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Download American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War (Ref.Library of the Humanities; 1902) epub

by Jessica Wang

No professional group in the United States benefited more from World War II than the scientific community. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists enjoyed unprecedented public visibility and political influence as a new elite whose expertise now seemed critical to America's future. But as the United States grew committed to Cold War conflict with the Soviet Union and the ideology of anticommunism came to dominate American politics, scientists faced an increasingly vigorous regimen of security and loyalty clearances as well as the threat of intrusive investigations by the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities and other government bodies.This book is the first major study of American scientists' encounters with Cold War anticommunism in the decade after World War II. By examining cases of individual scientists subjected to loyalty and security investigations, the organizational response of the scientific community to political attacks, and the relationships between Cold War ideology and postwar science policy, Jessica Wang demonstrates the stifling effects of anticommunist ideology on the politics of science. She exposes the deep divisions over the Cold War within the scientific community and provides a complex story of hard choices, a community in crisis, and roads not taken.
Download American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War (Ref.Library of the Humanities; 1902) epub
ISBN: 0807847496
ISBN13: 978-0807847497
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Jessica Wang
Language: English
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; New edition edition (January 8, 1999)
Pages: 392 pages
ePUB size: 1818 kb
FB2 size: 1786 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 744
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In "American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War", Jessica Wang argues, “The Cold War transformed the politics of the scientific profession, the relationship of scientists to the state, and the bureaucratic order devoted to scientific research” (pg. 3). Rather than present scientists as a unified group, she writes, “What needs to be recognized is that American scientists, like other groups, were deeply divided by political differences during the Cold War” (pg. 4). She concludes, “American scientists both challenged and perpetuated the development of the Cold War political order” (pg. 7). She focuses on the period 1945-1950, arguing that it was instrumental to twentieth century U.S. politics. In this way, her work reflects Paul Boyer’s "By the Bomb’s Early Light", but with a primary focus on scientists rather than culture at large.
In the aftermath of WWII, many scientists advocated international control of atomic secrets. Wang argues, “The atomic scientists’ movement created a new political role for American scientists, but with the rise of the Cold War, it also provided a major avenue for anticommunist attacks against them” (pg. 12). Their work represented continuity with nineteenth century scientists, who believed expertise could help “mitigate the deleterious effects of the unrestrained free market of classical liberalism” (pg. 36). Wang argues, “The ultimate significance of liberal and progressive left scientists’ vision for postwar science, then, lies in their specific position on the political spectrum than in their willingness to effect a reconciliation between expert authority and popular will and to create a political structure for the former that would give precedence to the latter” (pg. 37). Wang continues in her argument that scientists did not adopt anticommunism through the efforts of state forces. She writes, “Like American liberals, scientists felt the same pressures and impulses to equate left-leaning politics with disloyalty and dogmatic adherence to the Communist Party and to ferret out radicals within their midst” (pg. 55). In this way, scientists “established their beliefs through their own understanding of the Cold War international conflict” (pg. 58). Wang bases this conclusion on access to newly accessible, though incomplete, records from the FBI (much like the work of John Earl Haynes).
This new access to records leads Wang to examine the security clearance system, which “assumed that there existed a certain ideological type of profile that predisposed persons to commit espionage or other crimes of subversion” (pg. 86). Most who testified to secure clearance did not question a process that could define loyalty based on personal politics. Even President Truman expected loyalty of atomic scientists. Wang writes, “Truman and other Cold War liberals never fully appreciated the way their own anticommunist rhetoric validated the more extreme actions of HUAC and, later on, Senator McCarthy” (pg. 181). In this way, Wang argues, “Scientists were not simply passive victims of unjust Cold War political repression. They were also agents of the national security state, who offered crucial expertise for the execution of Cold War policies” (pg. 205). The Korean War, however, and the Truman administration’s changed standards for dismissal that included “a reasonable doubt as to the loyalty of the person involved to the Government of the United States” fundamentally changed the political landscape and ended opportunities for dissent (pg. 253). Wang concludes that only the Eisenhower administration and the Supreme Court could end the “altered political conditions of the second half of the 1950s,” regardless of scientific activism (pg. 286).
In this meticulously researched book, first-time author Jessica Wang sheds new light on the tempestuous relationship between scientists and the US government during the Cold War period. Wang's access to previously classified documents, coupled with first-hand interviews with the scientists involved, support fresh thinking on the causes and costs of anticommunist paranoia. Readers will appreciate the tensions that existed during the post-war years and understand why compromise between scientists and political leaders was often elusive. The lessons learned are as applicable today as they were half a century ago. "American Science in an Age of Anxiety" is valuable reading for students of 20th century history, or anyone interested in learning how America dealt with internal challenges during contentious times.