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A Perilous Progress : Economists and Public Purpose in Twentieth-Century America - Michael A. Bernstein

A Perilous Progress

Economists and Public Purpose in Twentieth-Century America

Paperback Published: 14th March 2004
ISBN: 9780691119670
Number Of Pages: 376

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The economics profession in twentieth-century America began as a humble quest to understand the "wealth of nations." It grew into a profession of immense public prestige--and now suffers a strangely withered public purpose. Michael Bernstein portrays a profession that has ended up repudiating the state that nurtured it, ignoring distributive justice, and disproportionately privileging private desires in the study of economic life. Intellectual introversion has robbed it, he contends, of the very public influence it coveted and cultivated for so long. With wit and irony he examines how a community of experts now identified with uncritical celebration of ''free market'' virtues was itself shaped, dramatically so, by government and collective action.

In arresting and provocative detail Bernstein describes economists' fitful efforts to sway a state apparatus where values and goals could seldom remain separate from means and technique, and how their vocation was ultimately humbled by government itself. Replete with novel research findings, his work also analyzes the historical peculiarities that led the profession to a key role in the contemporary backlash against federal initiatives dating from the 1930s to reform the nation's economic and social life.

Interestingly enough, scholars have largely overlooked the history that has shaped this profession. An economist by training, Bernstein brings a historian's sensibilities to his narrative, utilizing extensive archival research to reveal unspoken presumptions that, through the agency of economists themselves, have come to mold and define, and sometimes actually deform, public discourse.

This book offers important, even troubling insights to readers interested in the modern economic and political history of the United States and perplexed by recent trends in public policy debate. It also complements a growing literature on the history of the social sciences. Sure to have a lasting impact on its field, "A Perilous Progress" represents an extraordinary contribution of gritty empirical research and conceptual boldness, of grand narrative breadth and profound analytical depth.

Industry Reviews

"Michael A. Bernstein has produced a first-rate analysis of the professionalization of social science. His book is not only a well-informed history of the American economics profession but also an insightful analysis of its relationship with government and a philippic against what Bernstein sees as the profession's recent self-prostitution."--Thomas K. McCraw, Journal of American History "Bernstein details a largely unknown and even unsuspected history of how our professional associations and journals strove from the beginning to engage the important questions, and of how they in the end lost the ability to do so."--James K. Galbraith, The Washington Monthly "This book is an impressive achievement."--William J. Barber, EH.Net

List of Illustrationsp. ix
A Note on the Notesp. xi
Prologue. Being Ignoredp. 1
Introduction. Professional Expertise as a Historical Problemp. 7
Shaping an Authoritative Communityp. 15
Prospects, Puzzles, and Predicamentsp. 40
The Mobilization of Resources and Vice Versap. 73
On Behalf of the National Security Statep. 91
Statecraft and Its Retainersp. 115
Statecraft and Its Discontentsp. 148
Epilogue. Being Ignored (Reprise)p. 185
Notesp. 195
Bibliography and Reference Abbreviationsp. 291
Acknowledgmentsp. 343
Indexp. 347
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691119670
ISBN-10: 0691119678
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 376
Published: 14th March 2004
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.52