Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

On Unmasking

  • 13 Accesses


Peter Baehr’s The Unmasking Style in Social Theory (2019) is situated within the polemical tradition of attacks on intellectuals initiated by Julien Benda in The Treason of the Intellectuals (1927) and continued by Raymond Aron and Irving Louis Horowitz. It is argued that the most successful aspects of the book are not in its polemics but in its contributions to Begriffsgeschichte, the study of the changing meaning of concepts over time. Baehr’s nascent critique of a society of full transparency is the book’s great unrealized project.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    Baehr (2013) has written a valuable analysis and appraisal of Aron’s legacy as a sociologist. According to Baehr, Aron’s writings present two different versions of the discipline of sociology. On the one hand, he advanced a view that “unmasking” was the essence of sociology; on the other, he proposed a “non-debunking” version of sociology. Unable for these and other reasons to embrace him fully, Baehr calls Aron an “honored outsider.” In the closing pages of the article, Baehr foreshadows the themes in his new book here under review.


  1. Aron, R. (1998). Main Currents in Sociological Thought (Vol. 1). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. Originally published in English in 1968.

  2. Aron, R. (2001). The Opium of the Intellectuals. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. Originally published in 1955.

  3. Baehr, P. (1998). Caesar and the fading of the Roman world: A study in republicanism and Caesarism. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

  4. Baehr, P. (2001). The ‘Iron cage’ and the ‘Shell as hard as steel’: Parsons, Weber and the Stahlhartes Gehäuse metaphor in the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. History and Theory, 40(2), 153–169.

  5. Baehr, P. (2008). Caesarism, Charisma and fate: Historical sources and modern resonances in the work of max weber. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

  6. Baehr, P. (2013). The honored outsider: Raymond Aron as sociologist. Sociological Theory, 21(2), 93–115.

  7. Baehr, P. (2015). Founders, classics, canons: Modern disputes over the origins and appraisal of Sociology’s heritage (2nd ed.). New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

  8. Baehr, P. (2019). The unmasking style in social theory. New York: Routledge.

  9. Baehr, P., & Richter, M. (Eds.). (2004). Dictatorship in history and theory: Bonapartism, Caesarism, and totalitarianism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  10. Benda, J. (2007). The Treason of the Intellectuals. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers. Originally published in 1927.

  11. Berger, P. (1963). Invitation to sociology. New York: Doubleday.

  12. Bloom, A. (1987). The closing of the American mind. New York: Simon & Shuster.

  13. Burke, M. J., & Richter, M. (Eds.). (2012). Why concepts matter: Translating social and political thought. Leiden: Brill Publishers.

  14. Greisman, H. C. (2019). Gunter W. Remmling, 1929-2018. ASA Footnotes, 47(1): 15.

  15. Horowitz, I. L. (1994). The Decomposition of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

  16. Jaworski, G. D. (2020). Goffman, Schutz and the ‘secret of the other’: On the American reception of Simmel’s ‘dem Geheimnis des Andern’. In G. Fitzi (Ed.), International handbook of Simmel studies. New York: Routledge Forthcoming.

  17. Kavanagh, J., & Rich, M. D. (2018). Truth decay: An initial exploration of the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

  18. Lehmann, H., & Richter, M. (1996). The meaning of historical terms and concepts: New studies on Begriffsgeschichte. Washington, DC: German Historical Institute.

  19. Margalit, A. (1996). The decent society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  20. Margalit, A. (2017). On Betrayal. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  21. Nagel, T. (2002). Concealment and Exposure & Other Essays. New York: Oxford University Press.

  22. Remmling, G. W. (1967). Road to suspicion: A study of modern mentality and the sociology of knowledge. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

  23. Richter, M. (Ed.). (1970). Essays in theory and history: An approach to the social sciences. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  24. Richter, M. (1995). The history of political and social concepts: A critical introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.

  25. Rieff, D. (2010). The fall of an intellectual. (review of The Flight of the Intellectuals, by Paul Berman). The National Interest (July/August): 56–66.

  26. Shils, E. A. (1956). The torment of secrecy: The background and consequences of American security policies. New York: The Free Press.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Gary D. Jaworski.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Jaworski, G.D. On Unmasking. Am Soc (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-020-09437-1

Download citation


  • Social theory
  • Marxism
  • Intellectuals
  • Begriffsgeschichte
  • Transparency