Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960

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Author: Leila Zenderland
Date: May 13, 1994
From: Science(Vol. 264, Issue 5161)
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,037 words

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CHRISTOPHER SIMPSON. Oxford University Press, New York, 1994. x, 204 pp., illus. $29.95 or 22.50[pounds].

The end of the Cold War may signal a new opportunity for scholars interested in understanding the political underpinnings of contemporary social science. If so, Christopher Simpson's Science of Coercion will provide a useful and provocative starting point. By closely examining published accounts, archival records, and previously classified documents, Simpson traces the tangled relationship linking Cold War politics to communications research in the years between 1945 and 1960. He presents his findings in a concise, cogently argued, and lucidly written account remarkably free of contemporary communications jargon.

Simpson's study explores the symbiotic relationship between the academic discipline now called "mass communications" and the more shadowy entity that Americans called "psychological warfare," the British "political warfare," and the Germans, in perhaps the most telling expression of all, "Weltanschauungskrieg" ("worldview warfare"). In the United States, this relationship first became apparent in the post-World War I writings of Walter Lippmann, an intellectual who "shaped psychological strategy during the war itself, and then helped integrate the experience into the social sciences once most of the shooting was over" (p. 17). It became even more crucial during World War II, when the United States found itself opposing an enemy who elevated the study of propaganda into a prime weapon of warfare. In response, numerous social scientists, among them many recent emigres, offered their intellectual services to the American military. At the time, only a few expressed any moral qualms about the antidemocratic potential of teaching the government to manipulate...

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Source Citation
Zenderland, Leila. "Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960." Science, vol. 264, no. 5161, 13 May 1994, pp. 992+. Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A15416122