Capitalism and the Jews

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Explores the Jewish community's relationship with capitalism, discussing medieval lending practices in Europe, some members' support of anti-capitalism, and how economic success in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries may have led to the Holocaust.

Editorial Reviews

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. Eschewing a grand narrative, Muller instead provides four essays connected by an introduction. He draws on an array of sources impressively diverse even for an intellectual historian, but the argument he works toward is difficult to discern. Two of the four essays only indirectly address Jews and capitalism as experienced by Jews in a peak epoch of capitalism, the first primarily dealing with the money-lending tradition of Jews in precapitalist Europe and the third with the high profile of Jews in Eastern European Communist parties and regimes. The second essay examines Milton Friedman's contention that Jews acted against their own self-interest when embracing socialism, and finds it unpersuasive, but the concluding section suggests that the assimilating success of European Jewish communities from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries fated the Holocaust. VERDICT Amorphous but stimulating essays only for the academically committed historian of modern European culture and thought.—Scott H. Silverman, Earlham Coll. Lib., Richmond, IN

[Page 83]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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