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

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Thu Oct 13 10:13:54 MDT 2005

> 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 impeded
 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 and
 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,
this 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 so the supply of Jewish renegades would not altogether cease, though
it should presumably fall off to a relatively inconsiderable residue. And
not all renegades are fit guides and leaders of men on the quest of
knowledge, nor 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
home 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
taste, about which there is no disputing." 

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