Over the past half-century, think tanks have become fixtures of American politics, supplying advice to presidents and policy makers, expert testimony on Capitol Hill, and convenient facts and figures to journalists and media specialists. But what are think tanks? Who funds them? What kind of research do they produce? Where does their authority come from? And how influential have they become? In Think Tanks in America, Thomas Medvetz argues that the curious ambiguity of the think tank is t an accidential feature of its existence, but the very key to its impact. By combining elements of more established sources of public kwledge-universities, government agencies, businesses, and the media-think tanks exert tremendous influence on the way citizens and lawmakers perceive the world and construct policy, unbound by the more clearly defined institutions they draw on and mimic. In the process, they have transformed the government of this country, the press, and the political role of intellectuals. Timely, succinct, and instructive, this provocative book will force us to rethink our understanding of the drivers of political debate in the United States and beyond.
Thomas Medvetz is assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.