How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career Of Cold War Rationality

Paperback | November 17, 2015

byPaul Erickson, Judy L. Klein, Lorraine Daston

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In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and economics, among others—and its participants enlisted in an intellectual campaign to figure out what rationality should mean and how it could be deployed.
           
How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind brings to life the people—Herbert Simon, Oskar Morgenstern, Herman Kahn, Anatol Rapoport, Thomas Schelling, and many others—and places, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the Cowles Commission for Research and Economics, and the Council on Foreign Relations, that played a key role in putting forth a “Cold War rationality.” Decision makers harnessed this picture of rationality—optimizing, formal, algorithmic, and mechanical—in their quest to understand phenomena as diverse as economic transactions, biological evolution, political elections, international relations, and military strategy. The authors chronicle and illuminate what it meant to be rational in the age of nuclear brinkmanship.

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In the United States at the height of the Cold War, roughly between the end of World War II and the early 1980s, a new project of redefining rationality commanded the attention of sharp minds, powerful politicians, wealthy foundations, and top military brass. Its home was the human sciences—psychology, sociology, political science, and...

Paul Erickson is assistant professor of history and science in society at Wesleyan University and lives in Middletown, CT. Judy L. Klein is professor of economics at Mary Baldwin College and lives in Staunton, VA.  Lorraine Daston is director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and visiting professor in the Committee...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:November 17, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022632415X

ISBN - 13:9780226324159

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Struggle over Cold War Rationality
Chapter 1. Enlightenment Reason, Cold War Rationality, and the Rule of Rules
Chapter 2. The Bounded Rationality of Cold War Operations Research
Chapter 3. Saving the Planet from Nuclear Weapons and the Human Mind
Chapter 4. “The Situation” in the Cold War Behavioral Sciences
Chapter 5. World in a Matrix
Chapter 6. The Collapse of Cold War Rationality
Epilogue. Cold War Rationality after the Cold War
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The inhuman assumptions of the postwar human sciences form the problematic for this fascinating book. If not quite a fons et origo, the Cold War arms race appears here as the uniquely disturbing frame for a wide-ranging campaign to extirpate irrationality by implementing strict rules of human reasoning.”