Friday, February 22, 2013

The German University System, Mandarins, and the Welfare State

"In the United States, the university reform was begun in the late 1870s and 1880s by sojourners importing the model from Germany" (Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies, 645).

"Prussia had already pioneered in state-mandated elementary schooling; bureaucratic centralization also was moving toward formalizing credential requirements and hierarchizing the competing segments of the older educational system. In 1770 an examination was established for employment in the Prussian bureaucracy, placing a premium on university legal training. Nobles, however, were exempt at first, and university degrees were not absolutely essential. In 1804 this regulation was strengthened to require three years of study at a Prussian university for all higher offices. With the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810 and an accompanying series of official examinations, university legal study became a rigorous requirement for government employment. Prussia thus became the first society in the West to establish anything like the Chinese imperial examination system." (642)

Megan McArdle, in The Daily Beast, argues that America has a Mandarin class who generally rule. Given the fact that the United States has the German University system structure, which was designed to train exactly such a class, we should not be surprised by this fact. I will also note that the welfare state of Bismarck's Second Reich followed this university reform -- and that progressivism and support for the welfare state arose shortly after the U.S. adopted the German university system.

Institutions matter.
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