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The Writings of Professor Robert M. Young

'Mystifications in the Scientific Foundations of Sociology' 17K

This short piece on the ideological foundations of functionalist sociology succinctly conveys the point of a number of my later writings, in particular, 'The Naturalization of Value Systems in the Human Sciences'. It is largely based on a remarkable study of a group of scholars at Harvard who laid the foundations of American functionalism, using the ultra-conservative Italian sociologist, Vilfredo Pareto, as the foundation stone. The essay had a revealing set of sequelae. It was published in an obscure local periodical which was only sold on the streets of Cambridge. Even so, the American sociologist, Edward Shils, got hold of a copy and sent it to his fellow conservative, Julius Gould, then a professor at Leicester. Gould used it as a stick with which to beat me over and over again in the infamous 'Gould Report', the closest British academic life got to a McCarthy-ite witch -hunt of radicals. I was one of the two most oft-mentioned pariahs in that document, something which made me both proud and afraid. I am glad to say that I subsequently had a hand in helping the King's College Fellowship Electors to decide to terminate Shils' fellowship, given that he made little contribution to the academic life of the college and used it as a base for CIA-related investigation of radicals. It was claimed on Shils' behalf that he was of considerable help to graduate students, and I was able (in my capacity as Tutor for Graduate Students) to show that he had made himself remarkably unavailable to them. He was immediately taken up by Peterhouse, who gave him a fellowship. Shils was a member of the set of American conservative intellectuals who made up the Congress of Cultural Freedom, which published Encountrer and various other periodicals, all financed (as Christopher Lasch was able to show in a remarkable essay on 'The Cultural Cold War'') by the CIA. Academic politics of this kind constituted a front during the Vietnam War, and showing the political and ideological dimensions of theory in the social sciences was a not insignificant battle in that struggle. The essay was published in Science or Society?: Bulletin of the Cambridge Society for Social Responsibility in Science No. 2, June 1971, pp. 9-11.


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Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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