The Institutional Foundations of Antisemitism

Antisemitism has returned to mainstream politics in Europe and America. One fundamental misconception about antisemitism is that it is simply another form of racism. Thus Jeremy Corbyn responds to charges of antisemitism with “ ‘I’ve spent my whole life exposing racism in any form”. But of course, Corbyn is, at the very least, an enabler of antisemitism (and there is evidence he holds antisemitic prejudices himself — see here).

Why is antisemitism different from other forms of racism? And what makes antisemitism unique. When Noel Johnson and I began writing Persecution & Toleration, we didn’t envision antisemitism returning to prominence, but I believe our analysis sheds important insight on the institutional foundations of antisemitism.

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Nightcap

  1. A global history of the Communist Party Tony Wood, the Nation
  2. The issue is the issue Scott Sumner, MoneyIllusion
  3. The case of Ilhan Omar Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth
  4. Early US diplomatic culture and the Native Americans Zachary Conn, Age of Revolutions 

Nightcap

  1. Anti-Semitism from Trotsky to Soros James Sheehan, Commonweal
  2. How to combat parochialism in philosophy Peter Adamson, Times Literary Supplement
  3. The era of limited government is over Ross Douthat, New York Times
  4. The paradox of voting Arathy Puthillam, Pragati

Nightcap

  1. Has there been a surge of anti-Semitism under and because of Trump? David Bernstein, Volokh Conspiracy
  2. Why do Brazilian evangelicals support Jair Bolsonaro? Eric Farnsworth, Providence
  3. Growing up in Yugoslavia (how I lost my past) Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
  4. Christianity in China: breaking eggs against a rock Ian Johnson, ChinaFile

Nightcap

  1. Is there a legal duty to report your co-workers if they’re off the clock? Eugene Volokh, Volokh Conspiracy
  2. There’s a reason Corbynism appeals to anti-Semites Andrew Lilico, CapX
  3. An American voice is needed in human rights discussions Joel Weickgenant, RealClearPolitics
  4. The Trump-Koch Alliance of Convenience Starts to Split Jim Geraghty, National Review

“10 little-known fascist governments”

That’s the subject of my weekend’s RealClearHistory column. An excerpt:

7. Romania and the Iron Guard. Sandwiched between the communist Soviet Union and the fascist Axis powers of central Europe, Romanian society struggled to find its footing after a comparatively wonderful campaign during World War I, but Bucharest eventually chose to side with Berlin and Rome instead of Moscow. Romanian fascism was known for including the Orthodox Church into its anti-communist, anti-Semitic, and anti-capitalist rhetoric. Romania’s fascists almost made the Nazis look like boy scouts, especially when the Iron Guard organized and implemented one of Europe’s bloodiest pogroms, ever: the Iași pogrom. Just over 13,000 Jews, along with their liberal and Orthodox defenders in the city of Iași, were butchered on the streets where they once plied their trades. Romania, a member of the Axis for most of the war, was second only to Germany in the number of Jews it killed during World War II.

Please, read the rest.

Oh, and I wrote about America’s greatest maritime disaster on Tuesday for RCH‘s blog, the Historiat.

McCloskey, Western equality, and Europe’s Jews

Warren shot me the following email a few days ago:

Brandon, do you know the name Deirdre McCloskey?

She is a first-rate economist with extensive expertise in history, literature and anthropology.  She recently finished a trilogy, the third volume of which is “Bourgeois Equality.” It’s a fat book but you would be well rewarded for time invested.  You don’t have to read the first two volumes to benefit from the third.

The purpose of the trilogy is to explain why we’re 30 times richer than our forebears of 250 years ago, as best that can be estimated.  Conventional answers like the industrial revolution and rule of law don’t go far enough.  The answer lies in attitudes toward commerce.

I haven’t read McCloskey’s book yet, but it’s been on my amazon wishlist for awhile and thanks to Warren’s prodding it’ll be my next purchase. (Here is all of NOL‘s stuff on McCloskey so far, by the way.)

My first instinct on this topic is to think about Europe’s Jews. Bear with me as I lay out my thoughts.

McCloskey’s book, which as far as I can tell takes readers to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom from the 17th to 19th centuries, is about how Europeans began to reconceptualize equality in a way that was very different from notions of equality in the past.

A very basic summary is that notions of equality in Europe prior to the modern era largely aligned with notions of equality elsewhere in the world. Basically, an established hierarchy based on either inherited land ownership or clerical ranking was justified in all cultures by a religious appeal: “we’re all Christians or Buddhists or Muslims or fill-in-the-blank, so don’t even worry about what we have and you don’t have.” This way of thinking was irrevocably altered in 17th century northwestern Europe. Once I actually read McCloskey’s book, I can give you more details (or, of course, you can just read it yourself).

This argument, that northwestern Europe became free and prosperous because of a change in ideas about equality, is of course very broad and qualitative, but I buy it. The big “however” in this line of reasoning is Europe’s treatment of its Jews.

I forget where I heard the argument before, but somebody or some school of thought has argued that because Europe’s Jews were forced by legislation to go into “dirty trades” like commerce, they became more broadly open-minded than other ethnic groups in Europe and therefore more prosperous. Dutch and British bourgeois culture no doubt had a Jewish influence, and because bourgeois culture is internationalist in scope this Jewish influence must have penetrated other European societies, but anti-Semitism in these other bourgeois centers was more rampant than than it was in the UK and the Netherlands. Why was this?

My main guesses would be “Protestantism” (because Protestants at the time were more open-minded due to being at odds with the Catholic Church), or “the seafaring character of British and Dutch societies.” These are just guesses though. Help me out!