Cap­i­tal­ism and the Jews

Jer­ry Z. Muller
  • Review
By – September 26, 2011

The sim­plic­i­ty and brevi­ty of this title belie the strength and impor­tance of its argu­ment. Pro­fes­sor Muller has done more than pro­duce anoth­er descrip­tive por­trait of the some­times tor­tured rela­tion­ship in people’s minds about Jews and mon­ey. Rather, he has demys­ti­fied and clar­i­fied this his­to­ry for both the Jews and their many accusers. In four tren­chant chap­ters, Muller goes far beyond his direct top­ic to pro­vide a his­to­ry of mod­ern anti-Semitism. 

Most impor­tant­ly, Muller jet­ti­sons old notions and backs up his the­sis with a seri­ous sur­vey of West­ern intel­lec­tu­al thought. He thor­ough­ly exam­ines the con­cept of usury and shows how the Church and Euro­peans from the Mid­dle through the Mod­ern Ages used the term as a mark­er for any cap­i­tal­is­tic activ­i­ty. Thus, it is not only the Jews being forced into mon­ey-lend­ing that made them pari­ahs. It is the very activ­i­ty of finan­cial risk­tak­ing of any kind that is sus­pect to many minds that both con­demned the Jews and pro­vid­ed them with a more open field in which to succeed.

Final­ly, Muller throws much light on the phe­nom­e­non of anti-Semi­tism on the polit­i­cal left. Far from the typ­i­cal rel­e­ga­tion of the occur­rence as a minor erup­tion of the social­ism of fools,” the author demon­strates that it is genet­i­cal­ly linked to the ancient con­cep­tion of usury, and there­fore all pro­duc­tive cap­i­tal­is­tic activ­i­ty, as being the true orig­i­nal sin.” 

Jer­ry Muller has pro­duced an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion in polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic thought, and has done so with clar­i­ty, fair­ness, and skill.

Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

Discussion Questions