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Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars
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It is a curious fact of academic history that the first great center of area studies . . . [was] in the Office of Strategic Services. . . . It is still true today, and I hope it always will be, that there is a high measure of interpenetration between universities with area programs and the information-gathering agencies of the government. McGeorge Bundy, 19641
by Bruce Cumings*
In this article I propose to examine the displacement and reordering of the boundaries of scholarly inquiry in the postwar period in two phases: the first, the determining burst of academic work that began during World War II but vastly expanded in the early years of the Soviet-U.S. confrontation, which is the necessary prelude to understanding the second phase, namely the contemporary revaluation of American studies of the rest of the world occasioned by the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Western communism. My position is that the ultimate force shaping scholarly studies of what used to be called "the non-Western world" is economic and political power, but the most interesting effects of such power are often the least observed, taking place" at those local points or "ultimate destinations" (in Foucault's phrase) where power "becomes capillary,"2 like universities and academic departments, and the organizations that mediate between academe and the foundations -- for example, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). In this process of power-becoming-capillary but in newly rearranged rivulets, we can discern both the original strengths and weaknesses of the "area" boundaries, the disordering occasioned by watershed changes in power politics and the world economy, and emergent new relationships between power and knowledge.
If the first phase has been much studied, it is still rare to find an acknowledgment of the often astonishing levels of collaboration between the universities, the foundations, and the intelligence arms of the U.S. state that accompanied this phase.3 If the second phase unfolds intermittently before our eyes (and with only partial information, much as in the late 1940s), it is remarkable how central the intelligence function has been to it. Since I propose to offer an assessment of such relationships, among others, let me say that in this article I do not assume a moral position, nor do I wish to indict individual academics or take to task the foundations or SSRC, nor am I involved in conspiracy theory. In earlier public presentations of versions of this article4 such comments have predictably come up: I must be trying to single out and blame scholars who worked at some point in their careers for the government, and in so doing I must be asserting an evil conspiracy. Rather, what I wish to do is evaluate contemporary boundary displacements in the unblinkered light of what we now know about the early years of area and international studies.
Perhaps I should also make clear my position on academics in government service. In an earlier draft of this paper I stated that working for the government against Hitler was different from doing the same type of thing during the Cold War: the difference, it seems to me, is that between a crisis that drew nearly every American to the effort against the Nazis and Japan in conditions of total war, to Washington and overseas posts distinct from campus positions, and the very different requirements placed upon scholars and universities in peacetime: to uphold their independence and academic freedom, and to make full disclosure of possible biases deriving from clandestine sponsorship and privileged access to research funds. To join, say, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) inhabited by Paul Baran, Cora DuBois, John King Fairbank, Hajo Halborn, Charles Kindleberger, Wassily Leontif, Herbert Marcuse, Barrington Moore Jr., Franz Neumann, and Paul Sweezy5 was almost to be asked to join the best faculty the United States could assemble to defeat Hitler. (The luminous names do not provide their own justification for such service, of course; Charles Beard set a different sort of example when he resigned from Columbia University in protest of Woodrow Wilson's drafting of college students in World War I, and then interrogated Franklin Roosevelt's prowar policies in publications written both before and after World War II.)
A commentator argued that by saying such things I had given up a principled position of academic independence: working for the state was always wrong. I disagree; to offer one's expertise to the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS does not compromise academic integrity, in my view, if we stipulate that (1) the war is one of total mobilization against an enemy clearly determined to take away all our freedoms, including academic ones; (2) one takes a leave of absence from the classroom to serve this war effort, establishing a clear difference between the two domains of the state and the university, and (3) classified work does not continue after reentry to the university. These same principles, of course, argue for a complete separation of intelligence and academic functions in ordinary times. Nothing should be more sacred to faculty offered tenure-to-the-grave security and full legal protection for their viewpoints, however heretical, than honesty and full disclosure before their colleagues and students -- something unavailable to those who sign agreements never to speak or write about what they do for intelligence agencies.6
These prefatory points are necessary because it was the OSS director William "Wild Bill" Donovan who established in 1941 the rationale for employing the nation's best expertise "to collect and analyze all information and data which may bear upon national security"; present at this creation were representatives of SSRC and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) who helped Donovan come up with "a slate of [academic] advisors" for the OSS.7 Donovan's relationship to left-leaning academics was similar to General Leslie Groves's collaboration with Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project, but it yielded a political spectrum in the OSS from anticommunist Bulgarian emigré Philip Mosely to the Marxist founders of the Monthly Review, Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy. The research and analysis branch of the OSS also presented a model for postwar collaboration between intelligence and academe, and influenced the division of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) into separate research and operations branches. In many ways it also helped to create the basic division between the academic disciplines and something that soon came to be called "area studies."8
For a generation after World War II the bipolar conflict between Moscow and Washington and the hegemonic position of the United States in the world economy drew academic boundaries that had the virtue of clarity: "area studies" and "international studies," backed with enormous public and private resources, had clear reference to places or to issues and processes that became important to study. The places were usually countries, but not just any countries: Japan got favored placement as a success story of development, and China got obsessive attention as a pathological example of abortive development. The key processes were things like modernization, or what was for many years called "political development" toward the explicit or implicit goal of liberal democracy.
The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) was the first "area" organization in the United States, founded in 1943 as the Far Eastern Association and reorganized as the AAS in 1956. Before 1945 there had been little attention to and not much funding for such things; but now the issues were to be ones that would bring contemporary social science theory to bear on the non-Western world, although not on the classic ones of Oriental studies, often examined through philology;9 political scientists would begin talking to Orientalists, and in return for their sufferance, the Orientalists would get vastly enhanced academic resources (positions, libraries, language studies) -- although a certain separation came from the social scientists inhabiting institutes of East Asian studies, whereas the Orientalists occupied departments of East Asian languages and cultures. This implicit Faustian bargain sealed the postwar academic deal -- and meant that the Orientalists didn't necessarily have to talk to the political scientists after all.
Countries inside the containment system, like Japan or South Korea, and those outside it, like China or North Korea, were clearly placed as friend or enemy, ally or adversary. In both direct and indirect ways the U.S. government and the major foundations traced these boundaries by directing scholarly attention to distinct places and to distinct ways of understanding them (for example, communist studies for North Korea and China and modernization studies for Japan and South Korea). To be in "Korean studies" or "Chinese studies" was to daily experience the tensions that afflicted Korea and China during the long period of the Cold War. Over the decades of the Cold War this revaluation by power gave us two tropes, yielding an entire inventory of East and Southeast Asia. The first trope was "Red China," and the second (accomplished by a Nixonian transition in the 1970s in response to defeat in Vietnam) was "Pacific Rim." Each trope valued and revalued East and Southeast Asia, as Westerners (mostly Americans) recognized and defined it, in ways that highlighted some parts and excluded (or occluded) others.
When East Asia was "painted Red" it held an apparent outward-moving dynamic whose core was "Peiping." According to Dean Rusk's 1960s scenario, 400 million Chinese armed with nuclear weapons threatened nations along China's rim with oblivion: South Korea, South Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the big enchilada, Japan. "Pacific Rim" was the post-1975 artistry, an era of forward movement and backward occlusion, as Americans sought to "put Vietnam behind us." "Pacific Rim" thus heralded a forgetting, a hoped for amnesia in which the decades-long but ultimately failed U.S. effort to obliterate the Vietnamese revolution would enter the realm of Korea, "the forgotten war." But more importantly, it looked forward: suddenly the rim became the locus of a new dynamism, bringing pressure on the mainland of Asia.
Rimspeak, like modernization theory, continued to look with curiosity if not disdain upon anyone who did not privilege the market. The many working-class and antisystemic movements of the region in the past decades remained poxes, irrationalities that illustrate immature "political development" in the rim. Organized into the new inventory were "miracle" economies in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, with honorable mention for Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and post-Mao (but pre-Tiananmen) China (signified by "Beizhing," which is the Ted Koppel-approved way to say Beijing). The centerpiece in the region was Japan, a newly risen sun among advanced industrial countries -- indeed, "Number One" in Ezra Vogel's perfectly timed book,10 published in 1979. From the 1950s through the late 1980s it was almost heretical to utter a critical word about postwar Japan, or to point out that in the midst of the Korean "miracle" Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan were beating the brains out of thousands of workers and students, jailing and torturing professors, and bivouacking their troops on elite university campuses.
When the Cold War ended and Western communism collapsed in 1989-91, a third revaluation unfolded. One set of rationales for studying "areas" (or areas in particular kinds of ways, namely communist studies) collapsed, while another -- "development," whether economic or political -- deepened. In effect the previous boundaries disappeared as the framework of inquiry distended to approximate the reach of the world market; the dawning "world without borders" collapsed area studies into international studies. Even the "Pacific Rim" gave way to a new globalism, as Japan's economic bubble burst and the United States finally emerged as the mature hegemonic power of the century. It turned out that we were now living in a world economy, something that radicals had written about for decades but that now materialized as the essential domain of U.S. activity and academic endeavor.
The state and the foundations were the quickest to sense this displacement and to redirect practical and scholarly efforts. The Clinton administration moved toward a major emphasis on foreign economic policy, and the foundations moved to attenuate their support for area studies, emphasizing instead interregional themes like "development and democracy." SSRC and ACLS, long the national nexus for raising and administering funds for area studies, found their very existence threatened and began a major restructuring for the first time in more than thirty years.
The source of power had shifted in the 1990s from the state's concern with the maintenance of Cold War boundary security to transnational corporations that, as the organized expression of the market, saw no geographic limit on their interests. Sponsors' expectations of area experts likewise changed quickly: a Kremlinological opinion about "China after Mao or Deng" was less interesting than informed judgments on "China's economic reforms: whither the old state sector?" and the like. The entire field of communist studies found itself alone with the intelligence agencies and the Pentagon, searching for a function after the object of their desire had rolled itself back to nothing. A government publication that had exemplified the age now exemplified the transition: to change "Problems of Communism" to "Problems of Post-Communism" delimits and even announces a certain post- Cold War marginality.
As postwar history unfolded, in other words, scholars caught up in one historical system and one discourse that defined discipline, department, area, and subject suddenly found themselves in another emerging field of inquiry, well in advance of imagining or discovering the subject themselves. To put a subtle relationship all too crudely, power and money had found their subject first, and shaped fields of inquiry accordingly. I will now revisit in more detail the origins of area and international studies in the early Cold War period, examine how both changed with the end of the Cold War, and suggest how we might rethink boundaries of area and discipline and reengage our minds with the task of understanding the world outside U.S. boundaries.
Area and International Studies in the Early Cold War
The channel is more important than that a lot of water should be running through it.
After World War II ended, the new area programs and associations (like the AAS) instantly confronted the existing boundaries of the social science and humanities disciplines; this often made for interesting intellectual confrontation as well. William Nelson Fenton was present at the creation of area studies, and in 1947 he wrote that area programs "faced fierce resistance from the `imperialism of departments' since they challenged the fragmentation of the human sciences by disciplinary departments, each endowed with a particular methodology and a specific intellectual subject matter."11
The anthropologist Cora DuBois thought that the collaborative work of the OSS during the war was the prelude to a new era of reformist thinking on an interdisciplinary basis: "The walls separating the social sciences are crumbling with increasing rapidity. . . . People are beginning to think, as well as feel, about the kind of world in which they wish to live."12 Postwar area studies, much maligned as the precinct for atheoretical navel-gazing and Orientalia, was beginning to challenge the parochialism of the disciplines in the name of a unified knowledge.
Still, these were not the power lines that counted. The state was less interested in the feudal domains of academe than in filling the vacuum of knowledge about a vast hegemonic and counterhegemonic global space; it was the capillary lines of state power that shaped area programs. This was effected in the first instance by the relocation of the OSS's Soviet division to Columbia University as the basis for its Russian Institute, which opened in September 1946, and in the second instance by a Carnegie Corporation grant of $740,000 to Harvard to establish its own Russian Research Center in 1947.13 Soon the Ford Foundation put in much more money, a total of $270 million to thirty-four universities for area and language studies from 1953 to 1966.14
This munificent funding created important area programs throughout the country, and provided numerous fellowships that allowed scholars to spend years in the field acquiring difficult languages and other forms of area knowledge. McGeorge Bundy, however, was much closer to the truth in linking the underpinnings of area studies to the intelligence agencies -- the OSS, and subsequently the CIA. William Donovan may have directed the wartime OSS and then returned to Wall Street, but he was also in many ways the founder of the CIA.15 In his papers, combed through by the CIA and then deposited at the Army War College, there is a brief account of the original development of "foreign area studies," in which Donovan, George F. Kennan, and John Paton Davies played the major roles. Davies had a plan to transform area studies and bring enormous amounts of government and foundation funding into U.S. universities through what was originally to be an institute of Slavic studies, but which subsequently became a model for the organization of studies of the communist world of threatened Third World areas.
Donovan, who was then with the Wall Street firm Donovan, Leisure, was at the center of this effort, working with Davies in 1948 and helping him to get foundation funding. The organizers specified that the government was not to be involved publicly in developing area studies, thus to allay suspicions that such programs were little more than "an intelligence agency." Their work should be "impartial and objective," clear of conflicts of interest, and so on. (Indeed, the files on this project are full of concern with academic independence and proper procedure.) However, in a letter to Donovan, Clinton Barnard of the Rockefeller Foundation -- which with the Carnegie Corporation funded this effort at the beginning -- wrote, "the most compelling aspect of this proposal is the intelligence function which the Institute could perform for government."16
Sigmund Diamond greatly expanded our understanding of the establishment of area studies centers during the early years of the Cold War in his book Compromised Campus. Diamond paid particular attention to the Russian Research Center at Harvard, which, following upon Columbia's Russian Institute and Davies' Slavic studies institute, became a model for other area programs on Eastern Europe and China. It was also a model of cooperation with the CIA and the FBI.
Although Diamond's government documents on Harvard in this period have been greatly expurgated -- and Harvard's own papers remain closed to scholars under a fifty-year rule -- he was able to document that the Harvard Russian Research Center was based on the wartime OSS model (like Columbia's); that the center was deeply involved with the CIA, the FBI, and other intelligence and military agencies; that several foundations (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford) worked with the state and the center to fund projects and, in some cases, to launder CIA funding; that the same scholars who undertook this activity often were themselves subjects of FBI investigations; that some of these scholars, in turn, were responsible for denouncing other scholars to the FBI; and, finally, that these academics were major figures in the postwar development of Russian area studies in the nation as a whole.17 By 1949 Harvard and the center had established a mutually satisfactory relationship with the local FBI office: indeed, results of the Russian Research Center's work were "made available to the Bureau officially through contact with President James B. Conant of Harvard University, who has on occasion indicated his respect for the Bureau's work and his understanding for its many and varied interests in connection with internal security matters." At roughly the same time Conant also negotiated basic arrangements between Harvard and the CIA.18
I frequently chide myself for running afoul of what I might call the fallacy of insufficient cynicism. I had not, for example, thought that J. Edgar Hoover enjoyed being wined and dined by major figures in organized crime, or that the Mafia had blackmailed him (either because of his closet homosexuality or his gambling debts) into refusing for years to investigate organized crime, even into denying that there was such a thing.19 Nor had I imagined the lengths to which the FBI would go to investigate even the most trifling aspects of life in academe in the early Cold War period. It is only a bit of an exaggeration to say that for those scholars studying potential enemy countries, either they consulted with the government or they risked being investigated by the FBI; working for the CIA thus legitimized academics and fended off J. Edgar Hoover (something particularly important for the many scholars born in foreign countries, or the many one-time communist emigrés now engaged in anticommunist research).20
Diamond's papers contain large files of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) material on nationwide FBI investigations of academics in the early fifties. Although most of the files are still thoroughly blacked out by "declassification" censors (in truth there has been hardly any declassification on this issue), there is enough to indicate that any hearsay, any wild charge, any left-of-center organization joined, any name entered on a petition for whatever cause unacceptable to the FBI (like peace or racial integration), any subscription to a magazine the FBI didn't like (for example, the Nation or the New Republic) was enough to get an entry in the file. The FBI routinely checked the credit records of academics, tailed them around, monitored their lectures, questioned their colleagues and students, and sought out reliable campus informants (William F. Buckley, Jr. distinguished himself at Yale by becoming an important source for the FBI, as did Henry Kissinger to a lesser degree at Harvard).21
One FBI memorandum on Harvard goes on for forty-two pages with a detailed account of its courses on the USSR, complete with syllabi, teachers, and the content of the courses.22 Another has extensive reports on lectures at Harvard sponsored by the John Reed Club (which future Japan scholar Robert Bellah chaired, and which had as its members future China scholars Albert Feuerwerker and Franz Schurmann).23 Academics working on East Asia, of course, were particularly vulnerable to FBI harassment; those working on the USSR were as well, but more Asianists seemed to have come to the FBI's attention. The reasons for this were deeply involved with the history of those fields -- the fact that the USSR never inspired much sympathy among academics in the postwar period, but China, pre- and post-1949, did. The Korean War, for example, had an immediate impact on Harvard's policies toward the John Reed Club. Two months after the war began Harvard banned the club from using Harvard facilities, unless it went through a lot of formalistic procedures (membership lists, sources of funds, and so forth) not required of other groups. In the same period Harvard security people blocked China-hand Israel Epstein from speaking at a club gathering. An FBI informant in the Reed Club reported that the war in Korea was the cause of this new policy, and that some club members did not want to register with Harvard for fear that their names would be turned over to the government.24
Mosely at Columbia
If Harvard's Russian Research Center were the only place where such intelligence ties and government interference went on, it could be dismissed as an aberration. Unfortunately it was a central model for area programs around the country, as was the one at Columbia University. Philip Mosely ran Columbia's Russian Research Center for many years; an OSS Research and Analysis branch veteran, he was one of the most important figures in Russian studies and U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s. In addition to directing Columbia's center, he was head of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1952 to 1956, a member of various boards and committees at the Ford Foundation, and a prominent leader of the American Political Science Association. His papers raise the same question Sigmund Diamond raises in his book: Why did so many of the major figures in academe and the foundations, and particularly the leaders of area centers, have CIA ties and background?
Although Mosely's papers contain little formerly classified material, his nearly constant involvement with secret government agencies is clear from the late 1940s through his retirement from Columbia in the late 1960s.25 The sketchy and incomplete nature of his papers make it impossible to know exactly what he did for the CIA and other agencies, or whether he had such clearances at all times. But his continuing relationship with intelligence groupings is clear. One example would be his communication with W. W. Rostow in 1952 about which portions of Rostow's "classified project" on the "dynamics of Soviet society," a project Mosely was an adviser for, should be released for publication.26 Another would be Frederick Barghoorn's letter to Mosely in the same year, asking for Mosely's help in getting government work for the summer: "In addition to some sort of official interview project or intelligence operation, it has occurred to me that perhaps I might obtain some connection with the State Department's educational exchange project."27
In 1955 John T. Whitman of the CIA wrote to Mosely, asking that Mosely schedule recruitment interviews for him with students at Columbia's Russian Institute, "as you so kindly did for Messrs. Bloom, Bradley and Ferguson last year." Mosely was happy to oblige.28 Meanwhile Mosely was an active partisan in the politics of the McCarthy era, testifying before the Subversive Activities Control Board in 1953, for example, that an unnamed "respondent's" views and policies "do not deviate from those of the Soviet Union." This testimony was part of the Justice Department's attempt to get the Communist Party-U.S.A. (CP-USA) to register under the McCarran Act, whereupon its members could be jailed.29
Mosely was a central figure at the Ford Foundation throughout the formative years of U.S. area studies centers. On 5 May 1953 Ford's Board on Overseas Training and Research approved an agenda for implementing a program of "Coordinated Country Studies." Shortly thereafter Paul Langer wrote to Mosely stating that the first item in regard to implementation would be consultation with CIA director Allen Dulles. After suggesting that a person high in the foundation should consult with Dulles, the other items to be discussed were listed as follows:
(b) In what terms are the projects to be presented to the CIA? (c) To what extent will the Foundation assume responsibility toward the government in regard to the political reliability of the team members? (d) Should mention be made of the names of persons tentatively selected? (e) Should the directors of the proposed study projects be informed of the fact that the CIA has been notified?30
Another memorandum from the Ford Foundation concerning "implementation of the proposed country studies"31 said in the second paragraph that "Carl Spaeth [of Ford] offered to call Allen Dulles to explain in general terms the nature of the proposed studies," to be followed up by a more detailed presentation of the projects in a meeting between Cleon Swayze, also of Ford, and Allen Dulles. (Here, however, the purpose of these contacts with the Central Intelligence Agency was said to be "merely to keep interested government agencies informed.")
Other memoranda in Mosely's files show that plans for these "country studies" spawned some of the most important works later published in the field of comparative politics; for example, Langer recommended Lucian Pye for work on guerrillas in Malaya, and suggested "a broadly conceived" study of Burmese government and politics (which Pye also did somewhat later, although he was not recommended for it in this memorandum). Langer also wanted a study of Turkey as "a special case in the Near East" of "smooth development toward democracy" and immunity "to the appeals of communism." Among other scholars, he thought Dankwart Rustow would be good for the task; Rustow, together with Robert Ward, later published a central work on how Japan and Turkey modernized successfully.32 (There is no evidence in these memoranda that Pye or Rustow knew that they were under consideration for such tasks.)
Later in 1953 the Ford Foundation sponsored a Conference on Soviet and Slavic Area Studies to discuss a program of fellowships in that field. Major academic figures in Soviet studies like Mosely, Merle Fainsod, Cyril Black, and Frederick Barghoorn attended; also attending was China specialist George Taylor. Government figures present included George Kennan, Paul Nitze, Allen Dulles, and several CIA officials. Pendleton Herring of SSRC attended as well.33 Among other things, the conferees fretted about "loyalty" checks on grantees, and therefore suggested denying fellowships to "partisans of special Soviet movements and recognized supporters of political parties inimical to the best interests of the United States." Although this stricture was directed primarily at the CP-USA, the language was broad enough to include, say, supporters of Henry Wallace's Progressive Party; the Carnegie Corporation also extended such concerns to a variety of liberal academics.34
One apparent result of this program was a CIA-sponsored study entitled "Moslems of Soviet Central Asia" done by Richard Pipes, a well-known Harvard historian of Russia who eventually became responsible for Soviet affairs on Ronald Reagan's first and most ideologically committed National Security Council.35 In 1953 and 1954 Langer, Mosely, and others also sought to develop Chinese studies along the lines of their previous work in Russian studies.36 The Ford Foundation's decision in the late 1950s to pump at least $30 million into the field of Chinese studies (to resuscitate it after the McCarthyite onslaught, but also to create new China watchers) drew on the same rationale as the Russian programs examined above: "The investment strategy was based on the model designed just after World War II by cooperation on the part of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation in supporting Soviet studies, initially and principally through grants to Columbia and Harvard Universities."37
That Mosely provided a working linkage among Ford, the CIA, and ACLS/SSRC well into the 1960s is suggested by Abbot Smith's 1961 letter to him, referring to lists of possible new CIA area studies consultants whom he wished to clear with Mosely, William Langer, and Joseph Strayer. (Smith was described as the director of the CIA's "consultants' group.")38 In Mosely's response he recommends among other people China scholar John M. Lindbeck of Columbia, A. Doak Barnett (China watcher then with the Ford Foundation but soon to join the Columbia faculty), and Lucian Pye of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ("my first choice").39 In 1962 Mosely told James E. King of the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA, a major academic arm of government security agencies), who had proposed a three-year program of some sort to Ford, that "of the major foundations, only Ford has shown a willingness to mingle its money with government money, and even it is rather reluctant to do so;" Mosely counseled King that "the question of `end-use,' that is, whether classified or publishable, is important to the foundation."40 Other evidence suggests that Columbia professors like Mosely and Zbigniew Brzezinski worked closely with the IDA, both in supporting students completing dissertations, like former CIA employee Donald Zagoria, and in bringing IDA people into Brzezinski's Research Institute on Communist Affairs.41
This incomplete but important evidence from the Mosely papers suggests that the Ford Foundation, in close consultation with the CIA, helped to shape postwar area studies and important collaborative research in modernization studies and comparative politics that were later mediated through well-known Social Science Research Council projects (ones that were required reading when I was a graduate student in the late 1960s).42 According to Christopher Simpson's study of declassified materials, however, this interweaving of foundations, universities, and state agencies (mainly in intelligence and the military) extended to the social sciences as a whole: "For years, government money . . . not always publicly acknowledged as such -- made up more than 75 per cent of the annual budgets of institutions such as Paul Lazarsfeld's Bureau of Applied Social Research at Columbia University, Hadley Cantril's Institute for International Social Programs at Princeton, Ithiel de Sola Pool's CENIS [the Center for International Studies, earlier known as CIS] program at MIT, and others." Official sources in 1952 reported that "fully 96 per cent of all reported [government] funding for social sciences at that time was drawn from the U.S. military."43 My own work in postwar U.S. archives over the past two decades has taught me how many books central to the political science profession in the 1950s and 1960s emerged first as internal classified government studies.
Allen and Taylor at Washington
The University of Washington in Seattle has one of the oldest area studies centers, with parts of it established well before World War II. But the Cold War transformed it as well, beginning with a case that made headlines all over the country. In January 1949 the Board of Regents of the University of Washington fired three tenured professors for their political views: two because they initially denied and then later admitted membership in the Communist Party, and one -- Ralph Grundlach, a national figure in the discipline of psychology -- who was not a party member but was a radical who was uncooperative with university and state legislature inquiries. Ellen Schrecker, author of the definitive account of McCarthyism on the campus, wrote that this decision "had nationwide repercussions," not only as the first important academic freedom case in the Cold War period, but one that also established a model for purges at many universities thereafter. President Raymond B. Allen was the prime mover behind this influential case; Schrecker takes particular note of how careful Allen was to assure that proper academic procedure be followed in all political cases.44
There is no suggestion in Schrecker's account, however, or in the more detailed study of this case by Jane Sanders,45 that Allen had extensive contact with J. Edgar Hoover and his close aides in the FBI as the case unfolded, or that he was advised by William Donovan on the crucial matter of how to construct a model argument against these professors, one consistent with contemporary doctrines of academic freedom that would stand up in a court of law.46 By far the most disturbing aspects of this case, therefore, begin at the top: not in what this president did in the early Cold War period to protect academic freedom and threatened faculty or to arouse the suspicions of the FBI, but in what he did to facilitate such suspicions and deliver up such faculty.
I came across Donovan's role in shaping Allen's argument in the former's papers,47 but the FBI's involvement was much greater. For unknown reasons the FBI file on the University of Washington (hereafter UW) is relatively unexpurgated.48 This affair apparently began with President Allen's request to meet with Hoover or a top assistant in May 194849 to express his concern that the so-called Canwell Committee (Washington state's early and vicious version of the House Un-American Activities Committee) was not abiding by agreements he had made with it. Allen had instructed UW faculty to assist in Canwell's investigation, and to speak with Everett Pomeroy, one of Canwell's chief investigators whom Allen wrongly believed to be a former FBI agent. In return, Allen said, Canwell had agreed to turn over the names of faculty to be hauled before his committee so that the UW could carry out its own internal investigation first and thus avoid public embarrassment.
Allen was also interested in an arrangement that he thought obtained at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), whereby an on-campus FBI representative "cooperates with university officials"; he wished to have a similar arrangement at the University of Washington so that he could get current FBI information on UW faculty, and check the names of potential new faculty with the FBI. Hoover scrawled on this document, "make sure this isn't being done" at UCLA, apparently a comment for the file since the FBI proceeded to set up for Allen what can only be called the arrangement Allen asked for -- the one he persistently thought existed at UCLA in spite of FBI denials -- one which provided him the information he wanted on UW faculty. By November 1948 an FBI agent was seeing Allen weekly, and Allen in return was giving him privileged information on what the relevant faculty committee and the Board of Regents were likely to do about the suspect professors. Allen even provided the FBI with the entire transcript of the university's internal proceedings, including privileged testimony assumed to be strictly confidential.50
In a case of particular interest to the Korean field at the University of Washington (an area that it has specialized in since 1945), Allen told the FBI that "although Harold Sunoo appeared to be an innocent dupe of the Party, he [Allen] was not entirely satisfied with the information available with respect to Sunoo," and asked for more from the FBI.51 Dr. Sunoo taught at the university in the early Cold War period, and subsequently was forced to resign. Many years later he told me that he thought George Taylor, for decades the director of the Russian and Far Eastern Center at the university, had turned him in to the FBI as a security risk because of his membership in a small faculty group critical of the Syngman Rhee regime.
I later verified that information independently with another Korean employed by the University of Washington at the same time. He had participated in the same group, and he said that Taylor's denunciation of him to the FBI was responsible for getting him fired (from a department having to do with the arts and thus utterly unrelated to any possible security problem). For nearly two decades thereafter he was unable to obtain a passport. Worse happened to other Koreans who ran afoul of the FBI in other states: according to Dr. Sunoo and other Korean-Americans whom I have spoken with from that era, some Koreans who were active politically in the United States were deported to South Korea where they were subsequently executed. (FBI files on these cases were closed when I sought access to them several years ago.)
Declassified documents demonstrate that George Taylor did indeed collaborate with the FBI. An example is a conference he helped to organize in 1955 (the same year that, in a celebrated case, the University of Washington canceled a speaking invitation to Robert Oppenheimer52). At first the conference was to be titled "World Communism and American Policy"; Taylor invited a local FBI agent to attend while assuring him that "there would be no improper interference from the presence of the agent," and offering to synopsize the conference for the FBI. Subsequently the name of the conference was changed to "American Policy and Soviet Imperialism," with conference fliers using verbiage such as the following to invite the public to attend:
DO YOU KNOW that over half your income taxes are due to the aggressive nature of Communist imperialism?
DO YOU KNOW what Lenin and Stalin intended regarding world domination?
DO YOU KNOW the kinds of private American Cold War operations and what they are doing?53
One only begins to understand the early Cold War period by learning that Taylor and his colleague Karl Wittfogel were also attacked as left-wingers or communist sympathizers by right-wing groups who noted Wittfogel's past communist affiliations and Taylor's presence alongside China-hand John Service in the Office of War Information and Taylor's membership in the Institute of Pacific Relations. President Allen chose to stand by them, however, and shortly afterwards Allen accepted the directorship of the Psychological Strategy Board, a CIA position Taylor had turned down in 1950.54 (Once again one senses that in this period you either consulted with the CIA or got investigated by the FBI.)
Nikolai Poppe also taught for decades at the University of Washington. Originally a specialist on Mongolia, he defected from the USSR to the Nazis on the first day they arrived in his town in 1942, and "actively collaborated" with the quisling government in the Karachai minority region in the Caucasus -- the first acts of which consisted of expropriating Jewish property, followed by a general roundup of Jews for gassing. He later worked at the Nazis' notorious Wannsee Institute in Berlin, identifying ethnic peoples of the USSR and Eastern Europe. He was picked up after the war first by British intelligence, and then by U.S. intelligence as part of Operation Bloodstone to make use of Nazis who might aid the United States in the developing Cold War struggle.
Poppe was brought to the United States in 1949 as part of the area studies program described above that was presided over by John Davies and George Kennan. Placed first in Harvard's Russian Research Center (where sociologist Talcott Parsons was his big backer), he soon went to the University of Washington. There George Taylor introduced him to Benjamin Mandel -- the chief investigator for the House Un-American Activities Committee, and later for the subsequent McCarran inquisition of the China field; Mandel at the time was preparing a perjury indictment against Owen Lattimore. None of this came out at the time of Poppe's testimony against Lattimore, and Lattimore's role in blocking a U.S. visa for Poppe until 1949 on the grounds that he had been a Nazi SS officer also remained unknown.55
International Studies during the Cold War
"International studies" has been a more muddled field than area studies, although for many the two labels are synonymous.56 One can count on most members of area programs to have competence in those areas, but international studies is such a grab bag that almost any subject or discipline that crosses international boundaries can qualify for inclusion. The annual meetings of the International Studies Association have an extraordinary range of panels, with political scientists predominating but with a profusion of disciplines and subfields typically represented on the program. It is anything and everything, perhaps with a bias toward international relations and policy-relevant research. International studies is an umbrella under which just about everything gathers, from fine work and fine scholars to hack work and charlatans.
Among the earliest and the most important of international studies centers was MIT's Center for International Studies, or CENIS. In its early years in the 1950s, the CIA underwrote this center almost as a subsidiary enterprise; CENIS grew out of "Project Troy," begun by the State Department in 1950 "to explore international information and communication patterns." It later broadened its agenda to "social science inquiry on international affairs,"57 but narrowed its sponsorship mostly to the CIA. This is evident in the transcript of a visiting committee meeting at MIT in May 1959, attended by MIT faculty like W. W. Rostow, Ithiel de Sola Pool, Max Millikan, and James Killian (president of MIT for several years); the visitors included Robert Lovett, McGeorge Bundy, and several unidentified participants.58
Queried as to whether the center served just the CIA or a larger group of government departments, Millikan remarked that over the five years of the center's relationship with the CIA, "there has been some continuing ambiguity as to whether we were creatures of [the] CIA or whether [the] CIA was acting as an administrative office for other agencies." He also admitted that the center had "taken on projects under pressure" to have work done that the CIA wanted done (these were among "the least successful projects" from MIT's standpoint, he thought). At one point in the transcript Millikan also says that "[Allen] Dulles allowed us to hire three senior people," suggesting that the CIA director had a hand in CENIS's hiring policies. The center provided an important go-between or holding area for the CIA, since "top notch social scientists" and "area experts" had no patience for extended periods of residence at CIA headquarters: "A center like ours provides a way of getting men in academic work to give them [sic] a close relationship with concrete problems faced by people in government."
This transcript predictably shows that the two big objects of such work were the Soviet Union and China, with various researchers associated with the center doing internal classified reports that subsequently became published books -- for example Rostow's Dynamics of Soviet Society. The primary impetus for this, of course, was the professorial desire to "get a book out of it." But Millikan also noted another motivation: "In an academic institution it is corrosive to have people who are supposed to be pursuing knowledge and teaching people under limitations as to whom they can talk to and what they can talk about." One way to remedy that problem was to take on no project "whose material we can't produce in some unclassified results [sic]." McGeorge Bundy, however, thought that the value of classified work was not in its "magnitude" or in the number of books produced, but in the connection itself: "The channel is more important than that a lot of water should be running through it."
Lovett acknowledged that there could be "very damaging publicity" if it were known that the CIA was funding and using CENIS, since the CIA provided "a good whipping board;" he thought they could set up a "fire wall" by making the National Security Council (NSC) "our controlling agent with [the] CIA the administrative agent." Killian responded that "I have a strange animal instinct that this is a good time to get ourselves tidied up. We shouldn't take the risk on this." Another participant named McCormack said he had always thought "that others would front [for] the CIA;" a participant named Jackson said that the NSC could be "a wonderful cover." In the midst of this discussion (which recalls Hollywood versions of Mafia palaver), card-carrying "Wise Man" Robert Lovett provided the bottom line: "If this thing can be solved you will find it easier to get more money from the foundations."59
Area and International Studies after the Cold War
Perhaps there is enough detail above to convince independent observers that several major U.S. centers of area and international studies research came precisely from the state/intelligence/foundation nexus that critics said they did in the late 1960s, always to a hailstorm of denial then, always to a farrago of "why does this surprise you?" today. CIA-connected faculty were so influential in the 1960s that they made critics who stood for academic principle look like wild-eyed radicals, if today critics merely appear to have been naifs who didn't know what was going on.60
If we now fast forward to the 1990s we find that the first proponents of the state's need for area training and expertise (thus to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War era, and so on) decided to put the intelligence function front and center, with a requirement that recipients of government fellowships consult with the national security agencies of the same government as a quid pro quo for their funding. I refer, of course, to the National Security Education Act (NSEA, also known as the Boren Bill, after former senator David Boren). Several area associations went on record in opposition to this program, and it nearly fell beneath Newt Gingrich's budget-cutting ax in 1995.
In a useful summary61 of the issues that scholars raised about the NSEA, the administrator in charge of the program in 1992, Martin Hurwitz (whose background is in the Defense Intelligence Agency, an outfit that makes the CIA look liberal by contrast) suggested that everyone should be open about the intelligence aspects of the program: "the buffer approach is `traditional clandestine tradecraft,'" Hurwitz wrote (and as we saw in the CENIS transcript), but "aboveboard is the way to go" for the NSEA.
The NSEA was not completely "aboveboard," however, since its public board was supplemented by a "shadow board," and some complained that "aboveboard" was not quite descriptive of the Defense Intelligence College that was to house the NSEA. They thus hoped to find non-Pentagon housing and call the new office "The David L. Boren Center for International Studies," but with no substantive changes otherwise. On 14 February 1992 three area associations (not including the Association for Asian Studies) wrote to Senator Boren expressing worries about "even indirect links to U.S. national security agencies." Each of those three organizations had extant resolutions on their books urging members not to participate in defense-related research programs.
The secretary-treasurer of the AAS, L. A. Peter Gosling, introduced the issue to the membership as follows: "The goal of our continued discussions about and with the NSEA [sic -- he refers to discussions with Martin Hurwitz] has been to make it as useful and acceptable to the scholarly community as possible, which in turn involves insulating it as much as possible from the Department of Defense where it is funded and located" [my emphasis].62
Gosling went on to fret that "there are no [sic] other sources now, nor in the immediate future" for funding international or area studies, and that although the NSEA only supplemented Title VI funding, "there are those who fear that the traditional Defense Department/intelligence community whose support has so often saved Title VI funding from extinction may [now] be less motivated to do so." Gosling thought the program would benefit Asian studies at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and noted that all Asian languages were included in the NSEA's list of priority languages (and isn't that wonderful, and so on). Even though the NSE Board "sets the priorities for the program," this can be mitigated by "the use of re-grant organizations" in administering parts of the program, such as perhaps the Fulbright program; such modalities might enable an escape from Defense Department control. Gosling closed his statement by saying that the AAS has "made clear the desirability of distancing this program from Department of Defense design and control."
At least three major area associations (for the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa) refused participation in this program, as we have seen. Anne Betteridge, an officer of the Middle East Studies Association, argued that "academic representatives do not wish to obscure the source of funding, but do wish to assure the integrity of academic processes." Others commented that some academics worry that students in the program "may appear to be spies-in-training," and that the program would compromise field research in many countries around the world: "Area scholars are extremely sensitive to the damage that can be done to their personal reputations and to their ability to conduct scholarship abroad when they come to be perceived as involved with intelligence or defense agencies of the U.S. government."62<|>63
A fair reading of these statements, it seems to me, suggests that Betteridge and the area associations from Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East raised important objections to the NSEA, whereas the secretary-treasurer of the Association for Asian Studies seemed concerned primarily with (1) getting the money, (2) showing AAS members how important the NSEA would be for Asian studies, and (3) evincing no concern whatever for the "traditional clandestine tradecraft" that makes "re-granting agencies" mere window dressing -- perhaps because of a different "tradition" in Asian studies: that of intelligence-agency support for Title VI funding, a tradition that I, for one, had never heard about.
Important changes have also come to SSRC and ACLS in the 1990s. These organizations have been the national joint administrative nexus of U.S. academic research since the 1930s. SSRC has not been a center of social science research as most social scientists would define it (the Survey Research Center at Michigan, for example, would come much closer), but a point at which the existing disciplines find meeting ground with "area studies." (Over the years I have walked on that ground many times myself, as a member of various SSRC committees and working groups.) As such, of course, it is a more important organization than any of the area associations. Therefore we can hearken to how the SSRC vice-president, Stanley J. Heginbotham, appraised the NSEA.64
First, he welcomed it by saying that "new forms of federal support for higher education" have been "extremely difficult to mobilize" in the recent period of spending cuts, budget deficits, and the like. Senator Boren, he explained, wanted the NSEA to facilitate area studies education at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and had hoped the program would be part of an independent governmental foundation. However, the Office of Management and Budget blocked this, and instead ruled that for defense funds to be disbursed for the NSEA under the 1992 Intelligence Authorization Act it would have to be located in the Department of Defense. Heginbotham added in a footnote that Boren decided to further strengthen "the credibility of the program in academic circles" by putting the administration of the program under the Defense Intelligence College; "few observers were reassured by this provision," Heginbotham wrote, but the Defense Intelligence College retained what he called a "nominal" role in the program.
Heginbotham expressed particular concern about "merit review" provisions in the NSEA: "the academic and scholarly communities need firm assurance that selection processes will be free from political or bureaucratic interference beyond assuring compliance with terms of reference. . . . It would not seem acceptable [my emphasis], for example, to have candidates screened on the basis of their political views . . . [or] their ability to obtain security clearances . . ."
Heginbotham went on to recommend that grants to individuals be made by "independent panels of scholars," and that the academics on the "oversight board" be selected by a means "transparently independent" of the state agencies making up the same board. But "most worrisome," Heginbotham wrote, were the service requirements of the NSEP. He described the postgrant requirements for individuals as follows:
Finally, the legislation includes important but ambiguous "service" requirements for individuals who receive funds. . . . Undergraduates receiving scholarships covering periods in excess of one year, as well as all individuals receiving graduate training awards, are required either to serve in the field of education or in government service for a period between one and three times the length of the award. The legislation also prohibits any department, agency, or entity of the U.S. government that engages in intelligence activities from using any recipient of funds from the program to undertake any activity on its behalf while the individual is being supported by the program.65
Heginbotham suggested that the postgrant term be limited to a year, and limited not just to positions in "government and education," but enabling any employment that used the training to benefit the nation's international needs. Heginbotham's analysis is similar to Gosling's in three respects, but superior in others: first, the analysis and recommendations are almost entirely procedural; neither Heginbotham nor Gosling defend independent academic inquiry as essential in itself, or international and area studies as important apart from what the state (let alone the "intelligence community") may want. Both also leave the impression that any funds of such size are ipso facto worth having, regardless of provenance, assuming that the procedures can be "as good as possible" in Heginbotham's words. And, of course, the guarantees that Heginbotham asks for have not only been routinely bypassed and used as a cover by the state and area studies academics that we examined above, but even powerful Senators complain that the very "oversight" committees responsible for monitoring the CIA have been ignored and subverted -- especially in the most recent period (I refer mainly to the revelations of the "Iran/Contra" scandal and the murders of Americans by CIA-associated militarists in Central America).
The SSRC's Heginbotham, however, seems both more responsible and more concerned than the AAS's Gosling about "re-granting agencies" being little more than laundries for Department of Defense funding; his calls for merit review, academic independence, recognition of the difference between scholarship and government "service," and so on, would seem to be basic principles for any kind of fund raising, and were the ones I observed in action on several SSRC committees. Heginbotham should be praised for enunciating them again -- even if few seem to be listening, as sources in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan have become major funders of Asian studies in this country, usually without proper peer and merit review.66 Still, the same principles did little to hold back the proliferation of CIA-service faculty and students during the early years of the Cold War.
The Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (BCAS) has provided periodic coverage of the NSEA, whereas (so far as I can tell) the other alternative journal in the field -- positions: east asia cultures critique -- has been silent.67 In 1992 Mark Selden argued correctly in BCAS that the NSEA "poses anew the issue of scholarship and power that lay behind the origin" of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars and its Bulletin, and noted that unlike earlier such activities, this one "saw no reason to conceal the military and intelligence priorities and powers shaping the field." BCAS drew particular attention to article 3 of the "purposes" section of the NSEA, which call for it "to produce an increased pool of applicants for work in the departments and agencies of the U.S. Government with national security responsibilities." BCAS also noted the similarity between the issues posed by the NSEA and those that the Columbia chapter of CCAS took up in regard to the contemporary China committee of SSRC in a controversial set of articles in 1971.68
As a graduate student I participated in preparing that report, the main author of which was Moss Roberts. We were interested in Ford Foundation funding of the China field, SSRC's Joint Committee on Contemporary China (JCCC), and an organization formed in the State Department in 1964 to coordinate government and private area studies research, the Foreign Areas Research Coordinating Group (FAR). From our inquiry it appeared that FAR played a role in shaping the field of contemporary Chinese studies in line with the state's needs and with Ford Foundation funding. It did this by suggesting appropriate research and dissertation subjects, in the hope that, together with Ford funding, the expertise of the government's China-watching apparatus would be enhanced (with obvious benefits also to China watchers in academe).
We were able to establish that FAR had grown out of the army's concern for the "coordination of behavioral and social science" in and out of government, which had long been sponsored by the Special Operations Research Office of Johns Hopkins University. FAR had been in contact with JCCC, which had been one of many beneficiaries of the Ford Foundation's decision to reconstitute the China field. Our report also drew attention to the first chair of JCCC, George Taylor of the University of Washington, who, we argued, was a partisan in the McCarthy-McCarran inquisition, which had nearly destroyed the China field. Taylor testified together with two of his colleagues Wittfogel and Poppe against Owen Lattimore -- and therefore a strange choice to preside over a committee hoping to heal wounds and reconstitute the field. We questioned as well why non-China scholars like Philip Mosely were included on the first JCCC.69
The report brought a vituperative response from John Fairbank of Harvard, a response that evokes in me today the same emotions it did in 1971: it was a political attack, designed to ward off such inquiries rather than to provide a sincere and honest response to the many questions of fact that we raised. He began by saying our report "raises an issue of conspiracy rather than an issue of values," and ended by accusing us of offering "striking parallels to the McCarran Committee `investigation,'" that is, we were left-McCarthyites. In between, precious few of our questions were answered.70 Ultimately a precise specification of the relationship to and responsiveness of FAR and JCCC to government or intelligence agendas could not be judged in the absence of access to classified materials. But the issues are strikingly similar to those raised by the NSEA today.
In November 1994 the cunning of history gave us the "Gingrich Revolution," and a chain saw approach to cutting budgets: thus the NSEA appeared to get what it deserved, namely, a quick burial. No doubt Newt thought the NSEA was just another boondoggle for academia (and maybe he was right). At first Congress cut all its funds, but then restored some of them -- or so it seems, since NSEA scholarships were again available to students in early 1996. Still, the NSEA is limping along into the post-Gingrich era.
If government funding for area studies seems to be drying up, so is that from foundations. One result is the contemporary restructuring of the Social Science Research Council. For forty years SSRC and ACLS committees have been defined mostly by area: the Joint Committee on . . . China, or Latin America, or Western Europe; there were eleven such committees as of early 1996. That is all changing now under a major restructuring plan.71 SSRC has justified this effort by reference to the global changes and challenges of the post-Cold War era, the "boundary displacements" that I began this article with. These include (1) a desire to move away from fixed regional identities (that is, the area committees), given that globalization has made the "'areas' more porous, less bounded, less fixed" than previously thought;72 (2) to utilize area expertise to understand pressing issues in the world that transcend particular countries, which is the real promise of area studies in the post-1989 era; (3) to reintroduce area knowledge to social science disciplines that increasingly seem to believe that they can get along without it (this is an implicit reference to the rational choice paradigm and to "formal theory" in economics, sociology, and political science), (4) to integrate the United States into "area studies" by recognizing it as an "area" that needs to be studied comparatively, and (5) to collapse the SSRC and ACLS projects themselves, given the increasing cross-fertilization between the social sciences and the humanities. (I do not know if the restructuring will actually yield just one organization, but refer only to the justifications I have seen for the new plans).
Major funding organizations like the Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation have recently made clear their declining support for area studies and their desire to have cross-regional scholarship, so in that subtly coercive context item 1 in this plan becomes obligatory (some say that SSRC has been teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for several years). Item 2 is no different from the original justification for area studies. Items 3 and 4 are laudable, however, for anyone conversant with the daily life of the social sciences in U.S. universities in the 1980s and 1990s.
Rational choice theory is the academic analogue of the "free market" principles that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan represented in the 1980s, and that are now offered to the "world without boundaries" as the only possible paradigm of economic development. Like the putative free market, "rational choice" collapses the diversity of the human experience into one category, the self-interested individualist prototype that has animated and totalized the economics profession in the United States. As this paradigm now proposes to colonize political science and sociology, it has no use for (and indeed views with deep hostility) anyone who happens to know something about a "foreign area," or, for that matter, the United States: they are all threats to the universality of this model, which can explain everything from how Japanese Diet members control the Ministry of Finance to why Indian widows throw themselves onto funeral pyres -- with every explanation contingent on the listener knowing little or nothing about the subject itself.
So-called formal theory takes the rational choice paradigm one step further: if "soft" rational choice seeks to verify the claims of its model empirically through the collection and testing of data, the estimation of regression coefficients, and the like, "formal theory" is a simpler matter of the researcher staring at the game-theoretic mathematical formulas that appear on the computer screen, thus to determine how the real world works. If the theory does not explain political, social, or economic phenomena, it is the real world's fault.
The rise of the rational choice and formal theory paradigms of social science inquiry has put at risk the subfields of economic history, historical sociology, and comparative politics, and the entire area studies project. Why do you need to know Japanese or anything about Japan's history and culture if the methods of rational choice will explain why Japanese politicians and bureaucrats do the things they do?73 If some recalcitrant research problems nonetheless still require access to Chinese or Swahili, why not get what you need from a graduate student fluent in those languages, rather than an academic expert on China or Africa? The "soft" rational choice practitioner may in fact have language and area training, or if not, will still find value in the work of area specialists; they are the spelunkers who descend into the mysterious cave to mine a lode of "facts," which the practitioner will then interpret from a superior theoretical vantage point. The formal theorist, however, has no use for either of them.
Item 4 proposes to turn the United States into an "area," and were it ever to succeed it would also transform the disciplines. Research on the United States is indeed an "area study" just like any other; but then it's our country and has all manner of idiosyncrasy and detail that the nonexpert or foreigner could never possibly understand -- and following upon that insight you arrive at the dominance of Americanists in almost any history, political science, or sociology department. That they might be as blithely ignorant of how the world beyond U.S. borders influences the things they study as any South Asian area specialist makes no dent on their departmental power. Much more importantly, the ancient injunction to "know thyself" and the doctrine that there is no "thing in itself," makes comparative study obligatory. So, to have a "Joint Committee on the United States" under the SSRC/ACLS rubric would be a big step forward.
Kenneth Prewitt, president of SSRC, wrote that for all the aforesaid reasons, and no doubt others that I am not aware of, SSRC/ACLS has come to believe "that a number of discrete and separated `area committees,' each focused on a single world region, is not the optimum structure for providing new insights and theories suitable for a world in which the geographic units of analysis are neither static nor straightforward."74 Instead of eleven committees, the new plan will apparently have three, under the following general rubrics: area studies and regional analysis; area studies and comparative analysis; area studies and global analysis. There may also be a fourth committee designed to support and replenish the existing scholarly infrastructure in the United States, and to develop similar structures in various other parts of the world. Nonetheless Prewitt still envisions an important function for area specialists: ". . . if scholarship is not rooted in place-specific histories and cultures, it will miss, widely, the nuances that allow us to make sense of such phenomena as international labor flows, conflicting perspectives on human rights . . . [and so on].75
As this restructuring project got off the ground (before Prewitt became president in 1996), the SSRC's Heginbotham sought to justify it by referring to the unfortunate Cold War shaping of area studies in the early postwar period, and the need for "rethinking international scholarship" now that the Cold War is over.76 This odd return of repressed knowledge stimulated a sharp response: several scholars associated with Soviet and Slavic studies weighed in to deny that political pressures deriving from the Cold War agenda of U.S. foreign policy had much effect on their field, which often produced scholarship "strikingly independent of assumptions driving U.S. political preferences." Various area institutes may have been formed "partially in response to the Cold War," but nonetheless were able to conduct scholarship "without compromising their academic integrity." The authors also argued that the new SSRC framework " . . . will tear international scholarship from the rich, textured empirical base that has been assiduously developed through decades of research, moving it instead to a nebulous `global' framework for research."77
This is a nice statement of the likely outcome of the current SSRC/ACLS restructuring, but as we have seen Heginbotham is clearly right about the state's role in shaping the study of "foreign areas;" honest and independent scholarship was possible in the early area institutes, but the academic integrity of the institutes themselves was compromised by a secret and extensive network of ties to the CIA and the FBI. It is a bit much, of course, for SSRC to acknowledge this only now by way of justifying its new course, when it spent all too much time in the 1960s and 1970s denying that the state had any influence on its research programs.78 More important, however, is the contemporary denial of the same thing, and here SSRC's critics had a point.
If the current U.S. administration has one "doctrine," it is a Clinton doctrine of promoting U.S.-based global corporations and U.S. exports through the most activist foreign economic policy of any president in history. Clinton's achievements in this respect -- the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the new World Trade Organization, and many other alphabet-soup organizations, and the routine daily use of the state apparatus to further the export goals of U.S. multinationals -- are all justified by buzzwords that crop up in the new SSRC plans: a world without borders, increasing globalization, the wonders of the Internet and the World Wide Web, the growth of multiculturalism, the resulting intensification of subnational loyalties and identities, and so on. Furthermore the SSRC drafts of its restructuring plan make clear the concern not just for scholarship, but for policy relevance and encouraging better capacities for "managing" the new global issues of the 1990s -- a clear rationale for scholarship and "area expertise" to be at the service of national security bureaucrats.
I am by no means a purist on these matters, and see nothing particularly wrong with scholars offering their views on policy questions so long as the practice is not openly or subtly coerced by funding agencies and does not require security clearances (as the NSEA clearly does). The post-1960s SSRC, in my limited experience, has managed the nexus where state power and scholarship meet about as well as could be expected, assuming that there is some necessity to do it in the first place if the organization hopes to be funded as a national organizer of social science research; many SSRC research projects and even a couple of its joint committees (notably the Latin American group) have had clear counterhegemonic agendas, and produced scholarship of enormous relevance to political struggles around the world.79
The SSRC/ACLS area committees have also been fertile ground for interdisciplinary scholarship: for decades they offered a rare venue where one could see what a historian thought of the work of an economist, or what a literary critic thought of behavioralist sociology. Meanwhile my own experience in the university has led me to understand that an "area specialist" is as unwanted in the totalized world of Friedmanite economics as a zek (Gulag resident) would be at a meeting of Stalin and Beria. To the extent that the more diverse discipline of political science has produced any lasting knowledge about the world beyond our shores, it has almost always been done through the contributions of area specialists to the subfields of comparative politics and international relations.80
In 1994 Northwestern University won a grant from the Mellon Foundation to run two year-long interdisciplinary seminars in the hope that they would bridge the areas and the disciplines. I participated in writing that grant proposal, and in 1995-96 directed the first seminar, "The Cultural Construction of Human Rights and Democracy." The results of this effort are not yet completely in, but it seems to me that this funding succeeded in providing a useful and important forum for interdisciplinary work, getting people to talk to one another across areas and disciplines, and I hope that the book growing out of it will be valuable. To the extent that the Mellon Foundation views such seminars as an addition to the funding of existing area programs, they are wonderful. To the extent that they represent a redirection of funding away from area studies, the seminars are no substitute for the training of people who know the languages and civilizations of particular places. You win with people, as football coach Woody Hayes used to say, and had there not been people already steeped in the regions we studied, inventing them would have been impossible -- or at least forbiddingly expensive.
In one of the SSRC restructuring plans there is this sentence: "There is no making sense of the world by those ignorant of local context-specific issues; and there is no making sense of the world by those indifferent to cross-regional and global forces." I think this is true, even if I would phrase the point differently. Although "area programs" trained many scholars and made possible a rare interdisciplinary intellectual program, the sad fact is that most area specialists were not interested in it. There is no reason, of course, why a person working on Chinese oracle bones should have anything in common with an expert on the Chinese Communist politburo; their common habitus in a Chinese studies program was the result of a historical compromise between the universities and the state in the early Cold War period. In return for not complaining about the predominance of Kremlinologists or specialists in communist politics, the oracle bone or Sanskrit or Hinduism specialist got a tenured sinecure and (usually) a handful of students in his or her classes. The state, the foundations, and the universities supported scholars who spent their entire lives translating the classics of one culture or another into English, often with next to no interaction with their colleagues. Many were precisely as monkish and unyielding to the intellectual life outside their narrow discipline as a microeconomist. I have never thought it too much to ask that a person like this find something to teach that would attract enough students into the classroom to pay the bills, but it happens all the time, and now the area studies programs are paying the price; often representing enormous sunk costs, the faculty and the sinecures are very expensive now and unlikely to be sustained at anything like current levels in the future. If we end up having no Sanskrit, no Urdu, no oracle bones, and no Han Dynasty history, it will not just owe to the ignorance of the foundations, the government, and the university administrators, but will also reflect the past privilege of the hidebound narrow scribblers themselves.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the new SSRC/ACLS restructuring and the apparent new direction of the major foundations is the absence of any reference to the basic motivation for so many of the new tendencies in the 1990s world that they hope to adapt themselves to, namely, the global corporation.81 This is the motive force and modal organization for "globalization" and the technologies that speed it. Bill Gates's Microsoft is as dominant in this new sphere as John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil was a century ago; and no doubt our grandchildren will vote for various governors and senators, if not presidents, named Gates -- and the ones who become academics will go to the "Gates Foundation" for their research grants. Another symbolic U.S. corporation, Coca Cola, has become the first U.S. multinational to place overall corporate management in the hands of its world office rather than at its historic national center in Atlanta. In that sense, SSRC is merely following Coca Cola's lead by making the United States of America just another subsidiary, just another "area committee." All the globally competitive U.S. corporations are all-out for multiculturalism, multi-ethnic staffs, a world without borders and the latest high technology no matter what its impact on human beings, something evident in their media advertising: "Oil for the Lamps of China" may have been Standard Oil's slogan for selling kerosene worldwide, but now Michael Jordan as the high-flying, globe-trotting logo for Nike might as well be the logo for the United States, Inc. (Jordan and his Chicago Bulls are particularly popular in "Communist China" -- just as they are in my household.)
This is not a matter of SSRC raising a challenge to the global corporation, which is hardly to be expected, but it is a matter of not abandoning hard-won scholarly knowledge and resources that we already have -- and here I am not speaking simply of the existing area programs. Because of the ferment of the 1960s, social science scholarship of the 1970s met a high standard of quality and relevance. In political science, sociology, and even to some extent economics, political economy became a rubric under which scholars produced a large body of work on the multinational corporation, the global monetary system, the world pool of labor, peripheral dependency, and U.S. hegemony itself. A high point of this effort was Immanuel Wallerstein's multivolume Modern World-System, but there were many others.
I would say that one of the shocks of my adult life was to see the alacrity with which many social scientists abandoned this political economy program, especially since the abandonment seemed roughly coterminous with the arrival of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations. Often the very social scientists who produced serious scholarship in political economy in the 1970s became the leaders of a march into the abstractions of rational choice and formal theory in the 1980s. One of the SSRC committees that sought to sustain this 1970s agenda was the States and Social Structures Committee (my bias since I was a member); it was summarily eliminated by a new SSRC president in 1991. Be that as it may, there remains a fine body of work in U.S. political economy that could be the basis for a revival of scholarship on the global corporation and the political economy of the world that it creates before our eyes.
What is to be done? Immanuel Wallerstein recently offered some useful, modest suggestions, which I fully support: encourage interdisciplinary work by requiring faculty to reside in two departments, bring faculty together for a year's work around broad themes, reexamine the epistemological underpinnings of the social sciences in the light of the eclipse of the Newtonian paradigm in the hard sciences, and reinvent a university structure so that it is no longer strongly shaped by the conditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.82 I have some additional modest suggestions, in the interest of continuing discussion and debate:
- Abolish the social sciences and group them under one heading: political economy (if economics will not go along, connect it to the business school).
- Regroup area studies programs around a heterodox collection of themes that allow us all to stand "off center" 83 from our native home and the (foreign?) object of our scholarly desires.
- Raise funds for academic work on the basis of the corporate identity of the university as that place where, for once, adults do not have to sell their souls to earn their bread, but can learn, write, produce knowledge, and teach the young as their essential contribution to the larger society.
- Abolish the CIA, and get the intelligence and military agencies out of free academic inquiry.
If we began this article with McGeorge Bundy, it is best to close it with words from one of the few scholars to speak out against the FBI purge in the early postwar period -- and for his efforts to suffer his due measure of obsessive FBI attention: historian Bernard A. DeVoto. In 1949 he wrote words as appropriate to that era as for the "National Security Education Act" and the "globalized" world of today:
The colleges . . . have got to say: on this campus all books, all expression, all inquiry, all opinions are free. They have got to maintain that position against the government and everyone else. If they don't, they will presently have left nothing that is worth having.84
* I presented some of the ideas in this paper at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in 1993, on a panel held in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS) and its Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (BCAS). I presented a much-revised version at the 1996 AAS meetings, and future versions with different emphases will appear in books to be edited by Christopher Simpson (for the New Press) and by H.D. Harootunian and Masao Miyoshi (for Duke University Press). For their helpful comments I would like to thank Arif Dirlik, Bill and Nancy Doub, Harry Harootunian, Richard Okada, Moss Roberts, Mark Selden, Chris Simpson, Marilyn Young, Masao Miyoshi, and Stefan Tanaka. Obviously I am responsible for the views presented herein. return
Bruce Cumings teaches in the history and political science departments at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, U.S.A. He is the author of The Origins of the Korean War (in two volumes), War and Television, and Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History.