The University of Wisconsin Press


American History



Universities and the Capitalist State
Corporate Liberalism and the Reconstruction of American Higher Education, 1894–1928
Clyde W. Barrow

History of American Thought


“Clyde Barrow’s thoughtful and informed study outlines the shaping of the American university system against the background of rising corporate power, the demands of the state ideological apparatus, and the ebb and flow of popular forces. It provides much insight into the tensions inherent in a system of private power and democratic ideals, and their consequences for the academic institutions and intellectual life generally."
—Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The modern university has been viewed by scholars as an oasis of academic autonomy that stands above or outside society and its political conflicts. Clyde Barrow challenges that vision with his conclusion that corporations and government have been the dominant social forces shaping the goals and structure of the American university.

In particular, Barrow’s thesis is that a “scientific survey movement”—a broad political coalition led by business executives, engineers, private foundation staff members, and government officials—successfully transplanted many of the values and practices of corporate and bureaucratic administration to colleges and universities. As a result, Barrow argues that universities are best understood as a part of the state’s institutional structure designed to regulate academic intellectuals through a combination of market initiatives, bureaucratic procedures, and state coercion. In this manner, an ideological system has been constructed which is closely connected to the needs of the economic and political system.

Clyde W. Barrow
is was acting chair and associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth. He is the author of Critical Theories of the State, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.


Image of a blue hand picking up a university building between thumb and forefinger

January 1990

LC: 89-039217 HM
350 pp. 6 x 9
7 figs., 41 tables

The 1990 cloth and paper editions of this book are out of print.

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