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“Data and Not Trouble”

“Data and Not Trouble”

The Rockefeller Foundation and the Social Science of Race Relations

Chapter:
(p.53) Two “Data and Not Trouble”
Source:
From Power to Prejudice
Author(s):
Leah N. Gordon
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226238586.003.0003

A case study of the Rockefeller Foundation’s evolving approach to research and reform on the race issue, the second chapter reveals the crucial role postwar philanthropists played in encouraging racial individualism. The chapter assesses how antiradicalism, scientism, and behavioralism helped narrow the terms of debate on racial questions within Rockefeller philanthropy from the late 1920s to the early 1960s. The RF encouraged substantial activist involvement in scientific agenda setting, considered HBCUs necessary participants in racial research, and supported multi-disciplinary approaches to the race issue, especially prioritizing political economic analysis, in the late 1920s. By the early 1950s, in contrast, foundation leaders retreated from increasingly contentious racial politics, weathered anticommunist attacks, embraced behavioralism, and prioritized scientism and theory generation. As a result, the RF either disengaged from the race issue altogether or treated it as a small subset of larger theoretical interest in “human relations.” Though some scholars within the RF orbit, most notably sociologists Robin M. Williams Jr. and Arnold Rose, encouraged the foundation to challenge tendencies towards “atomism” in research on race, the RF largely ignored their suggestions.

Keywords:   Rockefeller foundation, postwar, philanthropy, race relations, human relations, scientism, behavioralism, Robin M. Williams Jr., Arnold Rose, atomism

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