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Michael C. Desch

Cult of the Irrelevant

The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security

Princeton University Press 2019

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Many have read and debated “How Political Science became Irrelevant” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The author of that piece is Michael C....

Many have read and debated “How Political Science became Irrelevant” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The author of that piece is Michael C. Desch and much it comes from his recent book Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton University Press, 2019). Desch is the Packey J. Dee Professor of International Relations at University of Notre Dame.

In Cult of the Irrelevant, Desch traces the history of the relationship between Washington and the academy across the 20th century. He shows that social science research became most oriented toward national security problem-solving during times of war and that scholars shifted to other topics during peacetime. This pattern has caused tension between national security planners and university-based researchers over independence, resources, and rewards.