The interpretation of fascism by American social scientists / by Philip A. Hostetter.
The intent of this dissertation is to systematically investigate the body of social scientific research on European fascism that has been produced in America. The project's organization grows out of the author's perception that emigre scholars seem to have produced more significant studies of fascism than have their American-born contemporaries. Explanation for the apparent paucity of contributions from American social scientists is sought in the American "conditions of intellectual production," thus making the dissertation an exercise in the sociology of knowledge. Of conditions in the American academic environment likely to affect research on fascism, social scientific specialization was singled out as a focal point. It was hypothesized (a) that each of five disciplines--psychology, economics, political science, history, and sociology--would tend to generate a unique approach to the interpretation of fascism; and (b) that within each discipline the interpretations of American-born "mainstream" scholars would differ from those of emigres and dissenting ("radical") Americans. A "test" of these hypotheses was undertaken using a method of qualitative content analysis. Works on fascism were compared in the areas of analytical scope, methodology, and research conclusions. The first hypothesis was well supported. Only mainstream historians failed to exhibit a marked tendency to interpret fascism in a manner peculiar to their discipline. The second hypothesis, however, was strongly supported only within the disciplines of psychology and sociology, where mainstream scholars tended to produce much more limited, one-sided interpretations than did emigres or dissenting Americans. Expectations were confounded in part by the pleasantly surprising discovery that many excellent studies of fascism were generated in the 1930s and 1940s by mainstream American social scientists, some of whom conducted research in Italy and Germany. These works deserve more attention from contemporary scholars. It seems that specialization has adversely affected American scholarship on fascism, although this dissertation's research design could not fully demonstrate it. The effect is probably greater at the level of problem selection than in the actual interpretation of fascism. Once fascism is chosen as a topic, social scientists are usually forced to shed their disciplinal blinders in order to understand it.
- United States
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