chapter  7
21 Pages

Economic knowledge, professional authority, and the state: the case of American economics during and after World War II

ByThe case of American economics during and after World War II Michael A. Bernstein

In recent years, that structure of international hegemony sometimes called the Pax Americana has become less imperial and more interdependent with the conduct of foreign states. Yet the sway of American ideas in the social and policy sciences – quite notably in economics – has steadily increased. To better understand both the forms in which this cultural and intellectual dominance has been expressed and the means by which it has been justified and even celebrated throughout the world, an examination of its history would seem both warranted and useful. Clearly, the power of ideas, as John Maynard Keynes noted over a half-century ago, may often be underestimated. To the extent they serve as instruments of what we might call imperial authority, and as tools with which the legitimacy of particular forms of power may be established, “creations of the intellect” must indeed garner as much attention from scholars of empire and “world-systems” as trade flows, direct investment patterns, and mechanisms of unequal exchange. Even so, to characterize the impact of ideas within the context of empire in terms of simple, “internalist” notions of disciplinary maturation and avenues of scholarly communication would be both misleading and incomplete.1