From Truman to Trump

Clifford D. Conner

Haymarket Books (23 June, 2020)

Hardcover • 9781642591279 • US $26.95 • 5.5 in x 8.5 in • 300 pgs.


The tragedy of American science is that its direction is determined by private profit rather than by the desire to improve the human condition.  As a result, Connor argues, Big Science has been irredeemably corrupted by Big Money.  This corruption threatens the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the medicines we take.

The Tragedy of American Science explores how the U.S. economy’s addiction to military spending distorts and deforms science by making it overwhelmingly subservient to military interests.  The primary motive driving American science and technology has become the search for new and more efficient ways to kill people.  This transforms science from the classic ideal of a creative force for the advancement of humankind into its destructive and antihuman opposite.  That those trillions of dollars in resources and scientific talent are not devoted to solving the problems of poverty, disease, and environmental destruction is one of the greatest tragedies of our times.

While the underlying problems may appear intractable, Conner compellingly argues that replacing the current science-for-profit system with a science-for-human-needs system is not an impossible, utopian dream. But to get there, we’ll need to grapple with this important history.


“American political and intellectual culture today, including scientific culture, is in a state of decay. The denial of human-caused climate change, the destruction of scientific records by the government, the attack on public education, and most recently, the Center for Disease Control’s banishing words such as “scientific-based” and “evidence-based” are significant indications of this. The policies of the masters of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex are ruinous. We can fight back by discrediting their junk ideas and magical thinking. Cliff Conner’s book helps immensely in this effort.” 

Michael Steven Smith, Co-host, Law And Disorder Radio

“Clifford Conner’s remarkable study does so much more than simply ask and answer how American science has become weaponized over the past century. The Tragedy of American Science is a thorough and vividly engaging account—a history of science that draws deeply on social and geopolitical analysis, and with excellently crafted case studies. It is a call to rethink the myths of American exceptionalism that, under the guise of scientific altruism and U.S. foreign policy, have cultivated a science-for-profit system. Despite its unflinching disdain for the corporatization of research, policy, and practice, Conner’s story is not a pessimistic one. Instead, with keen insight, wit, and an empathetic eye on the future, Conner helps rescue the promise of science from the tragedy it has become.” 

Jacob Blanc, author of Before the Flood: the Itaipu Dam and the Visibility of Rural Brazil

Praise for Conner’s A People’s History of Science:

“Cliff Conner’s A People’s History of Science is a delightfully refreshing new look at the history of science. I know of nothing like it…” —Howard Zinn

A People’s History of Science sticks up for little guys. . . . Clifford D. Conner finds the fingerprints of the common man on humanity’s great advances.” —New York Times Book Review

“Conner writes clearly and skillfully shows connections as he ranges across time periods and disciplines from medicine to art to astronomy.” —Publishers Weekly

“[An] eloquently written book is accessible to lay readers and equally valuable for scholars. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Valuable…” —Booklist


Clifford D. Conner is a historian of science at the School of Professional Studies, CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of A People’s History of Science (Bold Type Books, 2005) and biographies of three revolutionaries: Jean Paul Marat, Arthur O’Connor, and Colonel Despard.


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