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Capitalism and the Jews

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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Thinking about Jews and Capitalism 1 CHAPTER ONE: The Long Shadow of Usury Capitalism and the Jews in Modern European Thought 15 CHAPTER TWO: The Jewish Response to Capitalism Milton Friedman's Paradox Reconsidered 72 CHAPTER THREE: Radical Anticapitalism The Jew as Communist 133 CHAPTER FOUR: The Economics of Nationalism and the Fate of the Jews in Twentieth-Century Europe 189 Acknowledgments 219 Notes 225 Index 255

About the Author

Jerry Z. Muller is professor of history at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. His previous books include "Adam Smith in His Time and Ours" (Princeton). His writing has appeared in the "Wall Street Journal", the "New Republic", and the "Times Literary Supplement", among other publications.


"In his slim essay collection Capitalism and the Jews, Jerry Z. Muller presents a provocative and accessible survey of how Jewish culture and historical accident ripened Jews for commercial success and why that success has earned them so much misfortune... While this book is ostensibly about 'the Jews,' Muller's most chilling insights are about their enemies, and the creative, almost supernatural, malleability of anti-Semitism itself. For centuries, poverty, paranoia and financial illiteracy have combined into a dangerous brew--one that has made economic virtuosity look suspiciously like social vice."--Catherine Rampell, New York Times Book Review "In four fascinating essays, Muller sensitively examines how centuries of nomadism and diaspora have shaped Jewish financial life... Muller backs up his bold assertion--that capitalism has been the most important force in shaping the fate of the Jews in the modern world--with elegance and care."--Publishers Weekly "It's a subject rarely given its due in respectable circles. Yet an appreciation for market economics does run deep in Judaic tradition and helps explain the prominence of Jewish bankers, from Mayer Amschel Rothschild to Lloyd Blankfein. In concise prose free of academic jargon, Muller ticks off factors that gave Jews what he calls 'behavioral traits conducive to success in capitalist society.'"--Calev Ben-David, Bloomberg "Muller, a noted historian, takes a fascinating look at how Jews have shaped capitalism and how capitalism has shaped the Jewish experience from medieval times to today."--Fareed Zakaria GPS "Muller is keen to rescue from apologists, ideologues, and anti-Semites the exploration of what he describes as the Jews' 'special relationship' with capitalism... This book is both scholarly and speculative, analysing the sociology and the anti-Semitic pseudo-sociology of the Jews' participation in capitalism. It will not be the last word on the subject, but it is a genuine contribution to it."--Anthony Julius, New Statesman "A work of intellectual history... Muller is acutely aware of the irony that Jews have been attacked sometimes for being the quintessence of capitalism and sometimes for being the quintessence of anticapitalism. The merit of his book is that it takes seriously the need to understand how historical circumstances bring this about."--Robert Solow, Moment Magazine "According to Jerry Z. Muller, professor of history at Catholic University, capitalism has been the most important force in shaping the fate of the Jews in the modern world... Muller focuses squarely on the relation between them in four interlocking essays that explore, respectively, Western thinking about Jews and capitalism, the Jews' own responses to capitalism, Jewish involvement in Communist movements, and the rise of ethnic nationalism that came about as a response to capitalism's relentless march in the 19th century and onward."--Steven Menashi, Commentary "A model of clear thinking and useful information about how accurately to understand the long and complicated relationship between Jews, capitalism, and anti-Semitism. A valuable read."--Ira Stoll, The Future of Capitalism blog "In a 1972 lecture, 'Capitalism and the Jews,' Nobel laureate Milton Friedman presented a paradox: Jews 'owe an enormous debt to free enterprise and competitive capitalism,' he said, but 'for at least the past century the Jews have been consistently opposed to capitalism and have done much on an ideological level to undermine it.' According to historian Jerry Muller, Friedman's paradox may make for a great headline, but it cannot be substantiated. Only the first premise is true--there is little doubt that capitalism has benefited Jews. And as Muller shows, there is equally little doubt that Jews have excelled at developing capitalism in the West."--Guy Sorman, City Journal "Taboos can't last--and now, a real historian has broken this one. Jerry Muller, himself Jewish and a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, has published a book of four essays, Capitalism and the Jews, that sets out to explain why Jews have enjoyed such exceptional success in modern capitalist societies such as ours."--Tim Colebatch, The Age "Muller, a historian at Catholic University, has given us four lectures on economics aspects of Jewish life in the modern world... [T]hey are thoughtful and occasionally insightful."--Peter Temin, "Capitalism and the Jews is a work of scholarship, but it's an especially accessible and illuminating one. It is a book that every Jewish capitalist, actual or aspiring, out to read and ponder."--Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. "Muller (history, Catholic Univ.; Adam Smith in His Time and Ours), a well established historian of capitalism, is brave to tackle this subject, laden as much with the place of Jewish people in the markets as with the trappings and traps of anti-Semitism... Stimulating."--Scott H. Silverman, Library Journal "A stellar work of intellectual history."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News "A well-documented, historical investigation into an often hidden subject that the author makes easily accessible."--Abe Novick, Baltimore Jewish Times "If you want to understand why Jews have done phenomenally well in capitalist societies and at the same time have been some of capitalism's harshest critics, this history will help you understand."--Nick Schulz, National Review "A great book."--William Easterly, Aid Watch blog "Jerry Z. Muller's recent book is neither a polemic nor a setup for a bad lounge joke but is instead a compelling, sober essay about an elephant that has been sitting in the middle of Western history for the past two centuries at least: Jews have been inextricably woven into the history and evolution of capitalism... A fascinating history."--Zachary Karabell, "[T]his book introduces some basic issues and ideas about Jewish economic history and can serve as a provocative starting point for learning more about the subject."--Choice "[A] short book, which could be said to provide the economic background of the Jewish catastrophe of the 20th century. Muller's work, though focused on cultural and not environmental differences, might remind some readers of Jared Diamond's 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' (1997), which explains the basis for the gaps in material success among regions around the world. In both books, the authors, in laying bare the historical processes, help to disabuse readers of their prejudices."--Steven Silber, Haaretz "In the meantime, in a lean and compact volume, Muller has offered a rich and valuable history filled with insights about the character of capitalism and the sources of anti-Semitism--both of which could hardly be more timely subjects."--Yuval Levin, Jewish Review of Books "Muller provides a refreshingly frank account of the major role of Jews on both sides of capitalism's ideological barricades. His brisk and lively book is a welcome sign that historians are moving beyond a stale preoccupation with challenging stereotypes, and are now more willing to engage candidly and directly with the economic dimension of Jewish history."--Adam Sutcliffe, Jewish Quarterly "Although Muller examines mostly European areas, he occasionally cites examples from the United States. His book can be thus read as an attempt to deepen the mutual understanding of historical realities in Europe and North America. The strongest point of Capitalism and the Jews lies in Muller's multifocal perspective and interdisciplinary erudition."--Pnina M. Rubesh, European Legacy "[T]his small book is filled with interesting material and presents its subject in a clear and lively fashion."--Marty Roth, Outlook on Books "The book offers an interesting and new perspective into the economic history of the Jews, which is a by-product of their religious and cultural history."--R. Balashankar, Organiser "Capitalism and the Jews is an important study that affords readers a lucid and extremely accessible analysis of what is no doubt a central topic in Jewish and western history. It is a welcome addition that joins recent efforts to make us more aware of the significance of the economy for our understanding of the modern Jewish experience."--Gideon Reuveni, Enterprise and Society

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