European University Institute
Department of History and Civilisation
Via Boccaccio 121
50133 Firenze (Fi)
Preliminary title of Ph. D. project under preparation by the present author at European University Institute, Florence, under the supervision of Professor Bo Stråth with expected completion in August 2007:
Social planning discourses an modernity in the United States and Sweden in the interwar era
The present project is a comparative study of how American and Swedish social scientists-e.g. economists, political scientists, psychologists, sociologists, statisticians-discussed social rationalization, i.e. the idea of applying science, and social science in particular, to 'society' and politics in order to guide social behaviour, with special regard to the period from the Black Thursday in 1929 to the end of WW2 in 1945. The objective is to map out how ideas of certainty and uncertainty were mediated in the unstable modern environment by some of the harbingers of modernization, in this case social scientists. How did they view crisis and risk, opportunity and progress, as represented by cultural, economic, scientific, social, and technological modernity? How did their perceptions on these matters affect their visions of conscious social control or "social planning?" What self-images were held by American and Swedish social scientists, and what roles did they ascribe to themselves in this formative moment in the development of American and Swedish social reform thinking? In short, how did their perceptions of modernity and their views of themselves and their positions in an imagined process of modernization affect their political and social commentary? By using a linguistic approach in comparing how the advocates of social engineering "spoke" "social engineering" and "social planning" and thereby contributed to the creation of "national" languages of social welfare in these two countries-both of which can be seen as examples of "successful modernization" (Arvidsson in Almqvist & Glans, 2001)-or perhaps better as successfully "organized modernity" (Wagner, 1994). Studying these questions may (1) deepen the understanding of specificities of American and European modernity and at the same time (2) contribute to a long awaited and much needed conceptual history of "social engineering" and "social planning," and the roles of these concepts in wider discourses on modernity in these two states respectively.