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

Contents About the Authors vii Introduction: The Humboldtian Tradition and Its Transformations 1 Peter Josephson, Thomas Karlsohn and Johan Östling PART 1 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 PART 2 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 vi contents PART 3 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.