Linking Government to Academic Research: Lessons from the American Progressive Era

Author:Valentin Filip
European Integration - Realities and Perspectives. Proceedings 2015
Linking Government to Academic Research:
Lessons from the American Progressive Era
Valentin Filip1
Abstract: This paper intends to explore why and how the U.S. government involved academic scholars in the
policy-making process during the Progressive Era, with a focus on President Woodrow Wilson‘s formation
and use of the Inquiry. It further attempts to draw upon the lessons learned from this case study in history in
order to stimulate new thinking with regard to the interest of the governmental decision-makers in exploiting
academic potential. The paper rests mainly on the research dedicated to Progressivism and Wilsonianism and
it consists of an analysis based on the literature review and the case study of The Inquiry. The conclusions
highlight the impact that the intellectual potential from within universities and research centres might have in
informing policies, revealing alternative tracks and finally supporting the process as a whole. Thus, the paper
aims to offer ―food for thought‖ for further debates, raise the awareness on the issue of benefiting from a
stronger and deeper government-academia relationship and nurture the mutual interest for partnership and
even possible integration.
Keywords: government and academia; Progressivism; Wilsonianism
1 Introduction: Progressives and Progressivism in America
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Progressivism appeared as a reform movement in the United
States and evolved for almost four decades to transform the American government and society as a
whole. It came in many shapes, as Progressives were equally scholars (John Dewey and Lester Ward)
or artists (Woody Guthrie and Upton Sinclair), politicians (Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt)
or trade unionists (Samuel Gompers and John Lewis), activists (Jane Addams and W.E.B Du Bois) or
journalists (Herbert Croly and Ida Tarbell). They all had in common the belief in the idea of Progress
and placed a premium on the role of the Government as the main driver of reform.
Born from an era of political turmoil and social unrest, suggestively entitled ―The Gilded Age‖, when
America, under the guise of demographic and economic growth, was being predated by corrupted
political machines and rapacious corporate trusts, the Progressives took on the mission of ―purifying‖
both politics and the societal dimension. They shared the idea that the changes brought by the
Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism needed to be matched with thorough reforms targeting
political, administrative, social, and economic issues. The pursuit of Progress called for a new thinking
and revision of the intellectual and cultural principles upon which the American state and society were
built. Otherwise, graft and waste would have continued to plague a system lagging behind the
1 PhD, National Intelligence Academy, Romania, Address: 20-22 Odăi str., sector 1, Bucharest, Romania, Tel/fax: +4021-
3104750, Corresponding author:

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