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Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought$
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Chad Alan Goldberg

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226460413

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226460697.001.0001

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The French Tradition: 1789 and the Jews

The French Tradition: 1789 and the Jews

(p.16) 2 The French Tradition: 1789 and the Jews
Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought

Chad Alan Goldberg

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates the relationship between sociology and antisemitism in France through a case study of French sociology’s central figure: Émile Durkheim. It distinguishes reactionary and radical forms of French antisemitism and shows how Durkheim’s sociology responded to both of them. His writing about Jews directly addressed antisemitic claims about them, their role in French society, and their relationship to modernity. At the same time, Durkheim was engaged in a reinterpretation of the French Revolution and its historical legacies that indirectly challenged other tenets of French antisemitism. While the chapter mainly seeks to understand Durkheim’s ideas about the Jews and Judaism in relation to French antisemitism, it also briefly compares his depictions of Jews to his characterization of four other social groups or categories: Protestants, women, Germany, and Europe’s colonial subjects. The chapter concludes that Durkheim’s responses to French antisemism form a coherent alternative vision of the relationship between modernity and the Jews.

Keywords:   Émile Durkheim, Jews, Judaism, antisemitism, modernity, French Revolution

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