The Tragedy of American Science: From the Cold War to the Forever Wars

Regular price $ 19.95

by Clifford D. Conner


6/28/2022, paperback

SKU: 9781642597080


The tragedy of American science is that its direction is determined by private profit rather than by the desire to improve the human condition. As a result, Conner argues, Big Science has been irredeemably corrupted by Big Money. This corruption threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the medicines we take.

The Tragedy of American Science explores how the U.S. economy's addiction to military spending distorts and deforms science by making it overwhelmingly subservient to military interests. The primary motive driving American science and technology has become the search for new and more efficient ways to kill people. This transforms science from the classic ideal of a creative force for the advancement of humankind into its destructive and antihuman opposite. That those trillions of dollars in resources and scientific talent are not devoted to solving the problems of poverty, disease, and environmental destruction is one of the greatest tragedies of our times.

While the underlying problems may appear intractable, Conner compellingly argues that replacing the current science-for-profit system with a science-for-human-needs system is not an impossible, utopian dream. But to get there, we'll need to grapple with this important history.


"Cliff Conner has brought together journalists, advocates, leakers, and litigators to restore the principles of free inquiry from its perversions by the big lies of Big Food, Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big War. The method is true and it is simple: they lift the big rock, and let fresh air and sunlight expose the little, nasty, squirmy things underneath." -- Peter Linebaugh, author of Red Round Globe Hot Burning

"Clifford Conner's examination of the military and corporate capture of science in the US could not be more relevant. He makes the urgent case that human needs, and not profits or militarism, should guide scientific inquiry." -- Sarah Lazare, In These Times

"Clifford Conner's remarkable study does so much more than simply ask and answer how American science has become weaponized over the past century. The Tragedy of American Science is a thorough and vividly engaging account--a history of science that draws deeply on social and geopolitical analysis, and with excellently crafted case studies. It is a call to rethink the myths of American exceptionalism that, under the guise of scientific altruism and U.S. foreign policy, have cultivated a science-for-profit system. Despite its unflinching disdain for the corporatization of research, policy, and practice, Conner's story is not a pessimistic one. Instead, with keen insight, wit, and an empathetic eye on the future, Conner helps rescue the promise of science from the tragedy it has become." -- Jacob Blanc, author of Before the Flood: the Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil

About the Author:

Clifford D. Conner taught history of science at the School of Professional Studies, CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of A People's History of Science and biographies of three revolutionaries: Jean Paul Marat, Arthur O'Connor, and Colonel Despard.