Faber (not the pencil)

April 12, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed reviews Betrayal by Houston Baker. Baker’s book is a less than persuasive rant (in McLemee’s view) against other black intellectuals. Here’s the gotcha that McLemee uses to drive the stake through the heart of Betrayal.
Baker points out that in the 1940s, Irving Kristol, the founding father of that neoconservatism, abandoned the constricted world of left-wing politics “in search of a more expansive field of intellectual and associational commerce (one in which he would be ‘permitted’ to read Max Faber)....”

That parenthetical reference stopped me cold. I have a certain familiarity with the history of Kristol and his cohort, but somehow the role of Max Faber in their bildung had escaped my notice. Indeed, the name itself was totally unfamiliar. And having been informed that this book was “the product of “a rigorous, scholarly reading practice” — one “seasoned with wit,” mind you, and published by Columbia University Press — I felt quite embarrassed by this gap in my knowledge.

Off to the library, then, to unearth the works of Max Faber! And then the little light bulb went off.

Anybody who’s ever taken Intro Soc will know what the little light bulb was illuminating. If you haven’t already caught on, I’ll add some spoiler space before printing the next sentence of the review


Baker (who assures us that he is a capable judge of social-scientific discussions of African-American life) was actually referring to Max Weber.

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