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Johan Heilbron, Gustavo Sorá u.a. (Hrsg.): The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power Relations

Cover Johan Heilbron, Gustavo Sorá, Thibaud Boncourt (Hrsg.): The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power Relations. Springer International Publishing AG (Cham/Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London) 2018. ISBN 978-3-319-73298-5. D: 96,29 EUR, A: 98,99 EUR, CH: 99,00 sFr.

Reihe: Socio-Historical Studies of the Social and Human Sciences.
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The edited volume “The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power Relations” presents the globalization of social (economics, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology) and human (philosophy, literature) sciences after 1945. The book is structured along three dimensions:

  • patterns of institutionalization,
  • exchanges between disciplines and countries, and
  • the international circulation of paradigms, theories and controversies.

Proposing a systematic empirical analysis of the globalizing social sciences and humanities (SSH), the authors highlights institutional, social, and intellectual inequalities which accompany and shape the process of SSH globalization. Acknowledging that “to date, globalization has mostly favoured the already dominant regions of North America and Europe” (p. 6), the editors recommend to look beyond simple explanatory variables and to “reflect, instead, on the asymmetric power relations of the global order, and on the channels through which dominant international norms and ideas are produced and reproduced” (p. 9).

Editors  [1]

Johan Heilbron is a historical sociologist, director of research at the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique (CNRS, EHESS) in Paris and affiliated with the Erasmus Center for Economic Sociology (ECES) in Rotterdam.

Gustavo Sorá is a tenured professor in the Anthropology Department of the National University of Córdoba, and a researcher at CONICET. His research focuses on the history and sociology of book publishing and translation.

Thibaud Boncourt is an associate professor in political science at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a researcher at the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique (CESSP-CNRS). He works on the sociology and history of the social sciences, the relationship between knowledge and power, and internationalization dynamics.

Origins of the book

This book is an outcome of the European research project “International Cooperation in the Social Sciences and Humanities”, which was conducted between 2013 and 2017 and was funded by the European Commission. The aim of the project was to “gain a better insight into the functioning of social sciences and humanities in Europe, to identify obstacles to exchange and collaboration, and to stimulate new avenues for collaborations in the social and human sciences” (pp. 18-19).

Structure of the book

The book is divided in four main parts:

Part IPatterns of Transnationalization – contains three chapters presenting the globalization of SSH in Europe between 1980 and 2014 based on bibliometric data; the circulation of scholarly books and the factors that influence their translation with a focus on French and English; and the development of two international social science associations (the International Political Science Association and the International Sociological Association) and their meaning for the internationalization of political science and sociology.

Part IITransnational Regionalization – comprises two chapters presenting the regionalization of SSH in Latin America under the influence of supranational entities such as UNESCO, American philanthropic foundations, national governments, etc.; and the emergence of a SSH research field in Europe from the mid-1960s, the current structure of European SSH and the relationship to North American SSH.

Part IIISouth-North Relations – consists of four chapters focusing on alternative approaches from the South (the hegemony of Western SSH being contested) and it brings forward the case of post-colonial reconfigurations of Algerian research; the institutional development and internationalization of sociology in Argentina between 1985 and 2015; the influence of the Ford Foundation on SSH and especially on the institutionalization of political science in Brazil; and a comparative analysis of book translations from French, English, German, Italian and Portuguese in Argentina.

Part IVEast-West Relations – contains two chapters focusing on the case of ‘Westernization’ of SSH in Hungary between 1945 and 2015; and the place and role of Western references (both European and American) in Japanese and South Korean social sciences, especially sociology.

Content – selected chapters

In “Introduction: The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power RelationsJohan Heilbron, Thibaud Boncourt, and Gustavo Sorá outline shortly the developments of the social and human sciences after the Second World War (SWW). According to the authors, after the SWW, an increasing number of SSH books and articles were published worldwide and references became more ‘international’ as “in the main regions of the world the share of ‘self-citations’ (i.e. references to producers in the same region) has diminished, whereas references to producers outside of the region have increased” (p. 4). However, the SSH display a core-periphery structure, with English being the lingua franca and North America and Europe accounting for “about three quarters of the registered world’s social science journals” (Mosbah-Natanson and Gingras 2014 in Heilbron, Sorá and Boncourt 2018, p. 7). Moreover, various actors (philanthropic foundations, corporations, international organizations, nation states, colonial empires) have influenced and shaped the globalization of the SSH due to the belief that “these disciplines play a key part in shaping political interactions and competitions” (p. 5). Just to name two examples offered by the authors with regard to how power is contained in the globalized field of SSH: UNESCO for instance sponsored the creation of international social science associations, while European institutions, aware of the need to legitimize the European integration project, sponsored knowledge creation and creation of structures (e.g. European University Institute) relevant in this sense (pp. 5-6). The hegemony of the Western world can be also seen in the fact that “virtually all of the most cited scholars in the social and human sciences were born and have worked in Western countries” (p. 7). The editors posit that “the globalization of the social and human sciences is therefore likely to be a more diverse, contradictory, and puzzling process” (p. 4) and in their edited volume they seek to “explore the complexities of this process by studying the struggles and structures that advance, or impede it” (p. 4).

The chapter “The Globalization of European Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities (1980-2014): A Bibliometric Study” by Johan Heilbron and Yves Gingras draws on bibliometric data from the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI). By looking at indicators such as proportion of transnational co-authorship, places and language of publication of research, proportion of national and international references by country and by disciplines (p. 32), the authors address questions such as:

  • Has transnational co-authorship in the SSH become more frequent?
  • Is there a trend towards a more global pattern of transnational collaboration, or is the trend towards collaboration on a regional level?
  • What are the most significant variations in patterns of internationalization across countries and disciplines? (p. 30)

Two observations seem to be essential for the findings of this chapter: First, unlike natural sciences, social and human sciences tackle topics which are context-dependent, which explains the low degree of collaboration of SSH scholars in comparison to natural sciences scholars (p. 30). Second, the larger a research system is, the smaller is the number of international collaborations. The position of the United States at the top of SSH is explained (among others) by the high number of researchers and articles published and by the prestige of its scientific system (p. 35). The findings strengthen the idea of globalizing SSH, as the number of transnationally co-authored articles increased from 4 % in 1980 to 21 % in 2014 (p. 33). Increased European funding did not result in increased ‘Europeanization’ of the SSH, the trends of transnational and intra-European collaboration being similar (p. 35). Great Britain, Germany and France are the top three countries involved in European collaborations, whereas on a global level Great Britain is regarded as “a bridge between the USA and continental Europe” (pp. 41-42). One last finding is worth mentioning here: “the global field of the social sciences is best described as constructed around a Euro-American duopoly. But at the highest level of prizes and citations, the field structure tends to be monopolistic: no language can compete with English, no country can rival with the USA” (p. 53).

In the chapter “Unity and Fragmentation in the Social Sciences in Latin AmericaGustavo Sorá and Alejandro Blanco present the process of regionalization of social sciences in Latin America between 1950 and 1980. According to the two authors regionalization was inspired by a “deep-rooted belief that Latin America constituted a unit and that understanding this unit was necessary to then make sense of each nation or sub-region” (p. 128). Moreover, regionalization of the SSH in Latin America can be regarded also as a reaction to the “political and cultural domination of the United States and Western Europe” (p. 128). Yet, the cycle of regionalization was influenced by supranational entities such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), UNESCO, and UN, as well as by American philanthropic foundations such as Ford and Rockefeller. Europeans such as Peter Heintz, Johan Galtung, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Gino Germani, José Medina Echavarría, and Juan Marsal also played an important role, being described by the authors of the chapter as “institution builders” and being credited for making “discovering Latin America” a research topic (p. 133). Latin Americans such as Florestán Fernandes, Pablos Gonzáles Casanova, Orlando Fals Borda, and Eduardo Hamuy also “played decisive roles in the regional institutionalization of the SSH” (p. 135). Among the most known cities (due to their universities, degree programs, and social research institutions) the authors mention Santiago, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and São Paulo. In Mexico City for instance two major social science publishers for Latin America were headquartered: Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE) and Siglo XXI. The emergence of Latin American journals (Revista Latinoamericana de Sociolgía”, “América Latina”, “Boletín del Instituto de Sociología) witnesses to the regionalization of social sciences in Latin America. The articles published in these journals were mainly in ‘local’ languages (Portuguese, Spanish, and French) and dealt with Latin American country specific issues or Latin America in general (e.g. demographic and social changes in Latin America). According to Gustavo Sorá and Alejandro Blanco the development of social sciences was brought to an end in the 1960’s and 1970’s when SSH departments and degree programs closed under the pressure of dictatorial regimes. There was one significant exception though – Brazil – where SSH continued to flourish despite political persecution (p. 146).

Leticia Bicalho Canêdo in her chapter “The Ford Foundation and the Institutionalization of Political Science in Brazil” examines the role of the Ford Foundation in the development of political science in Brazil. According to Canêdo the Ford Foundation opened its first office in Brazil in 1962, in Rio de Janeiro, and three years later, it supported the creation of the first Department of Political Science at the College of Administration and Economic Sciences (FACE) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais. Two names are strongly connected with the activity of the Ford Foundation in Brazil: Peter Bell and Shepard Forman. Under Peter Bell the first doctorate in political science was created, students were granted scholarships at major American universities and the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning (CEBRAP – back then headed by Fernando Henrique Cardosa, president of Brazil between 1995 and 2002) also received support from the Foundation. Moreover, “most scholars supported by Bell were social scientists, held degrees from foreign universities (mostly American), did not belong to Brazil’s establishment, and had been purged from their university posts by the military regime” (p. 250). Under Shepard Forman the National Association of Graduate Studies and Research in Social Sciences (ANPOCS) was created in 1977. The activity of ANPOCS is described by Canêdo as “an important innovation for the professionalization of the field, as expertise in developing technical research projects did not exist at Brazilian universities at that time” (p. 260). Aside from reconstructing the main points in the history of the Ford Foundation in Brazil, as well as the Foundation’s importance for the social sciences in the country, Canêdo points out two aspects worth reflecting upon: First, the scholars selected and supported by the Ford Foundation often lacked any social influence, they were expelled from traditional universities for political reasons, but they had studied at prestigious American universities and “possessed great capacity to subvert the rules that did not benefit them” (p. 261). Second, the educational capital of the Brazilian scholars supported by the Ford Foundation was marked by American influences, and the Ford Foundation investments in Brazil can be seen also as aiming at “ensuring American hegemony in political science” (p. 261).

In the chapter “A Case of State Controlled Westernization. Foreign Impacts in the Hungarian Social Sciences (1945-2015)Victor Karady and Peter Tibor Nagy address the “latecomer’s complex” or the “catching up complex” of Hungarian elites in relation to the West, a complex identified by the authors as starting with the Enlightenment (p. 298). For instance they speak of a “cult of Western linguistic competences” (p. 299) manifested in the acknowledgment of German language as a prerequisite for elite training, while the command of French and, to a lower degree, Italian and English were also symbols for the Hungarian upper classes in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 1920s, due to political developments, Hungary witnessed an exodus of social scientists (e.g. Karl Polány, Arnold Hauser, Géza Roheim) towards the West, scientists who gained there scholarly recognition. The interwar period was also marked by programs aiming at demonstrating the cultural superiority of the Magyars in the Carpathian basin (p. 303), yet not lacking a westernizing aspect. The authors mention for instance two journals (Nouvelle Revue de Hongrie” and the “Hungarian Quarterly), which had the task to inform Western audiences about the developments in Hungary. After 1948 the contact with the West was cut and replaced with what the authors call “a program of Russian cultural colonization” (p. 309), specific to communist regimes in the East. The 1956 anti-communist revolution brought a relaxation of the “hard-core Stalinist regime” (p. 310) translated into a “softening of the ideological control over knowledge production” (p. 311), though “there was still marked resistance to the intellectual influence of the West, which was branded as ideologically suspicious or dangerous” (p. 311). Moreover, Western foundations such as the Open Society Fund of George Soros set foot in Hungary (in 1984) and in 1991 Soros founded the Central European University (CEU), which became a successful research institution in the social sciences and humanities (p. 314). The Westernization and Europeanization continued also after 1989, and especially after 2004 when Hungary became a member state of the European Union. Victor Karady and Peter Tibor Nagy draw attention also on the more recent developments of the policies imposed by the Orbán government affecting social sciences in Hungary, the Westernization of Hungarian social disciplines (Westernization understood as an “integral part of strategies of modernization”, p. 328) being once again at risk.

Discussion and Summary

The editors of the volume “The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power Relations” propose a highly interesting and enriching book on the history of social and human sciences after 1945 in Europe and beyond. The chapters bring forward surveys of contemporary developments of SSH in different corners of the world, the factors and actors which determined certain changes, while impeding others, and the intricacies related to the circulation of articles, translations and knowledge in SSH disciplines. While some chapters focus on SSH at regional level (Europe, Latin America), other chapters present aspects of SSH at country level (Hungary, Brazil, Argentina, Algeria, Japan, South Korea). Almost each chapter reminds the reader of the embeddedness of social sciences in the contexts where they emerged, while power seems to be contained in all the actions related or impacting the history of SSH. Yet, the book fails to engage in a discussion of the implications of power relations on SSH as announced in the title. Some chapters are to a great extent (though this does not make them less interesting) just linear accounts of the events and agents impacting SSH disciplines. Nevertheless, the book can be a good read for students studying social sciences, it can serve as course material or it can be a source of information for people interested in what globalization might mean for SSH and its scholars.

[1] Information about the editors was selected from “Notes on Contributors” (pp. ix - xiii).

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Iuliana Ancuţa Ilie
Iuliana Ancuţa Ilie, Academic Assistant for International and Intercultural Management and Management Accounting at Pforzheim University
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Iuliana Ancuţa Ilie. Rezension vom 28.06.2019 zu: Johan Heilbron, Gustavo Sorá, Thibaud Boncourt (Hrsg.): The Social and Human Sciences in Global Power Relations. Springer International Publishing AG (Cham/Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London) 2018. ISBN 978-3-319-73298-5. In: socialnet Rezensionen, ISSN 2190-9245,, Datum des Zugriffs 25.10.2021.

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