John Stuart Mill was perhaps the last who was substantially at home in and competent in all the branches of moral philosophy: political theory, psychology, history, public administration, political economy, sociology, etc.
Afterwards young scholars paying their dues found it simply impossible to learn everything and still have time to write anything. And since it is much easier to teach undergraduates what you know than what you don't, specialization in research drove specialization in curriculum as well. But dividing up the social sciences makes sense even for professors and graduate students only if the beast is cut at the joints, so that the problems in understanding the world that fall in the debatable lands between two disciplines are few and unimportant. And dividing up the social sciences makes no sense for undergraduates: What use are economics B.A.s who know no political science or history? None at all.(...)
Call [the] problematic presented by the history of the world from 1914 to 1975 the "Barrington Moore problematic": it is to understand the historical and social origins of dictatorship and democracy, of slavery and freedom, of ideology and rationality, of poverty and prosperity. Humanity had moved from societies of illiterate farmers producing little more than subsistence dominated by thugs with strong arms and sharp spears to urban, literate, industrial orders. That produced Abraham Lincoln but also Vladimir Lenin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt but also Mao Zedong, Konrad Adenauer but also Augusto Pinochet. And Adolf Hitler as the sole member of the my-regime-killed-50-million club. Why? How? And what could be done to make it stop? (...)
Can the Barrington Moore problematic serve a role similar in the next generation to the one it has served in the past two?
I would say not.
Adolf Hitler is sixty-five years in his grave. Societies in transition to urban-market-mass political modernity and how to keep more Lenins and Hitlers from arising in them does not seem to be the globe's most urgent problem any more. And our most recent modern monsters seem of a different and perhaps older kind: Saddam Hussein reminded me more of the Caliph Uthman or of Mehmet II than of Hitler. Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah seem more like updated versions of the Assassins of Syria rather than of the Comintern. Rwanda seems more like the Sicilian Vespers with radios than like the terror-famine of the Great Leap Forward.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 08:30