Militarizing the Social Sciences: Tom Burghardt

Militarizing the Social Sciences” is a very effective overview essay written by Tom Burghardt of Antifascist Calling, and published by Global on August 6, 2008. Burghardt covers the Minerva Research Initiative and the Human Terrain System, placing these within the context of a fairly well established tradition of coopting social sciences for national security purposes in the United States. Recent qualms about the “politicization” of research, aimed specifically at critics and not advocates for militarization, is just one example of the kind of new Cold War chill that one feels blowing out of U.S. academia.

No doubt we can expect to encounter more of this neo-conservative pacification as the intellectual norms of counterinsurgency are domesticated and directed against academics. “Stick to the facts” … but only those “facts” that the correct politics of the powerful dictate to be worthwhile. Burghardt continues to show how critical perspectives uncover and reframe the questions, insights, and documentation that reframe official versions of the truth and what promotes itself as “objective science.” At any rate, one can understand some of the impetus for the strange revival of “objectivity” in some quarters: with Cold War hangovers still in place, objectivity and science sell well with the powerful, with corporations, technocrats, and policy planners. The trick is to mask any traces of power and ideology while advancing allegedly value-free science. The trick is never pulled off successfully.