PERENNIAL PROBLEMS IN SOCIAL SCIENCE / Vol. 41, No. 3 (Fall 1974)
Arien Mack, Editor
Reviews the history of intelligence testing and its use as an instrument of social and political discrimination, particularly with regard to immigrants in the 1920s.
Abstention from politics yields logical immunity to assassination, for though you and I may at any time achieve our mortality through violent means, only political figures have the dubious privilege of assassinability. Thus killed because of my striking resemblance to the Archduke, or in consequence of the skewed retinal images of the strabismic marksman aiming at that personage, I will not have been assassinated, and the sad event is inscribed in the Ideal Chronicle as a failed assassination attempt against the Archduke, with inadvertent lethal consequences to me.
For a long time, Philosophy of History was as speculative as Philosophy of Nature still was in the eighteenth century. But when historians turned away from metahistory, they fell into the traps of an infertile Neo-Kantianism which denied them the status of a science: Their search for laws, even for regularities, they were told, was vain. As a cultural science, history was forever condemned to be an uncertain art. Since most historians have little training in philosophy, they accepted this doctrine—all the more gladly as it gave them a freedom and uniqueness other cultural sciences deny themselves. Historians must learn to do this necessary detective work, recording and verifying the facts; but on that basis they have to build a story, a work with a cohesive point of view, written with love or hate, and with imagination.
The signal failures of American radicalism suggest the perennial dilemma of the Left: As ideologies, the theories and visions of socialism and communism have been consistently divorced from viable politics of transformation.
Although few would defend pure meritocracy, the principle of meritorian justice, in diluted form, is an important component of contemporary political rhetoric. The dilution occurs in the form of various social-welfare programs which supposedly provide at least the bare necessities for those who are unable to engage in meritocratic competition. Such programs also may serve as compensatory aids for those who wish to play the meritocratic game but who operate under initial handicaps, many of which have been unjustly imposed. Within the confines of these boundary conditions, however, the meritocratic principle surely dominates the moral perspective of many, perhaps even most, contemporary Americans.
The elitist ideology of the Futurist movement, its admiration for technological progress, its obsession with violence and extreme nationalism, prepared many intellectuals to see in Fascism the concrete political resolution of a contradiction.
There is a new awareness that inequality of incomes is interwoven with inequalities in many other fields; social and educative processes are being increasingly considered in explanation of the phenomenon, and that calls for a synthesis between economics, sociology, and the theory of learning. The fact that someone like Christopher Jencks, who is not primarily an economist, recently voiced a vigorous opinion on the causes of inequality suggests that the area of research is widening. So far little has come of a real synthesis between the various approaches. One is obliged to conclude that a great deal of scientific work has still to be done on the subject of distribution—not just a refinement of existing ideas, but also a clarification of basic concepts.
If one selects any conventional subdivision of contemporary psychology at random and studies it closely, one soon encounters the problem of thinking in one of its many disguises. It is frequently entangled with one or more of the recurring methodological and theoretical issues common to many otherwise diverse content areas in psychology. At the boundaries between thinking and the other areas of psychology the more interesting problems often arise. In examining such problems, we shall attempt to unearth the methodological and theoretical issues involved.