The Politics of Paradigms

Thomas S. Kuhn, James B. Conant, and the Cold War “Struggle for Men’s Minds”

By George A. Reisch

Subjects: American History, Intellectual History, American Philosophy, History Of Philosophy, Politics
Series: SUNY series in American Philosophy and Cultural Thought
Hardcover : 9781438473673, 502 pages, May 2019
Paperback : 9781438473666, 502 pages, January 2020

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Bombs and Books: An Introduction
Timeline of Events and Documents
Cast of Additional Characters
Part I. War and Crisis

1. Progress and Revolution in the Suburbs of New York

2. War and General Education at Harvard

3. History of Science in a Divided World
Part II. “The Struggle for Men’s Minds”

4. The Cold War Conversions of Thomas S. Kuhn and James Bryant Conant

5. Sidney Hook and the Anticommunist Inquisition

6. Brainwashing, or the Structure of Philosophical Revolutions

7. The Necessary Dangers of Consensus and Unity
Part III. The Cold War Origins of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

8. The Language, Psychology, and Psychoanalysis of Scientific “Reorientations”

9. “Attention Senator McCarthy”: The Perils of Methodology in Totalitarian Times

10. Ideology and Revolution in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science

11. Progress, Ideology, and “Writing History Backwards”

12. From “Ideology” and “Consensus” to Paradigmania
Part IV. The New World of Paradigms

13. “If Mr. Kuhn Is Right . . .”: Paradigms and Dogmas in Cold War Science Education

14. The Magic of Paradigms

15. Spies, Prisons, Mobs, Bandwagons, and Beasts

16. The Thomas Kuhn Experience

17. A Revolution and a New Ideology

Epilogue: Writing and Rewriting History


Uncovers long-ignored political themes—ideology, propaganda, mind-control, and Orwellian history—at work within the pages of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.


The Politics of Paradigms shows that America's most famous and influential book about science, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions of 1962, was inspired and shaped by Thomas Kuhn's political interests, his relationship with the influential cold warrior James Bryant Conant, and America's McCarthy-era struggle to resist and defeat totalitarian ideology. Through detailed archival research, Reisch shows how Kuhn's well-known theories of paradigms, crises, and scientific revolutions emerged from within urgent political worries—on campus and in the public sphere—about the invisible, unconscious powers of ideology, language, and history to shape the human mind and its experience of the world.

George A. Reisch is managing editor of The Monist and series editor for Open Court Publishing Company's series Popular Culture and Philosophy.


"The book is … full of new information, new insights and thought-provoking connections. It should be required reading for everyone interested in Kuhn's Structure, its sources and its political and cultural background." — Metascience

"Impressive archival research into the entirety of Kuhn's publications, manuscript drafts, and letters exposes how his understanding of scientific revolutions was assembled … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"This book raises and explores important questions about the ideological background of some of the most important work in the philosophy of science in the twentieth century. It challenges conventional wisdom about the ideological neutrality of that work." — Peter S. Fosl, editor of The Big Lebowski and Philosophy: Keeping Your Mind Limber with Abiding Wisdom