Are Academics Pursuing a Cult of the Irrelevant?

Michael Lind:

Desch, a professor of international relations at Notre Dame and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center, explains that “from the beginning of the twentieth century, there has been a tension between the two objectives of the evolving research university system. Science and practical application were in tension generally, but the social sciences experienced it particularly acutely.” In relating the history of debates about the interaction between the making and the study of foreign policy, Desch narrates the larger story of American political science, whose birth as an independent scholarly discipline can be dated to the founding of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in 1904. Desch observes that a majority of the early members of the APSA were not academics and that its early presidents like Frank Goodnow and Woodrow Wilson were progressives committed to using social science to promote social reform. But public-spirited scholars like Charles Beard, president of the APSA in 1926, were already losing out by the 1920s to the likes of University of Chicago’s William Fielding Ogburn, who opined that the scholar had “to give up social action and dedicated [himself] to science.”