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The Progressives' CenturyPolitical Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Modern American State$
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Stephen Skowronek, Stephen M Engel, and Bruce Ackerman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780300204841

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300204841.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

From Science to Alchemy

From Science to Alchemy

The Progressives’ Deployment of Expertise and the Contemporary Faith in Science to Grow the Economy and Create Jobs

(p.405) 18 From Science to Alchemy
The Progressives' Century

John D. Skrentny

Natalie Novick

Yale University Press

This chapter details the historical developments that have gradually obviated any perceived need for a nuanced causal theory of the relationship between scientists and national performance. Contemporary political rhetoric expressing a faith in a hypothesized (yet little understood) causal connection between scientific expertise and jobs and wealth creation has roots in Progressivism. It also marks a significant transformation of the Progressive vision of how the federal government should use the natural sciences. Even as Progressives embraced vague and sometimes contradictory impulses and beliefs, Progressive governance sought social betterment primarily through the use of existing scientific expertise to achieve specific, identified goals. The Progressives' typical use of science was to develop standards and measures (for example, to ensure safe food). Recent decades, however, have seen the rise of vaguer measures of success—the overall number of scientists and engineers, working in any field, or the overall number of federal dollars allocated to research.

Keywords:   Progressive Era, Progressives, causal theory, scientists, national performance, Progressivism, federal government, natural sciences

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