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Cult of the IrrelevantThe Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security$
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Michael Desch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181219

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181219.001.0001

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Summer Studies, Centers, and a Governmentwide Clearinghouse

Summer Studies, Centers, and a Governmentwide Clearinghouse

Federal Efforts to Mobilize Social Science for the Cold War

(p.91) 5 Summer Studies, Centers, and a Governmentwide Clearinghouse
Cult of the Irrelevant

Michael C. Desch

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how the Cold War witnessed continuing government interest in drawing on social science as a resource for national security policymaking. Despite this continuing interest, there was just below the surface an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with academic social science as it became more oriented to producing basic, as opposed to applied, research. Government funders increasingly complained that basic social science research was couched in excessive jargon and deplored the unwillingness of scholars to provide policy-relevant findings unless they could meet very high standards of scientific proof. This led to an ongoing search by national security policymakers for alternative arrangements through which to tap social science expertise. What early Cold War national security policymakers wanted was social science that was accessible to the layman, struck a balance of theory and practice, and engaged the key policy problems they were grappling with.

Keywords:   Cold War, social science, national security policymaking, basic research, applied research, national security policymakers, policy relevance, policy problems

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