Baltell, E. Digby. The Protestant Establishment. New York: Random House, 1964.

 

Baltell, E. Digby. The Protestant Establishment. New York: Random House, 1964.

This is a review of caste and aristocracy in America. The author is primarily interested in elites
and the ways in which they function. The WASPs have been in charge here for a long time and
the various ways in which they have maintained their position include using the best and the
brightest of the underdogs. The aristocracy realizes that one way to diffuse dissent is to co-opt the
best of the dissenters.

The political context of science in the United States gets mentioned a few times in this book and
these quotes are worth including here. Regarding the restrictive legislation of the 1920s, the elite
scientists of the day were generally all in favor of it. "Most of the leading social scientists of
Ross's (E. A. Ross) generation took a similar (racist) position on immigration. ‘From the 1890s,
writes Barbara Miller Solomon, ‘social scientists - especially Edward Bemis, Thomas N. Carver,
John R. Commons, Davis R. Deey, Richard Ely, Franklin H. Giddings, Jeremiah Jenks, William
Z. Ripley, Edward A. Ross, and Richard Mayo Smith - either directly or indirectly gave aid,
counsel, or moral support to the work of the Immigration Restriction League.' Founded by three
Boston brahmins, the League was but one of many institutions and associations which were
erected by the old-stock upper class in order to protect their prestige and position against the
rising tide of immigrant power in America at the turn of the nineteenth century." (p. 108)

The author refers to a Heywood Broun study of anti-Semitism and goes on to suggest that
regarding these feelings "...departments of sociology were among the worst offenders as far as
anti-Semitic hiring policies were concerned." (p. 336)

In the development of a scientific elite, a number of nonlogical, nonscientific, social and political
factors were at work. Science, for one thing, reflected the social values of the day in supporting
the restriction of immigration, and great social scientists drew conclusions which were
value-laden rather than value-free. Secondly, by waiving immigration restrictions for the "best
people," our science gained mightily from Hitler's purification of science in Germany: we
benefited from his racism. Finally, the restriction of Jews from academic appointment was not
restricted to Europe but was true here too, in American sociology.