Thomas Medvetz

Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Chapter Member: San Diego SSN, California SSN
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About Thomas

Medvetz’s research focuses on the role of experts, professionals, and intellectuals in contemporary politics. He has taught classes on American politics, culture, and social change.


Think Tanks and the Rise of Savvy Policy Entrepreneurs

In the News

Quoted by Nathan Pippenger in "Charles Murray and the DC Ideas Industry," Democracy Journal, May 28, 2015.
Opinion: "Hope for Change in Public Debate?," Thomas Medvetz, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 12, 2008.
Opinion: "Berkeley’s Betrayal: Wages and Working Conditions at Cal," Thomas Medvetz (with Gretchen Purser, Ofer Sharone, Amy Schalet, and and Theresa Gowan), Introduction to Sociology, 2006.
Opinion: "Think Tanks as an Emergent Field," Thomas Medvetz, Social Science Research Council, October 2008.


"‘Scholar as Sitting Duck’: The Cronon Affair and the Buffer Zone in American Public Debate" Public Culture 24, no. 1 (2012): 47-53.
Addresses the public controversy surrounding University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon, whose March 2011 blog postings about collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin elicited a swift reprisal from state Republicans. I argue that the “Cronon affair” is best understood, not as indicating a pervasive threat to academic freedom per se, as most commentators have suggested, but as an object lesson in the marginality and ineffectiveness of intellectuals in American public debate.
"Think Tanks in America" (University of Chicago Press, 2012).
Presents the first major book-length sociological study of the history and present-day role of the organizations known as “think tanks.”
"The Contemporary American Conservative Movement" (with Neil Gross and Rupert Russell). Annual Review of Sociology 37 (2011): 325-254.
Surveys the literature on the conservative movement by historians, political scientists, and serious journalists since the mid-1990s, and reviews the more limited number of sociological contributions.
"Think Tanks" in Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer (Blackwell Reference Online, 2010).
Offers a brief semantic history of the term "think tank" and describes how the term’s ambiguities relate to the organizations' formal properties.
"The Strength of Weekly Ties: Relations of Material and Symbolic Exchange in the Conservative Movement" Politics & Society 34, no. 3 (2006): 343-368.
Presents the findings of a yearlong ethnographic study of the famous “Wednesday meeting” of conservative activists convened by the anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist. It draws also on the author’s interviews with Norquist and other key conservative figures.