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The Jewish Ethic and the Spirit of Socialism

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Adam Weisberger

The Jewish Ethic and the Spirit of Socialism is an investigation into the appeal of socialist politics to alienated bourgeois German Jews during the Wilhelmine period, 1871-1918. Its central argument is that two conditions attracted German Jews to socialism: a structural marginality resulting from resurgent German anti-Semitism, and secular Jewish messianism. In the course of their assimilation into German society, many Jews became estranged from Judaism, but still confronted anti-Semitism as a barrier to their complete acceptance by Gentiles. In addition, the messianic impulse, secularized out of its origin in Judaism proper, entered into the constitution of socialist ideology and resonated to Jews with special ardor. For many in the stratum of alienated, middle-class Jews, socialism appeared to offer a resolution to the dilemmas of their ambiguous position and to leave behind both Judaism and Christianity in the wake of a history transcended.