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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 11, No. 2, Fall 1980 Professionalism, Authority and the Transformation of American Thought ThomasL. Haskell. The Emergence of Professional Social Science: The American Social Science Associationand the Nineteenth Century Crisis of Authority. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.276 + xii pp. BruceKuklick. The Rise of American Philosophy, CambridgeMassachusetts 1860-1930. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977.674 + xxvii pp. Keith Cassidy These books continue, and carry to a higher level, the discussion of··professionalism"which has been so prominent a feature of American social historyin the last decade or so. However valuable their contribution to that enterprise, though, they are both rich in a number of other themes, and makenotable contributions to our understanding of that decisive change in the American mind which occurred in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first of the twentieth. Haskell has a complex and well developed thesis which attempts to "bridgethe chasm that still separates social from intellectual history" (p.39). Thetwinconcerns which dominate the book are the emergence of the social sciencesas specialized academic disciplines and the rise of this "professional" socialscience as the principal authority on the nature of man and society. Theinstitutionalfocus of thiswork is the American SocialScience Association, whichwas founded in 1865 and collapsed in the early twentieth century, holding its last meeting in 1909. This is not simply a history of the ASSA,however, although Haskell does maintain that it played a crucial role inthe development of the social sciences. Rather it is an interpretation of theirrise set in the context of what Haskell persuasively claims was ageneral intellectual crisis generated by social and economic changes in the nineteenth century. 202 Keith Cassidy At the center of his argument lies the concept of "interdependence," which he defines as "that tendency of social integration and consolidation whereby action in one part of society is transmitted in the form of direct or indirect consequences to other parts of society with accelerating rapidity, widening scope and increasing intensity" (pp. 28-29).The factors whichhe claims produced interdependence are farnilar enough: the "capitalist marketplace," the "transportation-communication revolution" and the division of labor with its "ever narrower occupational specialities" (p. 30). In his discussionof the consequences of this social change Haskell adds considerably to our insight into the intellectual crisis of the late nineteenth century, andto the linkage between social and intellectual history. As society became more obviously interdependent, it was increasingly realized that the causes of events were to be found not in the immediate environment, in the conscious decisions of individuals, but in sources far removed. This "recession of causation" (p. 39) saw the local environment, and the decisions of individuals "drained of causal potency" (p. 40), and led to a collapse of belief in "the accumulated wisdom of the ages" (p. 42). The shifting perception of the source of causation had three results essential to the rise of social science. As causation came to be located in society, rather than in the individual or his immediate environment, "society" came to possess a new distinctiveness and concreteness. As such it wasitself a suitable subject for scientific analysis. Secondly, those analyzing society were equipped with a paradigm-interdependence-which appeared to be a far more useful basis for interpretation than the old theories based on a belief in individual autonomy. Finally, the recession of causation created a demand for scientific, expert advice about the workings of this new, interdependent world, since the old common-sense explanations appeared no longer valid. While the rise of interdependence was laying the foundations for the future social sciences, its immediate effect was to create a serious, deep rooted and pervasive crisis of authority. The traditional professions of law, medicine and the ministry had long exercised tremendous power in society because their practitioners were believed to be reliable guides not only to their own limited fields, but to the whole range of problems confronting man. The recession of causation and the discrediting of traditional wisdom threw their authority, and that of the whole gentry class, into serious doubt. The ASSA was founded as "part of a movement to defend the authority ofa gentry class" (p. 87...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 201-210
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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