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The Open MindCold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature$
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Jamie Cohen-Cole

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226092164

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.001.0001

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Interdisciplinarity as a Virtue

Interdisciplinarity as a Virtue

(p.65) Chapter Three Interdisciplinarity as a Virtue
The Open Mind

Jamie Cohen-Cole

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines how it came to be that interdisciplinarity seemed an unqualified good in postwar American academic culture. Interdisciplinarity meant not only creativity, but also democracy, scientific rigor, and practicality. By the 1950s, the best way for social science to be seen as truly scientific, was to be interdisciplinary. A broad range of social scientists and their patrons, whether in private philanthropies or government, concluded that the best way to improve the social sciences would be to use interdisciplinary approaches to generate new and powerful research tools. This methodological focus on tools avoided both a pure form of empiricist data gathering and theorizing disconnected from reality. Indeed advocates of interdisciplinarity contended that attachment to empiricism was itself a religious, unscientific dogma that prevented collaboration between people in different fields. Even more, because of the way in which social scientists saw America–as a pluralist society–they often identified interdisciplinary research as a pluralist endeavor which was optimally suited to the study of democratic societies.

Keywords:   Interdisciplinary, Social science, Politics, Academic culture, Pluralism, creativity

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