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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Eric Voegelin on Max Weber

"I should stress that one important... influence of Max Weber was the range his comparative knowledge. So far as I am concerned, Weber established once and for all that one cannot be a successful scholar in the field of social and political science unless one knows what one is talking about. And that means acquiring the comparative civilizational knowledge not only of modern civilization but also of medieval and ancient civilization, and not only of Western civilization, but also of Near Eastern and Far Eastern civilizations. That also means keeping that knowledge up to date through contact with the specialist sciences in the various fields. Anybody who does not do that has no claim to call himself an empiricist and certainly is defective in competence as a scholar in this field." -- Autobiographical Reflections, p. 40-41.

Today, we have declined to the point that a prominent economist can ask me "Who was Alexander the Great?" and "Who came first, the Greeks of the Romans?" Can anyone imagine Marx or Menger, Mises or Schumpeter, Keynes or Hayek asking such questions? They all would have known these things since grade school.

5 comments:

  1. Perhaps it is because this and the prior generation (like mine) have been used to an egalitarian education.

    Srdja Trifkovic once wrote a column, "Better Red Than Brain Dead" about his education in old Yugoslavia - which itself was entirely distinct from that of any communist region. it followed a very 19th century style system called a Gymnasium.

    What would be a college level liberal education today was junior high school and high school education in the Gymnasium. It came with a nasty tradeoff. You had to be exceptionally intelligent and knowledgeable to pass the entrance, and the rest went to trade school.

    I imagine such a system existed in Central Europe as well as in the elite schools that Keynes attended.

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  2. I can't imagine a prominent economist asking you a question, Gene.

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  3. But, you have asked me many questions, Bob... Oh, never mind.

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  4. I was just reading Wever yesterday morning - "Science as a Vocation".

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  5. Well, but Prateek, we are talking about a PhD economist here, not a high-school graduate! He has had years in which his ob has been to study and understand social reality, and during that time he hasn't bothered to figure out if "the Greeks or the Romans came first"?!

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