Lazarsfeld's Legacy| Paul Lazarsfeld and the Limited Effect of McCarthyism on the Academic Mind

Hans-Joerg Tiede


In what was to be his final major survey project, Paul Lazarsfeld focused on the impact of McCarthyism on academic freedom in the United States. The resulting book, Lazarsfeld and Thielens’ The Academic Mind, demonstrated that McCarthyism had caused widespread apprehension among social scientists at colleges and universities, but, at the same time, the level of apprehension fell short of the expectations of the study’s funding agency. This paper will discuss the origins of the study, its main findings, and Lazarsfeld’s own reflections on its shortcomings in subsequent publications. The article focuses on the unexpected and somewhat unexplored finding, originally suggested by fellow survey researcher Samuel Stouffer, who himself had been a victim of McCarthyism, that administrators at “better” institutions had helped defend academic freedom to a greater degree. The article concludes with an application of the survey results to the study of the history of the American Association of University Professors during the McCarthy era.


Paul Lazarsfeld, The Academic Mind, academic freedom

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