10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Darwinist philosophy of history,
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This review is from: A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, with Diaspora Peoples (Paperback)
This is the first of Professor Kevin Macdonald's trilogy interpreting Judaism and Anti-Semitism. The real page turner is the third volume, The Culture of Critique (1998), but this and the second volume, Separation and its Discontents (1994), give his background assumptions in physical anthropology and an only slightly softened social darwinism. As Macdonald says, this latter is not a 'feel good theory'.
Macdonald first explains the theories of recent physical anthropology involving inheritance of specific and general mental characteristics and of groups as instruments of evolution by which genes are shepherded through the generations.
He then interprets The Old Testament, with its genealogies, family histories and laws from a social darwinist standpoint. He next argues against the view of Judaism as a failed universal religion competing with early Christianity for converts, claiming that there are no recorded Jewish missionaries or missionary texts. Christianity draws from Jewish tradition, but its insistence on monogamy and exogamous marriage he attributes to European ethnic characteristics. He claims that Judaism is not internally egalitarian, hence a tendency for those on the lower rungs to defect to out-groups where their identity is more valued. Lastly, he outlines Jewish responses to the 'Enlightenment' which validate Jewish continuance as an ethnic group even independently of religious commitment, e.g. Reform and Orthodox Judaism and Zionism.
He draws mostly on voluminous recent American scholarship, but the result amounts to a novel philosophy of history that challenges the views of American liberals and conservatives like Francis Fukayama and Samuel Huntingdon, but reaches a similar level. Macdonald opposes the multi-ethnic vision of the USA and is nostalgic for the 1950s of his youth.
In terms of production values, I counted six typos in the introduction, the last sentence of which is ungrammatical. All in all, I found it highly readable, well argued and a worthwhile challenge to my own views.
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Initial post: 13 Feb 2012 14:06:24 GMT
Good and helpful review. Slight quibble - it's not a Darwinist view of history, but concentrates on the supposedly Jewish part of it.
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