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Time Still in the History of American Social Sciences

  There is often such a phenomenon in the history of thought: two seemingly unrelated works have a direct inheritance relationship in terms of method and problem awareness. By grasping this hidden ideological clue, you can grasp the gist of the original book. Dorothy Ross’s “The Origins of American Social Science” (hereinafter referred to as “Origins”) was first published in 1991. It is a classic study of the history of American social sciences from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Translated into Chinese by sociology scholars. To understand this voluminous tome, you can also rely on a ready-made “key”, which is JGA Pocock’s masterpiece on the history of political thought, “The Machiavelli Moment.”
  In 1975, as soon as The Moment of Machiavelli came out, a storm of “republican revisionism” was swept up in the history of American political thought. Earlier, early American historians such as Bernard Behring and Gordon Wood took the lead in provoking the debate. They directly attacked the “consensus theory” of postwar American historiography, claiming that the ideological background of the American Revolution was not Locke-style liberalism, but was closer to the radical republicanism of the local British opposition in the 18th century. Pocock went a step further on this basis and traced the founding principles of the United States back to the civic humanism of Florence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, framing the “Atlantic Republican Tradition” that spanned four hundred years and spanned two continents.
  Subsequently, there was a brief renaissance in the study of “ideology” in American history. For a long time, political history has been the indisputable queen of history, and the social history that was in full swing in the 1970s and 1980s was constantly conquering cities and territories. Between the ups and downs of academic trends, the debate on republican revisionism brought the academic spotlight to the intellectual history on the fringes of the stage. In just a decade, “republicanism” has gone from a pre-modern political term that no one cared about to a point of contention in various schools of history.
  Since the debate originated in the field of early American history, readers often think that “republican revisionism” belongs to the internal debate of early American history, discussing the political and ideological conditions before and after the founding of the United States (1765-1810). As everyone knows, republican revisionism has also profoundly changed the research pattern of American intellectual history in the nineteenth century. Many scholars who grew up during this period, who mainly focused on the intellectual history of the nineteenth century in the United States, such as Cloppenberg and Daniel Rogers, admitted that they had Pocock’s imprint in their thoughts. Ross’s “Origins” is also on the list. Origins, however, is primarily about the post-Civil War to the Great Depression period (1865-1929), how Pocock’s Florentine republicanism spanned the ages and influenced American thought hundreds of years later. What about history? This begins with Pocock’s discussion of the American concept of time in history.
  It is generally believed that the Republican revisionist school can be divided into two branches, the “Harvard School” represented by Behring and Wood, and the “St. Louis School” represented by Pocock. The two sides have a very close understanding of the North American political culture before the revolution, and both emphasize the origin of classical republican discourse on both sides of the Atlantic at the end of the eighteenth century. The language of republicanism was widely used by elites in the upper echelons of the American Revolution, who claimed that the defense of civic virtue and the prevention of abuse of power was at the heart of political life, and that a break with the corrupt British parliamentary monarchy was therefore necessary and a true hybrid regime was re-established in the New World, in addition to Besides, “the Americans have no other good medicine”. In the view of the Republican revisionist school, this set of political language is Hobbesian, not Lockeian. It is closer to republicanism than to individual liberalism, which emphasizes individual pursuit of self-interest and government protection of private property. However, the “Harvard School” maintains that with the establishment of the republic, the mainstream political discourse in the United States has undergone earth-shaking changes. In his 1992 book Radicalism in the American Revolution, Wood argued that the establishment of the American Republic saw a serious crisis in the classical republican discourse used by elites. As the revolution progressed and more social classes joined the revolution, Americans “almost overnight” abandoned the discourse of republican virtue in favor of individualism and liberalism.
  Unlike Wood, Pocock did not see the American Revolution as bringing “the end of classical politics,” nor did post-revolution Americans embrace liberalism in full. Even after the revolution ended and the constitution was established in 1787, the specter of republicanism haunted Americans. The deep dynamism of American political life in the nineteenth century still came from the top elite’s anxiety about the disappearance of civic virtues and the fear of the corruption of the republican system. American political elites see the hybrid regime of the new country as the incarnation of the republic, and they feel that, as a nascent country in a new world, the American republic is always facing two threats, “forward” and “backward”: on the one hand, establishing A republic meant an escape from the old world and a separation from the feudal and ecclesiastical powers of continental Europe; the nascent America, on the other hand, entered the stage of world history as an opponent of the British Whig system—although at this time Britain represented The most advanced commercial civilization of the eighteenth century, but it was by no means ideal for the United States to emulate. The mercantile tendencies of the British Whig party are dangerous, and their overemphasis on the service of government to individual interests is likely to erode civic virtue and make republican governments succumb to the desire for commerce and expansion. The special historical situation established by the American republic has led to the dilemma between the American republic and the backwardness. The dual impulses of “renewal” and “retro” ran through nineteenth-century American political history, and the discourse of classical republicanism survived. Whether or not the future of the American political system points to liberalism, the discourse framework of the republic did not disappear with the birth of the republic. On the contrary, the strong urge to preserve the republic continued until the end of the nineteenth century. In the eyes of the elites who use republican discourse, the greatest enemy of the American republic is the passage of time itself, and Americans have to contend with the inherent perishability of the republican system.
  So, how to add “preservatives” to classical republican discourse? The Americans tried to combine republicanism with the Christian idea of ​​the millennial kingdom: with the success of the revolution, the United States established a well-established hybrid regime that could save the new republic from the ancient republic-imperial cycle of chaos. At the same time, the New World has unique economic and geographical conditions that can resist the corruption of civic virtues by modern commercial activities: the frontier continues to advance westward, and the vast virgin land provides every citizen with the opportunity of economic independence, independent citizens will not Easily bought by political interests, and not succumbed to greed and speculative desires. Therefore, as long as a fertile supply of land is guaranteed, individual self-interest and public virtue can be integrated, and the decline of the republic will never come. In this imaginary picture, the United States not only jumped out of the classical cycle of chaos, but also out of the linear history of modernity. It can be said that the United States, which was born in the New World, is “a country that neither the past nor the present.” In order to keep the republic from corrupting, Americans use space to fight time. In Pocock’s words, American metahistory is “a movement in space, not a movement in words”, which expresses a kind of escape and return in space words.
  The core of American exceptionalism is the confrontation between the republic and time, and the “exception” in space is the means of its realization. According to Ross, the author of “Origins”, the prototype of various versions of American exceptionalism in history comes from this “reciprocating movement” described by Pocock, which is a compromise between Puritanism, republicanism and liberalism. product. The American “exception” is not a fixed social mentality, but a device of thought and discourse that continually isolates the American republic from a corrupt destiny through various discursive variants, and as a result reinforces the idea of ​​American national specificity , shaped the American experience by influencing the way Americans conceived of their social structure and political life. In other words, the American “exception” is a typical “self-fulfilling prophecy”.

  The development of exceptionalism in nineteenth-century America revolved around the question of whether the republic could survive in the New World. The founding fathers generation believed that a mixed government system could check, balance and restrain power and prevent the corruption of the republic, and the social soil of the New World could also cultivate “natural aristocrats” with detached virtues and maintain the civic virtues of the republic. After the War of 1812, the Founding Second Generation came to power. Their rude, violent, and partisan style was in stark contrast to that of the Founding Fathers, and American doubts about the continuation of republican virtues reached their peak. In the ensuing “Jackson Democracy” period, Americans expanded the scope of political democracy in the hope that the will of the public would be fully expressed, thereby limiting the tendency to corrupt American politics and repairing the ideal of exceptionalism. However, the tension between republican discourse and free discourse has not disappeared. As commercial activities flourished, the ideological conflict between industry and commerce and agriculture became more severe. In the framework of exceptionalism, the “safety valve” of the western land is the key to reconciling the ideals of commerce and agriculture. Only by guaranteeing the free supply and free management of land can civic virtues be built on the cornerstone of individual self-interest. Thus, in the political debate before the American Civil War, Southern slavery became the most prominent enemy of exceptionalism. The tension between republican discourse and liberal discourse did not subside until after the Civil War, when slavery, the great “exception by exception,” was eliminated. The nineteenth-century American “father of history” George Bancroft merged these two discourses into a Teutonic “source” narrative of American history, and the American political system was depicted as the rebirth of the Germanic free fire in the New World. : The ancestors of the Anglo-Saxons who conquered the corrupt Roman Empire brought the traditions of democracy and self-government to England, passed down several times, and finally formed the New England orthodoxy of American politics. The United States, which was born in the New World, is not only the descendant of republic and freedom, but also its complete and final form. The advancement of the wheel of history will no longer deplete the American republic.
  Combined with this line of thought, we can understand why Ross named her book “origins” rather than “emergence”. As a disciplinary institution, American social sciences generally emerged in the late nineteenth century as an ideological response to the impact of industrialization, which is similar to the rise of European social sciences. However, the rise of American social science also involves a longer-term ideological and political tradition. American anxiety about industrialization in the late nineteenth century was still linked to anxiety about the republic. Americans’ attitudes towards industrialization and modernity are contradictory. On the one hand, they worry that the excessive expansion of industry and commerce will give rise to economic dependence and corrupt republican virtue; ideology, making labor and property rights a means of cultivating civic virtues, and in turn consolidating the republic. In Pocock’s view, the American political ideal is to keep the United States at a certain halfway point from republicanism to liberalism. Exceptionalism is this “secret technique” that makes time stand still, and a republic that is doomed to corruption and decay in the framework of the classical republic is “extended” through this unique American ideological device. Therefore, American intellectuals at the end of the nineteenth century regarded the crisis brought about by industrialization as an external shock. It was a challenge to American exceptionalism by “Europeanization”, and responding to the crisis meant continuing to revise or completely abandon the framework of exceptionalism.
  Origins divides the rise of the American social sciences into three stages. The period from the end of the Civil War in 1865 to the general election of 1896 was the first stage, when the crisis of exceptionalism fully emerged. The progress of industrialization has made Americans deeply feel the pressure of historical changes. The first generation of social scientists realized that a European-style class conflict was pounding the American social order, but they still tried to preserve the notion that the American Republic was solid and unchangeable, hoping to rescue exceptionalism through the emerging science of positivism. In 1879, the economist Henry Carter Adams wrote to his father: “The history of both Greek democracy and the Roman Republic shows that these once prosperous countries were driven by an unequal distribution of goods between rich and poor. There is only one path, and that path points in two directions: go ahead or go back.” While republican discourse still prevails, intellectual elites have begun to realize that American exceptionalism cannot be forever bound to a static time, Rather, it must be combined with new concepts of historical change.
  The second stage of the development of American social sciences lasted roughly from 1896 to before the outbreak of World War I, which coincided with the period of progressivism in the division of American history. Under the influence of progressivism, the mainstream of American historical consciousness gradually changed to liberal historicism: history is secular, and what drives history forward is not divine will and natural law, but the market, pluralism, democracy and science. Americans have come to accept that the United States is not a millennial kingdom, and that the American experience cannot be isolated from the general history of the West. To overcome the erosion of the American republic by historical uncertainty, we cannot follow the conservative logic of exceptionalism. We can only transform chaotic historical changes into stable and controllable progress through the intervention of empirical social science. In the United States, liberal historicism also resisted the evangelical discourse of socialism. Although there are many logical possibilities for the historical process, progressives still believe that the class conflict brought about by industrialization is only an intermediate stage of historical development, and the ideal of exceptionalism may still be realized in the foreseeable future.
  The third stage is the period of the decline of liberal historicism and the full rise of scientism, which established the basic character of modern American social science. With the rapid advancement of industrialization, Americans’ life experience has undergone tremendous changes. New modes of transportation, government management forms and business methods have changed people’s activity radius and communication frequency, bringing the feeling of space and time being compressed. Americans living in the early twentieth century felt that the past was out of reach and that change was all around us. Because human society is undergoing rapid changes, history is no more authoritative than modern experience. In the words of the historian James Harvey Robinson, inferring the laws of human progress through ancient history is like “seeing the life of a forty-year-old man for a week to determine whether he is developing”. Under the influence of this mentality, the modernist sense of time replaced historicism. Dewey’s pragmatism is the representative of modernism’s historical consciousness. He emphasized that history is always in constant transformation, and human experience can only be “the future hidden in the present”. In the social sciences, the idea of ​​”process” gradually replaced “progress.” A new generation of social science scholars puts more emphasis on the similarity between historical development and natural processes. The linear concept of time in historicism has dissolved, and history has become a “timeless existence”, and thus it is easier to become the object of human rational control.
  If we compare it with the development of European social sciences during the same period, we can easily find that compared with the profound influence of historicism on Europe, the American intellectuals in the nineteenth century accepted historicism relatively slowly and its influence was relatively short-lived. Since then, the United States has responded exceptionally quickly to modernism. This history of acceptance is not accidental, but the result of the continuing role of exceptionalism. The reason why exceptionalism emphasizes the “unique” spatial characteristics of the United States is to construct a static and controllable sense of history to counter American anxiety about republican corruption. Therefore, historicism introduced from Europe in the nineteenth century was strongly resisted by exceptionalism, and some even believed that historicism was a conspiracy of radicals to subvert the American republic. Progressives in the late nineteenth century attempted to reconcile historicism with exceptionalism, integrating American history into the liberal “progressive” Western universal history. The modernist historical consciousness that emerged in the early twentieth century was in perfect harmony with this revised liberal exceptionalism, and modernism quickly became the mainstream ideology of American social science. In Roth’s words, “Modernism interrupted the brief intermission that historicism had created in America”. Compared with Europe, exceptionalism interfered with the acceptance history of historicism in the United States, and also created various typical characteristics of modern social science in the United States, such as scientism, anti-historicism, statistical worship, technological control and so on. This is not due to Americans’ special preference for scientism, but this tortuous history of ideological reception.

  Therefore, Ross’s intention in writing this book is actually to inherit Pocock’s criticism of consensus historiography and to refute the “recognize the ancestors and return to the ancestors” type of social science history. In consensus historiography, the history of social sciences is just a reflection of the “Teutonic origin” of political history, and the prosperity of positive social sciences in the United States is often described as the emergence of Anglo-Saxon profit-seeking and liberal tendencies in the New World. In fact, to regard the scientism and positivism tendencies in modern American social sciences as a continuation of the “nationality” of the United Kingdom and the United States just falls into the rut of the consensus school. The American intellectual tradition is not born, but is shaped by the American action frame, discourse tradition and historical context. Exceptionalism is a kind of thinking device used by Americans, rather than a fixed core of thinking.
  ”Origin” not only outlines the ideological spectrum of the origin of American social science, but also analyzes the action framework of social scientists from the perspective of sociology of knowledge. For example, the special emphasis on “objective neutrality” in the American social sciences is not so much due to a certain “nationality” as it is to be influenced by the origins of early social scientists. From the Gilded Age to the Progressive Age, American social scientists gradually shifted from New England genteels to professionals. They are neither British-style high-society elites, nor government employees like German professors, but generally middle-class. Most of the first generation of social scientists who laid the cornerstone of American social sciences belonged to the emerging gentry class in the Northeast after the Civil War. They were not the top class in the economic pyramid, but they maintained a good relationship with the “old money” aristocracy in the Northeast. They are alienated from religious orthodoxy, politically Republican liberals, and support civil service reform and administrative professionalism. The new gentry used their intellectual authority, professional skills and social prestige to become the link between traditional land-financial capital and emerging industrial and commercial capitalists. Most of them have received elite education, have good moral cultivation, and regard themselves as “natural aristocrats” in the republican tradition, but their academic views are often conservative.
  The first generation of social scientists were also early university reformers. They promoted the transformation of the American university system into a secularized direction. By establishing a system of university departments and professional societies, they demarcated the basic disciplinary divisions of American social sciences. Since then, the second generation of social science experts at the turn of the century and the third generation of social science experts before and after the “World War I” belonged to a significantly lower social class, and their origins became more diverse in regions, ethnicities, and genders. During their active era, the institutions of universities and societies gradually matured. The rise of professionalism has elevated the status of social science experts in the university system and limited the political participation of activists—social scientists have had to curb their political views in order to maintain their professional prestige as academy “experts.” The “specialization” of the American social sciences is in keeping with the middle-class status of the academy’s intellectuals, and American social scientists are well aware of the class differences between them and their British counterparts: old schoolmates from Oxford’s Department of Political Science may reunite in the House of Lords in a few years’ time. , but until the New Deal, American social scientists did not enter the core layer of political decision-making, they were “experts” rather than state rulers.
  Recently, there has been an argument in the academic circles that, from the standpoint of the “Strauss School”, Pocock is regarded as the source of “historical relativism”, and even the Cambridge School is held responsible for contemporary “political radicalism”. This type of work on “learning human nature” is of little significance to historians. American historians attach importance to Pocock’s pursuit of the republican tradition, mainly hoping to reinterpret many suspense in American history through the republican genealogy – why is historicism so late in the United States? What do you think of Sombart’s question “Why is there no socialism in America”? Is the theory of “Second Constitution” (Civil War Reconstruction) or even “Third Constitution” (New Deal) necessary in the United States? Republican revisionism is not a self-limited historiography, it has a wide range of radiation in various empirical fields of historical research, and its far-reaching influence does not need to be reflected through the debate with the Strauss School. This article has clarified the connection between republican revisionism and the history of social sciences. The republican revisionist trend of the 1970s also gave birth to “labor republicanism” in New Left historiography and labor social history, and “Southern republicanism” in southern history. ”, “Republican mother” in women’s history and other analytical concepts, which also respond to empirical questions in their respective fields. For historians, American “republicanism” is an analytical tool, not a subject of political debate. To forcibly turn the means into a goal would exaggerate the position of political thought research in the evolution of history, and miss the essence of Pocock.

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