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Institute for Policy Studies

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Institute for Policy Studies
Formation1963; 61 years ago (1963)
TypePolicy think tank
HeadquartersWashington, DC, United States
Tope Folarin[1]
$3.1 million (2013)[2]

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is an American progressive[3][4][5] think tank started in 1963 that is based in Washington, D.C. It was directed by John Cavanagh from 1998 to 2021. In 2021 Tope Folarin was announced as new Executive Director.[6] It focuses on U.S. foreign policy, domestic policy, human rights, international economics, and national security.

IPS has been described as one of the five major independent think tanks in Washington.[7] Members of the IPS played key roles in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, in the women's and environmental movements of the 1970s, and in the peace, anti-apartheid, and anti-intervention movements of the 1980s.[8][9]



The Institute for Policy Studies was founded in 1963 by Marcus Raskin and Richard Barnet as the think tank for "the most powerful of the powerless," according to a 2009 Carnegie Report.[10] The founders were officials in the John F. Kennedy administration —Raskin, then in his twenties, was working as a White House aide for McGeorge Bundy, and Barnet served in a similar role to John J. McCloy.[10] They had become disillusioned by priorities based on politics rather than moral issues.[10]

Against the backdrop of the counterculture of the 1960s, the opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Institute for Policy Studies "became a brand name for its unabashedly left-wing tone" in contrast with RAND and the largely conservative think tanks.[10] Members of these movements came to IPS headquarters in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle. In a 2009 interview, Raskin said, "Very quickly, with the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the institute became a place where different people from the movements came. People came in from demonstrations" and "camped out in the offices. Early on [the IPS] had predicted that Vietnam would be a disaster." During the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, Raskin was indicted by the federal government for the 1965 publication of "tens of thousands of copies of an IPS anti-war Vietnam Reader"—a kind of textbook for anti-war teach-ins. He was charged with encouraging people to resist the draft.[11][10][7][12] In 1967, Raskin and IPS Fellow Arthur Waskow penned "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority",[13] a document signed by dozens of scholars and religious leaders which helped to launch the draft resistance movement.

In 1964, several leading African-American activists joined the institute's staff and turned IPS into a base for supporting for the Civil Rights Movement. Fellow Bob Moses organized trainings for field organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on the links between civil rights theory and practice, while Ivanhoe Donaldson initiated an assembly of African-American government officials. Port Huron SDS co-writer and civil rights veteran, IPS Fellow Robb Burlage launched the critical health care justice movement in 1967 with his "Burlage Report".[14] Later Burlage founded the Health Policy Advisory Center, which published the initially monthly bulletin, Health/Pac Bulletin, first in 1968 and thereafter semi-annually and eventually quarterly for nearly 3 decades.[15][non-primary source needed]

The IPS was also at the forefront of the feminist movement. Fellow Charlotte Bunch organized a significant women's liberation conference in 1966 and later launched two feminist periodicals, Quest and Off Our Backs. Rita Mae Brown wrote and published her notable lesbian coming-of-age novel Rubyfruit Jungle while on the staff in the 1970s.[citation needed]

Raskin's 2018 obituary in The Nation said that for him, "ideas were the seedlings for effective action."[16]: 4, 8 

IPS also organized congressional seminars and published numerous books that challenged the national security state, including Gar Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy and Barnet's Intervention and Revolution. IPS was the object of repeated FBI and Internal Revenue Service probes.[7] The Nixon administration placed Barnet and Raskin on its Enemies List.[17]


In 1971, Raskin received "a mountain of paper" from a source that was later identified as Daniel Ellsberg. These became known as the Pentagon Papers. Raskin played his "customary catalytic role" by putting Ellsberg in touch with New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan.[18][19]

In 1974, the institute created an Organizing Committee for the Fifth Estate as part of its Center for National Security Studies which published the magazine CounterSpy until 1984.[Notes 1]

In 1976, agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet assassinated two IPS members of staff on Washington's Embassy Row.[20] The target of the car bomb attack was Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean government minister and ambassador to the United States, one of Pinochet's most outspoken critics and the head of IPS's sister organization, the Transnational Institute (TNI). Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old IPS development associate, was also killed.[citation needed]

The Institute for Policy Studies hosts an annual human rights award in the names of Letelier and Moffitt to honor them while celebrating new heroes of the human rights movement from the United States and elsewhere in the Americas. The award recipients receive the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.[citation needed]

The Transnational Institute, an international progressive think tank based in Amsterdam, was originally established as the IPS's international program, although it became independent in 1973.[21]

In its attention to the role of multinational corporations, it was also an early critic of what has come to be called globalization. Richard Barnet's 1974 examination of the power of multinational corporations, Global Reach, was one of the first books on the subject.[citation needed]


In the 1980s, Raskin served as chair of the SANE/Freeze campaign.: 4 

In the 1980s, IPS became heavily involved in supporting the movement against U.S. intervention in Central America. IPS Director Robert Borosage and other staff helped draft Changing Course: Blueprint for Peace in Central America and the Caribbean, which was used by hundreds of schools, labor unions, churches, and citizen organizations as a challenge to U.S. policy in the region.[citation needed]

In 1985, Fellow Roger Wilkins helped found the Free South Africa Movement,[22] which organized a year-long series of demonstrations that led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions. In 1987, S. Steven Powell published his non-fiction Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies[23] in which he "providing by far the single most compendious collection of facts about IPS that anyone has yet compiled" according to a lengthy critical review by Joshua Muravchik.[24]

In 1986, after six years of the Reagan administration, Sidney Blumenthal said that "Ironically, as IPS has declined in Washington influence, its stature has grown in conservative demonology. In the Reagan era, the institute has loomed as a right-wing obsession and received most of its publicity by serving as a target."[25]

Conservative think tanks American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation described the IPS as the "far left" or "radical left" of the late 1980s,[26]: 177  another conservative think tank, who engaged in what the author Joshua Muravchik coined as "communophilism".[27][clarification needed]

In his 1988 book Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today, Emory University professor Harvey Klehr said that IPS "serves as an intellectual nerve center for the radical movement, ranging from nuclear and anti-intervention issues to support for Marxist insurgencies".[26]: 177 


In the early 1990s, IPS began monitoring the environmental impacts of U.S. trade, investment, and drug policies.[28]



Senior scholars[edit]


Start-up funding was secured from the Sears heir, Philip M. Stern, and banker, James Warburg. Most of the money came from a foundation of Samuel Rubin.[7]


  1. ^ In the 1980s there were allegations by a "confidential Dutch intelligence report that tied the controversial ex-CIA agent, Philip Agee, to the IPS magazine CounterSpy.("Institute of Policy Studies (IPS)" (Document). General Intelligence and Security Service. 1982. pp. 7, 8. a confidential Dutch intelligence report[verification needed]) Agee was the subject of numerous publications including a 1995 book (Kalugin, Oleg (1995). Spymaster: The Highest-ranking KGB Officer Ever to Break His Silence. Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85685-101-X.: 191–192 ) and a 1997 Los Angeles Times article that did not mention any connection between Agee and the IPS magazine (Risen, James (October 14, 1997). "Once Again, Ex-Agent Philip Agee Eludes CIA's Grasp". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 24, 2021.).


  1. ^ "IPS Board Selects Tope Folarin as New Executive Director, with John Cavanagh Transitioning to Senior Advisor". Institute for Policy Studies. May 13, 2021. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  2. ^ "IRS Form 990 2013" (PDF). GuideStar. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  3. ^ The Institute for Policy Studies. "The Institute for Policy Studies: the nation's oldest multi-issue progressive think tank". Retrieved September 15, 2017 – via The Library of Congress. {{cite news}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ Hauk, Alexis. "Salaries of Public-University Presidents Rocket Despite Spiraling Student Debt". Time. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  5. ^ "Institute for Policy Studies". Office of Career Strategy, Yale University. Retrieved September 15, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "IPS Board Selects Tope Folarin as New Executive Director, with John Cavanagh Transitioning to Senior Advisor". Institute for Policy Studies. May 13, 2021. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d Howard J. Wiarda; Esther M. Skelley (2006). The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: The Effects of a Divided America. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 102–103. ISBN 0742530388.
  8. ^ Mueller, Brian S (2021). Democracy's Think Tank: The Institute for Policy Studies & Progressive Foreign Policy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812253122.
  9. ^ The Internship Bible (10th ed.). The Princeton Review. 2005. p. 223. ISBN 0375764682.
  10. ^ a b c d e Katz, Lee Michael (Spring 2009). reporter/single/view/article/item/213/ "American think tanks". Carnegie Reporter. Vol. 5, no. 2. Carnegie Foundation. Archived from reporter/single/view/article/item/213/ the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  11. ^ Scholars' Guide to Washington, D.C. for Central Asian and Caucasus Studies. M. E. Sharpe. 2005. pp. 171–172. ISBN 0-7656-1579-7.
  12. ^ for-policy-studies "Institute for Policy Studies". The Heritage Foundation. April 19, 1977. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  13. ^ "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority".
  14. ^ Chowkwanyun, Merlin (February 2011). "The New Left and Public Health The Health Policy Advisory Center, Community Organizing, and the Big Business of Health, 1967 – 1975". American Journal of Public Health. 101 (2): 238–249. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.189985. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 3020214. PMID 21228287.
  15. ^ "The Health/PAC Digital Archive: Three Decades of Health and Social Justice". www.healthpacbulletin.org. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  16. ^ "Marcus Raskin". Obituary. February 2018. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  17. ^ Barnet and Raskin are listed on the more comprehensive Master list of Nixon political opponents; History of IPS, IPS website
  18. ^ Young, Michael (June 2002). "The devil and Daniel Ellsberg: From archetype to anachronism (review of Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg)". Reason. p. 2. Archived from the original on August 30, 2009. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
  19. ^ "Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon Papers, dies at 92". AP NEWS. June 16, 2023. Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  20. ^ Letelier case[user-generated source]
  21. ^ IPS 30th Anniversary Report
  22. ^ FSAM Chronology Archived July 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ S. Steven Powell (1987). Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies. Green Hill Publishers. p. 359. ISBN 9780915463398.
  24. ^ Muravchik, Joshua (October 1988). "Review of S. Steven Powell's non-fiction Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  25. ^ Sidney Blumenthal, Washington Post, 30 July 1986, Left-Wing Thinkers
  26. ^ a b Klehr, Harvey (1988). Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today.
  27. ^ Muravchik, Joshua (1984). ""Communophilism" and the Institute for Policy Studies". World Affairs. 147 (1).
  28. ^ "Our History | Institute for Policy Studies". Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  29. ^ "John Kiriakou". Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  30. ^ Gerhardt, Tina (January 24, 2013). "Joseph Stiglitz and the World Economic Forum: Making the Connection Between Climate Change and Economics". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 2, 2013. Daphne Wysham, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, agrees that one needs to look beyond GDP.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mueller, Brian S. (2021). Democracy's Think Tank: The Institute for Policy Studies and Progressive Foreign Policy. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-9960-1.

External links[edit]