Social Scientist. v 1, no. 7 (Feb 1973) p. 20.


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NOAM CHOMSKT

Scholarship and Ideology : American Historians as ^Experts in Legitimation^

^ i

IN 1949, the President of the American Historical Association in his Presidential Address urged his audience to abandon ^dispassionate behaviourism5 and 'the liberal neutral attitude5 in research and to accept their ^social responsibilities5 as historians, which he outlined in these terms :

Total war whether it be hot or cold enlists everyone and calls upon everyone to assume his part. The historian is no freer from his obligation than the physicist.2

It would be wrong and unfair to suggest that American historians simply heeded this call and enlisted in the service of the state as propagandists and ideologists. In the first place, a small but significant group of historians have insisted, as a point of principle, that the same standards of evidence and evaluation that are properly brought to bear in studying the international behaviour of other powers must be applied to the United States as well— I will return later to the reaction to this ^revisionist5 departure from orthodoxy. Moreover, the contributions of political analysts and students of contemporary affairs vary so in quality and intent that no simple comprehensive judgment is possible.

Nevertheless, I think that a few dominant tendencies can be isolated for examination. And I think further that



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