Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University

Overview

Tracing the transformation of early modern academics into modern researchers from the Renaissance to Romanticism, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University reconsiders the conditions of knowledge production in the modern world. William Clark argues that the research university developed in response to market forces and bureaucracy, producing a new kind of academic whose goal was to establish originality and achieve fame through publication. Drawing on an astonishing wealth of research, he ...
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Overview

Tracing the transformation of early modern academics into modern researchers from the Renaissance to Romanticism, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University reconsiders the conditions of knowledge production in the modern world. William Clark argues that the research university developed in response to market forces and bureaucracy, producing a new kind of academic whose goal was to establish originality and achieve fame through publication. Drawing on an astonishing wealth of research, he investigates the origins and evolving fixtures of academic life: the lecture catalogue, the library catalog, the grading system, the conduct of oral and written exams, the roles of conversation and the writing of research papers in seminars, the writing and oral defense of the doctoral dissertation, the ethos of "lecturing with applause" and "publish or perish," and the role of reviews and rumor. This is a grand, ambitious book that should be required reading for every academic.

About the Author:
William Clark is visiting assistant professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles

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Editorial Reviews

Peter Galison

“We are used to thinking of academic structures and pomp as ‘traditional,’ a throwback to an unspecified earlier time—maybe antiquity, maybe more recent. By contrast, William Clark gives the material and sociological bricks of the ivory tower historical specificity and by doing so takes the university apart. How do the category and comportment of the modern professor come into being? Are researchers heroes? Are they gentlemen? Are they bureaucrats? Robes and disputations, exams, and architecture: all grist for Clark’s mill. In this historical dissection of the university, Clark has created a world that is at once very erudite and immensely funny, an imaginative and beautifully researched step beyond the schematics of Bourdieu’s classic Homo Academicus. Anyone who wants to understand how universities got to be the way they are should grab this book off the shelf.”
Michael Hagner

“William Clark is an incredibly original and sensible traveler through the history of German academia. The book is a marvel in its combination of stupendous scholarship and enjoyable reading. After all, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is like a mirror that shows us academics numerous characteristics of ourselves and our institutions, details we usually ignore.”
Nick Jardine

“This magisterial book offers a compelling new account of the origins of the research-based university. Drawing on an astonishing wealth of sources, it explores in fascinating detail the transformations of university life from the Reformation to the Romantic era. This will be required reading for historians of European culture and for all academics curious about their origins.”
American Scientist - Sheldon Rothblatt

"In almost any way that one can imagine, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is an astonishing book. . . . Many times the prose is purposefully funny and anything but dryasdust academic writing. No summary can do justice to a book so relentless in analysis and so rich in original source material. . . . It is astonishing in style voice, structure, method, conception, breadth and learning. . . . This is a brilliant book. The styles and methods may be recognizable, but the whole is daringly new, exciting and disturbing."
New Yorker - Anthony Grafton

"[Clark] makes his case with analytic shrewdness, an exuberant love of archival anecdote, and a wry sense of humor. It's hard to resist a writer who begins by noting, 'Befitting the subject, this is an odd book.'"
Times Higher Education Supplement - Anthony Smith

"An anthropology of university life. . . .an analysis of the academic self. [Clark] tells us how academics became who and what they are."
Libraries and the Cultural Record - Robert N. Matuozzi

"Clark has written a readable and thoroughly researched account of crucial changes in the medieval university that resulted in the modern academy. He describes these shifts with humor and insight, illuminating traditions and rituals that would otherwise remain lost in time."
College & Research Libraries News

"An enlightening look at what disputations, examinations, research seminars, appointments, advanced degrees, and scholarship represented in a bygone era, this volume is a challenging but worthy read."

American Scientist
In almost any way that one can imagine, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is an astonishing book. . . . Many times the prose is purposefully funny and anything but dryasdust academic writing. No summary can do justice to a book so relentless in analysis and so rich in original source material. . . . It is astonishing in style voice, structure, method, conception, breadth and learning. . . . This is a brilliant book. The styles and methods may be recognizable, but the whole is daringly new, exciting and disturbing.

— Sheldon Rothblatt

New Yorker
[Clark] makes his case with analytic shrewdness, an exuberant love of archival anecdote, and a wry sense of humor. It's hard to resist a writer who begins by noting, 'Befitting the subject, this is an odd book.'

— Anthony Grafton

Times Higher Education Supplement
An anthropology of university life. . . .an analysis of the academic self. [Clark] tells us how academics became who and what they are.

— Anthony Smith

Science

"Focusing on changes between the 1770s and the 1830s, Clark offers detailed accounts of lecture and seminar formats, grading systems, the conduct of examinations, the doctoral dissertation, library catalogs, and the appointment of professors. He argues that traditional academic customs and practices were transformed by market forces and competition among the small states of 18thcentury Germany. To reap the benefits of having prestigious universities and scholars, bureaucrats established criteria for monitoring classroom diligence and publication productivity. This wideranging, thought-provoking book will reward anyone interested in the origins and early evolution of modern Homo academius and its environment."

Libraries and the Cultural Record
Clark has written a readable and thoroughly researched account of crucial changes in the medieval university that resulted in the modern academy. He describes these shifts with humor and insight, illuminating traditions and rituals that would otherwise remain lost in time.

— Robert N. Matuozzi

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226109220
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 668
  • Sales rank: 1,006,171
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

William Clark is visiting assistant professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, and coeditor of The Sciences in Enlightened Europe, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Read an Excerpt


Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University

By William Clark THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Copyright © 2006
The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-10921-3


Chapter One Charisma and Rationalization

Befitting the subject, this is an odd book. It traces the development of the academic from medieval forms up to modern incarnations. The latter inhabit the research university, the origins of which this book seeks to illuminate. To do so, it casts light on bureaucratization and commodification-the twin engines of the rationalization and the disenchantment of the world. The research university forms part of this modern order, in which the visible and the rational triumphed over the oral and the traditional. But through the cunning of history (or something) the rationalized academic world that we now enjoy spared academic charisma.

The period covered stretches from the Renaissance to Romanticism, with attention to the 1770s to 1830s. The research university originated in Protestant German lands and diffused globally in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. German academia thus provides the focus, to which English and Jesuit academics will offer interesting points of contrast. The book deploys microanalyses of academic practices, not as a sop to palliate postmodern queasiness about grand narrative (which I plan to tell and especially of a Protestant Ethic), but in earnest.

The origins of the research university lie in a transformation of academic manners by ministries and markets. German ministers of state and avatars of the market worked, as they saw it, to reform and modernize benighted academics. As a consequence of their efforts, a joint bureaucratization and commodification of academic practices took place, from which the research university emerged.

A German Protestant academic had to pass muster with bureaucratic or rationalized criteria for appointment, which included productivity in publication, diligence in teaching, and acceptable political views and lifestyle. But to achieve success, one also had to acquire fame, be in fashion, and display "originality," a spark of genius, in writings. This became a new sort of academic charisma tied to writing for "applause" and "recognition." The modern academic emerged, I shall argue, from the cultivation of this new legible charisma. But, despite the dominion of writing in modern academia, aspects of traditional oral culture persisted and, among other things, played an important role in fabricating reputation.

A word now about the time periods under analysis here. By the "early modern era" historians typically mean the time from about 1450/1500 to 1780-1800-the Renaissance, Baroque, and Enlightenment. Historians typically set the modern era per se as beginning with the French Revolution (1789) and the Romantic era or Romanticism. This book concerns the great transformation of academic charisma and the gradual emergence of the research university from the Renaissance to Romanticism. A crucial time, as noted, was around the 1770s to the 1830s-the late Enlightenment and Romantic era, the onset of the modern era.

I shall use "traditional" versus "modern" to contrast two academic regimes or orders. The modern is the research university. The traditional is what came before and endures in some ways and places. I intend the terms only descriptively. No simple opposition obtains between the modern and the traditional. Elements of traditional academic practices persist in the modern academic regime of research, for example, voting for academic appointments, as well as the use of personal connections to achieve academic ends of all sorts, licit or not.

The rest of the chapter will discuss the analytical framework of the book, the empirical base of the book, and finally the structure of the book in its parts and chapters.

THE ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK

Material Practices

Figure 1.1 is from a famous sixteenth century work by Sebastian Münster. The illustration appears in that work at least twice, used for two different universities. The scene depicted is thus conventional, as opposed to anyone's lecture in particular. The windows and walls suggest a castle or a church. European academia had only metaphorically a tower, one of ivory. Its architecture was actually ecclesiastical in origin-and remains so for universities with nostalgia and the cash flow to accommodate it. The space thus has rather more spiritual than secular overtones. And, while relatively small, the space offers little intimacy.

The lecturer sits in a cathedra, a chair. The notion of a professorial chair stems from this. The cathedra had been, at first, where a bishop sat to teach. The church where his chair resided became by synecdoche a "cathedral." Later canons, that is, high officials at cathedrals and other churches, also acquired what was called a cathedra or chair. From there it passed to professors, as the funding of professorships originated in medieval canonries.

The professor sits in the chair here, symbolizing his chair. He lectures from a book to eight visible students, some by no means youths. Only the professor's chair has a backrest. The students sit on simple benches. The lucky ones have a wall to lean against. Only one appears prepared to take notes. A few others look at papers or a book ...

We shall be interested in material practices, such as illustrated in figure 1.1, apropos the emergence of the research university and the transformation of academic charisma. What is the difference between the layout and the intimacy of a lecture hall versus a seminar room? When did German academics, if ever, begin to have conversations in a setting called a seminar? Have academics always conducted master's and doctor's exams at tables? What was the provenance of these academic tables? When did students begin the practice of writing? Writing notes in lectures? Writing exams at desks? Writing papers for a seminar?

Interest in the material practices of academics reaches back at least to the German Kulturgeschichte of the nineteenth century. More recently what anthropologists and archaeologists have called "material culture" has received greater attention in regard to academia and science. Works by Michel Foucault, Jack Goody, and Bruno Latour, among others, have endeavored to illuminate epistemic practices from their material bases. Peter Becker and I have used the notion of "little tools of knowledge" to designate such studies.

Material practices will be studied in this light in the chapters that follow. The transformation of academic charisma came about with or even through an armory of little tools-catalogues, charts, tables (of paper), reports, questionnaires, dossiers, and so on. Such things comprise the modern, mundane, bureaucratic repertoire of paperwork and much of the power of the modern academic comes from such trifles. Foucault wrote, "The constitution of tables was one of the great problems of scientific, political and economic technology in the eighteenth century ... The table of the eighteenth century was at once a technique of power and a procedure of knowledge."

One can learn much from the material practices of academics-about the nature of academic work from the transformation of the lecture catalogue, about the constitution of the research library from the battle over its catalogues, about the commodification of academics from tables evaluating them, about the appointment of academics from the layout of the paperwork, about the doctor of philosophy from the iconography of title pages of dissertations, about the nature of exams from the nature of tables as wooden or paper.

Modern Metaphysics

At least since Hegel's Philosophie der Geschichte, a tradition of thought has held that the essential dialectic of the Middle Ages was that between Church and State, while that of the modern era is or was between State and Society, between the public and the private. The latter two terms, to be sure, are fraught with the weight of history, but cannot be avoided.

Karl Marx's notorious "On the Jewish Question" (Zur Judenfrage) gave the modern distinction between the public and the private, vis-à-vis the traditional opposition between Church and State, a most piquant formulation. Political emancipation of religious minorities had become possible in Europe, he held, because religion had been moved from the public sphere of the state into the private sphere of civil society. Science and academia had lost their old ecclesiastical or theological foundations as part of this transformation. Religion should now concern an academic or scientist only in their private persona, thus not qua academic or scientist. An academic or scientist now embodied a disinterested professional persona. In this sense, academia first lost its theological, transcendental mission in the Enlightenment.

In the modern metaphysics of research, a cool, objective, meritocratic, professional self suppresses the passionately interested, collegially motivated, nepotistic, old-fashioned, traditional academic self. This modern schizophrenia is demanded of many professionals in the modern era. Max Weber saw it as willed by both bureaucratic and capitalistic interests.

Bureaucracy, in its perfection, stands in a specific sense also under the principle sine ira ac studio [without anger or interest]. Its specific quality, quite welcome to capitalism, develops itself all the more perfectly the more it "dehumanizes," the more perfectly, that is, that its specific feature, prized as its virtue, succeeds: exclusion of love, hate, all the purely political and above all the irrational emotional elements resisting calculation ... Instead of personal interest, favor, grace, and gratitude motivating the lords of older [traditional] orders, modern culture, the more complex and specialized it becomes, demands all the more the personally disinterested, so strictly "objective" expert ("sachlichen" Fachmann).

The modern bureaucratic distinction allowing the formation of a public-professional, expert self, and its insulation from the interests and hobbies of the amateur, private self, lies in the distinction between the office and the home. That distinction is largely absent in traditional societies or groups, in which nepotism, bribery, cheating, and other violations of office space, abhorrent to modern bureaucratic and academic regimes, are a way of life.

Many fraternities at American universities resemble traditional groups in this sense. Student culture long resisted-still resists-the separation of public and private selves and spaces, understandable since most students make love and study in the same room. The modern schizophrenia must be forced on each generation. Those who work at home, including academics in the low-tech, humanistic disciplines, fall prey to archaic behavior all the time, confusing themselves with their work. The expansion of laboratories in the nineteenth century, and the massive scale that many acquired in the twentieth century, made the separation of the office or workplace from the home somewhat easier for most scientists.

Marxists called this "alienated labor": when one is at home, one is not at work, and when one is at work, one is not at home. There were many good things about alienated labor, including the meritocratic practices that allowed excluded groups in Europe-especially women and Jews-into the academic world. But bureaucratic and entrepreneurial interests did not generally advance this alienation and rationalization of academic life (making it rather academic labor, as life was now a private matter) for egalitarian reasons, such as integrating excluded groups. German managerial or bureaucratic capitalism, working with the "Protestant Ethic," had other objectives in the modern metaphysics of the office and the professional persona that produced the research university and the new academic charisma.

But back to Hegel. One aim of this book is to illuminate the transformation of the traditional or medieval juridico-ecclesiastical academic world into the modern politico-economic regime of research. The juridico-ecclesiastical mentality reflects a society in which Church and State predominate; the politico-economic mentality one in which State and Society, the public and the private, do. Many chapters to follow have, thus, a twofold goal.

First, to set out the originally juridico-ecclesiastical understanding of academic life and practices: traditional academia was invested with a theological or religious as well as with a juridical or legalistic cast. Such a juridico-ecclesiastical academic order fused the public and the private. Second, to elucidate the transformation of academic practices into our politico-economic world: it is here that the public and the private become separated, here that the study becomes the office, here that things like nepotism and patronage give way to merit.

The politico-economic (or "cameralistic") world is that of ministries and markets. The study becomes the office, but with a window on the market. In the traditional academic order, charisma had inhered in the juridico-theological cast of academic life. In the modern politico-economic regime, academic charisma comes much from certain labors loved by the market.

Tradition and Rationalization

This study employs Weber's notion of three sorts of legitimate authority: the charismatic, the traditional, and the rational. Weber uses the German word Herrschaft, which he specifies in one place as being equivalent with the Latinate word Auctorität (authority). One usually follows Weber's suggestion and speaks in English of the three sorts of legitimate authority, although the German Herrschaft, which is "lordship" in old-fashioned English, more precisely means dominion. I shall largely follow general practice and speak of legitimate authority here. But I shall often reduce the notions elliptically to substantives: charisma, tradition, and-in place of rationality-rationalization. As part of the analytical framework, these notions help elucidate how medieval and early modern academics became "modern."

In this section, I shall discuss tradition and rationalization in a general way, and then discuss the latter more specifically in reference to a few historical examples of German practices. Much of this book centers on exhibiting the older juridico-ecclesiastical academic order as one legitimated by traditional authority, while the politico-economic regime of modern research legitimates itself by rational authority-or, rather, it rationalizes. The next section will take up the matter of charisma and its persistence in modern academia.

As a paradigm of traditional authority one could take groups whose structure, despite many complexities, is family-like. Chapters to follow will show that early modern academic faculties and colleges, like craft guilds and kindreds, had a family-like structure at base. The collegial manners-the practices and institutions-of academic faculties and colleges embodied traditional authority. Early modern academic appointments, for example, were largely governed by nepotism, favor, seniority, gifts, and other such collegial practices which, unlike the family strictly taken, usually included voting as a central practice.

Academics typically obtained positions via a vote by a faculty or college or group of electors. A vote manifested the collegial will of the body. By dint of the traditional authority vested in such collegial will, legitimately ascertained and manifested, an academic held his office legitimately, even if the office had been won chiefly in view of nepotism or seniority or gifts-all traditional academic manners in a world that fused the public and private.

Most chapters of this book will exhibit the traditions or manners of early modern academics, and then show how ministries and markets worked to rationalize such practices-how bureaucratic and entrepreneurial interests worked to alter or subvert the traditional authority of faculties and colleges. In place of the traditions of academics, reformers wished to install the "rational" authority of ministries and markets-to instill their rationalizations.

Weber says, "Bureaucratic administration means: authority (Herrschaft) by dint of knowledge-that is its specific fundamental character." Rationalization or rational authority substitutes supposedly adjudicated knowledge for the simple will of traditional authority.

Bureaucracy has a "rational" character: rule, aim, means, "objective" (sachliche) disinterestedness dominate its behavior. Its emergence and diffusion has thus had everywhere ... a "revolutionary" effect, just as the march of Rationalism tends to do generally in all domains.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University by William Clark Copyright © 2006 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

1 Charisma and rationalization 3
2 The lecture catalogue 33
3 The lecture and the disputation 68
4 The examination 93
5 The research seminar 141
6 The doctor of philosophy 183
7 The appointment of a professor 239
8 The library catalogue 297
9 Academic babble and ministerial machinations 339
10 Ministerial hearing and academic commodification 373
11 Academic voices and the ghost in the machine 398
12 The research university and beyond 435
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