Capitalism and the Jews
Jerry Z. Muller
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The unique historical relationship between capitalism and the Jews is crucial to understanding modern European and Jewish history. But the subject has been addressed less often by mainstream historians than by anti-Semites or apologists. In this book Jerry Muller, a leading historian of capitalism, separates myth from reality to explain why the Jewish experience with capitalism has been so important and complex--and so ambivalent.
Drawing on economic, social, political, and intellectual history from medieval Europe through contemporary America and Israel, Capitalism and the Jews examines the ways in which thinking about capitalism and thinking about the Jews have gone hand in hand in European thought, and why anticapitalism and anti-Semitism have frequently been linked. The book explains why Jews have tended to be disproportionately successful in capitalist societies, but also why Jews have numbered among the fiercest anticapitalists and Communists. The book shows how the ancient idea that money was unproductive led from the stigmatization of usury and the Jews to the stigmatization of finance and, ultimately, in Marxism, the stigmatization of capitalism itself. Finally, the book traces how the traditional status of the Jews as a diasporic merchant minority both encouraged their economic success and made them particularly vulnerable to the ethnic nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Providing a fresh look at an important but frequently misunderstood subject, Capitalism and the Jews will interest anyone who wants to understand the Jewish role in the development of capitalism, the role of capitalism in the modern fate of the Jews, or the ways in which the story of capitalism and the Jews has affected the history of Europe and beyond, from the medieval period to our own.
retained these commercial propensities into the modern period, adding a taste for the free professions based on education. Compared to Christianity, Judaism was more favorably disposed toward commerce. To be sure, we cannot derive actual Jewish economic behavior from rabbinical sources. The law of the Talmudic period was intended for a largely self-sufficient Jewish community. Because the biblical and Talmudic economy was oriented above all to the maintenance of a holy covenanted
nonidentifying Jew), who included Israel M. Kirzner, an economist and theorist of entrepreneurship who was also an Orthodox rabbi. In England, Margaret Thatcher’s leading programmatic thinker was Keith Joseph; another was Leon Brittan, both of whom were Jewish. Thatcher presided over a cabinet that probably had a higher percentage of Jews than any government outside of Israel since the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, including Nigel Lawson as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Jewish the jewish
Communists that made the image of the Jewish Communist revolutionary so useful to the German Right. A Nationalist party poster of 1919 listed, under the heading “Varieties of Cohens,” the Communist, Social Democratic, Independent Socialist, and Democratic parties alongside portraits of leading Jewish politicians in each party. Hungary If Jews were highly visible in the revolutions in Russia and Germany, in Hungary they seemed omnipresent.12 Virtually forgotten today but widely resonant in its
aspiring middle classes, it was economically rewarding to regard the Jews as “outsiders.” At the same time, Jews active in the commercialization of the rural economy were often resented by the peasantry, who blamed the Jews for their economic woes. The hatred of the Jew as Communist was thus one more ingredient in the anti-Semitic stew, in which the Jew might also be reviled as the representative of international capitalism, or as an ethnically foreign parasite on the body of the indigenous Volk,
style of life to appear more Magyar than the Magyars. Rákosi’s official biography now claimed he was descended from the lower Magyar gentry; at the same time, Rákosi spread the false rumor that his leading rival within the party leadership, Imre Nagy, was a Jew. There now began a clear policy of eliminating Jews from positions of leadership and from the lower cadres of the party. Vas, the chairman of central planning, was purged. Jews were eliminated as officers of the police and the AVO; in