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Cold War Universities: Tools of Power or Oases of Freedom?

In This Review

The Cold War and the University: Towards an Intellectual History

Edited by André Schiffrin
New Press, 1997
259 pp. $25.00
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The essays collected in The Cold War and the University take as their theme the effects of the Cold War on academic life and thought in America over five decades. The authors speak from their own experiences, many through autobiographical narrative and personal testimony. They speak, too, from the perspective of their disciplines, clustered in the social sciences-history (David Montgomery and Howard Zinn), political science (Ira Katznelson), anthropology (Laura Nader), sociology (Immanuel Wallerstein)- but also including evolutionary biology (Richard Lewontin) and the earth sciences (Ray Siever), linguistics (Noam Chomsky) and English literature (Richard Ohmann).

Although the volume does not purport to be a comprehensive history or to reach a set of common conclusions, it has a clear thrust. Situated all along the spectrum of the left, its authors share a critical stance toward the academy, a commitment to political engagement, and a belief that the academy cannot and should not stand apart from the urgent problems of the social order. They tend to regard the university as an instrument of the power structures that control the world and one that perpetuates its oppressions and repressions. They believe that universities were complicit in the Cold War and that, while continuing to claim to be places of intellectual freedom, in reality they further a conservative agenda. The ideal university of the authors' vision would serve as a corrective to such evils.

The individuals in academia who stood apart from their universities and opposed the Cold War, the authors believe, shaped the intellectual currents that have carried into today's approaches to scholarship and education, opening up broad areas of study and thought and transforming whole disciplines. The most interesting reflections in The Cold War and the University trace the intellectual history of disciplines and new objects and forms of academic attention. One need not agree with every proffered Cold War explanation to appreciate this introduction to the controversies, crises, and changes in the terrain of intellectual theory and debate that have animated the

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