Archive for December 7th, 2008

Max Teichmann, RIP

In his Weekend Australian column, Christopher Pearson reports the death of Max Teichmann. In recent years, Teichmann had been a regular at the Catholic paleocon magazine News Weekly. But when I took Teichmann’s Monash University subject on populism a very large number of years ago he was still a man of the left.

As Gerard Henderson’s amazing files record, this passage by Teichmann on the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government included the Australian left’s characteristic hyperbolic style:

At the beginning of 1932 Germany was a Weimar Republic semi-democracy. By the end of 1933 she was a dictatorship. … But in terms of a narrow, legalistic interpretation of the German constitution, Hindenburg’s action appeared justified. Within eight months Adolf Hitler was to be prime minister of Germany. ….

The similarities between Germany 1932 and Australia 1975 do not end there. The Nazis gained support by exploiting people’s fears about inflation and unemployment; by promising all things to all men, in terms so vague so as to defy analysis; by kicking the communist can; by posing as defenders of the constitution and of law and order, while busily subverting all these things.

In my experience, Teichmann was a likeable character but a long way from being a model professional academic. Our lectures were straight after lunch, which Teichmann sometimes appeared to have spent at the bar in the university staff club. The lectures were often rambling. But my most vivid memory of him is from the populism exam. He came to see us just before we started. ‘You’d have to die in the exam to fail this one,’ he assured us. He wasn’t going to meet too many academic standards, and we didn’t have to either.

Max Teichmann, RIP.

Update: The Age’s obituary.