Looking Toward the Future: Hopes
Far more visible than such apprehensive undercurrents was the celebration of psychological expertise that accompanied the war's end. Proud declarations that psychology had been the key to winning the war were commonplace, and they applied equally to psychology's many faces: clinical work aimed at keeping soldiers' mental health in balance and nonclinical expertise focused on waging psychological warfare abroad and gauging public opinion at home. Occasional warnings about the dangers of overselling the skills of psychological experts were drowned out by loud cheers of self-congratulations or shoved aside by an excited mood of anticipation. Surely the government and the U.S. public would see fit to reward psychological experts for their many and varied wartime contributions. It was obvious that psychology was destined for postwar greatness.
True to form, psychological experts did not wait for government to come banging on their door, but prepared an articulate and vigorous case for important postwar roles before the war had even ended. Psychology would be at the heart of future efforts to prevent war, they claimed, but in the horrifying event of the recurrence of military conflict, psychology would also stand ready to serve the country again.
An illustrative effort on the side of war prevention was the "Psychologists' Peace Manifesto," which grew out of a suggestion by Gordon Allport at a 1943 SPSSI meeting. Formally released to the press on 5 April 1945, the statement, titled "Human Nature and the Peace," was signed by more than two thousand members of the APA (constituting a majority of the profession at the time) and summarized the lessons that socially oriented psychological experts had learned during the war, along with the important stipulation that "an enduring peace can be attained if the human sciences are utilized by our statesmen and peacemakers." "Human Nature and the Peace" enumerated ten basic
"principles" crucial to peace, prejudice, and democracy and warned that "neglect of them may breed new wars, no matter how well-intentioned our political leaders may be."
1. War can be avoided: war is not born in men; it is built into men....
2. In planning for permanent peace, the coming generation should be the primary focus of attention. Children are plastic....
3. Racial, national, and group hatreds can, to a considerable degree, be controlled.... Prejudice is a matter of attitudes, and attitudes are to a considerable extent a matter of training and information.
4. Condescension toward "inferior" groups destroys our chances for a lasting peace....
5. Liberated and enemy peoples must participate in planning their own destiny....
6. The confusion of defeated people will call for clarity and consistency in the application of rewards and punishments....
7. If properly administered, relief and rehabilitation can lead to self-reliance and cooperation; if improperly, to resentment and hatred....
8. The root-desires of the common people of all lands are the safest guide to framing a peace....
9. The trend of human relationships is toward ever wider units of collective security....
10. Commitments now may prevent postwar apathy and reaction....
Although born of hopefulness, the statement began by warning that neglect of basic psychological principles was the surest route to international disaster. The psychologists involved in this effort did everything they could to ensure the statement made it into the hands of powerful people in Washington.
Psychology's public face may have been turned optimistically toward peace, but wartime experts were working actively behind the scenes to ensure themselves a future in war as well. More indicative than the "Peace Manifesto" of where psychological experts were headed in the postwar era was organized activity on the side of war readiness, coordinated by Robert Yerkes. After Yerkes chaired a conference on military
psychology in July 1944, a committee drafted a set of "Recommendations Concerning Post-War Psychological Services in the Armed Services" and presented it to the Secretaries of War and Navy. Beyond ambitious plans to train multitudes of new psychologists, institutionalize all sorts of psychological research, and promote psychologists to important administrative and policy jobs, the Yerkes "Recommendations" took as axiomatic "the assumption that we, as a people, have now learned the importance of preparedness and will not again risk our existence by freezing our assets between wars."
However different their goals, the "Peace Manifesto" and the "Recommendations" shared a fundamental belief about the postwar future: it would need social engineering very badly because the "cultural lag" that separated human control over the material world from human control over the social environment was by far the gravest threat to the survival of the species. Cultural lag encompassed an ominous, global psychological lag that ought to be the highest postwar priority for psychological professionals. According to Eugene Lerner, one of the manifesto's supporters, "The aim of psychological reconstruction ought to be the production of more and more democratic personalities and cultures everywhere. The various nations of the world show differential lags in this direction." Gordon Allport's preface to the "Peace Manifesto" was titled "Social Engineering," and all his faith in democracy and psychological enlightenment could not obscure his view that the calamity of world war had left the U.S. government and public with few options. "The choice is clear. If we 'let nature take its course,' we shall not have peace in our time. If we guide the process we can avoid decades or centuries of suffering.... Social engineering on a worldwide scale is a new conception, the product of the two devastating world wars. It is an invention whose mother is grim necessity." For his part, Yerkes made it abundantly clear that World War II had shown how essential the future of "Human Engineering" would be.
The physical sciences and technologies had gone far enough already, and, with the atomic bomb, some thought they had gone too far. "Man's brain lives in the twentieth century," Erich Fromm wrote in 1941, "[but] the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age." A mere four years later, were people emotionally prepared to live in the postwar world? Was peace a realistic possibility considering everything the war had revealed about the perversity of national characters, the dubiousness of democratic morale, and the irrationality of soldiers' atti-
tudes? Until psychology had progressed to a point of rough equivalence with physics, the consensus among psychological experts was that the answer to such questions would have to be negative.
Their spirits were not dampened for long. Somber warnings of future conflict, after all, seemed to guarantee psychology as big a part in a brand new world as did aspirations for peace. Who would carry the banner for democracy, reason, and peace in an irrational and frightening world if not psychologists? Harvard psychologist Edwin Boring was full of confidence. "The psychological point of view is, of course, the means of which social problems are solved and social progress is engineered. That is because it is the attitude of maturity and tolerance. It is also because engineering works by causes in a determined universe."
Psychological experts emerged from World War II with their trades so firmly joined to enlightened democracy, government policy, and social order that the automatic relationship among the three became an unstated—and practically unchallenged—assumption well into the 1960s. Gregory Bateson, a Cambridge-trained anthropologist who had met Margaret Mead in New Guinea, where they were both doing fieldwork, wrote excitedly to his mother in October 1940 that "democracy and psychology and anthropology [were] popping together at a great rate." The war, he concluded shortly thereafter, was nothing less than "a life-or-death struggle over the role which the social sciences shall play in the ordering of human relationships."
While some of their wartime efforts had clearly been more effective in shaping policy than others, and certain policy-makers continued to obstinately resist psychological counsel, most experts were secure in the knowledge that their future prospects were bright, if only because the country, and the world, looked like it might be in worse straits than ever. "Social and political psychology will become a psychology of social order and social control," Gardner Murphy predicted. "Through the agony of these years we have learned something about the problems which confront an international social psychology.... Social psychology will have to become as international as physics.... The internationalization of social psychology means the internationalization of the research task of war prevention."
By 1945 it was clear that psychology was desperately needed and do-nothing expertise was definitely out of favor. Advancing psychological science through principled detachment from the messy business of politics and firm loyalty to the objectivity of scientific method—so charac-
teristic of the interwar years—had been swept aside by the urgencies of war. Placing scientific knowledge at the service of the state, in order to achieve important social goals, Promised to help experts realize their responsibilities and increase their authority in the future. Yet neither were the perils of social engineering and control apparent in 1945. And why should they have been? Designing democratic personalities and predicting emotional surges in national and international tension levels had, in their view, not only contributed greatly to winning a good war against evil, but made the prevention of future wars a possibility at a moment when another horrifying and costly world conflict seemed unthinkable. Psychological wisdom had not yet been put to the repressive purposes that would appear such defining features of its postwar public career.
The worldview that emerged from the social movements of the 1960s and the experience of the Vietnam War would challenge virtually every fundamental commitment of the World War II generation: its equation of social responsibility with government service, democracy and tolerance with psychology, and enlightened planning with behavioral expertise. On the basis of just such assumptions, significant segments of the next generation—students opposed to the Vietnam War, for example—would accuse their predecessors of naive ignorance, at best, and, at worst, calculated criminality.
None of that, however, was apparent in 1945. Instead, the war had shown that controlling personalities, shaping attitudes and feelings, and guiding democracy through an era of emotional turbulence were major responsibilities of government. They were also the things that psychological experts did best.