This article offers a contribution to the sociology of social science knowledge practices and expertise through the empirical lens of US nation building policies. Drawing on archival materials, including the State Department's Freedom of Information Act documents, and interviews with key policymakers we offer a comparative historical sociology of the US State Department as a site of nation building knowledge and expertise. In examining the evolving character of nation building expertise in three key moments across the twentieth century, we find that as nation building expertise and its attendant knowledge practices were redefined and institutionally relocated, the essential character of the expertise and data collection practices that were valorized shifted from social scientism in the 1910s to geopolitical empiricism in the 1940s to liberal legalism in the 1990s. This changing character of nation building knowledge practices at the State Department had an effect on the substance of US nation building policy.
- Sociology of Knowledge Practices
- Democratic Nation Building
- US Foreign Policy