Friday, October 8, 2010

Vienna and Her Children

Recently, my review of Guido Hulsmann's great biography of Ludwig von Mises was published on

Jason Jewell, who writes a wonderful blog The Western Tradition, has posted his thoughtful review essay discussing Guido Hulsmann's Mises: Last Knight of Liberalism published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Robert Weldon Whalen's Sacred Spring: God and the Birth of the Modern in Fin de Siecle Vienna published by Eerdman's. It was originally published in the Spring 2008 Journal of Faith and the Academy.

Jewell summarizes Whalen's work, noting that the book
. . .is a refreshing look at the fin de siècle period from a perspective Christians will appreciate. Whalen does not announce any Christian presuppositions affecting his analysis, despite having Eerdmans as his publisher, but the subtext of his work seems clear enough. The Viennese avant-garde for the most part lived a tormented existence characterized by ennui, alienation, adultery, and suicide. Their quest for spiritual rest is presented sympathetically despite its unsatisfactory conclusion.
He then proceeds to discuss the importance of Mises, explaining
Fin de siècle Vienna produced not only edgy artists but also level-headed, no-nonsense economists who profoundly altered the received wisdom in their field. Had Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) been an apologist for socialism, his gripping life’s story would have long since been made into a Hollywood film starring Warren Beatty and Barbra Streisand. A decorated war hero who almost singlehandedly saved his native Austria from economic ruin through his influence on policymakers, he astounded his friends and enemies alike with his path-breaking contributions to economic theory before fleeing from the Nazis, arriving in America with no connections or support at age fifty-eight and, undaunted, going on to publish what some consider the twentieth century’s greatest treatise in the social sciences, Human Action. However, Mises was an advocate of laissez-faire classical liberalism, a fact which made him an outcast among fashionable intellectuals throughout his life and denied him numerous career opportunities open to lesser men.
The entire essay is worth a thoughtful read and is an outstanding example of how Christians should respond both critically and charitably to great modern thinkers.

No comments:

Post a Comment