Science and social control: the institutionalist movement in American economics, 1918-1947
Keywords:institutional economics, science, social control, NBER, Brookings, SSRC, Dewey, instrumental philosophy
This paper deals with the concepts of science and social control to be found within interwar institutional economics. It is argued that these were central parts of the institutionalist approach to economics as the key participants in the movement defined it. For institutionalists, science was defined as empirical, investigational, experimental, and instrumental. Social control was defined in terms of the development of new instruments for the control of business to supplement the market mechanism. The concepts of science and social control were joined via John Dewey's pragmatic and instrumental philosophy. These ideas provided important links to the ideals of foundations, such as Rockefeller, and thus to access to research funding. Institutionalist concepts of science and social control were, however, displaced after World War II by Keynesian policy and positivist ideas of scientific methodology.