The Humboldtian Tradition

Origins and Legacies


In The Humboldtian Tradition, eleven scholars consider Wilhelm von Humboldt as a historical phenomenon and a contemporary symbol. Inspired by the growing body of literature that in recent years has problematized the modern research university, they put Humboldt’s basic academic principles into context and discuss their significance for the current debate about higher education.
The authors draw on the latest research in order to bring the educational and research policies of our day into perspective. At a time when the university is undergoing deep-seated transformations worldwide, they address the question how we should relate to the ideas associated with Humboldt’s name. What is his relevance to the twenty-first century?
Contributors are: Mitchell Ash, Pieter Dhondt, Ylva Hasselberg, Marja Jalava, Peter Josephson, Thomas Karlsohn, Claudia Lindén, Johan Östling, Sharon Rider, Hans Ruin, Susan Wright.

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Biographical Note

< Peter Josephson, Ph.D., is researcher at the Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University. He has published monographs, text books and articles on the history of universities and higher education.
Thomas Karlsohn. Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala University. He has published monographs, translations and articles on the history of universities, education and philosophy.
Johan Östling, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Pro Futura Scientia Fellow at Lund University and Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) in Uppsala. He is currently writing a book about the idea of the university in modern Germany.

Table of contents

About the Authors vii
Introduction: The Humboldtian Tradition
and Its Transformations 1
Peter Josephson, Thomas Karlsohn and Johan Östling
Historical Origins
1 The Publication Mill: The Beginnings of Publication History
as an Academic Merit in German Universities, 1750–1810 23
Peter Josephson
2 On Humboldtian and Contemporary Notions
of The Academic Lecture 44
Thomas Karlsohn
3 It Takes a Real Man to Show True Femininity: Gender Transgression
in Goethe’s and Humboldt’s Concept of Bildung 58
Claudia Lindén
Transformations of a Tradition
4 Humboldt the Undead: Multiple Uses of ‘Humboldt’
and his ‘Death’ in The ‘Bologna’ Era 81
Mitchell G. Ash
5 ‘Humboldt’ in Belgium: Rhetoric on the German
University Model 97
Pieter Dhondt
6 The Regeneration of the University: Karl Jaspers and the Humboldtian
Tradition in the Wake of the Second World War 111
Johan Östling
7 When Humboldt Met Marx: The 1970s Leftist Student Movement
and the Idea of the University in Finland 127
Marja Jalava
Contemporary Contentions
8 ‘Humboldt’, Humbug! Contemporary Mobilizations of ‘Humboldt’
as a Discourse to Support the Corporatization and Marketization of
Universities and Disparage Alternatives 143
Susan Wright
9 Philosophy, Freedom, and the Task of the University:
Reflections on Humboldt’s Legacy 164
Hans Ruin
10 Reclaiming Norms: The Value of Normative Structures
for the University as Workplace and Enterprise 178
Ylva Hasselberg
11 The Very Idea of Higher Education: Vocation of Man or
Vocational Training? 191
Sharon Rider
Index 213


All interested in the history of universities, and anyone concerned with higher education and research policy in general and the Humboldtian tradition in particular.

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