My review of Daniel Drezner’s new book, The Ideas Industry, is in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, but it’s readable on-line now. The book is “an account of how the marketplace of ideas, the metaphorical bazaar where academics and think tankers and pundits hawk their intellectual wares to policy makers, has changed over the past generation.”
As he tells it, three large-scale forces have remade the marketplace of ideas. The erosion of trust in prestigious institutions has weakened the position of both academia and the traditional journalistic perches of public intellectuals. The polarization of American politics has segmented that marketplace into distinct and separate niches. Most important, the dramatic growth in economic inequality has made wealthy individuals and corporations into the primary buyers, dominating the market.
It’s this last trend, Drezner says, that accounts for the transformation of a marketplace into an industry. In a marketplace, wares are traded among participants with diverse needs, but an industry produces to meet the specific demands of its customers. Whether it’s the predominance of economics over political science, the transformation of research institutions and the rise of private intelligence operations, or the phenomenon of the superstar intellectual — each of which gets a chapter in Drezner’s book — a common thread is the enormous financial incentives that now exist to cater to the intellectual tastes and prejudices of modern wealth.
Read the whole thing there.