MYTH - ECONOMICS AS THE CAUSE OF ANTI-SEMITISM
This would be the convenient and intellectually lazy conclusion to draw, but I have my doubts. Support for the far right is highest in areas of enormous deprivation. In 1990 Germany did, after all, take the unprecedented step of absorbing a second- or even third-world country when the Berlin Wall came down. Large parts of the east are truly in a desperate state, with some having a population comprised of 80 percent men, I am told, who are mostly unemployed. Surely that, rather than a mechanical trip-switch of hate, better explains the rise of extremism?
Byers is right to reject the idea that the Holocaust could not have occurred in other societies, yet his economic explanation for the appearance of Nazism and now neo-Nazism in Germany is no less deficient for being common.
The economic explanation assumes that Jews are a tempting target in times of economic trauma without explaining why this should be so. Yet any theory of anti-Semitism that fails to explain its attractiveness to vast masses of people in different societies across time and space is foredoomed to obscure matters. The reasons for the resilient attractiveness of anti-Semitism are not economic envy, ethnic rivalry or competition for territory or resources, which are the usual stimulants for other forms of hatred. Rather, something on a different plane is occurring - a revolt against the restraints imposed by the Judeo-Christian heritage, seen variously as unnatural and denatured, a corrosive doctrine that destroys and frustrates the natural vigour and rightful strength of force-based cultures and utopian doctrines. Only in these conditions is it unsurprising that economic trauma in a militaristic culture like Germany's last century can lead to a declaration of war on the Jews.
Economic factors can be proximate or contributory factors in the operation of anti-Semitism, but are not the cause. Anti-Semitism needs no economic hardship for its creation, as a glance at Saudi Arabia will confirm - merely a utopian doctrine and, as I argued in this opinion piece, is therefore a common feature of all such doctrines.
comments powered by Disqus
Daniel Mandel - 12/29/2006
An astute observation - totalitarian doctrines often serve to make the average person, the mediocre, the featureless, feel important. Poverty, not being confined to such people, may only be an incidental factor in their attractiveness. It should not surprise that Islamism has grown steadily in societies that enjoy properity. Doctrines that promise a great release from responsiblity and burdens, a sense of expansiveness or cosmic adventure and which simultaneously simplify one's loyalties, can have enormous drawing power. How silly to think that anti-Semitism arose in the past and arises now because of economic stress.
david foster - 12/22/2006
In his book "Diary of a Man in Despair," a German who lived through the Nazi era gave his impressions of the kind of people who were particularly attracted to Naziism. He mentioned low-level government workers (post office employees, etc) and teachers (elementary and high school varieties.) IIRC, he did *not* point to the very poor as falling into the Naziphile category. He *did* say that many women were strongly attracted to Naziism, in an almost erotic fashion.
- The JFK Document Dump Could Be a Fiasco Say These Two Scholars
- The book Mattis reads to be prepared for war with North Korea
- Civil War’s legacy hangs over a plaque honoring Confederate soldiers
- Confederate statues still stand in rural Virginia
- Advocates are starting to push for LGBTQ history to be taught in public schools
- Historian Keri Leigh Merritt defends activist scholars
- Historian digs into the hidden world of Mormon finances
- A historian who became a business professor?
- Allan Lichtman's response to critics of his book that makes the case for Trump’s impeachment
- "Do We Have To Fight Nazis Again?” asks historian Paul Ortiz