‘Durkheim’s and Simmel’s reactions to antisemitism and their reflection in their views on modern society’, Abstract by Marcel Stoetzler
Emile Durkheim’s famous 1898 essay ‘Individualism and the Intellectuals’, an intervention in the Dreyfus affair in the period following Emile Zola’s ‘J’accuse’ in which ‘the affair’ took on increasingly broader dimensions and more general relevancy, is probably the only text from the canon of classical sociology that directly engages antisemitism. In my paper I try to show that this does not mean, though, that sociologists of that period were unaffected by the contemporary dispute on antisemitism: quite to the contrary, I suggest that sociology in and of itself stood in a (mostly) unacknowledged dialogue with antisemitism and (anti-)modern ‘critique of civilization’ (Kulturkritik).
I will illustrate this thesis by taking a comparative look at Durkheim’s ‘Individualism and the Intellectuals’ and Georg Simmel’s essay ‘Money in Modern Culture’ of 1896. I will demonstrate that Simmel’s text could be read as much as Durkheim’s as a critique of antisemitic reasoning, although Simmel did not necessarily intend it to be such, and that it provides, in an indirect manner, a complementary statement to Durkheim’s, while also sharing some of its limitations.
Marcel Stoetzler is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Bangor University, UK. He works on social and political theory, intellectual history and historical sociology, especially in the areas of antisemitism, liberalism and nationalism, as well as feminist theory, the critical theory of the ‘Frankfurt School’ and contemporary readings of Karl Marx. His publications include the edited volume Antisemitism and the Constitution of Sociology (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) and The State, the Nation and the Jews. Liberalism and the Antisemitism Dispute in Bismarck’s Germany (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). He serves on the editorial board of Patterns of Prejudice.
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