Feb 24 2018

What Germans Thought of American Football Coaches 100 Years Ago

la casaWhat Germans Thought of American Football Coaches 100 Years Ago:
(At Least According to Max Weber):

Written in about 1917:

The American boy learns unspeakably less than the German boy.

In spite of an incredible number of examinations, his school life has not had the significance of turning him into an absolute creature of examinations, such as the German.

For in America, bureaucracy, which presupposes the examination diploma as a ticket of admission to the realm of office prebends, is only in its beginnings.

The young American has no respect for anything or anybody, for tradition or for public office—unless it is for the personal achievement of individual men.

This is what the American calls “democracy.” This is the meaning of democracy, however distorted its intent may in reality be, and this intent is what matters here.

The American’s conception of the teacher who faces him is: he sells me his knowledge and his methods for my father’s money, just as the greengrocer sells my mother cabbage. And that is all.

To be sure, if the teacher happens to be a football coach, then, in this field, he is a leader. But if he is not this (or something similar in a different field of sports), he is simply a teacher and nothing more. And no young American would think of having the teacher sell him a Weltanschauung or a code of conduct.

Now, when formulated in this manner, we should reject this. But the question is whether there is not a grain of salt contained in this feeling, which I have deliberately stated in extreme with some exaggeration. ––Max Weber (1864–1920)[1]

 

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[1] Max Weber, “Science and Politics,” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, translated by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958) 149–50.


Dec 27 2017

11 Books I Read in 2017 (Placed in 7 Categories)

book spines

11 Books I Read in 2017 (Placed in 7 Categories)

Books I probably shouldve already read a long time ago but somehow hadnt: For this category, I call it a tie between the Scotsman Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s (1859–1930) Study in Scarlet (1887), which introduces the world to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and the Anglo-Irishman Bram Stoker’s (1847–1912) Dracula (1897), which was certainly not the first book that introduced the world to vampires, but a staple of twentieth-century popular culture in the West nonetheless.

Best autobiography: ‘Tis Herself (2004) by actress Maureen O’Hara (1920–2015)––someone whose tough spirit, terrific behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the classic Hollywood era, and her proud (but also modest) part in promoting Irish independence made the telling of her own life stand out when compared to some other autobiographies I read this year, such as those by Edward Gibbon (1737–1794) and Giambattista Vico (1668–1744). Michael Morton’s Getting Life: an Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace (2014) was a powerful telling of justice (and its opposite) occurring in Central Texas, and was a close second behind Miss O’Hara.

Most useful book of the year: Baylor University’s Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Allan Jacobs’ How to Think: a Survival Guide for a World at Odds (2017) is a book I will be keeping within reach and often returning to, much like H. W. Fowler’s (1858–1933) Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926, 1965), or University of Texas English professor emeritus John R. Trimble’s Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing (1975, 2000). Jacobs’ book can, at times, be just as casual and amusing as Fowler can, but Jacobs is especially good at taking personal anecdotes and demonstrating that he has already applied to his own life the lessons he’s now trying to impart to readers in this book. All authors should be so self-applicable.

Most anticipated book of the year: this would be Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: a Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (2017). Dreher is a prolific blogger at The American Conservative, someone whom I’ve read weekly (if not daily) for the past 4–5 years. Like my observation of Jacobs, Dreher is also especially good at taking his own life situations and applying them to whatever it is he’s writing about. The Benedict Option, however, is a departure from Dreher’s typically personal style of writing. It is much more theoretical than his previous books, much more detached than even his particular blog posts on the Benedict Option that led up to him writing the present book. Dreher’s book is certainly not an indictment of the present-day United States, though it may be a lamentation.

2017 as the year for reading history: In the Benedict Option Dreher writes:

I am a college-educated American. In all my years of formal schooling, I never read Plato or Aristotle, Homer or Virgil. I knew nothing of Greek and Roman history and barely grasped the meaning of the Middle Ages. Dante was a stranger to me, and so was Shakespeare (p. 154).

I recognize some of this as being true for me as well, particularly with respect to history. So this year I got through Herodotus’ (~484–425 BC) Histories, Thucydides’ (460–400 BC) History of the Peloponnesian War, and Livy’s (~64– ~17 AD) History of Rome (books I–X, XXI–XXX). I will say reading these have already helped me find things to write about and get published as I did this year with my essays “Custom Versus Culture: a Modest Distinction” by Real Clear News of Chicago and “Between History and Myth in Austin, Texas” in The Fortnightly Review of London.

Best reread of the year: former professor of philosophy at Princeton, Walter Kaufmann’s (1921–1980) Critique of Religion and Philosophy (1958, 1972) is a tour de force spanning all across the humanities. I found it much more difficult reading the second time, probably because I forced myself to read it at a much slower pace than I did about 5 years ago. I’m a better reader now than I was then, but there’re parts to Kaufmann’s Critique that still seem to slag, particularly the digressions on Aquinas and Niebuhr.

Most difficult book of the year: Certainly the winner of this category belongs to the Max Weber (1864–1920) anthology, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (1945), trans. by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958)––a long book with a long biographical introduction to Weber––a book that requires many notes to be taken, reread, and thoroughly pondered before proceeding further. It was Charles Taylor’s titanic A Secular Age (2007) that turned me on to this collection of Weber’s work. I started Taylor in about June, and probably won’t finish until this time next year.


Nov 20 2017

Disenchantment

London - Georgian Apartments

Disenchantment

Disenchantment with rhetoric about law that ignores legal realities:

A very important think piece by Jesse Singal: “There Have Been So Many Bad Lefty Free-Speech Takes Lately,” New York Magazine, November 12, 2017.

Disenchantment with the beltway culture that ignores any reality:

A poignant reflection on Washington, D.C. and writing by Tom Ricks: “Babylon Revisited: Melancholy Thoughts After a Short Trip to Washington, D.C.,” Foreign Policy, November 17, 2017.

“Disenchantment,” in Max Weber’s (1864-1920) words, means:

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. If we attempt to force and to ‘invent’ a monumental style in art, such miserable monstrosities are produced as the many monuments of the last twenty years [1897–1917].

Elaborating on Weber’s term, “disenchantment,” Richard Jenkins notes:

It is the historical process by which the natural world and all areas of human experience become experienced and understood as less mysterious; defined, at least in principle, as knowable, predictable and manipulable by humans; conquered by and incorporated into the interpretive schema of science and rational government. [1]

Yet, Jenkins points out, there may not be anything necessarily “modern” about this disenchantment:

Even if we disregard the rich variety of communities and ethnies in the pre-modern world, there is every reason to suggest that the European world, at least, has been disenchanted, in the sense of epistemically fragmented, for as long as we can perceive it in the historical record.[2]

NOTES

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[1] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium,” Max Weber Studies 1 (November 2000): 11–32 at 12; Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Translated and eds. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958) 55.

[2] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium” 15.