Scientists in the Bureaucratic Age

Scientists in the Bureaucratic Age

A prime factor in the 20th Century Industrial Revolution and the reorganization of society that has accompanied it, science is today itself being reorganized. The rationalists are being rationalized. As science has become more important to industry and government, changes have been taking place in the spirit of science and of scientists. The most important changes are not, however, those which the liberal radical tradition predicted on the basis of its belief that science, as a search for truth, is essentially incompatible with investigations designed to solve immediate practical problems (weapons or marketable products) and that its publications must be uncensored.

Contrary to most expectations, fundamental research has not been harmed by the “marriage” of government and scientists—the military have had enough sense and money to let scientists work pretty much on their own. It is the human, social consequences of this marriage, first to the scientists as men, and second to society as a whole, that are dangerous.

The Amazing Marriage
Scientists are today enjoying a new prestige and a new salary bracket. No longer considered harmless drudges (as in James Thurber’s pre-war cartoon, “Capture of Three Physics Professors”) , they have become material to be stockpiled for the defense program. It is through the patronage of the defense program that they have achieved both the prestige and the salary.

The “marriage” of the military machine with the research scientists has, despite initial trepidation on both sides, been unexpectedly happy. Both partners have gotten essentially what they bargained for, and both are satisfied. The military gets the weapons and counter weapons it wants, and some of the intellectual respectability of the scientists rubs off onto military uniforms. It is largely because of technology and science that the military leaders have come to exercise greater influence in American government and industry than ever before in peace time. These leaders will remain in a powerful position so long as the accelerated rate of scientific advance (which today does not necessarily imply Historical Progress) renders military strategy and equipment obsolete even before it is finally agreed upon.