Stephen Walt
Prof. of Intl. Affairs, Harvard University
01:25

On Wiemar Intellectuals

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Walt learned early on that Wiemar intellectuals behaved irresponsibly by disengaging from politics.

Stephen Walt

Stephen Walt is the Robert and Rene Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was previously on the faculties of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. He is the author of books including The Origins of Alliances, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy. He is a frequent contributor to journals including Foreign Policy and International Security. He was educated at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

He presently serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and he also serves as Co-Editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. Additionally, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.

Transcript

Lessons of the Past

Stephen Walt: I had some wonderful professors as an undergraduate who were quite inspirational. But the one moment I remember was in my junior year. I was studying overseas. I was actually at the Stanford program in Berlin. And Gordon Craig, who was a historian at Stanford – a quite distinguished historian of German history – was doing a lecture to our class about Weimar, Germany. And it was about what intellectuals had done in Weimar, Germany, which was basically to behave in a completely irresponsible way. They disengaged from politics. They started worrying more about art and other things as opposed to caring about real affairs. And he basically said, you know, part of the reason we got the Nazis; and part of the reason we got Hitler; and part of the reason we got World War II was that the intellectuals in Weimar, Germany abdicated their social responsibility. And I was, at that point, trying to decide whether or not to go to law school or go do graduate work in political science. And I remember thinking, you know, that there was a role to . . . to play as an intellectual, but remaining engaged in politics. And that . . . I remember that being sort of the moment which I decided I was going to graduate school and not to law school.

Recorded on: 10/8/07

 


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