Fundamental Development of the Social Sciences

Rockefeller Philanthropy and the United States Social Science Research Council
Donald Fisher
Sociologist Donald Fisher studies the history and sociology of the social sciences


The United States Social Science Research Council (SSRC), founded in 1923, was the first national social science institution in the world and might be said to represent the creation of a "science of society." In Fundamental Development of the Social Sciences , Donald Fisher shows how this institution, under the considerable influence of Rockefeller philanthropy, shaped an entire discipline.

Fisher demonstrates that the creation and growth of the SSRC during the 1920s and 1930s is essential to our understanding of the major developments in the social sciences since World War II. He shows that during this period, the place of social science and social scientists in American society was fixed in a way that has had substantial, lasting impact.

The author weaves a number of larger, related issues into his account of the wide-ranging influence of the SSRC: the role of social scientists in the political life of the societies in which they live; the way in which knowledge systems develop and change; the role of philanthropy in industrialized societies; and the formation and preservation of the modern capitalist state.

Donald Fisher's discussion of how an American institution sculpted an entire discipline will be of interest to all social scientists and historians of social science.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . an indispensable reference work for all those concerned with the patent failure of the social sciences to act responsibly in times of crisis."
    —Stanley Aronowitz, City University of New York
  • "Fisher's book is notable for the care that it displays in presenting evidence and for its sophistication in connecting individuals, institutions, and social structures. It breaks new ground in this important field and will be a standard for years to come."
  • "This stimulating history of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in the 1920s and 1930s shows how the council's financial dependence on Rockefeller philanthropies thwarted its original plan to promote a holistic synthesis of social science disciplines."
    Journal of American History
  • ". . . fascinating. . . . [S]ocial scientific historians will find this book to be required reading."
    Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Look Inside


Abbreviations     xiii

Chapter 1. Introduction     1

Part 1     25

Chapter 2. Creation and Organization of the Council     27

Chapter 3. Expansion and Growth of the Council: The Gilded Age     67

Chapter 4. Consolidation and Retrenchment, 1930-36     115

Chapter 5. Self-Criticism, Reconstruction, and Planning, 1937-45     167

Part 2     197

Chapter 6. The Impact of the SSRC on the Social Sciences in North America: Changing the Boundaries     199

Chapter 7. Conclusion     229


Appendix 1     253

Appendix 2     255

Selected Bibliography     277

Index     311

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 360pp.
  • tables.
Available for sale worldwide

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  • Hardcover
  • 1993
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10270-9

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  • $93.00 U.S.