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Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 Reprint Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195102925
ISBN-10: 0195102924
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Editorial Reviews


"An intriguing picture of the relations between state power and the intellectual community...."--Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"An original and important contribution...."--Science

About the Author

Christopher Simpson is Associate Professor of Communication at American University. His other books include Blowback: America's Recruitment of Nazis & its Effect on the Cold War (1987), The Splendid Blond Beast: Money, Law & Genocide in the 20th Century (1993), and National Security Directives of the Reagan and Bush Administrations 1981-1991 (1995). He is the recipient of six national and international awards for historical writing, literature, and investigative reporting. His work has appeared in the Journal of Communication, Intelligence and National Security, and many other magazines and journals.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (March 14, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195102924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195102925
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,679,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book will be of great interest to communications majors and social historians with muckraking tendencies. In an intriguing display of investigative research, Christopher Simpson uncovers the darker side of early communications studies. The field was defined as an academic discipline during and after World War II, and much of the early research that built the foundation of modern communications studies was actually a part of American (and occasionally German) war efforts. Government-funded social scientists built the communications knowledge base while researching and developing the tools of propaganda and psychological warfare, and occasionally disinformation techniques that were used on the American people by their own government. Even some of the highly respected founders of communications were involved, including Harold Lasswell and Wilbur Schramm, and many of their influential studies did not have purely academic motives. Simpson compiles valuable insights into how communications and other social sciences have been co-opted by government for nefarious ends, and some fields may have never gotten off the ground were it not for wartime funding. The only problem with this book is that Simpson occasionally ruminates on the darker philosophical ramifications of these trends, but only rarely, so the deeper insights that can be gained by the reader are often held back by research minutiae and occasionally tiresome historical coverage. [~doomsdayer520~]
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Format: Paperback
Science of Coercion is an excellent study of how ideas can be shaped by powerful groups. Most revealing is the way in which the researchers themselves allowed this to happen. Many of them were mildly progressive politically, yet they seemed to have no reservations about being involved in military-sponsored projects. Simpson argues that the most important factor in helping the academic researchers to accept the military connection was insulation from the effects of psychological warfare, especially the use of violence.
Simpson provides extensive documentation for his argument: there are only 115 pages of text and more than 60 pages of notes. Given that it is strictly about the US experience, it would be nice to have a comparison with experiences in other countries. His study provides a worrying reminder about the extent to which standard ideas in many fields of research may be shaped to serve the interests of powerful interest groups and elite academics.
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Format: Paperback
This book is something no longer permitted: a historical approach to the development of Communications Research. In our day, this topic is off limits. You can tell because there are no longer ANY middle brow books being published on communications research these days.

There used to be some.

Reading this book will immediately tell you why that curiosity has been smothered. It is a crucial book for all students of Cold War history and anyone curious about how power works in the 21st century.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Back in 2002 I was just beginning to add reader\listener\viewer comments online. Among the first books I chose to comment on was Jacques Ellul's mid-1960's seminal study of state systems of propaganda, titled as it was translated from the French as PROPAGANDA: THE FORMATION OF MEN'S ATTITUDES. Ellul's analysis of the history of this "discipline" that he observed across the spectrum of governments and regimes from totalitarian and fascistic to socially democratic took an interdisciplinary approach emphasizing sociology and psychology in analyzing trends pervasive across the historical disruptions occasioned by new technologies. Meanwhile, I spent more time in that review discussing Christopher Simpson's more current SCIENCE OF COERCION and the collection of essays he edited not long after titled UNIVERSITIES & EMPIRE: MONEY & POLITICS IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES DURING THE COLD WAR, in part because I thought Ellul's still useful study of PROPAGANDA needed one more discipline within its toolbox, namely that of the study of Mass Media or Mass Communications, which was Simpson's focus. These interdependent deficiencies were evident to me even as I felt Simpson's narrower study of that particular discipline would've benefited from filtering his primary source documentation and research through Ellul's areas of expertise in socio-psychological identity formation.Read more ›
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