; rather, it was to be an informal global empire. Globally expansive and locally administered colonies were to replaced with globally expansive and locally applicable social sciences. In order for the empire to spread its military and commercial might across the world, first, the ideas at the heart of the empire must proliferate globally. Imperialism is not merely a political or economic endeavour; it is, and arguably more importantly, a socio-cultural process.

The colonization of the Americas and Africa by the European powers – with their political apparatus and for the benefit of their commercial and financial appendages – would not have been possible without the powerful social and cultural imperialism of the missionaries, whose ‘gospel’ debased traditional local cultural, spiritual, and religious practices and introduced new conceptions of morality, values, truth, justice, and knowledge. The social sciences then, presented the world with a form of imperialism focused on the construction of a new form of knowledge by which to understand, define, categorize, and change our world. The new missionaries spreading this new gospel were the dominant American foundations, most notably, the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations, later to be joined by a plethora of others, including the Ford Foundation.

Nugent divides the construction of the social sciences in America, and indeed around the world, into three specific time periods; periods which are defined by economic crises and major geopolitical shifts taking place within those parts of the world which the United States seeks to dominate and control. The first period Nugent identified is what he referred to as the “Formation of Overseas Empire,” from 1900-1940. This period was preceded with an economic depression in 1893 and ended with World War II, though the most rapid changes in the social sciences occurred between World War I and World War II. The second period Nugent identified, the “Consolidation of Overseas Empire,” covered the period of 1943 to 1972, responding to the Depression in the 1930s, the ending of World War II and the subsequent decolonization of the so-called ‘Third World,’ and came to an end with the end of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1972, signaling a new phase of rapid economic changes. The third major period then, the “Reconstruction of Overseas Empire,” took place roughly between 1972 and 2001, which began with the recession of the early 70s, marking profound changes across the Third World, the emergence of neoliberalism, and advanced into the 21st century.[37]

Nugent rightly points out that, while the sponsors of the social sciences, namely, the major foundations, produced such knowledge with specific purpose and intent in establishing and re-enforcing hegemony, empire, domination, social engineering, and social control, it would be a mistake to brand all social science knowledge as being in the service to such interests. Indeed, Nugent wrote, “each of the three period generated a small body of progressive scholarship alongside a much larger corpus of conventional knowledge.”[38]

In the period between World War I and World War II, just as the foundations were themselves emerging, their initial focus in education was in financing the reorganization of major universities in the United States, and almost simultaneously, “they also oversaw sweeping changes in the organization of the social sciences – in the aims, methods, and means of evaluating research, in the background, training, and professional activities of the practitioners, and in the institutional processes that underwrote the production of knowledge.”[39] In this period, both Western scholars in North America and Europe, as well as non-Western scholars in Africa, the Americas, and even in China, were concerned with studying the ways in which North Atlantic industrial capitalism and European imperialism had been “shaping regional and local arenas around the globe, in undermining indigenous economic and socio-political forms, in precipitating enormous population movements, and in stimulating novel cultural configurations and new forms of political affiliation.”[40]

While the Rockefeller philanthropies (including the General Education Board, the Laura-Spellman Rockefeller Memorial, and the Rockefeller Foundation) as well as the Carnegie Corporation were the most influential in this process, they were joined by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, the Phelps-Stokes Fund, and eventually several prominent think tanks (which they also created), such as the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations. It was not merely within the United States that these foundations organized and funded the social sciences, but in fact across much of the English-speaking world as a whole, and indeed, well beyond it. Much of their finances went to helping various organizations reform and accommodate these new forms of knowledge; however, the foundations also created several new institutions to achieve their goals in the social sciences or to focus on the specific goal of altering particular institutions. As Nugent noted:

during a period when nation-states were the main arbiters of cultural messages and capital flows, the social science infrastructure that Rockefeller, Carnegie and the other foundations helped to construct was largely independent of (though in no way in conflict with) national controls. In the long run, this infrastructure promoted a “flexible accumulation of knowledge” on a global scale, and in the process helped bring into being an international public sphere of social science knowledge.[41]

This task of “social control” was envisioned by the foundations as consisting in “helping the masses ‘adjust’ to the rigors of industrial life and representative democracy.” The problems with social control that erupted in this era were identified by the foundations as being caused by a number of factors, including the deteriorating condition of the cities, a lack of understanding of the immigrant populations and democratic institutions, resulting in the breakdown of social order. Thus, as Nugent wrote, “the result was a sweeping program of social change and control.”[42]

A Rockefeller Foundation report acknowledged that many people in the world had already been subjected to the “enormously damaging effects… of industrial activity,” and saw it as necessary to alter the “radically false views of life and radically false views of nature” by many of these people. To bring these people into the modern age, foundations agreed, they needed to effect “almost a social revolution,” and to offer these people “training in new forms of political and social organization.” John D. Rockefeller, Jr., articulating the purpose of the Rockefeller Foundation, explained that it would offer “the best of Western civilization, not only in… science but in mental development and spiritual culture.” Science, of course, was the basis upon which the foundations were created: to not only advance the sciences within their own fields, but to advance the principle of the “scientific management” of society. Wicliffe Rose, a professor who was involved in managing several different Rockefeller philanthropies, wrote in a memorandum for Rockefeller officials in 1923:

All important fields of activity… from the breeding of bees to the administration of an empire, call for an understanding of the spirit and technique of modern science… Science is the method of knowledge. It is the key to such dominion as man may ever exercise over his physical environment. Appreciation of its spirit and technique, moreover, determines the mental attitude of a people, affects the entire system of education, and carried with it the shaping of a civilization.[43]

In the 1920s, the Rockefeller interventions in the social sciences were almost exclusively undertaken by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM), named after John D. Rockefeller’s wife after her death. The Rockefeller Foundation, following the public exposures of the Walsh Commission, primarily maintained itself to funding medicine and public health. Beardsley Ruml, who became director of the LSRM in 1922, was largely responsible for the Rockefeller move into the social sciences, as the LSRM had been primarily concerned with social welfare prior to Ruml’s directorship. On top of the social sciences, Ruml directed the LSRM into funding public administration, and Ruml felt that, “the route to advancing human welfare was through scientific social research,” and thus, “means had to be devised to bring the social scientist into intimate contact with social phenomena.” The main idea was that the social sciences should elevate to establish an equal relationship with that of the natural sciences by making them more “scientific,” and thus, more efficient and able to handle social problems.[44]

Two general scientific objectives were established for organizing the social sciences, the first of which was, “to increase for the scientist and scholar the possibilities of immediate personal observation of the social problems or social phenomena which were under investigation,” and the second objective was to promote inter-disciplinary research. To undertake this, Ruml set out two specific programs of action:

First, the creation of institutional centers in various parts of the world that would with Rockefeller money embody scientific teaching and research. Collaborative research was to be encouraged through the specific research grants to these institutions. These centers would therefore not only be creative institutions but would also serve as a model for the development of the social sciences generally. Second, Ruml began an extensive fellowship program which was designed to complement the training provided by the institutional centers and increase the number of able people working in the field.[45]

Ruml also saw the need to strengthen existing institutions, notably, the elite American universities, which would become “institutional centers of social research.” Edmund E. Day, director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Sciences program from 1928-1937, explained in 1930 that the plan was to develop “within each country of any importance some center which would fructify the local situation and influence other institutions within the same sphere of scientific influence, then within the larger regional centers.” Focusing on the United States and Europe, the LSRM stated in 1926 that its main policy was directed at establishing 12 or 15 centers of social science research around the world, one specific center in each major European country, (University of Stockholm, Deutsche Hochscule für in Berlin, and the London School of Economics), and several in the United States. The LSRM was merged into the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929, which adopted the same agenda established by Ruml in seeking to cultivate through such institutions “a scientific approach to social problems.”[46]

Through the fellowship program, established at the LSRM by Ruml in 1923, students in Europe and Australia were often brought to study in the United States, with the favoured subject within the social sciences being economics, considering it was the closest to establishing itself along the lines of the physical sciences. As the Rockefeller Foundation prepared to incorporate the LSRM into its institutional structure, Edmund E. Day took over as director of the Social Sciences from Ruml in 1928, with the new Social Science division becoming a “formal organization,” just as the Foundation’s other major divisions of medicine, natural science, and the humanities. In 1930, Day wrote that, “what we have to do is to establish in the social sciences the scientific tradition and the scientific habit of mind,” and thus, the Foundation should work to strengthen “certain types of interest and certain habits of thought.” Naturally, this would be “thought” which would be in the “interest” of the Foundation, itself. The aim in doing this was to “coordinate the scientific attack upon social problems,” as education professor, Donald Fisher, wrote in Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism. Edmund Day saw the potential for the social sciences to engage in “human engineering,” and stated quite bluntly: “the validation of the findings of social science must be through effective social control.”[47]

In 1932, the Foundation put emphasis on the support for creating a field of “International Relations,” within Political Science, as well as “the planning and control of economic structures and economic process.” In the area of “International Relations,” the Rockefeller Foundation hoped to “promote understanding among nations and to reduce the friction which may lead to warfare,” which, combined with the program of “Economic Control” was hoped to prevent any future “crisis of capitalism.” A 1934 Rockefeller Foundation committee of trustees produced a report on the Social Sciences Division, explaining, “we now have the opportunity to see whether we cannot assist in applying to concrete problems of our social, political and industrial life some of the ideas and data which research all over the world is rapidly developing.”[48]

In 1932-33, as the Board was considering the proposals of reform in education, all the programs were subject to the ultimate approval of the Board of Trustees of the GEB, which at the time included 15 individuals, all of whom were white, male protestants, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his 27 year old son, John D. Rockefeller, III, and most of whom had been educated at Ivy League schools or the University of Chicago, which had been founded by John D. Rockefeller. Nine of the fifteen trustees were also academics, and seven of them had been senior administrators at major educational institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, N.Y.U, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Other members of the trustees included Owen Young, Chairman of the Board of General Electric, as well as banker Arthur Woods, and Raymond Fosdick, a Wall Street lawyer who would later become President of the Rockefeller Foundation. By 1931, the GEB’s survey of education emphasized three major fields of concentration:

1) the study of the learning process and the mental, physical, and moral development of the individual; 2) the problem of “preparing the individual for vocations and leisure”; and 3) the means for relating education to an evolving society, that is education which would “insure the active adaptation of the individual to the changes which may come in his social, physical and aesthetic environments.”[49]

It was Edmund E. Day, the new director of the Social Science Division, who assumed the greatest leadership in coordinating national reform of education, having previously been an economics professor at Dartmouth, Harvard, and was Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, when he subsequently led the social sciences division at the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial until its incorporation into the Rockefeller Foundation between 1928 and 1930, at which time he assumed his role as director of the Social Sciences Division within both the Rockefeller Foundation and the General Education Board. Day was responsible for articulating and selling the ideas of educational reform to the Board of Trustees, which he did in 1932 in a memorandum entitled, “Cultural Adjustment to a Changing World.” In regards to the social upheavals of the early Depression years, Day wrote in 1933 that, “Industrialism and urbanism… are new forces of tremendous power, neither of which has been brought under sensible control. The way out is not yet evident, and a prolonged period of readjustment is presumably unavoidable.” Day acknowledged that “prevailing social ideas and ideals in the United States were seriously out of accord with current social forms and forces,” however, he argued, the answer did not lie in reforming the social world to meet the needs of the individual, but in adjusting the individual to the social world. As Day wrote, “we must look chiefly to the school for the major efforts toward cultural adjustment of the individual, since the school is a social instrumentality with a uniquely flexible adaptability and with a primary responsibility to meet this need.” Thus, the school could “set the individual in satisfactory general relation to the world in which he lived.”[50]

Between 1919 and 1940, the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and other major philanthropies provided roughly $3.2 million of support for the social sciences in British universities, and a further $1.7 million for “independent organizations which were closely tied to the universities.” The two major Rockefeller philanthropies at the time, the LSRM and the RF, provided roughly 95% of these expenditures. Thus, it was American philanthropy, and principally the Rockefeller foundations which were directly responsible for the development of British social sciences in this period. Only in the late 1930s did British philanthropy pick up the slack from the Rockefeller foundations.[51]

Rockefeller money was also pivotal in the establishment of the London School of Economics (LSE), which “had become an important world centre of the social sciences,” in large part due to the involvement of Rockefeller philanthropies. The Rockefeller foundations selected the LSE specifically for support because in the early 1920s, it was the most advanced center of social sciences in Britain, and could thus serve as a model for the rest of British institutions. Further, the director of the LSE, Lord William Beveridge (also a member of the British Eugenics Society), “shared with Rockefeller philanthropy the same conception of the way in which the social sciences should develop,” specifically in terms of utilizing the “natural scientific approach” to social problems. Also important to note as to why the LSE was chosen, was its strategic location in London, at the heart of the world’s most powerful and globally expanded empire at the time.[52]

Between 1923 and 1939, the LSRM and the Rockefeller Foundation provided the LSE with over $2 million, during which time the school expanded rapidly, becoming “the leading centre of research in the Social Sciences” in the British Empire. Building expansions, the establishment of the leading research library in Britain, acquisition of land, equipment, and a dramatic increase in full-time teachers from 26 in 1923 to 76 by 1937, was largely due to Rockefeller support. Rockefeller money in particular ensured the development of anthropology, international relations, and social biology, and student enrollment also dramatically increased with large grants from Rockefeller philanthropies for postgraduate research and teaching. Thus, by the end of the 1930s, the LSE had “become an international centre training many foreign students.” Grants also contributed to expanding and supporting publications by LSE faculty, with an enormous amount of books and articles emerging as a result of this support, and supported the creation of journals run out of the school as well.[53]

Rockefeller money also flowed into developing the social sciences at Oxford, funding research lecturers for Human Geography, African Sociology, Colonial Administration, Public Administration, and Public Finance, with more money flowing into forming a training program for the social sciences as well as research groups in the area of Economics, Colonial Administration, and Studies of Native Populations, subjects explicitly related to maintaining Britain’s imperial status. Rockefeller foundations also expanded a fellowship program into every university in Britain, granting a total of 108 fellowships in the social sciences to British citizens between 1924 and 1940, and “by far the largest number were awarded to economists,” with Political Science following behind, and subsequently sociology and history, and only 8 anthropology fellowships.[54]

In 1946, a British government report surveying the state of British universities concluded that the social sciences, which had received no prior support from government sources, presented as many possibilities of generating applicable knowledge as did the natural sciences, and were thus worth of government support in order to advance the social sciences in the “national interest.” A committee was subsequently established to handle government subsidies of the social sciences, and in the 1950s, the British social sciences experienced a major “boom,” advancing what was begun with Rockefeller money so that it became state sanctioned, and, in effect, a new socially constructed reality of higher education in Britain: “the social sciences had become a recognized part of the university curriculum.”[55] As professor of education Donald Fisher wrote:

Indeed Rockefeller philanthropy prepared the way for the post-World War II developments in Britain not only in terms of the increased spending by government but also with respect to what was regarded as important in the social sciences. Rockefeller philanthropy had determined which subjects should be studied, which research questions should be answered, and which methods should be utilized to answer these questions.[56]

This era marked the emergence of what has been referred to as “technocratic liberalism,” whereby social problems were addressed (in large part by the state, or at least state sanction) through the technical application of programs of social engineering: “the one best way,” the most efficient, effective, and “scientific” approach to understanding and addressing social problems. This was the task taken up by the “rational reformers” of the era, emerging out of the Progressive period, in which the techniques of the social sciences were used to create a system of “social control.” These social engineers– social scientists, technocratic reformers, experts, philanthropists, etc. – felt that society could “control its collective destiny in contrast to drifting with the tides… even while working toward the management of the many by the few.”[57]

The notion that the social sciences were to be used in the application of and for the purpose of ‘social control’ is not an abstract theoretical interpretation of the Foundation’s policies; it was, in fact, stated policy. In 1933, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Max Mason, wrote that the Foundation’s policies:

… were directed to the general problem of human behavior, with the aim of control through understanding. The Social sciences, for example, will concern themselves with the rationalization of social control; the Medical and Natural sciences propose a closely coordinated study of sciences which underlie personal understanding and personal control. Many procedures will be explicitly co-operative between divisions. The Medical and Natural Sciences will, through psychiatry and psychobiology, have a strong interest in the problems of mental disease [emphasis added].[58]

The influence of the major philanthropic foundations is exerted in a plethora of ways, including, wrote political scientist Joan Roelofs:

creating ideology and the common wisdom; providing positions and status for intellectuals; controlling access to resources for universities, social services, and arts organizations; compensating for market failures; steering protest movements into safe channels; and supporting those institutions by which policies are initiated and implemented… [F]oundations like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford have a corrosive influence on a democratic society; they represent relatively unregulated and unaccountable concentrations of power and wealth which buy talent, promote causes, and, in effect, establish an agenda of what merits society’s attention.[59]

Foundations engage in “considerable collaboration” with networks of nonprofits (which they create and fund), corporations, international organizations, and government entities at the local, state, national and international levels. Foundations effectively “blur boundaries” between the public and private sectors, while simultaneously effecting the separation of such areas in the study of social sciences. This boundary erosion between public and private spheres “adds feudal elements to our purported democracy, yet it has not been resisted, protested, or even noted much by political elites or social scientists.”[60] As foreign policy strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski indicated, the blurring of boundaries “serves United States world dominance”:

As the imitation of American ways gradually pervades the world, it creates a more congenial setting for the exercise of the indirect and seemingly consensual American hegemony. And as in the case of the domestic American system, that hegemony involves a complex structure of interlocking institutions and procedures, designed to generate consensus and obscure asymmetries in power and influence.[61]

In the early twentieth century, the Walsh Commission warned that, “the power of wealth could overwhelm democratic culture and politics,”[62] and the Final Report stated, “that foundations would be more likely to pursue their own ideology in society than social objectivity.”[63] The Carnegie Corporation and Rockefeller Foundation, from their origins, immediately began cooperating heavily with one another, coordinating activities and planning agendas. That the financial weight of these two institutions – and with the Ford Foundation to enter the scene with an even larger endowment – the coordinated influence over higher education yielded an immense power for the owners of foundations in the construction of ideology and knowledge. In providing the funding, they have the power to direct the efforts of scholars and academics, to create entire disciplines and schools of thought, to fund conferences, academic journals, publications, and think tanks. The fact that the role of philanthropic foundations in the construction and management of the educational system itself is so little known is a sign of the subtle, yet pervasive power structures that exists within academia.

Rather than looking at it from a conspiratorial view, however, look at it historically. Just as the Kings and Queens of Europe supported the development of universities in order to furnish managers and technocrats for their dynastic empires, so too do the modern dynastic powers – in this case, banking families – seek to tie the direction and purpose of higher education close to their own interests, and for the same reasons. It is not conspiratorial precisely because of the nature of the social phenomena itself: there are far too many social actors at play, dynamic and interactive and reactive relationships between different individuals, institutions, and ideas. Resistance and problems always emerge, even for the most dominant of powers and institutions. Thus, the financial-dynastic powers must be pragmatic in their approach, willing to reform, change, reorganize and regroup. Simply because it is not well known is not reason enough to think it a ‘conspiracy theory.’ The facts are known, just not widely disseminated.

The next part of this series further takes up the question – what is the purpose of education? – and adds to it: what is – and what should be – the role of intellectuals in society? In particular, the focus will be on the roles of radical versus technical intellectuals, within educational institutions and the society as a whole: from the ancient prophets, to Walter Lippmann, from Zbigniew Brzezinski to Noam Chomsky, this dichotomy of intellectuals has existed in society for a great deal of human history. What are the implications this could have for today’s college crisis and class warfare?

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Francisco O. Ramirez and John Boli, “The Political Construction of Mass Schooling: European Origins and Worldwide Institutionalization,” Sociology of Education (Vol. 60, January 1987), page 5.

[2]            Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society (Unwin Paperbacks, London: 1952), page 62.

[3]            John W. Meyer, et. al., “Public Education as Nation-Building in America: Enrollments and Bureaucratization in the American States, 1870-1930,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 85, No. 3, November 1979), page 592.

[4]            Robert H. Wiebe, “The Social Functions of Public Education,” American Quarterly (Vol. 21, No. 2, Part 1, Summer 1969), pages 147-148.

[5]            Ibid, pages 149-150.

[6]            Ibid, page 157.

[7]            Francisco O. Ramirez and John W. Meyer, “Comparative Education: The Social Construction of the Modern World System,” Annual Review of Sociology (Vol. 6, 1980), page 377.

[8]            Ibid, pages 378-379.

[9]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), page 6.

[10]            Ibid, pages 6-7.

[11]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 6.

[12]            Ibid, pages 6-7.

[13]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), page 10.

[14]            Ibid, page 11.

[15]            Ibid, page 12.

[16]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 7.

[17]            José-Ginés Mora, “Governance and Management in the New University,” Tertiary Education and Management (Vol. 7, No. 2, 2001), page 97.

[18]            Gerard Delanty, “The Idea of the University in the Global Era: From Knowledge as an End to the End of Knowledge?” Social Epistemology (Vol. 12, No. 1, 1998), page 9.

[19]            John C. Scott, “The Mission of the University: Medieval to Postmodern Transformations,” Journal of Higher Education (Vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 2006), pages 15-16.

[20]            Ibid, pages 23-24.

[21]            Ibid, page 25.

[22]            Nicolas Guilhot, “Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 448.

[23]            Ibid, page 450.

[24]            Ibid, page 451.

[25]            Erkki Berndtson, “Review Essay: Power of Foundations and the American Ideology,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 583.

[26]            Ibid, page 584.

[27]            Nicolas Guilhot, “Reforming the World: George Soros, Global Capitalism and the Philanthropic Management of the Social Sciences,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 452.

[28]            Morris Janowitz, “Sociological Theory and Social Control,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 81, No. 1, July 1975), page 82.

[29]            Ibid, page 85.

[30]            Anthony J. Cortese, “The Rise, Hegemony, and Decline of the Chicago School of Sociology, 1892-1945,” The Social Science Journal (Vol. 32, No. 3, 1995), page 237.

[31]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 26-28.

[32]            Ibid, pages 28-29.

[33]            Ibid, pages 30-31.

[34]            Ibid, pages 32-33.

[35]            Ibid, pages 33-35.

[36]            Ibid, pages 46-47.

[37]            David Nugent, “Knowledge and Empire: The Social Sciences and United States Imperial Expansion,” Identities (Vol. 17, Issue 1, 2010), pages 2-3.

[38]            Ibid, page 3.

[39]            Ibid, page 4.

[40]            Ibid, pages 5-7.

[41]            Ibid, pages 9.

[42]            Ibid, pages 9-10.

[43]            Ibid, pages 10-11.

[44]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 234-235.

[45]            Ibid, page 235.

[46]            Ibid, pages 235-236.

[47]            Ibid, pages 236-237.

[48]            Ibid, page 238-239.

[49]            Charles D. Biebel, “Private Foundations and Public Policy: The Case of Secondary Education During the Great Depression,” History of Education Quarterly (Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 1976), pages 6-8.

[50]            Ibid, pages 10-11.

[51]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press, Bloomington: 1982), pages 239-241.

[52]            Ibid, page 241.

[53]            Ibid, pages 244-245.

[54]            Ibid, pages 245-247.

[55]            Ibid, pages 248-251.

[56]            Ibid, pages 252-253.

[57]            Dennis Bryson, “Technocratic Liberalism and Social Science,” Radical History Review (Vol. 64, 1996), pages 119-120.

[58]            Lily E. Kay, “Rethinking Institutions: Philanthropy as an Historigraphic Problem of Knowledge and Power,” Minerva (Vol. 35, 1997), page 290.

[59]            Joan Roelofs, “Foundations and Collaboration,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 480

[60]            Ibid.

[61]            Ibid, page 481.

[62]            Ibid, page 483.

[63]            Erkki Berndtson, “Review Essay: Power of Foundations and the American Ideology,” Critical Sociology, Vol. 33, 2007, page 580