“Social Science, Cultural Imperialism, and the Ford Foundation in the 1960s,” in The Global 1960s


I have a chapter in this edited volume, The Global 1960s, on how the Ford Foundation gets trapped by a climate of suspicion it helps create as it tries to move away from funding modernization-inspired work to the work of modernization’s critics. There is discussion of Project Camelot, the Marginality Project, Oscar Lewis’s work in Cuba, and the Instituto Latinoamericano de Relaciones Internacionales. Setting up the essay is a quote from André Gunder Frank, who responded thus when invited to participate in a Rockefeller-funded forum on economic history:

[T]he fundamental purpose and practices of your organization [are] to serve the vital interests of American imperialism by financing the generation of the ideas on which it thrives and by bribing scholars at home and abroad to prostitute not only their body but also their mind. You evidently understand Thomas W. Braden, the man who supervised the cultural activities of the CIA, when he says, “The cold war was and is a war, fought with ideas instead of bombs.”

I am not interested in prostituting myself to the CIA, the Pentagon, or to any other institution of imperialism that is engaged in the self-same effort, however noble sounding its name and work…Instead, I shall dedicate my work as a human being and social scientist to improvising the social circumstances of Latin Americans and others, first by exposing and combating the cultural imperialism of the reactionary social pseudoscience under your sponsorship…and then by contributing all I can to the development of revolutionary social science consistent with our social responsibility.

How true is the characterization? Read the chapter!

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