Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Where "Mandarins" succeeded

I've spent the last few days reading the most recent articles that discuss Mandarins of the Future, and I am gratified to note that it appears that one of the central historiographical aims of the book has succeeded, namely to convince historians and practitioners of the American social science that modernization theory stands at the very center of postwar American social science, that is, it is the linchpin paradigm that, properly understood, unlocks the puzzle of why postwar American social science was what it was. I'm not solely responsible for promoting that thesis, of course (the work of David Engerman, Michael Latham, and Nick Cullather has been at least as important) but I believe that Mandarins was important for helping to define this nascent consensus.

Even more gratifying, I think that the moral thrust of the book, namely that modernization theory was an abomination, but that the Enlightenment ideals it venerated must be critically revisited and revitalized, has also found an audience, including among many critics who might otherwise have been presumed to be skeptical. This judgment is more tentative, and we'll see over the next few years where it goes, but this is my hope.

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