Just before leaving office, President Eisenhower delivered his famous “military-industrial complex” speech. But there was more to it than just the warning about the dangers of that complex — he also cautioned against the rise of universities as power centers. Brooklyn College professor Mitchell Langbert quotes from and contemplates Ike’s speech in this blog post.
Langbert observes, “Universities are crucial to the new power complex, just as they were to the military-industrial complex, not because universities’ research is of crucial importance to technological progress — most important technological innovation comes from for-profit sources — but because university professors, who benefit from university endowments that special interests fund, lend an illusive patina of legitimacy and impartiality to federal policy.”
I think that Langbert is right. One of the methods the state uses to build legitimacy is to point to supposedly objective, academic research (e.g. on global warming or climate change or whatever the new preferred term is) and say, “See, we’re just doing what the experts say we should do.”