Mary S. Morgan, London School of Economics | Science
“Broadly revelatory. . . . The authors show how dangerous our behavioral scientists (and by implication their human and social science kin) might have been, co-opted as they were into the military and political decision-making in crisis situations just as physicists were co-opted into the construction of the bomb.”
Journal of American History
"The authors do an excellent job of probing debates about the meaning, possibilities, and limits of rationality between the 1940s and the 1970s. . . . This masterly book makes a crucial contribution to understanding of Cold War thought, opens many new avenues for further research, and raises important questions about the durability of Cold War thinking in contemporary American social science."
Jeroen van Dongen | Metascience
"The authors of How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind have made a particularly insightful contribution by showing how 'rationality' has a time and a place; by laying bare its historical contingency, they have taken 'rationality' off its methodological pedestal. . . . In this sense, this kind of scholarship empowers us as humans when we are confronted with the institutional authority of the social sciences."
Michael Rossi, University of Chicago | Endeavour
"Through six roughly chronological chapters, the authors demonstrate that this austere, antihumanistic concept of rationality underpinned the work of a far-flung and heterogeneous group of scholars pursing a truly dizzying variety of research programs. . . . How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind advances a provocative argument about a period of American social science that is now attracting increasing and well-justified attention. Historians of post war social science will certainly read this book with profit, as will scholars of the history of thought and, indeed, more generally of scientific practice in the United States."
Nick Cullather, Indiana University Bloomington | American Historical Review
"A dream team of historians of science and technology."
Hunter Heyck, University of Oklahoma
“This is an important book, one that should be read not just by historians of science but by anyone interested in the unique intellectual culture of Cold War America. In this context, reason was redefined, reduced, and simplified into a rule-governed thing—a seemingly universal technology for making choices in an uncertain world. This is a brilliant insight, and the authors carry its illumination into a range of fields, from game theory and operations research to studies of heuristics and biases in individuals and decision making in groups, from the lab and the ‘situation room’ to the wilds of Washington policy making.”
Fred Turner, author of The Democratic Surround
“In the wake of World War II, a generation of self-proclaimed ‘action intellectuals’ fought to save the world from nuclear Armageddon. They nearly destroyed it. This extraordinary book explains how and why a generation of American social scientists reconceived human reason as algorithmic rationality—and how, when they did, they delivered us into a world that remains anything but rational. If you’ve ever wondered where Dr. Strangelove was born, you need look no further.”
David C. Engerman, Brandeis University
“Traversing territory from Micronesia to Berlin, from Kant to Kantorovich to Schelling, from psychology to economics, How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind offers novel insights about a whole way of thinking. Moving beyond discipline-by-discipline studies, this all-star team of scholars sets the standard for new histories of American intellectual life and the vexed question of ‘Cold War thought.’”
Theodore M. Porter, University of California, Los Angeles
“The inhuman assumptions of the postwar human sciences form the problematic for this fascinating book. If not quite a fons et origo, the Cold War arms race appears here as the uniquely disturbing frame for a wide-ranging campaign to extirpate irrationality by implementing strict rules of human reasoning.”
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Struggle over Cold War Rationality
Chapter 1. Enlightenment Reason, Cold War Rationality, and the Rule of Rules
Chapter 2. The Bounded Rationality of Cold War Operations Research
Chapter 3. Saving the Planet from Nuclear Weapons and the Human Mind
Chapter 4. “The Situation” in the Cold War Behavioral Sciences
Chapter 5. World in a Matrix
Chapter 6. The Collapse of Cold War Rationality
Epilogue. Cold War Rationality after the Cold War
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu