History students should have successfully completed their propaedeutic exam and both second-year BA-seminars, one of which in General History. By choosing this seminar, students also choose General History as their BA graduation specialisation.
Intellectuals are a modern phenomenon: a social group engaged in knowledge production under conditions of bureaucratic state administration, industrial and postindustrial economies, and a democratic public sphere. What happens when intellectuals enter into politics? Do they betray a higher calling or merely practice what they preach? This seminar uses methods of intellectual history and sociology of knowledge to examine the power of ideas. Together students analyze primary sources such as Émile Zola’s “J’accuse!,” Max Weber’s “Science as a Vocation,” and Simone Weil’s essays against technocracy. While our geographical focus is on Europe and North America, additional texts concern anticolonial intellectuals and the global south. Students receive an introduction to research methods in intellectual history, and they design research papers on topics such as liberal and conservative elitism, ideology critique, vanguardism, antisemitism, and neoliberalism.
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