Politics on the Endless Frontier

Postwar Research Policy in the United States

Politics on the Endless Frontier

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 21 tables Published: June 1995

American Studies, Economics, Politics > Public Policy

Toward what end does the U.S. government support science and technology? How do the legacies and institutions of the past constrain current efforts to restructure federal research policy? Not since the end of World War II have these questions been so pressing, as scientists and policymakers debate anew the desirability and purpose of a federal agenda for funding research. Probing the values that have become embodied in the postwar federal research establishment, Politics on the Endless Frontier clarifies the terms of these debates and reveals what is at stake in attempts to reorganize that establishment.
Although it ended up as only one among a host of federal research policymaking agencies, the National Science Foundation was originally conceived as central to the federal research policymaking system. Kleinman’s historical examination of the National Science Foundation exposes the sociological and political workings of the system, particularly the way in which a small group of elite scientists shaped the policymaking process and defined the foundation’s structure and future. Beginning with Vannevar Bush’s 1945 manifesto The Endless Frontier, Kleinman explores elite and populist visions for a postwar research policy agency and shows how the structure of the American state led to the establishment of a fragmented and uncoordinated system for federal research policymaking. His book concludes with an analysis of recent efforts to reorient research policy and to remake federal policymaking institutions in light of the current "crisis" of economic competitiveness.
A particularly timely study, Politics on the Endless Frontier will be of interest to historians and sociologists of science and technology and to science policy analysts.


“Daniel Kleinman provides a refreshingly original view of the creation of the National Science Foundation and the inner-workings of the state, industry, and scientific elites in the United States. . . . Kleinman provides a new argument concerning the debates surrounding the establishment of the NSF. . . . This book is relevant to the study of politics and the life sciences because in describing the establishment of the current U.S. system for funding much of the life sciences, it also shows why it is so difficult to change the present system of dispersed overlapping agencies. . . . I recommend using this book in any science policy courses requiring a history of NSF and federal science policy since the Second World War.” — Franz A. Foltz, Politics and the Life Sciences

“With the help of existing historical accounts, published records of congressional hearings, interviews, and archival sources, Kleinman provides a detailed historical analysis of the protracted legislative battles over the formation of a national institution for science policy, which was eventually established in 1950 as the National Science Foundation (NSF).” — Daniel Breslau, American Journal of Sociology

"As we renegotiate the science/society contract, Kleinman’s study offers fresh insights. Perhaps the contract we are replacing is not what we thought." — Susan Cozzens, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

"This book makes an original, theoretical argument about the creation of the National Science Foundation and addresses an important topic, one with current policy implications." — Alex Roland, Duke University


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