Ideology and Experience

BookIdeology and Experience

Ideology and Experience

Antisemitism in France at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair

Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


January 4th, 2007



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'An unprecedentedly complete compendium of evidence ...exceptionally well written.' The Observer 'An excellent historical, sociological and psychological examination ...even those who believe they understand the mechanics of antisemitism will benefit from a reading of this book.' Jerusalem Post In this analysis of racialism in late-nineteenth-century France, antisemitism is studied not in isolation but in its social context, as an indicator and symptom of profound social change. As anticapitalism, for example, antisemitism expressed hostility to modern economic forms and 'the rule of money'; as a kind of socialism, it expressed opposition to the establishment without calling the social hierarchy into question; as a kind of nationalism and as racialism, it created a sense of belonging, in opposition to the Jews and to other supposedly alien groups within French society. Other aspects studied in the book are the religious, the sexual, and the cultural and intellectual, in which antisemitism again acted as the vehicle for the expression of the fears inspired by and in reaction to the experience of rapid change, which was seen as a fundamental decadence. Always the supposed action of the Jews supplied an explanation of otherwise inexplicable phenomena. Analysis of involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, which dramatized antisemitism and gave it new appeal and legitimacy, and of the antisemitic movement and its activities, indicates which social groups were particularly attracted to antisemitism: students, the clergy and Catholics generally, shopkeepers, army officers, members of the liberal professions, and the aristocracy. In each case, particular anxieties and grievances were articulated through a common ideology. There is little evidence that antisemitism was prompted by any experience of actual co-existence with any Jewish communities, except in the east of France; the choice of Jews as scapegoats has, rather, historical and religious explanations. Antisemitism at this time was propagated by 'intellectuals' through newspapers, pamphlets, and books; the new cultural media were used to fashion an abstract ideology from much older folk beliefs. The antisemitic movement of the time had no coherent programme. It did advocate various measures, culminating in extermination, against the Jews, but this was rhetoric, not practical policy.

'An excellent historical, sociological and psychological examination of anti-semitism ... even those who believe they understand the mechanics of anti-semitism will benefit from a reading of this book.' Jerusalem Post 'An unprecedentedly complete compendium of evidence ... exceptionally well written.' The Observer

Stephen Wilson was formerly Reader in European History at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Feuding, Conflict, and Banditry in Nineteenth-Century Corsica (1988), which won the Prix du Livre Corse, The Means of Naming: A Social and Cultural History of Personal Naming in Western Europe (1998), and The Magical Universe: Everyday Ritual and Magic in Pre-Modern Europe (2000).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page4
Part One: The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion, and Antisemitism16
I. The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion Andantisemitism: I18
II. The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion Andantisemitism: II62
III. The Antisemitic Riots of 1898121
IV. The Henry Subscription 1898–9140
Part Two: The Antisemitic Movement in France at the End of the Nineteenth Century182
V. Drumont, La France Juive and La Libre Parole184
VI. The Ligue Antisemitique Francaise194
VII. The Antisemitic Movement: Miscellaneous Organizations, General Characteristics and the Press212
VIII. Antisemitism in French Politics: The Antisemitic Group in the Chamber of Deputies 1898-1906228
IX. The Antisemitic Movement in Algeria: French Antisemitism in Decline245
Part Three: Types of Antisemitism260
X. Economic Antisemitism262
XI. Social Antisemitism: "A Kind of Socialism"334
XII. Nationalist Antisemitism: "France for the French"394
XIII. Racial Antisemitism: "A Race Apart"471
XIV. Religious Antisemitism: "Among French Catholics"524
XV. Sexual Antisemitism: "Horribly Sensual"599
XVI. Antisemitism as an Ideology and its General Function617
Part Four: Antisemitism and the Jews668
XVII. Antisemitism and Jewish Presence: The Geography of Antisemitism670
XVIII. The Aims of Antisemitism686
XIX. Antisemitism and Jewish Response707
Part Five: Conclusion746
XX. Conclusion748
Guide to Further Reading758
Select Bibliography762