Information Overload & the Invention of the Modern Research University

On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Helen Dragas, rector of the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, announced that President Teresa Sullivan and the board had “mutually agreed” that Sullivan would resign. Citing a “rapidly changing” higher education environment, Dragas insisted that the university had to change, and fast. In the ensuing weeks, Dragas alluded to […]

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The Scholar’s Vocation

In 1908, the first study of Germany’s ‘next generation of academics’ was published, written by the German economist Franz Eulenburg. After 200 pages of line graphs and tables, he concluded that they were neither young nor going anywhere. Although some who taught in Germany’s world-renowned universities enjoyed the freedom presumed to accompany an academic life, […]

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Christian Humanism Is a Wooden Iron

In the brief respite between total wars, most Christian intellectuals in Europe––from Catholics such as Jacques Maritain and Simon Weil to Protestants such as W. H. Auden and C. S. Lewis––professed an allegiance to humanism, as did an array of confessing and non-confessing Communists, Dada-ists, Futurists, liberals, and Marxists. But beyond a general commitment to the human, they tended to agree […]

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Introduction to “Charisma & Disenchantment: The Vocation Lectures”

Paul Reitter and I recently edited a new translation of Max Weber’s two vocation lectures by Damion Searls. NYRB Classics published them this past February. As part of this volume, Paul and I also wrote an introduction: In the summer of 1917, a group of university students in Munich invited Max Weber to launch a […]

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Weber and the Crisis of the Humanities

In the summer of 1917, a group of university students in Munich invited Max Weber to launch a lecture series on “intellectual work as a vocation” with a talk about the scholar’s work. He was, in a way, an odd choice. Fifty-three at the time, Weber hadn’t held an academic job in over a decade. […]

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Weber’s Vocation Lectures with NYRB Classics

On January 28, 2020, NYRB Classics will publish Charisma and Disenchantment: The Vocation Lectures by Max Weber, edited by and with an introduction from Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon, translated from the German by Damion Searls. In 1919, just months before he died unexpectedly of pneumonia, the sociologist Max Weber published two lectures that he had […]

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Intersecting Disciplines

“Chad Wellmon has done a fair bit of dreaming and analyzing over the past four years. Blame it on the fact that he professes an equal love of math and poetry, of science and philosophy. Although he’s now an associate professor of German, Wellmon always assumed he’d grow up to be a physicist. Most recently, […]

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Detecting Footnotes in 32 Million Pages

In “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, the eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant responded to a big question buried in a little footnote. But you wouldn’t know it, because contemporary editions of Kant’s famous essay no longer reproduce the parenthetical directive that Kant’s original essay printed right under the essay’s title in the […]

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THE YEAR OF WHOSE LORD?

Before he philosophized with a hammer, Friedrich Nietzsche counted Greek metre. In 1868, the University of Basel appointed, or “called” as German academics put it to this day, the twenty-four-year-old Leipzig student a professor in ancient Greek language and literature. For several years, Nietzsche played the professional philologist, publishing erudite articles, arguing with fellow scholars […]

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