A 1964 summer seminar hosted by the SSRC’s Committee on Sociolinguistics highlighted tensions between sociology and linguistics when scholars gathered to address how their disciplines can deepen research on language’s impact on society. For example, sociologists questioned linguistics’ lack of definition for language or dialect while linguists raised concerns about sociology’s reliance on large quantified data. However, by the end of the seminar, the scholars agreed the encounter had raised important questions and opened new paths of investigation through both sociological and linguistic approaches, including the study of language and social stratification, multilingualism, and language standardization.
Despite years of economic strength following the end of World War II, US economists remained puzzled by the causes of continuous economic fluctuations, leaving them unable to determine how to predict and plan for future instability. Sponsored by the SSRC, 20 economists met in 1959 to assess the state of the field and imagine future research on economic instability. From this meeting the SSRC’s Committee on Economic Stability was born, focusing on coordinating ongoing research (with an initial focus on econometric modeling), integrating different research methodologies, facilitating the collection and dissemination of federal government and private agency data, and serving as an overall medium of communication on relevant research.
As part of the SSRC’s Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China, a delegation of US linguistics scholars traveled to various Chinese cities in late 1974 to learn about China’s language policy and linguistic research. This report by Charles Ferguson, a member of the delegation and a major figure in the Council’s earlier work on sociolinguistics, summarizes the group’s observations, which center on China’s approach to linguistics and language research. The delegation expressed particular interest in China’s ongoing strategy to standardize its language, linguistic research on language teaching and minority languages, and the growth of English language education.
The SSRC’s Committee on Sociolinguistics (1963–1979) was formed to explore how the nascent interdisciplinary field of sociolinguistics could deepen scholarly understanding of the intersection of language with social, cultural, and political questions. In this 1963 piece, John Useem, a committee member, explains how “developing the sociological study of language” would advance social science. He emphasizes the potential contribution to social knowledge through research on how language is used across cultural contexts and social divides of class, geography, race, and ethnicity. As Deborah Cameron highlights in her essay for our “Sociolinguistic Frontiers” series, gender was largely ignored in the early development of the field.
In this 2006 archive essay, Jacob S. Hacker, chair of the SSRC’s Privatization of Risk project, examines the trajectory of economic risk in the United States. He identifies and expands on two linked trends of economic risk in the United States: the celebration of the private sector as the best actor to handle risk and the increasing transfer of risk to individuals and families. His analysis highlights the importance of social insurance not just to ensure the security of workers and their families, but also for economic opportunity and progress.
In this archive piece from 2003, Ann Mason examines the limits of international relations theory in addressing conflicts in the global South, which had risen to the top of research and policy agendas in the aftermath of 9/11. She uses the case of armed conflict in Colombia to interrogate how international relations theory might better engage three issues relevant to the developing world: the connection between state weakness and violence, how security threats within a country are related to dynamics beyond a country’s borders, and the North-South power disparity.
In this Items archive piece from 1964, Sidney Verba reports on a conference organized by the SSRC’s Committee on Comparative Politics that addressed how survey research methods can help understand political change in the developing world—what was then referred to as “political modernization.” The conference considered the use of survey research in comparative studies, how to expand survey research by focusing on subgroups within nation states, and potential methodological and organizational problems.