Associate Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego
Department of Sociology, 401 Social Sciences Building
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92103
Areas of Expertise & Civic Involvements
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 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.”
"‘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.
"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.
Thomas Medvetz quoted on the conservative provocateur’s surprisingly stable position in public discourse in Nathan Pippenger, "Charles Murray and the DC Ideas Industry" Democracy Journal, May 28, 2015.
"Berkeley’s Betrayal: Wages and Working Conditions at Cal" (with Gretchen Purser, Ofer Sharone, Amy Schalet, and Theresa Gowan), Pamphlet excerpted in Anthony Giddens, Mitchell Duneier, and Richard P. Appelbaum, Introduction to Sociology, 2006.
Talks and Briefings
"Indistinction: Rethinking the Think Tank," Department of Sociology Colloquium Series. University of California, Davis, May 31, 2012.
"Meaning and Media: Getting Sociology Across in the Public Sphere," Moderator of panel discussion with Claude Fischer, Michael Schudson, and Margaret Talbot, 5th UCSD Culture Conference, University of California, San Diego, May 7, 2010.
"What is a Think Tank?: On the New Forms of Intellectual Engagement," Fourth Annual Graduate Student Conference, Department of Sociology, University of California, San Diego, April 24, 2009.
"Think Tanks, Framing, and the Conservative Movement," Redefining Progress, Oakland, CA, October 26, 2004.
"The Virtues of Voluntarism and Nonprofit Organizations: Arguments in American Social Policy and Politics," Panelist, Social Science Research Council Capstone Conference on Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector, Florence, Italy, March 24-26, 2005.