The Historian as Social Scientist

in Richard Hofstadter

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780226076409
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226076379 | DOI:
The Historian as Social Scientist

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This chapter discusses Hofstadter's development as a professional historian and a social scientist. The rise of the new conservatism played an important role in directing Hofstadter toward the social sciences. Hofstadter first became interested in mass behavior when he was a young Marxist in the 1930s, but this glancing introduction was given a sharper and more sophisticated focus when he began reading Max Weber. A founding member of the National Academy of Education, Hofstadter produced in little more than a decade several important books on instruction. These include The Development and Scope of Higher Education in the United States; The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States; Higher Education: A Documentary History; and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Combined, these studies praised the particular virtues of liberal education while—in Hofstadter's contributions—drawing attention to popular power's habitual suspicion of gifted minds. More than any of his coauthors, he resisted the majority's desire to dictate educational and cultural terms to a highbrow minority, and placed McCarthyism in a long line of native movements hostile to intellect.

Keywords: social scientist; conservatism; Marxist; National Academy of Education; McCarthyism; sophisticated

Chapter.  9498 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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