The Politics of Jewish Commerce: Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe, 1638 - 1848

The Politics of Jewish Commerce: Economic Thought and Emancipation in Europe, 1638 - 1848

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Jonathan Karp
Cambridge University Press, 10/16/2008
EAN 9780521873932, ISBN10: 0521873932

Hardcover, 388 pages, 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
Language: English

This study demonstrates the centrality of economic rationales to debates on Jews' status in Italy, Britain, France and Germany during the course of two centuries. It delineates the common themes that informed these debates - the ideal republic and the 'ancient constitution', the conflict between virtue and commerce, and the notion of useful and productive labor. It thus provides an overview of the political-economic dimensions of Jewish emancipation literature of this period. This overview is viewed against the backdrop of broader controversies within European society over the effects of commerce on inherited political values and institutions. By focusing on economic attitudes toward Jews, the book also illuminates European intellectual approaches toward economic modernity. By elucidating these general debates, it renders more contemporary Jewish economic self-conceptions - and the enormous impetus that Jewish reformist movements placed on the Jews' economic and occupational transformation - fully explicable.

1. This new-fangled age
2. From ancient constitution to Mosaic Republic
3. The new system of commercial government
4. The natural order of things
5. A state within a state
6. The Israelites and the aristocracy
7. Jews, commerce, and history
8. Capitalism and the Jews
industrialization and beyond.

'Jonathan Karp's book is an erudite, elegant, and insightful study of the centrality of economics to political thought in western Europe from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. Skillfully blending together a vast range of primary sources in six languages, Karp argues convincingly that Judaism and the Jews served as prisms through which the spectrum of Enlightenment thought was filtered.' Derek Penslar, University of Toronto 'A heavy baggage of stereotyping and awkwardness hangs over discussion of the history of attitudes toward Jewish commerce: scholars tend either to shy away from the topic, or to explore it almost exclusively through the limiting lens of the history of anti-Semitism. In this important, ambitious, and pathbreaking book, Jonathan Karp does neither. Drawing connections between a wide range of interpretive perspectives on Jews and commerce - Jewish and non-Jewish, positive and critical, pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist, Italian, French, English, and German - Karp ambitiously takes on a long period of more than two centuries, straddling the early modern/late modern divide. This is an important strength of his study, enabling him to provide a deep exploration of the roots of the emergence of the more familiar economic associations with Jews in the period since 1848.' Adam Sutcliffe, King's College London 'This original and very well-written book starts from the clever insight that the singular concentration of Jews - for historical reasons - in commerce and finance made non-Jewish theorists and practitioners rethink their ideas about the role of money in human affairs. The Jews in commerce serve as a mirror in which the historian discerns aspects of early modern economic thought that would never come to light in any other way. The Jews and their activities represent stages on the road to modernity, and as they adapt, non-Jewish economists and thinkers arrive at new views about economic development.' Jonathan Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania