Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America

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JHU Press, Nov 29, 2012 - Science - 176 pages
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For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the United States and its allies competed with a hostile Soviet Union in almost every way imaginable except open military engagement. The Cold War placed two opposite conceptions of the good society before the uncommitted world and history itself, and science figured prominently in the picture. Competing with the Soviets offers a short, accessible introduction to the special role that science and technology played in maintaining state power during the Cold War, from the atomic bomb to the Human Genome Project.

The high-tech machinery of nuclear physics and the space race are at the center of this story, but Audra J. Wolfe also examines the surrogate battlefield of scientific achievement in such diverse fields as urban planning, biology, and economics; explains how defense-driven federal investments created vast laboratories and research programs; and shows how unfamiliar worries about national security and corrosive questions of loyalty crept into the supposedly objective scholarly enterprise.

Based on the assumption that scientists are participants in the culture in which they live, Competing with the Soviets looks beyond the debate about whether military influence distorted science in the Cold War. Scientists’ choices and opportunities have always been shaped by the ideological assumptions, political mandates, and social mores of their times. The idea that American science ever operated in a free zone outside of politics is, Wolfe argues, itself a legacy of the ideological Cold War that held up American science, and scientists, as beacons of freedom in contrast to their peers in the Soviet Union. Arranged chronologically and thematically, the book highlights how ideas about the appropriate relationships among science, scientists, and the state changed over time.

-- Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 The Atomic Age
9
2 The MilitaryIndustrial Complex
23
3 Big Science
40
4 Hearts and Minds and Markets
55
5 Science and the General Welfare
74
6 The Race to the Moon
89
7 The End of Consensus
105
8 Cold War Redux
121
Epilogue
135
Acknowledgments
141
Suggested Further Reading
143
Index
161
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About the author (2012)

Audra J. Wolfe is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia.

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