How to Remain a Detached Sociologist While on the Payroll of the Perpetrator of the “Tobacco Holocaust”? Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Philipp Morris Research and Development

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Christian FLECK, Higher School of Economics, Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies, Moscow, Russian Federation
There is widespread consensus with regard to two propositions: First, the (US American) tobacco industry perpetrated something which some scholars call, without blushing, “Tobacco Holocaust” (Rabinoff 2006) or “Golden Holocaust” (Proctor 2011). Secondly, those who commission a (social) scientist usually exert enough leverage on their contractors to get the messages they are interested in. The appropriatenss of comparisons like “the Tobacco Holocaust is at least 25 times the high estimates of the Jewish Holocaust” (http://www.rense.com/general65/UwSSL.HTM) legitimated by the first mentioned consensus might be questioned. The second consensus is a truism if we adopt the worldview of popular media, political discourses but also some serious sociological writings. The debate between Martin Bulmer and Donald Fisher in the 1980s about the role of the Rockefeller Foundation for the development of empirical social research, Stephen Turner’s criticism (1998) of Jennifer Platt’s 1996 book are indications from sociology, and the saying “the one who pays the piper calls the tune”, nicely explained in The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (2002, p. 55) as “The person who hires another determines the services to be rendered”, should suffice here as evidence.

Beyond any doubts, a leading sociologist of the 20th century, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, got a check about $ 45,000 back in 1972 (the equivalent of $ 262,273 in 2016) from “Philipp Morris Research and Development”, kind of a cover for one of the big American tobacco producers.

The proposed paper will present archival evidence about the negotiations between Philipp Morris and Lazarsfeld in the run-up of the contract, give a detailed report about the research done for these dollars and conclude with a somewhat non-conformist rejection to the second consensus mentioned above: In a nutshell, Lazarsfeld did not sell his conscience.