Audra J. Wolfe, is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor and historian. Her book Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science (Johns...

Audra J. Wolfe, is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor and historian. Her book Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018) examines the post-World War II origins of the relationship between science and politics. Science’s self-concept as politically neutral and dedicated to empirical observation free of bias has often been at odds with its collaboration with the purposes of the Cold War state.  Wolfe demonstrates how an understanding of the differences between Western and Marxist science obscured the hidden political objectives. Scientists holding an apolitical view of science became unwitting agents of the U.S. war against the spread of communism led by the Central Intelligence Agency. Multiple scientific and cultural institutions engage in formal and informal cultural diplomacy, espionage, ideological laden science education in underdeveloped nations, and became activists for the human rights of scientists across the globe. Thus, they expanded U.S. influence abroad. In the aftermath of the Cold War, the utopian belief of science as operating in the service of intellectual freedom and internationalism continues even as it depends heavily on government funding for its existence.

This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.


Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her recent book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology, (Oxford University Press, 2018).

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