I am an intellectual and political historian specializing in twentieth-century American thought. My primary research interests are in the history of conservative and liberal thought, and the interplay of social science and politics. My first book, The Rise of Common-Sense Conservatism: The American Right and the Reinvention of the Scottish Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2021), examines late-twentieth-century debates over the family, crime, poverty, and multiculturalism that gave birth to a conservative, anti-expert “common sense” discourse. It shows how leading neoconservative thinkers of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s reinvented and reshaped the ideas of Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, and David Hume to criticize contemporary liberal elites, educational authorities, and social reformers.
My current work examines how the rise of scientific public opinion polling shaped American thought and politics in the twentieth-century and beyond. I explore how opinion polls since the 1930s inspired conservative and liberal writers and activists to rethink the social and political landscape, and to build their own, distinct ideas of America. The project sheds new light on the relationship between social science and American political imagination, the development of ideological polarization, and how the new ways of knowing society changed modern American politics.
- U.S. intellectual history, history of conservatism, history of the social sciences, history of public opinion research, interaction between science and politics, history of the culture wars
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