John Krige. American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. xi + 376 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-262-11297-0.
Reviewed by Richard H. Beyler (Department of History, Portland State University)
Published on H-German (July, 2007)
Subtle Scientific Empire-Building
In this pathbreaking analysis of international science policy after World War II, John Krige argues that the United States attempted, and to some extent succeeded, in remolding the organization of western European science to align with its own political and ideological interests. Given the evident economic and technological dominance of the United States, American assistance in rehabilitating scientific institutions might at first be seen as just another chapter in the story of postwar reconstruction. Krige, however, teases out the subtle ways in which U.S. agencies used (or at least intended) postwar scientific reconstruction "to reconfigure the European scientific landscape, and to build an Atlantic community with common practices and values under U.S. leadership" (p. 3). As European scientific institutions became more closely aligned with their American counterparts, their practices would also become more similar, and in turn would help ensure the broader goals of material prosperity, political stability, and strategic solidarity.
The exercise of American influence was not a unilateral effort. European scientists and administrators also participated, whether eagerly or grudgingly, in the reconfiguration of European science. Krige, employing theoretical constructs from recent science and technology studies as well as diplomatic and economic history, describes the process as the "coproduction of American hegemony" (from the title of chapter 1). The interaction of Europeans and Americans enabled the extension of American influence in science but also set limits on scientific internationalism. Krige demonstrates that science policy was ultimately not immune from divergent national agendas and that the diverse professional cultures in different countries could not simply be erased, even with an abundance of American largesse.
The first main wave of American financial support for European science came under the aegis of the European Recovery Program (or Marshall Plan) as part of an a emerging consensus that support for basic research made sense both symbolically and substantively. Cementing long-term economic, political, and strategic ties also helped minimizing the risks involved in sharing advanced military technology directly. Nuclear physicist I. I. Rabi, for example, argued that it was essential for the work of American scientists, particularly in elite fields such as nuclear physics, where only a handful of facilities could undertake cutting-edge research, for conversation partners to operate at a level comparable to their own. As Allied bans against research in sensitive fields were relaxed, the Federal Republic of Germany was able to participate in these initiatives, despite several observers' fears that a new democratic political spirit had not yet taken hold in German academia.
As the Marshall Plan wound down, private American foundations--above all, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation--assumed an increasingly prominent role in advancing the American scientific agenda in Europe. Krige concentrates attention on Rockefeller Foundation (RF) support for the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Ford Foundation support for fellowships at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) in Copenhagen. NATO also supplied grants and fellowships for "manpower training" in strategic fields such as operations research. The RF's funding in France prioritized interdisciplinary research and international conferences that would shake up what RF program officers saw as a hidebound, Paris-centric establishment. These moves were not uncongenial to some French scientists, such as leading nuclear physicist Frédéric Joliot-Curie, who were keen to modernize French science and make it more relevant internationally.
Less congenial to Joliot-Curie and many of his colleagues, however, was the increasing scrutiny the foundations placed on the political allegiances of the recipients of their funding. Communist party members and other discernibly left-wing scientists soon became, de facto, barred from American support. These policies resulted partly from external political pressure, but as Krige shows, anti-communist sentiment was also broadly shared among key foundation officers. By the mid-1950s the situation relaxed somewhat and fellowships at NBI, CERN, and other locations were opened to scholars from the East Bloc. This served both to demonstrate the openness of the western system, but also as a way of gaining informal intelligence about East Bloc research.
Indeed, Krige details how, throughout the 1950s, both foundations closely dovetailed their agendas with those of American government agencies--inter alia, the CIA. Although not announced publicly, these connections could hardly have been a secret to many of those involved. Krige shows, for example, that Niels Bohr was very likely aware of the Ford Foundation's CIA connections.
Alongside clear successes for American science policy, Krige also analyzes several cases that show the limits of American scientific hegemony. Plans around 1960 to create an International Institute of Science and Technology, modeled on MIT and sponsored by NATO, ran aground on differences in the educational cultures of the various European countries and the fact that many of these states--above all, West Germany--were pre-occupied with internal reforms of their respective higher education systems. (Given recent reform efforts in German academia that seem largely to be based on American models, a certain irony underlies this discussion.) Likewise, the promotion of operations research as a new discipline linking academic, industrial, and military concerns found more success in some countries than in others. In Germany, particularly, the gulf between academic scientists and their potential partners on the military side remained too wide for the programs to make much sense.
Krige's analysis connects itself to much recent work exploring symbiotic relationships between new ways of organizing science and the Cold War political order. It proves innovative in its international approach to the subject and transcends the all-too-common divide between Americanists and Europeanists in the history of science. Particularly impressive is the way Krige moves fluidly between broad-scale, indeed rather abstract theoretical concepts and close readings of the arcana of governmental and foundational bureaucracies as well as the complex personal networks embedded within them.
To be sure, the book cannot cover all aspects of the story with equal depth. Krige concentrates on France--a reasonable choice, since France embodied both the main successes and the main limitations of American scientific hegemony. The sections on Germany, though well informed and cogently argued, are based on secondary sources and some American archival documents. Thus significant aspects of the story, particularly from the German perspective, can only be adumbrated. Pointing to the book's various emphases should not be construed as a criticism but rather a recognition of arenas for further inquiry. Anyone interested in the history of science during the Cold War ought to become familiar with this book. Indeed, anyone interested in the broader topics of post-1945 Europe or the mutual interaction of science and empire-building in any era will find it a valuable read.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-german.
Richard H. Beyler. Review of Krige, John, American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at email@example.com.