|dc.description.abstract||The dissertation asks how social science and its tools—especially those associated with the precise measurement of attitudes, motivations and preferences—became a pervasive way of knowing about and ordering the world, as well as the ultimate marker of political modernity, in the second half of the twentieth century.
I explore this question by examining in detail the trials and tribulations that accompanied the indigenization of scientific polling in 1950s Israel, focusing on the story of Jewish-American sociologist and statistician Louis Guttman and the early history of the Israel Institute of Applied Social Research, the survey research organization he established and ran for forty years. Along with a wave of scientist-explorers who traveled to the postcolonial areas in the early Cold War, Guttman set out to the Middle East, leaving a secure academic position and settling in Jerusalem on the eve of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The inventor of cumulative scaling (known today as “Guttman scaling”)—a method of measurement first developed and used in The American Soldier, the classic World War II study of soldiering—Guttman sought to test in Israel the applicability of cutting-edge socio-psychological research techniques to the problems of a new state. With these objectives in mind, he established a small volunteer-based research unit within the Haganah, the largest among the paramilitary Zionist organizations in British Palestine, which then became part of the nascent Israeli Army. By the late 1950s, the military unit had evolved into a successful national research organization—the first of its kind outside the United States—that employed over two dozen workers and carried out studies on all aspects of social life for government offices, the military, and clients in the private sector.
Joining others who have rejected Basalla’s diffusion model, my dissertation shows there was nothing inevitable about the spread of these statistical methods and tools. Rather, they traveled and took root through an active, engaged, and directed process, which required the entrepreneurial initiative and cultural labor of individuals, and depended in turn on the institutional experience and habits of mind they brought with them, their embodied skills, relationships and personal virtues. More concretely, I argue that the eventual institutionalization of this scientific practice and its attendant rationality in Israel was due primarily to Guttman’s ability to recreate the conditions of knowing by rendering social science expertise intelligible in the vernacular, and to make an “ecological niche” for scientific claims and methods to feel at home away from home.
Yet, while Guttman was successful in recreating some of the conditions of social scientific knowing, conducting large-scale survey research in a “hostile,” or error generating environment – whether shortage of trained workers, resistant subjects and dismissive decision-makers, competing epistemic values, or the strains of war and state building – often engendered local adaptations. Highlighting the “iterability” of science in translation, I also show that behavioral concepts and claims embedded in the ‘deliverables’ produced by Guttman were often reframed, modified, and infused with local modes of reasoning and understanding as they were vernacularized.
The dissertation thus serves to illuminates both the processes that governed the global circulation of scientific ideas and tools in the postwar period and the central role this knowledge migration played in shaping the history of the modern social sciences.||en_US