Mark Solovey

Professor, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science
Affiliated Faculty, CSUS




Victoria College, Room 322, 91 Charles Street West



My research examines the development of the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences in various contexts, i.e., intellectual, biographical, disciplinary, political, and institutional.  Most of my work concentrates on the period since World War Two, especially the Cold War era. I am particularly interested in the following issues: scientific boundary work for the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences; controversy over their intellectual foundations, normative implications, and scientific identities; the evolution and impact of private and public patronage for research in these fields; debates about their social relevance and public policy uses.

My recent book Social Science for What? Battles Over Public Funding for the “Other Sciences” at the National Science Foundation (2020) examines the contested position of the social sciences at this major U.S. science agency.  The NSF’s 1950 enabling legislation made no mention of the social sciences, although it included a vague reference to “other sciences.” Nevertheless, as I show in this book, the NSF soon became a major—albeit controversial—source of public funding for them.  My analysis underscores the long-term impact of early developments, when the NSF embraced a “scientistic” strategy, wherein the natural sciences represented the gold standard, and created a social science program limited to “hard-core” studies. Along the way, I show how the agency’s efforts to support scholarship, advanced training, and educational programs were shaped by landmark scientific and political developments, including McCarthyism, Sputnik, reform liberalism during the 1960s, and a newly energized conservative movement during the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, I assess the NSF’s relevance in our “post-truth” era, question the legacy of its scientistic strategy, and call for a separate social science agency—a National Social Science Foundation. This study of the battles over public funding is crucial for understanding the recent history of the social sciences as well as ongoing debates over their scientific status and social value.

My previous book Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America (2013) provides the first extensive examination of a new patronage system for the social sciences that emerged in the early Cold War years and that took more definite shape during the 1950s and early 1960s, a period of enormous expansion in American social science. By focusing on the military, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, I show how this patronage system presented social scientists and other interested parties, including natural scientists and politicians, with new opportunities to work out the scientific identity, social implications, and public policy uses of academic social research. I also examine significant criticisms of the new patronage system, which contributed to widespread efforts to rethink and reshape the politics-patronage-social science nexus starting in the mid-1960s.  Based on extensive archival research, Shaky Foundations addresses fundamental questions about the intellectual foundations of the social sciences, their relationships with the natural sciences and the humanities, and the political and ideological import of academic social inquiry.

I am also co-editor of the book Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy and Human Nature (2012). From World War II to the early 1970s, social science research expanded in dramatic and unprecedented fashion in the United States, which became the world’s acknowledged leader in the field. This book examines how, why, and with what consequences this rapid and yet contested expansion depended on the entanglement of the social sciences with the Cold War. Utilizing the controversial but useful concept of “Cold War Social Science,” the contributions gathered here reveal how scholars from established disciplines and new interdisciplinary fields of study made important contributions to long-standing debates about knowledge production, liberal democracy, and human nature in an era of diplomatic tension and ideological conflict.

Research interests

History of the social and psychological sciences in the United States
Controversies regarding the scientific identity of the social sciences
Private and public patronage for social research
Public policy implications of social science expertise.


Ph. D – University of Wisconsin-Madison, (1996)

M.A – University of Wisconsin-Madison, (1990)

M.A – University of Wisconsin-Madison (1988)

B.A – Rollins College (1985)

awards and distinctions

Charles Warren Research Fellowship, 2011-2012
Best Article Prizef rom Forum for the History of the Human Sciences (of the History of Science Society), for best article published in the field during the previous three years: Solovey, Mark, 2004.  Riding Natural Scientists’ Coattails onto the Endless Frontier: The SSRC and the Quest for Scientific Legitimacy, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, v. 40, no. 4, 393-422, 2005

selected publications

My Books

Mark Solovey & Christian Daye, eds., 2021, Cold War Social Science: Transnational Entanglements (Palgrave Macmillan).

Solovey, Mark, 2020, Social Science for What? Battles over Public Funding for the “Other Sciences” at the National Science Foundation (MIT Press)

Solovey, Mark, 2013 hardback/2015 paperback. Shaky Foundations: The Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus in Cold War America (Rutgers University Press).

My Edited Volumes

Solovey, Mark & Hamilton Cravens, eds., 2012 hardback/2014 paperback. Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature (Palgrave Macmillan).

Solovey, Mark and Deborah Weinstein, co-editors, Fall 2019, “Living Well: Histories of Wellbeing and Human Flourishing,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, vol. 55.

Solovey, Mark, ed., April 2001. “Science in the Cold War,” Social Studies of Science vol. 31.

My Journal Articles

Solovey, Mark, 2019. “The Impossible Dream: Scientism as Strategy for Containing Distrust of Social Science at the U.S. National Science Foundation, 1945-1980,” International Journal for History, Culture, and Modernity 7, 209-238.

Solovey, Mark, 2012. “Senator Fred Harris’s National Social Science Foundation Proposal: Reconsidering Federal Science Policy, Natural Science-Social Science Relations, and American Liberalism during the 1960s,” ISIS 103, 54-82.

Solovey, Mark, 2001. “Project Camelot and the 1960s Epistemological Revolution: Rethinking the Politics-Patronage-Social Science Nexus,” Social Studies of Science 31, 171-206.


History of Psychology
History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences
Politics, Patrons, and Scientific Identity in American Social Science, WWII to the Present
The Science of Human Nature
Psychology and Society
Methodology, Theory and Ethics in the Life Sciences
Wisdom of the Social Sciences

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