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Permanent Crisis

The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon

Permanent Crisis

Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon

320 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2021
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226738062 Will Publish August 2021
E-book $10.00 to $34.99 About E-books ISBN: 9780226738376 Will Publish August 2021

The humanities, considered by many as irrelevant for modern careers and hopelessly devoid of funding, seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis, at the mercy of modernizing and technological forces that are driving universities towards academic pursuits that pull in grant money and direct students to lucrative careers. But as Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon show, this crisis isn’t new—in fact, it’s as old as the humanities themselves. 

Today’s humanities scholars experience and react to basic pressures in ways that are strikingly similar to their nineteenth-century German counterparts. The humanities came into their own as scholars framed their work as a unique resource for resolving crises of meaning and value that threatened other cultural or social goods. The self-understanding of the modern humanities didn’t merely take shape in response to a perceived crisis; it also made crisis a core part of its project. Through this critical, historical perspective, Permanent Crisis can take scholars and anyone who cares about the humanities beyond the usual scolding, exhorting, and hand-wringing into clearer, more effective thinking about the fate of the humanities. Building on ideas from Max Weber and Friedrich Nietzsche to Helen Small and Danielle Allen, Reitter and Wellmon dig into the very idea of the humanities as a way to find meaning and coherence in the world. 

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Contents
Introduction
1.The Modern University and the Dream of Intellectual Unity
2. The Lament of the Melancholy Mandarins
3. Philology and Modernity: Nietzsche on Education
4. The Mandarins of the Lab: The Humanities in “the Age of the Natural Sciences”
5. The Consolation of the Modern Humanities
6. Max Weber, Scholarship, and Modern Asceticism
7. Crisis, Democracy, and the Humanities in America
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Review Quotes
Suzanne L. Marchand, Louisiana State University
"Anyone considering writing an essay or op-ed on ‘the crisis of the humanities’ ought to read this book first."
Warren G. Breckman, University of Pennsylvania
"Permanent Crisis is a magisterial tour-de-force of historical scholarship in the service of a powerful and timely intervention in an issue of widespread contemporary concern and deep significance. It has the potential to alter the debate over the place of the humanities in the modern university."
Rey Chow, author of A Face Drawn in Sand: Humanistic Inquiry and Foucault in the Present
"Reitter and Wellmon masterfully elucidate what they argue is the signature way humanistic inquiry has participated in the modern research university: through a discourse of crisis and decline, from which it paradoxically derives its purpose and direction. The authors provide an intellectual genealogy for contentious issues in US higher education—professionalization, academic freedom, workplace inclusivity, exploitation of adjunct labor, and much more. A truly instructive study!”
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