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Daniel T. Rodgers. The Age of Fracture. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 352 pp. $29.95 (hardcover). ISBN-13: 978-0-674-05744-9

Daniel T. Rodgers. The Age of Fracture. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 352 pp. $29.95 (hardcover). ISBN-13: 978-0-674-05744-9
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   Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences , Vol. 49(1), 96–97 Winter 2013View this article online at Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/jhbs.21580 C  B O O K R E V I E W Daniel T. Rodgers.  The Age of Fracture.  Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 352 pp. $29.95 (hardcover). ISBN-13: 978-0-674-05744-9.Most scholars concerned with the history of the human sciences would probably agreethat a key task for this field is to situate the production of knowledge of the social within thewider currents of the intellectual and cultural history of the eras and nations in question. Indealing with the emergence of a new social imagination in the United States during the latetwentieth century and early twenty-first century, historian Daniel T. Rodgers makes a major contribution to this effort in his recent book. Surveying an array of sources—important worksin several fields of the social sciences, popular books such as Alvin Toffler’s  Future Shock  and Thomas Friedman’s  The World Is Flat  , presidential speeches, debates in jurisprudence,writings (and a television series) on race, the works and pronouncements of feminists and their opponents, and in general various debates on major economic, social, and cultural issues of the late twentieth century—Rodgers maps out for us the intellectual terrain of the period thathe dubs the “Age of Fracture.”Rodgersfocusesonhowtherelationshipoftheselftosocietywasrepresentedinacademicdisciplinesandpublicdebateinthelastquarterofthetwentiethcenturyandtheearlyyearsofthetwenty-firstcentury.Hearguesthatinthesocialsciencesandinotherarenasofintellectuallife,there occurred a “disaggregation” of the social—and a concomitant disembedding of the self with respect to social, institutional, and historical contexts—during the late twentieth century.Major transformations, both within the economic system and within such academic realms asthe law and economics movement and the discipline of economics, played a key role in thesedevelopments.The1970swasaperiodofeconomiccrisisand“stagflation,”andtheshiftduringthis decade away from postwar economic prosperity and stability resulted in the discreditingof older models of economy and society. Thus, for economists, the “microeconomic” domainof the market came to displace wider institutional and “macroeconomic” contexts while theindividual came to be thematized as an atomized, rational actor, freely choosing on the basis of “preferences.” The new mode of imagining the self, the social, and their interrelationship waschampioned by Chicago economists such as Milton Friedman and Robert Lucas while the old institutional and macroeconomic styles, championed by the likes of J. K. Galbraith and PaulSamuelson, went into decline. Moreover, within the law schools, market models were alsogaining ground, as the law and economics movement, advanced by Chicago theorists Ronald Coase and Richard Posner, became influential. By means of a “contagion of metaphors,”market models of the social and rational choice models of the self soon spread into other disciplines as well, including political science and sociology.Rodgers contrasts the intellectual and cultural terrain of the mid-twentieth century withthesenseoffractureanddisaggregationcharacteristicofthe1970sandafter.Post-WorldWarIIthinkerssuchasC.WrightMills,DavidRiesman,andHannahArendtdealtwithsuchissuesassocial structure and power, the formation of social character as the result of societal pressures,and the importance of historical understanding. But, as Rodgers notes in his book, from the1970s on, “the terms that had dominated post-World War II intellectual life began to fracture.One heard less about society, history, and power and more about individuals, contingency,and choice... . Identities became fluid and elective. Ideas of power thinned out and receded”1 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.  2  BOOK REVIEW (p. 5). As collective identities and loyalties diminished, society dissolved into “little platoons,”made up of free individuals engaged in making rational choices.Inhiscontributiontoaroundtablediscussiononhisbookheldatthe2011U.S.IntellectualHistory Conference, Rodgers (2011) acknowledged possessing an awareness of being situated within the “Age of Fracture.” Standing within the age, shaped by it and helping to shape it, hehadcometoperceiveitinbothitspositiveandnegativedimensions—andthustoavoidmaking blanket judgments on it. Along such lines, this reviewer was impressed with how Rodgers hasembraced important aspects of the cultural and (closely related) linguistic turns characteristicof the age, even as he has distanced himself from its emphasis on the market model with itsfocus on the atomized self freely engaged in rational choice. Rodgers is acutely aware of the power of words and is especially aware of the “work of metaphors,” as he put it at the 2011conference. Thus, the phrase “contagion of metaphors” frequently appears in Rodgers’s book;it indicates the manner in which metaphors aid in generating a common conceptual framework for diverse disciplines and modes of intellectual discourse. Rodgers’s book underscores theimportance of the operation of metaphors in producing knowledge of the social.One issue that students of the human sciences may be concerned with is the manner inwhich social science and theory in the mid-twentieth century come to play an almost “mythic”role in Rodgers’s book. Perhaps the social imagination of social scientists and theorists duringthese years was more prone to fracture than Rodgers indicates. Certainly, a focus on the micro-social was evident in much of the social and behavioral sciences during this period, especiallyin such fields as psychology and culture and personality studies. In any case, there is plentyof evidence of the fracture and decline of the social in the decades immediately preceding themiddle of the twentieth century. For example, sociologist Robert S. Lynd (1939) bemoaned thedisjuncture and contradictions evident in American culture during the 1930s. In psychologyduring the 1920s and 1930s, the Allport brothers promoted visions of that discipline thattended to diminish the social. Thus, Floyd Allport’s promotion of an individualist perspectivein social psychology tended to jettison the social (Greenwood, 2004) while Gordon Allport’schampioningofa“devaluated”conceptofpersonality,whichminimizedthesocialandculturalencumbrancesontheself,hadasimilareffect(Nicholson,2003).Nevertheless,Rodgersmakesa very good case for his overall argument: intellectual resources for imagining the social havediminished to an unprecedented degree during the last decades of the twentieth century.R  EFERENCESGreenwood, J. D. (2004). The disappearance of the social in American social psychology. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press.Lynd, R. S. (1939). Knowledge for what? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Nicholson, I. A. M. (2003). Inventing personality: Gordon Allport and the science of selfhood. Washington, DC:American Psychological Association.Rodgers, D. T. (2011, November 28). Rodgers responds. Retrieved May 24, 2012, from Reviewed by  D ENNIS  B RYSON , Department of American Culture and Literature, BilkentUniversity, Ankara, Turkey. J OURNAL OF THE  H ISTORY OF THE  B EHAVIORAL  S CIENCES  DOI 10.1002/jhbs
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