Finding Sociology in Its Funding? Networks, Relations, and Key Players in Late 20th Century Social Science


  • Giovanni Zampieri Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology, University of Padua
  • Matteo Bortolini Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Education and Applied Psychology, University of Padua



American social science, sociology, Clifford Geertz, anthropology, National Science Foundation, scientific field, fractals, National Endowment for the Humanities


In this paper we start from Mark Solovey’s Social Science for What? to analyze the place and the role of the social sciences in the US National Science Foundation from the mid-1940s to the end of the 1980s. The book highlights the tensions that built up around the epistemic status of the social sciences vis-à-vis the natural sciences and the reputational debates surrounding their role and fate during and after the postwar period. We mostly focus our attention on structures, actors and processes not addressed by Solovey: relationships, networks, and patterns of stratification within and across disciplines; the emergence of novel approaches outside the scientistic and positivistic framework sponsored by the NSF; alternative sources of funding, such as the National Endowment for the Humanities; and a set of broader, long-term processes in the macro-field of the social and behavioral sciences. We present some preliminary data suggesting that a wider, theoretically-oriented approach might be fruitful in casting a more complex and dynamic portrayal of the development of American social science.


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How to Cite

Zampieri, G., & Bortolini, M. (2021). Finding Sociology in Its Funding? Networks, Relations, and Key Players in Late 20th Century Social Science. Sociologica, 15(3), 169–188.