A Vig­i­lant Soci­ety: Jew­ish Thought and the State in Medieval Spain

Javier Roiz; Sel­ma L. Mar­garet­ten, trans.
  • Review
By – August 7, 2013

This book is a read­ing of Jew­ish texts from medieval Spain by a Span­ish polit­i­cal sci­en­tist. Roiz applies a host of pos­i­tive attrib­ut­es to the Andalu­sian Jew­ish tra­di­tion, as exem­pli­fied by Mai­monides, which he believes are the ingre­di­ents for a pos­i­tive polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. In oppo­si­tion he places the Goth­ic tra­di­tion,” which he iden­ti­fies with Ashke­naz and with Gen­tile influ­ence. The Goth­ic tra­di­tion, which empha­sizes cor­po­rate bod­ies such as cities and states, stands for fear and vig­i­lant con­trol of the indi­vid­ual, and against the author­i­ty of rab­bis and of good judg­ment. The author traces this neg­a­tive tra­di­tion from medieval Ashke­naz to ear­ly mod­ern Protes­tantism and Machi­avel­li, while the Mai­monidean tra­di­tion can lat­er be found in Ital­ian Renais­sance human­ism and in Freud. The ulti­mate goal of the book is to find the roots of mod­ern-day states in the Goth­ic” tra­di­tion, and to point to the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties of medieval Spain as an alter­na­tive polit­i­cal struc­ture that would leave more room for indi­vid­ual freedom.

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