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p. 575. The perils of modernitylocked

  • Steven Beller


In addition to the ‘irrationalist’ critique of ‘Jewish’ modernity that informed some antisemitism, there was another, ‘rational’ side to antisemitism. ‘The perils of modernity’ considers the irony that the biggest threat to Jews in Central and Eastern Europe was the modernization of society given the form that this modernization took. The influence of racial theory was also closely bound up with the much increased prestige of nationalism in early 20th-century Europe. Once the definition of modernity had shifted to the more ‘organic’ and collectivist model, in which the ‘reactionary rationalism’ of biological thinking—and race—played such a large role, Jewish difference became racially defined, and hence impossible to overcome.

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