Our Enemies and US: America's Rivalries and the Making of Political Science

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Ido Oren challenges American political science's definition of itself as an objective science. The material Oren unearthed in his research into the discipline's ideological nature may discomfit many: Woodrow Wilson's admiration of Prussia's efficient bureaucracy; the favorable review of Mein Kampf published in the American Political Science Review; the involvement of political scientists in village pacification and interrogation of Viet Cong prisoners during the Vietnam War. Oren reveals the fervently pro-German views of the founder of the discipline, John W. Burgess, who stated that the Teutonic race was politically superior to all others, and he presents evidence of a long-term, intimate relationship between the discipline and the national security agencies of the U.S. government.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This provocative book is certain to stir up controversy at the next round of political science conventions. Oren (political science, Univ. of Florida) examines the ideological origins and practices of the discipline, from Woodrow Wilson's admiration for German efficiency to its influential involvement in Cold War politics. His conclusions challenge the proclaimed objectivity of political science, which he feels "is attached to its homeland rather than to democracy per se." Moreover, this attachment is elastic, even "accomodationist," depending upon shifts in U.S. foreign policy. Oren delves into the surprising response of political scientists to Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, and the Cold War era, skillfully incorporating the views of Max Weber, Robert Dahl, and Charles Merriam. He proposes a new reflexive approach to studying politics-an approach that considers the historical processes. Similar views have been expressed previously-in, e.g., David Ricci's The Tragedy of Political Science: Politics, Scholarship, and Democracy-but this carefully reasoned work confronts the very identity of political science. Highly recommended for graduate-level collections.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
From the Publisher

"In this fascinating critical history of American political science, Ido Oren notes that the image of the profession that emerges from its own discourse is 'one of an objective science that investigates politics yet remains outside politics, and whose question and conceptual constructs are not embedded in any historical or national context.' Oren outright rejects this dispassionate, objective image. . . . Oren concludes that while political science is predominately a body of thought with an American national and historical perspective, the profession rarely acknowledges that perspective.'—Virginia Quarterly Review

"This provocative book is certain to stir up controversy at the next round of political science conventions. . . . This carefully reasoned work confronts the very identity of political science."—Library Journal

"In this important and courageous book, Oren engages in a research activity in which few American political scientists dare to venture, namely a critical investigation of the history of the discipline. . . . Critics of mainstream political science will find that this book supports many of their intuitions about the ideological nature of the American science of politics, while those in the mainstream may be left shocked and horrified. Whatever the case, Oren's factually based account of the development of American political science provides a wealth of thought-provoking material that all serious scholars can ill afford to ignore."—International Affairs

"Despite the evidence accumulated by Oren, and in the numerous other studies he cites, political science's self-image remains that of a detached, objective, and scientific discipline, untouched by the powers that be. Its principal texts—theoretical, methodological, historical—do not consider it worthy of note that the discipline is steeped in the political and ideological structures of the American system of power, and that it is vital to consider ways to overcome the limitations on freedom of thought that such a condition imposes. As the 'war on terror' gathers pace, Oren remains skeptical as to whether political science has any chance of retaining its detachment from American state policy and thought. For once the words of praise on the dust jacket of a book—in this case from the varied voices of Noam Chomsky and David Easton—reflect the contents of what is within its covers."—Inderjeet Parmar, University of Manchester, Journal of American Studies, 38 (2004), I.

"Oren's book forces readers to reflect on the complex ways that disciplinary canons, institutions, and broader cultural norms interact to produce scholarship. Our Enemies and US is a theoretically informed history of the knowledge/power nexus in political science but it is also a very timely book."—Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences

"Oren's is a thoughtful and compelling addition to the growing literature on the history of political science, and must reading for political scientists who want to better grasp the genesis and development—and the limitations as well as the potential—of their own inquiries."—Journal of Politics

"Ido Oren challenges 'the self-image of American political science as a detached science that is somehow attached to democracy.' His provocative and enlightening book should, in his closing words, 'provoke a long-overdue debate on the identity of American political science.'"—Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Our Enemies and US is an exciting and timely addition to the growing literature on the development of American political science. It should be critical reading for all social scientists, new and old. It compels us to reassess the degree to which we have fulfilled our own aspirations to objectivity. It invites us to recognize the extent to which, in the past, time and place have only too often imposed unsuspected but serious limits on the presumed objectivity of scholarship in our discipline. Even more unsettling, there appears to be little reason to believe that such constraints are not actively at work in shaping much of our research today."—David Easton, University of California, Irvine

"This book represents the new generation of research in the history of political and social science and demonstrates that critical reflection can be grounded in objective scholarship. Ido Oren has undertaken a study of the past of political science that no one with a serious concern about the evolution of the discipline can ignore." —John G. Gunnell, Distinguished Professor, State University of New York at Albany

"Ido Oren has written a fascinating and provocative book. His courageous and clear-minded account of the socially and politically constructed foundations of American political science is a critical milestone in the developing critique of the discipline, and should be widely read."—Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago Committee on International Relations

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801435669
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ido Oren is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: American Political Science as Ideology 1
Ch. 1 Imperial Germany 23
Ch. 2 Nazi Germany 47
Ch. 3 Stalin's Soviet Union 91
Ch. 4 Cold War Politics 126
Conclusion: Toward a Reflexive Political Science 172
Notes 183
Index 227
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2004

    Useful study of academic bias

    American academic Ido Oren started his research by looking at the common idea that democracies do not fight each other. He shows how studies only support this idea because our concept of democracy is produced by the same historical patterns against which the claims are `tested¿, a history partly shaped by the USA¿s international rivalries. So, before World War One, Woodrow Wilson, the political scientist, described Imperial Germany as an advanced constitutional state, a model for administrative reform. Yet when he became President, Woodrow Wilson took the USA into war against Germany, and described it as an autocracy. Oren looks at American political science as an ideology: its claims to uphold the ideals of liberal democracy, as expressed, for instance, by Samuel Huntingdon, a past President of the American Political Science Association. Yet the apartheid government used Huntingdon¿s writings, as when he backed it against `the worse alternative¿ of a government led by `the revolutionaries of the ANC¿. He advised the apartheid government that increased authoritarianism might be necessary for reform, rationalising its repression, and he backed its `centralization of power¿. Typically, the CIA funded some of his research. Oren studies American political science¿s characterisations of the USA¿s chief enemies last century, its concomitant characterisations of the USA, and its involvement in the wars against Imperial Germany, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. ¿I document a systematic pattern of change in the portrayals of these enemies before and after their conflicts with us.¿ Also, he shows the pattern of concurrence between US wars and transformations in political science¿s visions of the USA. The Soviet Union was seen as all state, no society, the USA as all society, no state. He chronicles the growth of intimacy between the political science profession and the State Department, especially during the US attack on Vietnam. Oren asks whether `American political science might be more attached to America¿s regime than to democracy¿. He concludes that it indeed works from the US state, not an objective, perspective.

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