Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

"But There Are No Longer Any Anti-Semites!" Vicious Circles, Jewish Destinies, and a Complementary Framework to Read De-Colonial Discourses

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

"But There Are No Longer Any Anti-Semites!" Vicious Circles, Jewish Destinies, and a Complementary Framework to Read De-Colonial Discourses

Article excerpt

In this article I attempt to find in the post-1945/8 renewal of the imperial role of the Jew a complementary framework to understand the supposed de-colonial antiSemitism. Departing from the analysis of anti-Semitism by the Frankfurt School, I will demonstrate the need to go beyond the vicious circles of the current debate and include the interplay between the centre and periphery regarding the imperial role of the Jew. Tracing the latter through a five-hundred year period, I will re-evaluate typologies of anti-Semitism and point out the need to read post-1945/8 de-colonial antiSemitism as a confrontation with the colonial legacy that universalizes otherness through the Jewish experience. By tracing the renewal of this construction in the debate between radical Jews and de-colonizers, I will conclude that this role of the Jew is as important for Jewish identity as its disruption necessary for de-colonizers.


Attempting to analyze new forms of anti-Semitism between 1944 and 1947 is a problematic task. The period between the complete uncovering of the "Final Solution to the Jewish problem" in Europe and the first decision of the United Nations to divide Palestine as an integral part of the decolonization of European mandates is a convulsive era to consider beyond temporal anxieties. This is especially true if the writers under scrutiny are Central European Jews who fled to the New World to escape their annihilation, only to return soon after the war to their positions at the university of Frankfurt following aggressive recruitment by German federal authorities. (1)

In their original 1944 version of Dialectic of Enlightenment, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, following an early work of the former named "The Jews and Europe," reflected on the role of anti-Semitism as a Freudian "false projection" as well as a Marxist "economic profitability" within the project of modernity. (2) In that particular chapter, entitled "Elements of anti-Semitism. Limits of Enlightenment," they also describe the changes in the mode of production that leave the racial construction of the Jew as a prism through which it is possible to understand the capitalist building of European national identity that culminates in the fascist experience. (3) In other words, how "in the face of the Jews the harmony of the national community is automatically established." (4)

Nevertheless, in the section added to the text in its final version in 1947 the only modification made to the book according to the authors), the situation seems to have changed. According to Horkheimer and Adorno, and to the surprise of many of their readers in our context, they clearly alert their audience with the following: "But there are no longer any anti-Semites!" (5) Those who feel outraged by the assertion or those who, on the contrary, trust in the prophetic ethos of the Frankfurt School might not keep reading the dense article and instead begin to draw conclusions about the reasons behind this assertion. Either group could believe that the social theorists are reflecting on the centrality that Judaism takes in the United States, the British mandate of Palestine, or the occupied Central Europe after the defeat of National Socialism, which makes traditional anti-Semitism in the West a growing anachronism. In the United States, just a few years later, Jews would be welcomed as a white group to reproduce a binary racial conception of society. (6) In Palestine (more specifically, in the Western discourses on Palestine) Jews were being recognized as a people whose guarantee of survival was seen as, drawing from traditional political Zionist discourse, a returning to the normalization of a Western-style nation state. (7) In Central Europe, the processes of de-Nazification of entire educational programs that survive today are based in the Jewish experience. (8)

However, Horkheimer and Adorno, though not visionaries, were experts in the critique of contextual developments. …

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