Baritz, Loren. The Servants of Power: A History of the Use of Social Science in American

 

Baritz, Loren. The Servants of Power: A History of the Use of Social Science in American
Industry. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1960.

This book deserves a place in this history of cheating scientists, for its thesis is that American
industrial psychologists and sociologists prostituted themselves before the managers of American
business. When I first read this book some years ago, it annoyed me because it seemed to suggest
that we social scientists had power: we enabled managers and businessmen to "control"
American workers. Indeed, we were a threat to American trade unions. I, frankly, thought this a
joke. Who would feel threatened by the tomfoolery that passes for contemporary social science?
To the extent that social scientists have contributed to managerial ideology, as for example, in the
case of F. X. Taylor, we have been dangerous. Yet, still, the final lines bother me, ringing of Big
Brother: "Over the years...social scientists have come close to a true science of behavior... Put
this power - genuine, stark, irrevocable power - into the hands of America's managers, and the
work that social scientists have done, and will do, assumes implications vaster and more fearful
than anything previously hinted." (p. 210) Does he know something I don't or, as I suspect, was
he writing for American social scientists whose egos would be boosted by this perception of our
"power"?

"The nature of the social sciences in the twentieth century was, and is, such as to encourage the
type of thinking of which Mayo is a good representative. His illusions of objectivity, lack of
integrative theory, concern with what many have called the wrong problems, and, at least by
implication, authoritarianism, virtually determined the types of errors he committed. Such errors
are built into modern social science." (p. 203)

The hidden motives of psychological research in industrial psychology are hinted at: "Like
testing and attitude research, the training program of American industry during the depression
was in part implicitly aimed at forestalling the leftward movement of American political and
intellectual life." (p. 131)

Comparing Baritz and Gould's The Mismeasure of Man: Baritz is the milder critic - at least on
the surface but Baritz, in a sense, anticipates Gould by a full 20 years.