Review: Clark, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University
William Clark’s most recent work, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, is one of the first books to take on the daunting task of charting the evolution of academics in the western world. Full of profound insights into the development of the profession, the academics themselves have been quick to praise Clark’s book for its comprehensive and insightful account of the discipline. Sheldon Rothblatt, professor emeritus of history at the University of California, Berkeley writes in a review for the American Scientist:
In almost any way that one can imagine, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is an astonishing book. Earlier reviews have said as much. It is astonishing in style, voice, structure, method, conception, breadth, and learning.…
[Clark’s book] introduces a startling set of new ideas: It was not the professors who created the modern academic profession; rather, it was the rationalizing, bureaucratic, market-conscious functionaries who served the various German states of the 18th century.… This emphasis on the state as the ultimate, if indirect, source of intellectual creativity challenges received opinion, but it also challenges a certain high-mindedness about the pursuit and embrace of knowledge that the inherited account assumes. The corrective is necessary; but it is also a corrective derived from a certain skepticism about current academic values.
A eye opening account of the discipline, Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University is a grand, ambitious book that should be required reading for every academic.