“The Jewish problem is one of the greatest problems in the world, and no man, be he writer, politician or diplomatist, can be considered mature until he has striven to face it squarely on its merits.”
—Henry Wickham Steed
The Culture of Critique’s
in the Preface:
The Culture of Critique (hereafter, CofC) was originally published in 1998 by Praeger Publishers, an imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc. The thesis of the book is a difficult one indeed, not only because it is difficult to establish, but also because it challenges many fundamental assumptions about our contemporary intellectual and political existence.
CofC describes how Jewish intellectuals initiated and advanced a number of important intellectual and political movements during the 20th century. I argue that these movements are attempts to alter Western societies in a manner that would neutralize or end anti-Semitism and enhance the prospects for Jewish group continuity either in an overt or in a semi-cryptic manner. Several of these Jewish movements (e.g., the shift in immigration policy favoring non-European peoples) have attempted to weaken the power of their perceived competitors—the European peoples who early in the 20th century had assumed a dominant position not only in their traditional homelands in Europe, but also in the United States, Canada, and Australia. At a theoretical level, these movements are viewed as the outcome of conflicts of interest between Jews and non-Jews in the construction of culture and in various public policy issues. Ultimately, these movements are viewed as the expression of a group evolutionary strategy by Jews in their competition for social, political and cultural dominance with non-Jews.
Here I attempt to answer some typical criticisms that have been leveled against CofC. (See also my website). I also discuss issues raised by several books that have appeared since the publication of CofC.
There have been complaints that I am viewing Judaism in a monolithic manner. This is definitely not the case. Rather, in each movement that I discuss, my methodology has been:
(1.) Find influential movements dominated by Jews, with no implication that all or most Jews are involved in these movements and no restrictions on what the movements are. For example, I touch on Jewish neo-conservatism which is a departure in some ways from the other movements I discuss. In general, relatively few Jews were involved in most of these movements and significant numbers of Jews may have been unaware of their existence. Even Jewish leftist radicalism—surely the most widespread and influential Jewish subculture of the 20th century—may have been a minority movement within Jewish communities in the United States and other Western societies for most periods. As a result, when I criticize these movements I am not necessarily criticizing most Jews. Nevertheless, these movements were influential and they were Jewishly motivated.
(2.) Determine whether the Jewish participants in those movements identified as Jews and thought of their involvement in the movement as advancing specific Jewish interests. Involvement may be unconscious or involve self-deception, but for the most part it was quite easy and straightforward to find evidence for these propositions. If I thought that self-deception was important (as in the case of many Jewish radicals), I provided evidence that in fact they did identify as Jews and were deeply concerned about Jewish issues despite surface appearances to the contrary. (See also Ch. 1 of CofC.)
(3.) Try to gauge the influence of these movements on non-Jewish society. Keep in mind that the influence of an intellectual or political movement dominated by Jews is independent of the percentage of the Jewish community that is involved in the movement or supports the movement.
(4.) Try to show how non-Jews responded to these movements—for example, were they a source of anti-Semitism?
Several of the movements I discuss have been very influential in the social sciences. However, I do not argue that there are no Jews who do good social science, and in fact I provide a list of prominent Jewish social scientists who in my opinion do not meet the conditions outlined under (2) above (see Ch. 2 of CofC). If there was evidence that these social scientists identified as Jews and had a Jewish agenda in doing social science (definitely not in the case of most of those listed, but possibly true in the case of Richard Herrnstein—see below), then they would have been candidates for inclusion in the book. The people I cite as contributing to evolutionary/biological perspectives are indeed ethnically Jewish, but for most of them I have no idea whether they either identity as Jews or if they have a Jewish agenda in pursuing their research simply because there is no evidence to be found in their work or elsewhere. If there is evidence that a prominent evolutionary biologist identifies as a Jew and views his work in sociobiology or evolutionary psychology as advancing Jewish agendas, then he or she should have been in CofC as an example of the phenomenon under study rather than as simply a scientist working in the area of evolutionary studies.
Interestingly, in the case of one of those I mention, Richard J. Herrnstein, Alan Ryan (1994, 11) writes, “Herrnstein essentially wants the world in which clever Jewish kids or their equivalent make their way out of their humble backgrounds and end up running Goldman Sachs or the Harvard physics department.” This is a stance that is typical, I suppose, of neo-conservatism, a Jewish movement I discuss in several places, and it is the sort of thing that, if true, would suggest that Herrnstein did perceive the issues discussed in The Bell Curve as affecting Jewish interests in a way that Charles Murray, his co-author, did not. (Ryan contrasts Murray’s and Herrnstein’s world views: “Murray wants the Midwest in which he grew up—a world in which the local mechanic didn’t care two cents whether he was or wasn’t brighter than the local math teacher.”)
Similarly, 20th-century theoretical physics does not qualify as a Jewish intellectual movement precisely because it was good science and there are no signs of ethnic involvement in its creation: Jewish identification and pursuit of Jewish interests were not important to the content of the theories or to the conduct of the intellectual movement. Yet Jews have been heavily overrepresented among the ranks of theoretical physicists.
Einstein with other Zionists
This conclusion remains true even though Einstein, the leading figure among Jewish physicists, was a strongly motivated Zionist (Fölsing 1997, 494-505), opposed assimilation as a contemptible form of “mimicry” (p. 490), preferred to mix with other Jews whom he referred to as his “tribal companions” (p. 489), embraced the uncritical support for the Bolshevik regime in Russia typical of so many Jews during the 1920s and 1930s, including persistent apology for the Moscow show trials in the 1930s (pp. 644-5), and switched from a high-minded pacifism during World War I, when Jewish interests were not at stake, to advocating the building of atomic bombs to defeat Hitler.
From his teenage years he disliked the Germans and in later life criticized Jewish colleagues for converting to Christianity and acting like Prussians. He especially disliked Prussians, who were the elite ethnic group in Germany. Reviewing his life at age 73, Einstein declared his ethnic affiliation in no uncertain terms: “My relationship with Jewry had become my strongest human tie once I achieved complete clarity about our precarious position among the nations” (in Fölsing 1997, 488). According to Fölsing, Einstein had begun developing this clarity from an early age, but did not acknowledge it until much later, a form of self-deception: “As a young man with bourgeois-liberal views and a belief in enlightenment, he had refused to acknowledge [his Jewish identity]” (in Fölsing 1997, 488).
In other words, the issues of the ethnic identification and even ethnic activism on the part of people like Einstein are entirely separate from the issue of whether such people viewed the content of the theories themselves as furthering ethnic interests, and, in the case of Einstein, there is no evidence that he did so. The same cannot be said for Freud, the New York Intellectuals, the Boasians, and the Frankfurt School, in which “scientific” theories were fashioned and deployed to advance ethnic group interests. This ideological purpose becomes clear when the unscientific nature of these movements is understood. Much of the discussion in CofC documented the intellectual dishonesty, the lack of empirical rigor, the obvious political and ethnic motivation, the expulsion of dissenters, the collusion among co-ethnics to dominate intellectual discourse, and the general lack of scientific spirit that pervaded them. In my view, the scientific weakness of these movements is evidence of their group-strategic function.
CofC was not reviewed widely. Indeed, only three reviews have appeared in mainstream publications, including a brief review by Kevin Hannan (2000) in Nationalities Papers. Hannan’s review mostly describes the book, but he summarizes his impressions by noting, “[MacDonald’s] iconoclastic evaluation of psychoanalysis, Marxism, multiculturalism, and certain schools of thought in the social sciences will not generate great enthusiasm for his work in academe, yet this book is well written and has much to offer the reader interested in ethnicity and ethnic conflict.”
The other reviews have raised several important issues that bear discussion. Frank Salter’s (2000) review in Human Ethology Bulletin discussed some of the controversy surrounding my work, particularly an acrimonious session at the 2000 conference of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society where I was accused of anti-Semitism by several participants. For me the only issue is whether I have been honest in my treatment of sources and whether my conclusions meet the usual standards of scholarly research in the social sciences. Salter notes that I based my research on mainstream sources and that the assertions that have infuriated some colleagues
are not only true but truisms to those acquainted with the diverse literatures involved. Apart from the political sensitivity of the subject, much of the problem facing MacDonald is that his knowledge is often too far ahead of his detractors to allow easy communication; there are not enough shared premises for constructive dialog. Unfortunately the knowledge gap is closing slowly because some of his most hostile critics, including colleagues who make serious ad hominem accusations, have not bothered to read MacDonald’s books.
Salter also notes that those, such as John Tooby and Steven Pinker, who have denigrated my competence as a researcher in the media, have failed to provide anything approaching a scholarly critique or refutation of my work. Sadly, this continues. While there have been a number of ringing denunciations of my work in public forums, there have been no serious scholarly reviews by these critics, although they have not retracted their scathing denunciations of my work.
Paul Gottfried (2000) raised several interesting issues in his review in Chronicles, the paleo-conservative intellectual journal. (I replied to Gottfried’s review and Gottfried penned a rejoinder; see Chronicles, September, 2000, pp. 4-5).
Gottfried questions my views on the role of Jewish organizations and intellectuals with strong Jewish identifications as agents of change in the cultural transformations that have occurred in Western societies over the last 50 years. In general, my position is that Jewish intellectual and political movements were a necessary condition for these changes, not a sufficient condition, as Gottfried supposes. In the case of the reversal in U.S. immigration policy, there simply were no other pressure groups that were pushing for liberalized, multi-racial immigration during the period under consideration (up to the enactment of the watershed immigration bill of 1965). Nor were there any other groups or intellectual movements besides the ones mentioned in CofC that were developing images of the U.S. as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society rather than a European civilization. Gottfried attributes the sea change in immigration to “a general cultural change that beset Western societies and was pushed by the managerial state.” I agree that multi-ethnic immigration resulted from a general cultural shift, but we still must develop theories for the origin of this shift.
A revealing development regarding Jewish attitudes toward immigration is an article by Stephen Steinlight (2001), former Director of National Affairs (domestic policy) at the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) and presently a Senior Fellow with the AJCommittee. Steinlight recommends altering “the traditional policy line [of the organized Jewish community] affirming generous—really, unlimited—immigration and open borders,” even though for “many decent, progressive Jewish folk merely asking such fundamental questions is tantamount to heresy, and meddling with them is to conjure the devil.”
Steinlight believes that present immigration policy no longer serves Jewish interests because the new immigrants are less likely to be sympathetic to Israel and because they are more likely to view Jews as the wealthiest and most powerful group in the U.S.—and thus a potential enemy—rather than as victims of the Holocaust. He is particularly worried about the consequences of Islamic fundamentalism among Muslim immigrants, especially for Israel, and he condemns the “savage hatred for America and American values” among the fundamentalists. Steinlight is implicitly agreeing with an important thesis of my trilogy on Judaism: Throughout history Jews have tended to prosper in individualistic European societies and have suffered in non-Western societies, most notably in Muslim cultures where there are strong ingroup-outgroup sensibilities (e.g., MacDonald 1998a, Ch. 2; the only exceptions to this generalization have been when Jews have constituted an intermediary group between an alien elite and oppressed native populations in Muslim societies.) Steinlight’s fears of the effects of a Balkanized America on Judaism are indeed well-grounded.
Steinlight is exclusively concerned with Jewish interests—an example of Jewish moral particularism which is a general feature of Jewish culture (see below). Indeed, his animosity toward the restrictionism of 1924-1965 shines through clearly. This “pause” in immigration is perceived as a moral catastrophe. He describes it as “evil, xenophobic, anti-Semitic,” “vilely discriminatory,” a “vast moral failure,” a “monstrous policy.” Jewish interests are his only consideration, while the vast majority of pre-1965 Americans are described as a “thoughtless mob” because they advocate a complete moratorium on immigration.
It seems fair to state that there is a communal Jewish memory about the period of immigration restriction as the high point of American anti-Jewish attitudes. Non-Jews have a difficult time fathoming Jewish communal memory.
For strongly identified Jews, the “vilely discriminatory” actions of immigration restrictionists are part of the lachrymose history of the Jewish people. Immigration restriction from 1924-1965 is in the same category as the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., the marauding Crusaders of the Middle Ages, the horrors of the Inquisition, the evil of the Russian Czar, and the rationally incomprehensible calamity of Nazism. These events are not just images drawn from the dustbin of history. They are deeply felt images and potent motivators of contemporary behavior. As Michael Walzer (1994, 4) noted, “I was taught Jewish history as a long tale of exile and persecution—Holocaust history read backwards.” From this perspective, the immigration restriction of 1924-1965 is an important part of the Holocaust because it prevented the emigration of Jews who ultimately died in the Holocaust—a point that Steinlight dwells on at length.
As Walter Benjamin (1968, 262) notes, “Hatred and [the] spirit of sacrifice… are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.”
This is important because whatever one’s attitudes about the costs and benefits of immigration, a principal motivation for encouraging massive non-European immigration on the part of the organized Jewish community has involved a deeply felt animosity toward the people and culture responsible for the immigration restriction of 1924-1965. (As indicated in Ch. 7, another motivation has been to lessen the power of the European-derived majority of the U.S. in order to prevent the development of an ethnically homogenous anti-Jewish movement.)
This deeply held animosity exists despite the fact that the liberated grandchildren have been extraordinarily prosperous in the country whose recent past is the focus of such venom. The welfare of the United States and certainly the welfare of European-Americans have not been a relevant consideration for Jewish attitudes on immigration. Indeed, as indicated in Chapter 7, it’s easy to find statements of Jewish activists deploring the very idea that immigration should serve the interests of the United States. That is why the organized Jewish community did not settle for a token victory by merely eliminating the ethnically based quotas that resulted in an ethnic status quo in which Europeans retained their ethnic and cultural predominance. As indicated in Chapter 7, immediately after the passage of the 1965 law, activists strove mightily to increase dramatically the numbers of non-European immigrants, a pattern that continues to the present.
And, finally, that is why support for open immigration spans the Jewish political spectrum, from the far left to the neo-conservative right. Scott McConnell, former editorial page editor and columnist for the New York Post, commented on the intense commitment to open immigration among Jewish neo-conservatives (see also Ch. 7):1
Read some of Norman Podhoretz’s writing, particularly his recent book—the only polemics against anyone right of center are directed against immigration restrictionists.
Several years ago I was at a party talking to Norman, and Abe Rosenthal came over, and Norman introduced us with the words “Scott is very solid on all the issues, except immigration.” The very first words out of his mouth. This was when we were ostensibly on very good terms, and I held a job which required important people to talk to me. There is a complicated history between the neo-cons and National Review [NR], which John O’Sullivan could tell better than I, but it involved neo-con attacks on NR using language that equated modern day immigration restrictionism with the effort to send Jews back to Nazi death camps, a tone so vicious that [it] was really strange among ostensible Reaganite allies in 1995…
The Forward, a neo-connish Jewish weekly, used to run articles trying to link FAIR [Federation for American Immigration Reform], an immigration restriction group headed by former [Colorado governor] Richard Lamm, with neo-nazism, using… crude smear techniques… None of my neo-con friends (at a time when all my friends were Jewish neo-cons) thought there was anything wrong with this…
[Podhoretz with Bush Jr.]
Read the Weekly Standard, read Ben Wattenberg. Read the [Podhoretzes]. Or don’t. But if you were engaged on the issue, you couldn’t help but being struck by this, particularly because it came as such a shock. One doesn’t like to name names, because no one on the right wants to get on the bad side of the neo-cons, but I can think of one young scholar, who writes very temperately on immigration-related issues and who trained under a leading neo-con academic. He told me he was just amazed at the neo-cons’ attachment to high immigration—it seemed to go against every principle of valuing balance and order in a society, and being aware of social vulnerabilities, that they seemed to advocate. Perhaps it’s worth some time, writing a lengthy article on all this, on how the American right lost its way after the Cold War.
Notes [the Bibliography appears in the 10th entry]
1. McConnell’s comments were made on an email discussion list, September 30, 2001.