Anti-Semitism is Bourgeois Self-Hatred

Published on Wednesday June 15th, 2011

Martin Jay, writing in The Dialectical Imagination:

In “Elements of Anti-Semitism,” Horkheimer and Adorno went beyond the reactions of anti-Semites to a discussion of the function of the Jew himself in Western civilization. Like Marx, in his essays on the Jewish question, they rejected the liberal assumption that Jews were different from other men only in their religion. Jewishness, they argued, was also a socio-economic category, although one that had been forced on the Jews in the past and perpetuated today largely out of irrational needs. “Bourgeous anti-Semitism,” they wrote, “has a specific economic basis – the veiling of domination in production.” Anti-Semitism was in one sense the self-hatred of the bourgeousie projected onto the Jews, who in fact were relatively impotent, confined as they were mostly to the sphere of distribution, rather than participating in production. Because of the continuation of the contradictions of capitalism, the Jews, or a group like them, were a necessary outlet for repressed frustrations and aggressions. Thus, the liberal hope for assimilation was a fraud, because of its assumption that mankind was a potential unity under prevailing socio-economic conditions.


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