Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker’s rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins.


Badiou, Alain. Circonstances, 3. Portées du mot « juif  » suivi de Cécile Winter. Signifiant-maître des nouveaux aryens. Paris : Lignes, 2005.

Beller, Steven. Antisemitism. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Mythos Galizien.  Wien Museum Karlsplatz, March 26 through August 8, 2015. http://www.wienmuseum.at


The first thing I know about antisemitism I learned from a woman friend in college—she was talking about some guy: “There he was on top of me, and I could have been eating an apple.” That's pretty much what antisemitism feels like to a Jew: some guy you barely know's carrying on about The Jews This The Jews That and you could be off eating a bagel or wondering how to pay the rent. What has it got to do with you?

I have no idea what Alain Badiou's like in bed; since he's a French philosopher and a former follower of Louis Althusser it's best not to ask. I do know how he comes off in his relationship to Jews because he wrote a book about it. Badiou's heart is in the right place (which could be said of a lot of guys as well): he's a progressive, an ex-Marxist or perhaps a post-Marxist, or more likely a pre-Marxist Hegelian with a genuine commitment to political engagement. The best part about Portées du mot « juif  » (not a book at all but a collection of excerpts and articles) is the number of sharp observations about the deplorable state of French attitudes toward Jews, which have become even more deplorable since the book was published.

Except that Badiou's book is not about this Jew or those Jews, it's about “The” Jews, or like da rappers sez, da Joos. Badiou's philosophy is a form of Hegelian nominalism on its way to all-and-all idealism; he asks himself (and others, presumably) whether the word “Jew” can be made to refer to a kind of  transcendental quality like an avatar of Hegel's Idea, the Unhappy Consciousness with Tsuris, « un signifiant destinal, donc sacré » as opposed to a socially determined word that's applied to people who happen to have been born to mothers who were also called that: such people he calls “virtual Jews” and they don't interest him, the way my woman friend's guy wasn't interested in her but in something supposedly higher. Das Ewig-Weiblich zieht uns hinan, says Goethe: “The Eternal Feminine draws us upward;” Something like the Eternal Jew, which is what the Germans call the Wandering Jew: the ultimate shifting signifier.

A lot of Badiou's ideas about da Joos are mere recyclings (unconscious, I suspect) of a tradition of Medieval Catholic Theology that wants to redeem da Joos by detecting in them a spiritual renunciation of the self in favor of the universality of humanity—a universality which apparently can only be achieved by crucifying one of their own. From what I've gathered elsewhere they don't do Augustine at the École Normale Supérieure, the crack philosophy school in France. Badiou, like Augustinians throughout the centuries, finds in the figure of Saint Paul the model for the Jew who becomes eternal by abandoning his Yiddishkeit. I'll pass.

There's something unpleasantly Medieval in Badiou's approach, as in Goethe's; and in Hegel's, of course. (Marx called it Hegel's “mystificatory side.”) Badious' nominalism is closer to William of Occam than Husserl: like a medieval philosopher he's more interested in the idea than the material reality of being a Jew; like Hegel he interprets the world as it is, but in reverse. Of filmmakers who take partisan positions in their work he writes, “what's missing is that they have no concern for the universal meaning, which is therefore the dialectical one [Il leur manque de prendre soin de la signification universelle, et donc dialectique].” Just as medieval women negotiated their lives as reflections of the Virgin Mary so, too, the lives of real-life Jews are supposed to be reflections of the Great Theological Jew in the Sky (or in Hell): my women friends tell me they feel surrounded at all times by a kind of substrate of induction at work or on the street, that they feel themselves constantly, quietly designated as bitch or slut or virgin just as Jews constantly feel themselves designated as pushy or cliquish or rich, and this is the part Badiou misses as most Goyishe anti-Zionists do. In the end Badiou's book isn't really about Jews or about da Joos, it's about the legitimacy of the State of Israel, and whether the word “Jewish” (as in: “Jewish State”) has any validity whatsoever. What Merleau-Ponty wrote of antisemitism applies as well to Badiou's philosemitism:

Un antisémite ne pourrait pas voir torturer les juifs s’il les voyait vraiment, s’il percevait cette souffrance et cette agonie dans une vie individuelle, mais justement, il ne voit pas les juifs qui souffrent, il est dans le mythe du juif. À travers ces êtres concrets il torture et tue le juif, il se débat avec ses rêves et ses coups atteignent des visages vivants.

An anti-Semite could not stand to see Jews tortured if he really saw them, if he perceived that suffering and agony in an individual life—but this is just the point: he does not see Jews suffering; he is blinded by the myth of the Jew. He tortures and murders the Jew through these concrete beings; he struggles with dream figures, and his blows strike living faces.

Given the systematic harassment currently conducted by the French State against anyone (Jew, Gentile or Muslim) who threatens the fabricated equation between da Joos and just plain Jews (“les juifs de circonstance” as Badiou calls them) I understand the author's caution; all the same, by not addressing directly the experience of real Jews inside and outside of Israel, Badiou does not address the one plausible argument for the State of Israel, which is similar to the argument for those Planet of the Women science-fiction narratives you find from time to time: the argument that Israel provides an escape from the unending substrate of inducted Jewishness that floats throughout European culture. And it doesn't; but that's the argument Badiou precludes himself from making. 


Where Badiou should have ended is where Steven Beller begins. Beller's highly qualified to write of antisemitism, at least of the deadly Eastern European variety: he's the author of the best available survey of Austrian History in English, and of several books about Jews in Vienna in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and you can't get any closer to antisemitism than that. Beller chooses to start his concise and sharp outline with a brief acknowledgement of the long European tradition of  “Anti-Judaism,” by which he means “Christian doctrinal hostility to Jews,” da Joos as Christ-killers, stuff like that. He's even more cursory in his definition of “Jew-hatred,” as he calls it, meaning Jews as cold-blooded Judases, Shylocks, etc. the stuff that was borne down into our age on an undertow of popular belief, though one could argue that Anti-Judaism and Jew-hatred have a strong component of Philo-Judaism and Jew-hugging as well, the way sexism is not simply the structural oppression of women, it has a strong component of the misplaced affectation of empathy: “Was it good for you, too?”

But Beller's onto bigger, badder things. The kind of crazed theorizing that led to the Shoah must have an explanation though it has no excuse, and Beller feels (like Badiou) that “discursive antisemitism,” the kind that's talk-talk-talk, has less bearing on the real behavior of real antisemites than one might imagine. Beller skillfully addresses a conundrum that bedevils the History of Ideas: what is the relationship between  ideas, ideals, and theories developed by a handful of superiorhaha intellects and the actual social, political and cultural practices that they precede, or lead to, or perhaps even cause? The issue is crucial for understanding antisemitism: after all, in the late nineteenth century French intellectuals (as well as left-wing leaders like Jules Guesde) were as aggressively spreading poison as the Germans, but for various reasons the French, by and by, did not care to share the hate. French antisemitism, Beller believes, stayed on the level of chatter, as things French and intellectual tend to do. Perhaps it was just bidding its time.

Beller moves on too quickly to find the cause of antisemitism in historic and social  conditions rather than in the forms and fashions of thought. His sporadic, loose  references to the antisemitism of Marx or Winston Churchill or Schopenhauer don't do justice to the ways in which theoretical and verbal hostility directed at Jews metastasized in the second half of the nineteenth century: there is a qualitative difference between the distasteful comments of  a Schopenhauer, a Herder or Karl Marx and the writings of a Richard Wagner—and it's a difference Beller chooses to ignore. With Wagner it's not merely the depth of his viciousness but its totalizing aspect, as if distaste for Jews were not a matter of mere personal preference but as if the distaste itself had been turned around to become a paranoid, all-embracing fantasy; as if personal resentment of Moishe or Shmuli had taken on the grandiose, all-encompassing power of the Totality: when the great anatomist Julius Tandler was appointed to the Faculty at the University of Vienna one newspaper wondered how one could possibly be at once a Jew and an anatomist. This is what August Bebel meant when he said (if he said it) that “antisemitism is the socialism of imbeciles:” like socialism, antisemitism became a theory for praxis, an all-encompassing world-view that, once assumed, explained everything: music, science, art and politics. Among the more frightening instances I know (it's not in Beller's book) is the audiences turning up at Hugo Wolf's concerts to deliberately walk out in protest of Wolf's “verjudet” compositions. (Wolf wasn't Jewish).  By the turn of the twentieth century in Austria and in Germany, elite theoreticians and practitioners of all classes were united by the same Gesammtantisemitismus, an all-encompassing, all-explaining substrate. Again Merleau-Ponty:

Anti-Semitism is not a war machine set up by a few Machiavellis and serviced by the obedience of others. It is not the creation of a few people any more than language is, or music. […]  The Germans made us understand, on the contrary, that leaders are mystified by their own myths and that the troops are their half-knowing accomplices, that no one commands or obeys absolutely.

Beller will have none of this: the discursive argument, he claims, “obscures the instrumental rationality often implicated in antisemitism.”  Beller prefers what he calls the “modernity” argument: “[antisemitism] is seen as a product of economic modernization.” Hello? Instrumental economic rationalism is not a form of discursiveness? With all Jew respect, I think Beller confuses modernization with modernity, the one being a process of rationalization, efficiency, Gleichschaltung, to use the Nazi's own term; the other a subjective response to social processes over which the perpetrators and victims have little control. Like many other theorists, Beller lumps together historical forces and individual human choices of agency; he confuses the expression of human labor power with other forms of agency: to the capitalist all forms of activities are viewed as equivalents, mere “factors of production.”

As Marx said of Hegel, there's a tendency to conflate the things of the mind with the mind of things. The forces of globalization, the eradication of cultural differences, may have a causal logic; this does not make the response or acceptance or furthering of their progress rational except in the wildest parodies of rationalism itself. And wasn't Adorno and Horckheimer's point, precisely, that Nazism marked the moral and efficient collapse of instrumental rationality?

Beller's narrative does not contradict my argument, only it's somewhat narrower in focus, as befits his specialization; more focused on the political and cultural dynamics of antisemitism than the economic. His narrative is one of modernization gone wild, of Jews, Gentiles and in-between forced to take sides again and again for or against the forces of rationality, progress, efficiency, economic development and so forth, with the major difference that Jews were caught in a tails-you-win-heads-we-lose bargain with modernity. Beller narrates how in 1861 one of Vienna's leading rabbis argued that it was Jews, not Gentiles, who represented the forces of modernism, with the predictable result that da Joos were subsequently blamed for modernizing traditional German Culture to their evil ways. This was a Kafkaesque situation in the literal sense, since Kafka himself was at once a beneficiary and a pawn of the Austrian Toleration Edicts of 1781 granting Czech Jews the right to an education so long as it was in German, not in Czech. Kafka's German prose is a reflection of this, with its eerie disassociated purity purged of idiosyncrasy except for the occasional yiddishism peeping through like a self-betrayal. To assimilate fully meant abandoning at once Jewish particularism, Czech identity, and the distinctive language of both. It meant one was forever at once inside the Castle, and out.

The conundrum of integration and disintegration went much further back than Beller acknowledges, all the way back to the Christian millennial belief that the accomplishment of the Biblical prophecies would occur with the Jews' conversion to Christianity. By the early nineteenth century the argument had taken the secular form that subsists to this day in France: to be equal with others da Joos must renounce all signs of apartness, inward and outward; they must abolish themselves as Jews; but since, as Marx noted, those things which are taken as signs of apartness among Jews are, for the most part, widely shared traits within society at large, the more Jews adapt to society at large the more they're accused of corrupting it with their innately Jewish vices. The more Jews attempt to achieve equality by blurring difference the more they're accused of attempting to blur the lines, and this, too, goes back to Medieval and Early Modern fears about Jewishness: the threat of Jewishness is the obverse of the threat from Africanness: Jews have the option of invisibility. As has often been noted, antisemitism spread furthest and quickest in direct proportion to the degree of Jewish assimilation: in reverse proportion to the visibility of individual Jews. As the saying goes,

.יעדער א יד אָן א באָרד אַז א באָרד אָן א יד

( The reverse also holds true.)

This helps answer a question about which Beller is understandably cautious: how does the Jewish experience of the Holocaust (the Shoah) stand apart from the experience of other oppressed groups? (I mean, of course, qualitatively different, I leave the question of statistics to the deniers.) The answer, I would suggest, is that no other social group was as tightly caught up in the insoluble contradictions of modernity, of industrial progress, of capital and the modern state. Beller would surely agree as to the modern state, since that's where he focuses his interest; to which Zygmunt Bauman might have added that the Jewish experience (the Shoah) is different from that of all other groups in the irrationally applied rationalism, the paranoid obsessiveness of its cool-headed efficiency, and above all in its chaotic classificatory mania. To quote again Merleau-Ponty, the perpetrators were “mystified by their own myths;” and few myths of Modernity are more tenacious than the belief that progress, money, democracy erase all difference, while in fact the ostensible equality promised by progress, money and democracy creates a vacuum that's filled by a struggle for new hierarchies. I give the last word on this to Badiou himself, in a more recent article that doesn't address da Joos at all:

La sortie de la tradition, dans sa version bourgeoise et capitaliste, ouvre en réalité une gigantesque crise de l’organisation symbolique de l’humanité. Pendant des millénaires, en effet, les différences internes à la vie humaine ont été codées, symbolisées, sous une forme hiérarchique. Les dualités les plus importantes [...] ont été traitées, dans la langue, dans les mythologies, dans les idéologies, dans les morales religieuses installées, par le recours à des structures d’ordre, qui codaient la place des uns et des autres dans des systèmes hiérarchiques enchevêtrés.[...]

Toute la symbolisation traditionnelle repose ainsi sur la structure d’ordre qui distribue les places et par conséquent les relations entre ces places. La sortie de la tradition, telle que réalisée par le capitalisme comme système général de la production, ne propose en réalité aucune symbolisation active nouvelle, mais seulement le jeu brutal et indépendant de l’économie, le règne neutre, a-symbolique, de ce que Marx appelle « les eaux glacées du calcul égoïste ». Il en résulte une crise historique de la symbolisation.

The release from tradition in its bourgeois and capitalist version opens up in reality a gigantic crisis in the symbolic organization of society. For thousands of years  the intrinsic differences of social life were coded, symbolized, in hierarchical form. The most salient dualisms [...] were addressed by structuring an order that placed each and every one within an series of intricately intermingled hierarchical systems. [...]

Thus the traditional system of symbolization rests on an ordering structure that assigns positions and therefore the relationships among these positions; while the release from tradition achieved by capitalism under the guise of a generalized system of production offers in actuality no new active system of symbolic relations, only the brutal and independent play of economic “law,” the cold, a-symbolic reign of what Marx calls “the icy water of egotistical calculation.” The result is a historical crisis of symbolization.

That crisis was very much on Marx's mind when he discussed the symbolic role of Jews in the Christian system, as inscribed in the word Judentum, an interesting expression which, in nineteenth-century Germany, meant simultaneously “Jewry” and “grubby commerce.”  Antisemitism, then, is a particular form of symbolic reenactment, the vastly inefficient reincarnation of unmoored and shifting relationships of power. From this viewpoint the resistance to antisemitism, present and future, is at one with those common forms of resistance to repeatedly reinstated hierarchies of power within capitalism itself. It is through symbolization that symbolization must be led astray.


Symbolization is the theme of Mythos Galizien at the Wien Museum on Karlsplatz, Galicia being the name given to that swath of Polish and Ukrainian territory that was added to the Hapsburg Family Collection  after the dismemberment of Poland in in 1772: even the name was pulled out of thin air. It's an interesting premiss for an exhibition: was “Galicia” merely another conglomeration of squabbling ethnicities? Did “Galicia” really exist except as a name on an administrative map? This is not a show about how “Galicians” saw themselves or wished to see themselves, it's about the way the folks back in the West (meaning Vienna) wished to see and order those they saw; and of course the seen themselves offered cooperation and resistance through the various visualizations on display, and that, I would argue (the strategies by which visualization resists the Order of the World) is as good a reason to become an artist as a theorist today.

The needs of the Austrian State were the needs of a modernizing state striving to achieve the smooth egalitarianism of capital: all subjects of the Kaiser were in principle equal in their relationship to the State, with the implication that it was the State itself that ensured their equality. Economically, and therefore politically, the various ethnic and national groups were left to claw their way upward from the bottom of the pile. This exhibition focuses on the optimistic fantasy, for instance with a sentimental fake-Medieval rendition of the Statute of Kalisz of 1264 guaranteeing the rights of Jews; next to it a sentimental painting (there's a lot of juicy sentimental painting) of King Kazimierz of Poland playing shaygets to Esterka the Byootyful Jewesse back in the fourteenth century.  The most curious image of all is a painting of the various ethnic groups of Galicia united in loyal adoration of a Crucifix—Jews included.

Oy, have they got the wrong equality. The great Austrian writer Joseph Roth caught better than anyone the dynamics underlying the claims and calls and dreams: while Jews, Poles and Ruthenians (meaning Ukrainians) and others might have a claim to be considered equal as ethnicities from the standpoint of a single political entity (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), from a practical point of view the Jews fell between the cracks whenever the specific terms of the struggle were centered around nationhood, meaning every time:

Im österreichischen Parlament saßen die Vertreter verschiedenen Nationen und waren damit beschäftig, um nationale Rechte und Freiheiten zu kämpfen, die ganz selbstverständlich gewesen wären,wenn man sie gewähren hätte.

In the Austrian Parliament sat the representatives of the various nations, busy fighting for national rights and freedoms that would have been taken for granted had they been achieved.

With the major difference that the question of Jewish nationhood has its own dynamic, due to the nature of the Jewish relationship to the concept of a “Jewish Nation:” so far as I know the first and only time a Jew was elected to the Parliament in Vienna as a representative of the Jews of Austria was in 1919, after the fall of the Hapsburg Empire. Roth adds:

Zionismus und Nationalitätsbegriff sind im Wesen westeuropäisch, wenn auch nicht im Ziel. Nur im Orient leben notch Menschen, die sich um ihre “Nationalität”, das Heißt Zugehörigkeit zu einer “Nation” nach westeuropäischen Begriffen, nicht kümmern.

Zionism and Nationalism are Western European in essence if not in purpose; in Eastern Europe people do not concern themselves about nationality, meaning their affiliation to a “nation” by Western European standards. The National Idea is a Western European one.

The curators present a map of Galicia with place-names and comments written in what the German label describes as “Hebraic characters” and the English signage translates as “Hebrew labels;” but the labels are not in Hebrew, they're in a combination of Hebrew and Yiddish, which ends up making them Yiddish, not Hebrew, since Yiddish uses Hebrew words as well as the Hebrew alphabet with a different set of diacritics and Hebrew doesn't use Yiddish if it can possibly help it: no hierarchy is established here between Yiddish, the “Mother-Tongue,” and Hebrew, the Language of the Father. Not to put too fine a point on it, the show has been zionized, which is my own neologism for: “cleaned up to assuage the sensibilities of those who claim to speak for da Joos but in practice speak for the interests of that which calls itself the Jewish State,” meaning those who fantasize that the Jews of Eastern Europe and elsewhere had no more pressing need than to define themselves as a nation in the Western European, modernist sense. The show concludes with the statement that “Galicia can be considered the cradle of Poland, the Ukraine and, in part, of Israel. [Wird Galizien als Wiege Polens, der Ukraine und teilweise auch Israels betrachtet.]” The part about Poland and the Ukraine is arguably nonsense, the part about Israel, surely. As Roth makes clear (and Beller suggests), the parameters of privilege may have been more commonly applied in Poland and Ukraine through that subtle form of reinforcement known as the pogrom; they were  defined in the modernizing Western European states (including Vienna) through the concept of the modern state. As early as 1808 the proto-fascist Kantian Johan Gottlieb Fichte argued that the frontiers of a Nation might be interior as well as exterior ones: his Addresses to the German Nation are the ideological foundation of the German Nation, and hence the foundation of exclusion as a  form of nationalist inclusion. Among the few antisemitic images in this show, there's one of a couple of sneering, grungy Yids with features similar to those of “darkies” in contemporaneous American images: blubber lips, huge noses, shoddy clothes—they might as well be in Jewface; and they're peering out the window of a train running directly from Lvov (in present-day Ukraine) to Vienna, as opposed to, say, taking the bus from Birmingham to Boston. Perhaps the implicit suggestion that Jews had unacceptably transgressed the inward, mind-forged borders within a nation was too painful for someone on the Museum staff: when last I visited the label under this particular item had been removed.

That form of antisemitism that preoccupies Roth (as well as Beller) is the process sociologists call Negative Integration. The best way to ensure that all feel privileged within the State and by the State is for the State to suggest that they are privileged in relation to those who are less privileged than themselves: that the “freedoms that would have been taken for granted had they even been achieved” are to be savagely defended from those even less privileged. This was the successful tactic of Karl Lueger, the popular, populist and vastly competent mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. This is the sense of a curious manuscript of Goethe's, a transcription of what appears to be a German-Yiddish sermon dealing simultaneously with the fact that the Jews do, too, have a nation though not in the European sense; and because they have such a nation they need not take the back seat on the donkey's crupper. In the meantime, and because the Jews had no claim to a nation in the very narrow sense of Western European nationalism, they were the designated bottom dogs to be kept in their place within the system of European nationalism that defined privilege in terms that the system itself had devised.  Roth again:

Die Juden wiederlegten das Sprichwort, das da sagt, der dritte gewänne, wenn zwei sich stritten. Die Juden waren der dritte, der immer verlor.

The Jews gave the lie to the saying that when two quarrel it's the third that gains. The Jews were the third who always lost.


This is not to say that Jews were inevitably given the dog-role in the state-sponsored game of negative integration: the French State in its North African colonies assigned the privilege of French citizenship to the indigenous Jewish population while denying it to Muslims; a hundred fifty years later the Charlie Hebdo murderers (who were themselves Frenchmen of Maghrebi extraction with bitter memories) were, among other things, acting out Maghrebi resentment of that policy. Now Israel is a state in the Western European sense, another “classic ethno-national state,” as Beller puts it; which is to say that da Joos wherever they live are fantasized to have the same rights as every citizen, meaning the right to be exploited, manipulated and put in their place, up or down, depending. (Let me add in passing, that anyone who imagines that any Jew, anywhere, is welcome “back” in Israel, is nuttier than Netanyahu.) In the game of Negative Integration the immigrants and the refugees are the new Joo.

This is the sense Étienne Balibar gives to the new form that antisemitism takes in the twenty-first century. Balibar has written extensively about Israel and antisemitism elsewhere; in Race, nation classe he mentions antisemitism in passing to suggest that the continuity between antisemitism and present-day racism (and implicitly between antisemitism and present-day Islamophobia) lies in the continuum of state-sponsored exceptionalism, which he calls differentialist racism:

Differentialism  displaces  discrimination  by  transferring  it from  the  immediate  appearance  of  the  groups  being  classified  to  the  criteria  of  classification,  thus  constituting  a “fallback position” for racism.

Le différentialisme déplace la discrimination, en la transférant de l’apparence immédiate des groupes classés vers les critères de classement, il est un racisme de « seconde position ».

In France today you're never a racist or an antisemite, you're merely someone who shares the values of Voltaire, who happens to have been a racist, an antisemite, and a desperate suck-up to state power. And your fallback position is always that the differences inducted, projected from so-called Frenchmen onto Jews, onto Muslims, from French men onto women, are legitimate, spontaneous, natural. The abolition difference is offered as a substitute for the abolition of privilege.

A friend of mine was once waiting in an airport lounge in Paris: facing her were two portly French retirees; a little further on a couple of Hassidim. For a while the retirees stared at the Jews; finally the Frenchman murmured to his wife: “Those Bretons, they always have to set themselves apart!” The logic by which people are absorbed into a culture is the imputed logic of their fitness to be absorbed according to the supposed fitness of their values: whether such people need to be absorbed, or want to be absorbed, or whether absorption would be in anyone's interest is never raised. Balibar adds that the attitude of the present-day French government toward Muslims and others is similar to the Spanish Inquisition's attitude to the Jewish Conversos: “Are you sure you're not faking your Christian Values Orgasm?” There is a clear if tortuous line between the epithet applied to Saracens in the Chanson de Roland,  from those “whom God does not Love,” to the recent comment of the late Dutch racist Pym Fortuyn: “I don't hate Arab men; I even fuck them.”

Differentialism, in other terms, is the return of Negative Integration, no longer based on racial or ethnic characteristics but foremost on a “get-in-line” theory of access to the privilege of being white, or male, or heterosexual, or Christian, or French, or fucked, or all of the above according to the immediate needs of the State. It's the other side of the Pauline tradition that Badiou loves, a tradition that leads in a continuum from Medieval Christian political theology through the great periods of European colonialism and  on to European Enlightenment, to alight finally in our century on antisemitism and Islamophobia, the twin colonialisms of Europe's inner borders.

Balibar is an optimist. In a dry, technical, scholarly paper, Fritz W. Scharpf argues that Differentialism is an integral, unavoidable part of the organization of the European Union: because each member country has differing social entitlements the suggestion that the citizens of one country have to pull extra weight for all the others because of their superior benefits exacerbates the move toward hierachical organizations of values from one country to another. The more each member state imposes its own Gleichschaltung, bringing its social entitlements in line with the lowest common denominator, the more it encourages the fantasy of privilege among its citizens by presenting its diminished services as those privileges the others desperately desire. The system by which the bottom dogs are put in their place hasn't changed at all, only the dog's breed, until next year's breed comes along.

In no way are Jews today exempt from this system of hierarchical thinking. The most common form of antisemitic induction today is the “lucky-ducky” meme, heard among clueless anti-Zionists and antisemites alike: you see, da Joos claim undue privileges (of statehood, for instance) because they were almost exterminated in Europe. It's only one step from that to argue that, actually, the Jews didn't have it that bad; in fact they probably faked or caused the Shoah just to get sympathy. Works every time.

One can't fault Beller if, writing in 2005 , he stated confidently that “Prosperity has made the politics of envy that lay behind much of the popularity of antisemitism largely irrelevant.” The reverse has come true: the collapse of European prosperity within the context of the globalization of the European state system has rendered antisemitism and Islamophobia and hatred of immigrants very relevant indeed. This did not escape Balibar in 1991:

Through  racism, nationalism  engages  in  a  “headlong flight forward”, a  metamorphosis  of  its  material  contradictions  into  ideal  contradictions.

Au travers du racisme le nationalisme s’engage dans une « fuite en avant », une metamorphose de ses contradictions matérielles en contradictions idéales.

Antisemitism is in the DNA of the Modern European Liberal State; they can't help it, they were born that way.


Screamin' Jew Hawkins

May 10, 2015.