Daniel Bessner, "Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual" (Cornell UP, 2018)


Daniel Bessner's Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual (Cornell University Press, 2018) provides a fascinating account of Hans Speier, an oft forgotten yet highly influential figure within the mid-century national security state. Speier, a Weimar emigre intellectual, conducted propaganda for the United States in both the Second World War and the Cold War, and helped build the institutional infrastructure of the so-called military-intellectual complex. This book is more than a biography of a single person, however. It also traces the rise of a new kind of person: the defense intellectual. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Speier and other defense intellectuals, including Henry Kissinger, George Kennan, and Walt Rostow, elevated the influence of experts and even transformed the way U.S. foreign policy was made. With Speier at its center, Democracy in Exile makes critical interventions into many debates, such as the role of crises in democracy, the Cold War's origins and, perhaps most importantly for us today, the proper place of experts in society and government. (In regard to that last debate, see also Bessner and Stephen Wertheim's Foreign Affairs article "Democratizing U.S. Foreign Policy.") Daniel Bessner is the Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Assistant Professor in American Foreign Policy in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.
Dexter Fergie is a first-year PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at dexter.fergie@u.northwestern.edu or on Twitter @DexterFergie.

Your Host

Dexter Fergie

Dexter Fergie is a doctoral student in US and global history at Northwestern University. His research examines the history of ideas, infrastructure, and international organizations.
View Profile