Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Trust in NumbersThe Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Theodore M. Porter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691208411

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691208411.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

Objectivity and the Politics of Disciplines

Objectivity and the Politics of Disciplines

(p.193) Chapter Eight Objectivity and the Politics of Disciplines
Trust in Numbers

Theodore M. Porter

Princeton University Press

This chapter assesses the bearing of bureaucratic cultures on science, then shows how inferential statistics became standard in medicine and psychology as a response to internal disciplinary weakness and external regulatory pressures. The massive effort to introduce quantitative criteria for public decisions in the 1960s and 1970s was not simply an unmediated response to a new political climate. It reflected also the overwhelming success of quantification in the social, behavioral, and medical sciences during the postwar period. This was not a chance confluence of independent lines of cultural and intellectual development, but in some way a single phenomenon. It is no accident that the move toward the almost universal quantification of social and applied disciplines was led by the United States, and succeeded most fully there. The push for rigor in the disciplines derived in part from the same distrust of unarticulated expert knowledge and the same suspicion of arbitrariness and discretion that shaped political culture so profoundly in the same period. Some of this suspicion came from within the disciplines it affected, but in every case it was at least reinforced by vulnerability to the suspicions of outsiders, often expressed in an explicitly political arena.

Keywords:   bureaucratic cultures, science, inferential statistics, medicine, psychology, regulatory measures, quantification, social disciplines, expert knowledge, political culture

Princeton Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.