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This masterwork of interpretative history begins with a bold declaration: The Modern Age is the Jewish Age--and we are all, to varying degrees, Jews. The assertion is, of course, metaphorical. But it underscores Yuri Slezkine's provocative thesis. Not only have Jews adapted better than many other groups to living in the modern world, they have become the premiere symbol anThis masterwork of interpretative history begins with a bold declaration: The Modern Age is the Jewish Age--and we are all, to varying degrees, Jews. The assertion is, of course, metaphorical. But it underscores Yuri Slezkine's provocative thesis. Not only have Jews adapted better than many other groups to living in the modern world, they have become the premiere symbol and standard of modern life everywhere. Slezkine argues that the Jews were, in effect, among the world's first free agents. They traditionally belonged to a social and anthropological category known as "service nomads," an outsider group specializing in the delivery of goods and services. Their role, Slezkine argues, was part of a broader division of human labor between what he calls Mercurians-entrepreneurial minorities--and Apollonians--food-producing majorities. Since the dawning of the Modern Age, Mercurians have taken center stage. In fact, Slezkine argues, modernity is all about Apollonians becoming Mercurians--urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible. Since no group has been more adept at Mercurianism than the Jews, he contends, these exemplary ancients are now model moderns. The book concentrates on the drama of the Russian Jews, including emigres and their offspring in America, Palestine, and the Soviet Union. But Slezkine has as much to say about the many faces of modernity--nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and liberalism--as he does about Jewry. Marxism and Freudianism, for example, sprang largely from the Jewish predicament, Slezkine notes, and both Soviet Bolshevism and American liberalism were affected in fundamental ways by the Jewish exodus from the Pale of Settlement. Rich in its insight, sweeping in its chronology, and fearless in its analysis, this sure-to-be-controversial work is an important contribution not only to Jewish and Russian history but to the history of Europe and America as well....

Title : The Jewish Century
Author :
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ISBN : 9780691127606
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 438 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Jewish Century Reviews

  • Michael
    2018-12-05 23:42

    This book was assigned to me as part of my graduate work in History, in a class on Eastern Europe. I was the only person in the class who liked it. The others felt that it made an argument with poor substantiation, that it essentialized the Jewish identity, and even that it bordered on being a racist evaluation of Jewishness. They had their points, but I still appreciated it, if only for trying to make an argument broader than simply counting the number of angels dancing on the pin of history.Slezkine himself does have an odd relationship to Jewishness and identity, which surely informs this book. He grew up in Russia at a time when being "Russian" made one superior in the eyes of the State to being a "Jew" (and Russian passports indicated ethnicity, with Jewishness defined as an "ethnicity"). He learned in adulthood that his maternal grandmother was Jewish - making him Jewish also, albeit without ever having realized. This book appears to be at least partly a product of his attempts to figure out what that meant.His argument becomes, then, that "everyone is Jewish," as a result of the profound effect which Jewish culture has had on the dominant culture of globalization since the French Revolution. What used to be characteristic of the isolated and half-assimilated groups of wanderers and outcasts in European society has become the norm: including acquisitiveness, alienation from the environment, independence, entrepreneurship, anomie, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism. He uses the interesting figure of Hermes as the symbol for what he calls "service nomadism," which he says is now the norm in modern culture. Although some of the traits he links to Jewishness appear to be negative, he believes that the conversion of humanity to Jewishness is ultimately its redemption, and portrays the shift as essentially positive. Even "[t:]he rise of the Holocaust as a transcendental concept has led to the emergence of the Jews as the Chosen People for the new age." The one risk he identifies in this transcendental Jewishness is that the original may become tainted and impossible to identify amidst a sea of non-Jewish Jews. I can understand my colleagues' misgivings, but ultimately what I appreciate about this book is that it challenges assumptions and "safe" dry academic viewpoints. Slezkine's value may not so much lie in being right, but in how he makes people think in order to figure out that he's wrong.

  • Chrysostom
    2018-12-01 00:49

    'Modernisation is about everyone becoming mobile, urban, literate... intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible [i.e., unrooted].... it is about pursuing wealth for the sake of wealth and learning for the sake of wealth.... [It is about] dismantling inherited [aristocratic, organic] privilege with acquired [individualistic, autonomous] privilege. It is about dismantling social estates and...families for the sake of individuals. Modernization is, in other words, about everyone becoming Jewish.' (i.)See insightful review in Ch2, appendix 1 of 2013 Kindle edition of MacDonald, 'The Culture of Critique'.

  • Sam Schulman
    2018-11-20 00:56

    A frank, often over-decoratively written, clear-headed book about the fate of the Jews in Russia and the fate of Russia at the hands of the Jews. The mythology is childish, but the knowledge is extremely good, and the writing is often witty and laff-out-loud. Slezkine's translations of Russian poems and diaries are worth the price of admission - and Slevkine's restraint in letting his evidence speak for itself, and not driving home with a hammer and sickle the ironies of history he outlines, is heroic. (An example of what he refrains from doing).Here is a poem by a Jewish Bolshevik, named Svetlov (ne Sheinkman). As a little Jewish boy in Ekaterinoslav,he used to be frightened of his rabbi’s morbid tales – but not anymore: Now I wear a leather jacket,Now I’m tall – and the rabbi is small. ….…[When the old rabbi dies under the collapsed wall of his synagogue.”The red flag overhead,The flashing bayonet,The armored car.This was the dawn o fthe holy dayThe Bolshevik was born.,…I stand before my Republic,I have come from the distant South.I have placed all my weakness – truly – Under arrest.The cycles of history keep rollking along - I note the fearful reactions of the fellow-graduate students of one of the earlier reviewers of this book, who all agreed that it is "too essentialist." They are living the Soviet life but without the NKVD - out of choice. That's our country! As Slevkine says here, uppermiddleclass Jewish kids went to USSR universities in the 30s and came out - communists. Whereas uppermiddleclass Jewish kids who went to USA universities at the same time came out - communists.

  • Elanor
    2018-11-17 07:53

    The author Berkeley mentor, and just an incredible human being. I read it in manuscript form, and was blown away.

  • Riet
    2018-11-26 00:43

    Erg moeilijk om dit boek in een paar regels samen te vatten. De schrijver is zelf een Russiche Jood, die nu in de VS woont. Aan de hand van een metafoor (Apollonische mensen tegenover Mercurische mensen) legt hij uit wat de positie was van de Joden door de historie heen. Hij laat ook zien, dat heel veel andere bevolkingsgroepen eigenlijk in dezelfde positie zaten. O.a. de Armenen, de Libische christenen in b.v. Zuid-Amerika, de Chinezen in Azie. Daarna spitst hij het verhaal meer toe op de Joden en wel de grote groep die in de Pale of Settlement woonde. Zij hadden drie keuzes (die hij steeds nader uitlegt aan de hand van de keuzes van Tevjes dochters): naar Rusland en deel nemen aan de revolutie, naar Amerika en naar Palestina, later Israel. Hij werkt het goed uit, maar het is af en toe wel taai. Over het geheel genomen een goede geschiedenis van de Joden in de 20ste eeuw, waarbij dit keer de Holocaust maar een bijrol spelt.

  • Maurizio Manco
    2018-12-03 01:55

    "Nella modernizzazione si diventa tutti urbanizzati, mobili, eruditi, eloquenti, complicati dal punto di vista intellettuale, pignoli dal punto di vista fisico e flessibili dal punto di vista occupazionale. Si imparano a coltivare le persone e i simboli, non i campi o le mandrie. Si persegue la ricchezza mirando al sapere, il sapere mirando alla ricchezza e l'una cosa e l'altra mirando solo a esse. Si trasformano contadini e principi in mercanti e sacerdoti, al privilegio ereditato si sostituisce il prestigio acquisito, e si smantellano i ceti sociali a favore degli individui, delle famiglie e delle tribù che leggono libri (le nazioni). Nella modernizzazione, detto altrimenti, si diventa tutti ebrei." (p. 9)

  • Sascha Altman-DuBrul
    2018-11-26 06:58

    this book is blowing my little mind and typing together my understanding of the rise of Modernism with the role of the Jews.I'll have more to say when I've actually read the whole thing but in the meantime this is taken of the Princeton website:"This masterwork of interpretative history begins with a bold declaration: The Modern Age is the Jewish Age--and we are all, to varying degrees, Jews.The assertion is, of course, metaphorical. But it underscores Yuri Slezkine's provocative thesis. Not only have Jews adapted better than many other groups to living in the modern world, they have become the premiere symbol and standard of modern life everywhere.Slezkine argues that the Jews were, in effect, among the world's first free agents. They traditionally belonged to a social and anthropological category known as "service nomads," an outsider group specializing in the delivery of goods and services. Their role, Slezkine argues, was part of a broader division of human labor between what he calls Mercurians-entrepreneurial minorities--and Apollonians--food-producing majorities.Since the dawning of the Modern Age, Mercurians have taken center stage. In fact, Slezkine argues, modernity is all about Apollonians becoming Mercurians--urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible. Since no group has been more adept at Mercurianism than the Jews, he contends, these exemplary ancients are now model moderns.The book concentrates on the drama of the Russian Jews, including émigrés and their offspring in America, Palestine, and the Soviet Union. But Slezkine has as much to say about the many faces of modernity--nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and liberalism--as he does about Jewry. Marxism and Freudianism, for example, sprang largely from the Jewish predicament, Slezkine notes, and both Soviet Bolshevism and American liberalism were affected in fundamental ways by the Jewish exodus from the Pale of Settlement.Rich in its insight, sweeping in its chronology, and fearless in its analysis, this sure-to-be-controversial work is an important contribution not only to Jewish and Russian history but to the history of Europe and America as well."

  • Samuel
    2018-12-11 06:41

    “The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the the twentieth century in particular, is the Jewish century. Modernization is about everyone becoming urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible….It is about pursing wealth for the sake of learning, learning for the sake of wealth, and both wealth and learning for their own sake…replacing inherited privilege with acquired privilege, and dismantling social estates for the benefit of individuals, nuclear families, and book-reading tribes (nations). Modernization, in other words, is about everyone becoming Jewish” (1).So begins Yuri Slezkine's controversial and unorthodox history: THE JEWISH CENTURY. With his metaphorical assertion that we [modern men and women] are all Jews, he invites us on a mental reconceptualization of the world to better understand it (even if by so doing we are distorting some rather large variations in human experience. He notes that Jews have adapted to the modern world (from written record-keeping onward) better than many other groups. According to Slezkine, Jewish people have become the premiere symbol and standard of modern life everywhere. First they became free agents—service nomads—an outsider group specializing in the delivery of goods or services. He generalizes the global division of labor with the following binary: Mercurians (entrepreneurial minorities) vs. Apollonians (food-producing majorities). Jews, "the exemplary ancients," are now the model moderns. The book concentrates on the drama of the Russian Jews—emigrating to America, Palestine, and Soviet Union cities. This is a fascinating, provocative though admittedly problematic work of history. Its assumptions and methods are unconventional, and yet, it proves to be a refreshingly interesting and successful exercise in approaching history in a more grand narrative way that has some fruitful results.

  • Fred R
    2018-12-11 23:45

    Not as systematic or grounded as I had hoped and expected, but plenty of fruitful speculation. More of "intellectual riffing" around a few historical themes than actual history, although the section on the transition in the Soviet State from philo-semitism to anti-semitism is quite detailed.Jews, for Yuri Slezkine and with good reason, are Mercurians, innately modern, native inhabitants of the world-city. Their marriage to the soviet state is forgotten history, and yet a hinge of the twentieth century. On the other hand, an American, with post-Cold war American concerns, wonders more about their place in America. Their influence is, I think, substantial and traceable; they have made America more Jewish, and this romance is probably a marriage for life, different from the messy divorce in Russia. Slezkine leaves us with this:"All radical attempts to remake humankind are ultimately assaults on the family, and all of them either fail or dissimulate... Not vision of justice-as-equality can accommodate the human family however constituted, and no human existence involving men, women, and children can abide the abolition of the distinction between kin and nonkin."

  • Russell
    2018-11-16 23:50

    The theory behind this book is outstanding.Jews, through systematic discrimination were forced to enter into the new industries, ideas, and philosophies of the 20th century and thus become its leaders. As an ethnicity they heralded change and thus were persecuted for it.The problem is that the book reads like a college text and the author overreaches in trying to tie all elements of Jewish history (especially Marxism) to this theory.This theory academically reiterates the rightwing wall streeter's advice to the skinhead to lay off the anti-semitism in the movie "The Believer": "We're all Jews now"

  • Nick
    2018-12-05 02:58

    Incredibly well researched and deeply insightful, The Jewish Century provides a sweeping history of how Jewish sensibilities have become desirable. The author says Modernity is in essence everyone becoming Jewish: "a service nomad--mobile, clever, articulate, occupationally flexible, and good at being a stranger".My one reluctance in recommending this is that the author spends over half the book on 20th century Russia as a parable but I think it only partially tells the story and could have been largely excised without taking much away from the overall message.

  • Friedrich Mencken
    2018-11-12 06:56

    Important book in showing a reasonable account of Jewish involvement in the Bolshevik revolution but over emphasises cultural factors in ethnic character and under emphasises ethnic networking as a factor in Jewish over representation in Russian economic, cultural, political and educational elite and ethnic motivations for Jewish behaviour and self-perception(deception?)in general. I recommend everyone who enjoyed this book read Kevin MacDonalds 36 page review of The Jewish Century: "STALIN'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS: JEWS AS A HOSTILE ELITE IN THE USSR" available for free on KevinMacDonald.net

  • Julia
    2018-12-02 07:48

    "Modernization, in other words, is about everyone becoming Jewish."This book has an amazing argument and I found it very fresh and provocative. It's a totally new and irreverent look at Jewish roles in the USSR, the US, and Israel...at the same time, it left me with a lot of respect for what those roles have been.

  • Vaida
    2018-12-03 00:35

    Štai puikus pavyzdys, kaip, mano kuklia nuomone, turėtų atrodyti šiuolaikinis socialinių-humanitarinių mokslų tekstas – subjektyvus, drąsus, provokuojantis (diskusiją, ne emocijas), literatūriškas (t. y. tiesiog gerai parašytas ir teikiantis skaitymo malonumą) ir šmaikštus (tam tikra prasme kukliai nesusireikšminęs).

  • lindsay
    2018-11-18 05:37

    you want a conspiracy theory, take this! provocative account of the role of jews in the 20th century that cannot be easily written off.a bit to culturalist at times for me, but riveting nonetheless.

  • Mariana Budjeryn
    2018-12-03 05:55

    A fascinating read. Among other themes, an interesting take on why Jews (or people of Jewish ancestry) were so overrepresented and successful in commerce, scientific and intellectual and art thought in late 19th - early 20th century in Europe.

  • Zach Heiden
    2018-11-18 02:02

    Fascinating. Some of the psychology stuff seemed a little far fetched, but the political philosophy sections were really well done.

  • Justine
    2018-12-05 06:56

    So fascinating. And right up my 'family-tree' alley, so to speak. Probably not an interesting read for everyone, but it was full of so much relevant information for me!

  • Ben
    2018-11-21 02:59

    The intro is great. The rest of the book, meh... a bit on the generic side. Not up to the standard of Slezkine's articles on Soviet history.