Academic journal article Shofar

Jüdische Wege Ins Bürgertum: Kulturelles Kapital Und Sozialer Aufstieg Im 19. Jahrhundert

Academic journal article Shofar

Jüdische Wege Ins Bürgertum: Kulturelles Kapital Und Sozialer Aufstieg Im 19. Jahrhundert

Article excerpt

Jüdische Wege ins Bürgertum: Kulturelles Kapital und sozialer Aufstieg im 19. Jahrhundert, by Simone Lässig. Bürgertum Neue Folge. Studien zur Zivilgesellschaft, eds. Manfred Hettling, Paul Nolte. Hamburg: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004. 784 pp. euro69.00.

This book is exceptional in many respects. First and foremost, it is remarkable in its ambition to apply key concepts of Pierre Bourdieu regarding social and cultural change to German Jewish history. The author, now director of the internationally renowned Georg-Eckert-Institut für Schulbuchforschung, formerly member of staff of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., has published widely about her first area of interest, the regional history of Jews in Saxonia, a rather rare species in the history of European Jewish communities. Jews in Saxonia for centuries lived under one of the most restrictive regimes in the Holy Roman Empire, and harsh settlement restrictions persisted even into the 19th century. From a Saxonian perspective, the social, cultural, and economic advance of German Jewry in the course of the 19th century as a whole is even more striking than from a more liberal standpoint, and this issue is at the core of this impressive study. In order to understand this advance "that had no equivalent in contemporary Europe" (p. 13), Simone Lassig doubts that one can fully explain it as a simple process of acculturation or assimilation in the sense of becoming similar to the surrounding civil society ("bürgerliche Gesellschafi") and be successful within this new framework. She rather proposes to apply the concept of Pierre Bourdieu about the various forms of social, symbolical, and cultural capital that determine the perspectives for social advance in civil society, and postulates a strategic and collective option for those forms of capital prevalent at the turn from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the German speaking areas. In a broad introductory part, the precarious situation of Jewish communities in the Holy Roman Empire, the enlightened discourse about the necessity of "embetterment," and the role of the state and of state legislation for "civilizing" the Jews are presented (p. 41-100). The core of Lassig's analysis, the second part, deals with "media and forms of cultural-religious civilization," though here the German term" Verbürgerlichung" means civilization in the sense of becoming a member of a given civil society. …

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