News from the Bush School

Michael Desch to speak on Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security

September 03, 2019

Micheal Desch
On Tuesday, September 10, 2019, the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy will welcome Michael C. Desch at a lecture and book signing for his recently published Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security. The talk will begin at 6:00 PM in Hagler Auditorium at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, with respondent Dr. Matthew Fuhrmann, Texas A&M Professor of Political Science, and CGS Academic Director Jasen Castillo, Bush School Associate Professor of International Affairs, joining Dr. Desch for Q & A immediately following the lecture. A book signing and reception will take place afterward, with a limited number of books available for purchase onsite. Parking for the event is available after 5:00 PM in Lot 41 on the Texas A&M University West Campus. Please register at https://tx.ag/desch.

The publisher provides the following information about Desch’s book: In Cult of the Irrelevant, Michael Desch traces the history of the relationship between the Beltway and the Ivory Tower from World War I to the present day. Recounting key Golden Age academic strategists, such as Thomas Schelling and Walt Rostow, Desch’s narrative shows that social science research became most oriented toward practical problem solving during times of war and that scholars returned to less relevant work during peacetime. Social science disciplines like political science rewarded work that was methodologically sophisticated over scholarship Cult of the Irrelevant Book Coverthat engaged with the messy realities of national security policy, and academic culture increasingly turned away from the job of solving real-world problems. In the name of scientific objectivity, academics today frequently engage only in basic research that they hope will somehow trickle down to policymakers. Drawing on the lessons of this history as well as a unique survey of current and former national security policymakers, Desch offers concrete recommendations for scholars who want to shape government work. The result is a rich intellectual history and an essential wake-up call to a field that has lost its way.

Michael Desch is the Packey J. Dee Professor of International Relations at the University of Notre Dame and the founding Director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. He served two terms as Chair of the Department of Political Science. He was also the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision Making at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008. He is the author or coauthor of four previous books on US national security policy and has published numerous scholarly and broader-interest articles. He has worked on the staff of a US senator, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the Department of State, and in the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division of the Congressional Research Service.