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Antisemitism, capitalism and the formation of sociological theory

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Starting out from the proposition that modern antisemitism is a grotesque form of social theory that provides in its notion of 'Jewification' a critique of processes of capitalist modernization, Stoetzler points to the shared ground between classical sociological theory and modern antisemitism, and examines how their conceptual overlap influenced the ways in which sociologists responded to antisemitism or to the phenomena to which antisemitism also spoke. His argument is built around analyses of 'L'individualisme et les intellectuels', Emile Durkheim's intervention in the Dreyfus affair, and passages from Max Weber's Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus, which are placed in the context of 'classical' and 'early' sociology, including positivism, early French socialism and German Katheder-socialism (academic socialism). He argues that sociologists developed a discourse that aimed to defend liberal society and modernization and, at the same time, attack a caricature of 'egotistical utilitarianism', which they blamed for the dismal aspects of the emerging new form of society. In doing so they offered an alternative to the antisemites but also mimicked their discourse even when—as in the case of Durkheim—they explicitly opposed antisemitism. Stoetzler argues that this was an intrinsic characteristic of classical sociology that weakened its ability to oppose antisemitism and fascism.

Keywords: Charles Maurras; Emile Durkheim; Marxism; Max Weber; Saint-Simon; antisemitism; capitalism; classical sociology; liberalism; positivism; socialism; sociology

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2010

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