Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

Permanent Crisis Book Cover

Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon
Berkeley Book Chats

The humanities, considered by many as irrelevant for modern careers and hopelessly devoid of funding, seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis. But as Paul Reitter and Chad Wellmon (PhD German, Berkeley) show, this crisis isn’t new — in fact, it’s as old as the humanities themselves.

This self-understanding of the modern humanities didn’t merely take shape in response to a perceived crisis; it also made crisis a core part of its project. The humanities came into their own as scholars framed their work as a unique resource for resolving crises of meaning and value that threatened other cultural or social goods. Through this critical, historical perspective, Permanent Crisis (Chicago, 2021) moves beyond the usual hand-wringing into clearer, more effective thinking about the fate of the humanities. Building on ideas from Max Weber and Friedrich Nietzsche to Helen Small and Danielle Allen, Reitter and Wellmon dig into the very idea of the humanities as a way to find meaning and coherence in the world.

Reitter and Wellmon are joined by Karen Feldman (German). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.