Social Fields And The American Defense Establishment

1531 Words7 Pages
During the 1950s and 1960s, partnerships between universities and the American defense establishment flourished. Throughout those two decades, academic institutions and military institutions cooperated in many forms; via Federal Contract Research Centers, academically-oriented consulting corporations, military-funded science programs, and informal linkages. These organizations – notable ones include MIT’s Draper Laboratories, the Stanford Research Institute, MIT’s Center for International Studies, and American University’s Special Operations Research Office – worked at the intersection of two social fields: one academic and the other military. What accounted for this boom? One explanation of the rise of these quasi-military,…show more content…
Simulmatics’ inaugural project – the purpose of its founding – was constructing a simulation of the 1960 presidential election. Working for the eventually successful Kennedy campaign, Simulmatics translated social-scientific research on voting behavior – mostly from Lazarsfeld’s 1954 Voting, an evolution of The People’s Choice – into a working model of the American electorate that could predict the consequences of hypothetical campaign strategies. Later, Simulmatics branched into other fields, receiving military contracts to study communications behavior in the Soviet Union and American counterinsurgency programs in Vietnam, where Simulmatics contracted social science professors and graduate students into the field. How did Simulmatics so quickly gain the credibility to authoritatively analyze such diverse phenomenon – from voting patterns and information diffusion to military strategy – so quickly? One explanation credits Simulmatics’ intellectual ability and technological aptitude. Simulmatics, this line of argument holds, had answers to tough problems and the technology to prove it. A different explanation, the one this paper forwards, instead emphasizes the role of social networks and social capital (the resources that result from a position in the social structure). This does not mean that Ithiel de Sola Pool or Simulmatics merely were more connected. Pool and
Get Access