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Nationalism and Antisemitism: A study on their relations, continuities and discontinuities from a sociological, political and historical perspective

Final Report Summary - RENATANTISEM (Nationalism and Antisemitism: A study on their relations, continuities and discontinuities from a sociological, political and historical perspective)

The project tackled the complex intersection of nationalism and antisemitism, the guiding assumption being that since the 19th century these two phenomena occurred in close mutual connection and were central to the manner of sociation. Thus, antisemitism and nationalism, seen as structural categories, were analyzed by means of a sociological and historical comparative study, both theoretical and empir-ical, that particularly focused on the structural level of modern society. As antisemitism and national-ism alike are understood neither as unitary nor as static phenomena, the continuities and discontinuities in their mutual relationship and their being situated in the respective social, political and historical con-texts were of primary concern.

The analysis started out with a theoretical study, focusing on the level of social structures. The focus was laid on Critical Theory, as especially theorists of the Frankfurt School centrally referred to the me-diation of nationalism and antisemitism not only with regard to 19th century and National Socialism, but also to the development after 1945. Hence, based on observations made in the Studies in the Au-thoritarian Personality in the 1940s and 50s nationalism, antisemitism, ethnocentrism and sexism were analyzed as belonging to one single antidemocratic attitudinal syndrome. In this broader ideological system these phenomena are not simply interrelated, but can also vouch for and intensify each other. Thus, if like in Germany and Austria after the break down of the Nazi regime, antisemitism and open racism are tabooed to a certain degree, a functionally equivalent ideology can come to the fore, behind which nonetheless the dynamics of the others still operate. In this specificity Horkheimer located the topicality of nationalism as a catalyst of antisemitism after 1945: As the new idol he recognized a new national we that covered the need for collective and exclusionary identification characteristic for Nazi antisemitism beforehand. Nationalism thus has to be viewed as both, an expression of secondary anti-semitism after the Shoah on the level of manifestations, and on the structural level as the founding principle, on which also antisemitism after 1945 is based.

In the course of the project two case studies have been carried out with the aim of analyzing the conti-nuities and discontinuities in the intersection of nationalism and antisemitism. Thereby the guiding question was on one hand how the stereotype of the “anti-national Jew” that developed together with the nation-state in Europe manifested in different discourses. To regard Jews as a non-nation, yet an anti-nation and rootless anti-people is a central topos in modern national antisemitism and arose simul-taneously with the creation of the modern nation state in 19th century. This stereotype primarily served as a projection screen for the loss of (national) identity, or its fragmentation, the antisemites and na-tionalists were anxious about. On the other hand the question was whether this stereotype is still in use today. Due to several major social changes since the mid of 20th century the stereotypy may have changed: Firstly, after the inauguration of Israel as a nation state the perception of the relationship of Jews and nation has changed, and secondly, the process of European integration has brought about a “postnational” orientation.