[Marxism] Of interest from the latest London Review of Books

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Oct 13 09:54:23 MDT 2005

On Thu, 13 Oct 2005 10:29:36 -0400 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> writes:
> LRB | Vol. 27 No. 20 dated 20 October 2005 | Anatol Lieven

> LRB | Vol. 27 No. 20 dated 20 October 2005 | Eric Hobsbawm
> Benefits of Diaspora
> Eric Hobsbawm
> Most work in the field of Jewish history deals with the almost 
> invariably 
> vast impact of the outside world on the Jews, who are almost 
> invariably a 
> small minority of the population. My concern is with the impact of 
> the Jews 
> on the rest of humanity. And, in particular, with the explosive 
> transformation of this impact in the 19th and 20th centuries: that 
> is to 
> say, since the emancipation and self-emancipation of the Jews began 
> in the 
> late 18th century.

This is an issue that was addressed long ago by the economist 
and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen his 
essay,  "The Intellectual Pre- eminence of the Jews" 
( http://de.geocities.com/veblenite/txt/jews_eur.txt). 

Concerning that essay, Lewis Coser noted 
in his book *Masters of Sociological Thought* 

 "The editor of a leading Jewish magazine approached Veblen and asked 
 him to write a paper discussing whether Jewish intellectual productivity

 would be increased if the Jews were given a land of their own and Jewish

 intellectuals were released from the taboos and restrictions that
 them in the gentile world. Veblen accepted, and delivered his essay on 
 "The Intellectual Pre-eminence of the Jews," in which he argued that the

 intellectual achievement of the Jews was due to their marginal status
 persecuted role in an alien world, and that their springs of creativity 
 would dry up should they become a people like any other in their 
own homeland. Needless to say, the essay was not published by the 
editor who had commissioned it. It appeared instead in The Political 
Science Quarterly of Columbia University." 

At the end of that essay, Veblen wrote: 

 "As bearing on the Zionist's enterprise in isolation and nationality,
fable appears to teach a two-fold moral: If the adventure is 
carried to that consummate outcome which seems to be aimed at, 
it should apparently be due to be crowned with a large national 
complacency and, possibly, a profound and self-sufficient content 
on the part of the Chosen People domiciled once more in the 
Chosen Land; and when and in so far as the Jewish people in this way turn

inward on themselves, their prospective contribution to the world's 
intellectual output should, in the light of the historical evidence, 
fairly be expected to take on the complexion of Talmudic lore, 
rather than that character of free-swung skeptical initiative which 
their renegades have habitually infused into the 
pursuit of the modern sciences abroad among the nations. Doubtless, even
the supply of Jewish renegades would not altogether cease, though it
presumably fall off to a relatively inconsiderable residue. And not all 
renegades are fit guides and leaders of men on the quest of knowledge,
is their dominant incentive always or ordinarily the quest of the idle 
curiosity. There should be some loss to Christendom at large, and there 
might be some gain to the repatriated Children of Israel. It is a 
sufficiently difficult choice between a life of complacent futility at
and a thankless quest of unprofitable knowledge abroad. It is, after all,

a matter of the drift of circumstance; and behind that lies a question of
about which there is no disputing." 

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