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Toward a Definition of Antisemitism Hardcover – 1 Jul 1992

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 427 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520061446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520061446
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,308,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Presently the most erudite historian of antisemitism that I know."--Leon Poliakov, "L'envers du destin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Gavin I. Langmuir, a distinguished medievalist, is Professor of History at Stanford University. He has in preparation a third book on the formation of antisemitism, aimed at a more general audience. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bjarke Fxlner on 26 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
Langmuir's collection of essays on antisemitism is of very high standard. As a student of history with a profound interest in the development of antisemitism I find this work to be indispensable, as indeed should any serious student of antisemitism. Langmuir's essays focuses on important aspects and certain episodes in the history of antisemitism, and he arrives at a useful and well-founded distinction between anti-judaism and antisemitism, that explains why, how and when we can employ the term antisemitism. It is also in this collection that one may find his well-researched essay on the emergence of the ritual murder accusation against the Jews.
In general this collection does much to explain the nature and character of (medieval) anti-semitism - not to mention how irrational fantasies about others and inherently ethnocentric beliefs are prone to create intolerance, hatred or racism against innocent groups of people in general. In this sense it is a book that we can all learn from, since it questions our own perceptions of "others". Thoroughly recommendable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An important contribution to the subject 24 Jan. 2011
By Stan S. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Gavin Langmuir distinguishes between anti-Judaism and antisemitism. For him, anti-Judaism is hostility toward Jews (where by "Jews" we mean anyone perceived as Jewish in a given context) as practitioners of an alien religion of which one disapproves. Anti-Judaism as such needn't be irrational, and it is essentially no different from, e.g., the antagonism between pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, the wars between Catholics and Protestants, or any number of other examples of intergroup hostility throughout history. By antisemitism Langmuir means a hostility toward Jews based on "irrational fantasies," that is, beliefs about Jews that have no basis in fact. Historic instances of antisemitism thus defined would include the Medieval blood libels and charges of host desecration and well-poisoning, as well as the more modern conspiracy theories. This conceptual distinction leads Langmuir to conclude that antisemitism in Western Christendom appeared in the 12th century, with the first known accusation of ritual murder in the case of William of Norwich, and with Peter the Venerable's published conclusion that Jews uniquely lack the capacity for rational thought which distinguishes human beings from animals. Langmuir uses his definitions to argue the relative historic uniqueness of antisemitism. This is reasonable as far as it goes: Langmuir's definition of antisemitism is unquestionably useful for thinking about the differences in the hostilities toward Jews throughout time and space. But as with any definition, it ought not be treated as an absolute. Its main shortcoming is that it fails to capture a common kind of hostility, which does not necessarily contain "irrational fantasies" at the level of empirical reality, but which implicitly creates one rule for the Jews and another for "everyone else" (by which we mean other religious or ethnic/national groups, depending on the context). Langmuir as a historian is concerned with positive empirical claims, or "truth," to the neglect of normative claims, or "justice." This is quite understandable because the Principle of Equality as a basis for political organization is a recent invention, while Langmuir deals primarily with periods where treating different groups differently was the accepted norm. But if we are concerned with the phenomenon of antisemitism in our Age of Democracy it would perhaps be more useful and instructive to take the point of view of "justice" in thinking about how to define what we wish to study.

This book is for those who already have some knowledge of the history of antisemitism, or the history of European Jewry. For those who know little beyond the commonplaces about "racist Nazis" the best single volume introduction is Malcolm Hay's "Europe and the Jews."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful Analysis 8 Mar. 2006
By Kalan S. Turner - Published on
Format: Paperback
Langmuir's work is unique and enlightening. He pursues a unique thesis regarding antisemitism which asserts its difference from other types of persecution. Antisemitism arises from rare 'chimerical assertions' peculiar to Jews and possibly a small handful of other groups throughout history. Most importantly, he reveals the strange growth of antisemitism beginning with the rise of Christianity. He is adamant in his assertion that antisemitism was not a necessary by-product of Christianity but was never the less greatly aided by the social and psychological problems Christianity presented, especially in the 11th to 13th centuries. Anyone wishing a greater understanding of antisemitism, its cultural roots, and its manifestation in Nazi Germany should read this book.
Excellent! 23 May 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Superb Stanford University historian and very important ideas!
Important research that should not go unread.
Additional books by this author also importand reading for anyone interested in history.
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