In the second chapter of Hulsmann’s “The Last Knight” we begin to see the biography not just as the youthful adventures and early career of an economist, but as a significant window on important channels in world history — and what will turn out to be a major turning point in the history of Europe and civilization itself. The setting is Vienna — the great capital of “multi-cultural” empire and Western culture, the historic rampart of Christian Europe against Muslim conquest. And what you have in Vienna is the rise of industry, science, the middle class and secular society within an aristocratic state still officially Catholic, still centrally concerned with the interests of empire in the face of rising ethnic nationalism. A leading segment of this “modern” civilization rising within Vienna was a cohort of immigrant strivers — mostly Galician Jews. Exceptional Jewish achievement in this new environment across a variety of fields calls for explanation. Hulsmann accounts for it as the response of unbounded immigrants taking advantage of new opportunities, and in the case of Jewish academic success in particular — 19 of the the 35 students in Mises elite high school were Jewish — Hulsmann explains it as “traditionalist Jewish culture set loose in a secular environment.”
At the calm center of what will become shifting plate tectonics of history we find the boy Ludwig, one of the new immigrants to a city Huslmann describes as a sort of cultural Disneyland, a land saturated with high art, intellectual debate and true fairy-tale royalty on the very avenues of main-street. And what Ludwig is doing is what most of the next generation of Vienna elite are doing — he’s working hard at his classical studies.
I’ll pick this up in another post.