The Right-Wing Medievalist Who Refused the Loyalty Oath. On Ernst Kantorowicz, academic freedom, and “the secret university.”

Blog-report: Simon During

The Chronicle of Higher Education Research

“Traces of Kantorowicz are also to be found in more-recent academic thought, for instance in the influential “pragmatic sociology” of Luc Boltanski. Boltanski supposes that an existential “unease” is primary to people because the future is radically uncertain and the unexpected always awaits us. The management of this uncertainty requires institutions to establish “security” by providing routinizing rules, protocols, and discourses. Such security also calls upon critique, motivated by the will continually to test and strengthen social institutions. Just as Kantorowicz committed himself to tracing the conceptual duality of office, Boltanski regards institutions as simultaneously embodied and disembodied, agents in life as lived but also immortal, in the sense that their identity is separate from any material thing and they don’t die a natural death. Institutions, Boltanski says, following Kantorowicz, have “two bodies.” As far as I am aware, Boltanski has not addressed the concept of the dignity of office. But there is a strong sense in his work that to avoid the anxiety of contingency — what they used to call Fortuna — we need to think of ourselves as bearers of offices in organizations that were here before us and will be here after us.”