Systems Analysis or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love RAND

The aim of this Graph is to map the impact of strategic thinking and logical empiricism on the methodology of sciences in the United States after the Second World War. My exploration of this topic is focused on the special case of the RAND Corporation, an American think-tank which was established in the beginning of the Cold War. Its interdisciplinary approach led to the development of system analysis, which was expected to become the main tool for solving strategic problems in the ’50s. Initially systems analysis was characterized by a strong emphasis on mathematical modeling and quantification. But besides those formalized approaches, RAND researchers also started to adopt less exact techniques, especially in the field of simulations and games. Narrative elements, which were introduced into war games, weakened one of the main methodological features of a scientific theory in the tradition of logical empiricism: the possibility of verification. The effort to formalize laws of human behavior was hindered by the need for a more specifically focused understanding, which is more common in the non-quantitative social sciences or humanities. Thus the story of systems analysis reflects a much broader debate about the limits of formalization and about the ways one can grasp complex phenomena of social reality.