“ [Kevin] MacDonald’s theory is a new chapter in the long process of the destruction of Reason.”
“Žižek is, at his best, a posturing charlatan.”
Thomas Moller-Nielsen, Current Affairs, Oct. 18 2019.
This is an essay on anti-Semitism, but because it’s also about Slavoj Žižek we’re going to have to start with the subject of extra-marital affairs. Very early in my academic career, I was asked to take part in a cross-faculty seminar, where PhD students could present small talks on the development of their research. As a newly-minted PhD, it was hoped that I’d ask presenting students some tough but helpful questions, and thus somehow contribute to a team atmosphere in my department. I was provided with a list of proposed talks and immediately felt an overwhelming sense of apathy at the litany of feminist tripe and quasi-Marxist navel-gazing, none of which was in any way related to my own fields of research. I was eager to please in my new role, however, and so I fell dutifully into line. I’ll never forget the first presentation because it was so remarkably surreal, being an effeminate young African-American who quite literally gave a performance poem titled “Black Skin” about, well, you get the idea. But the more memorable event of the day came later, when a young woman gave a presentation on gender in the media, or something to that effect. Something about her manner irritated me considerably, so I gave her a hard time during the Q & A. This was picked up on by a senior figure in the department, a soft meek-looking and much-gossiped-about English historian, who, after the seminar had finished, invited me to his office for a discussion on gender and sex politics.
I’ve been politically aware since I was a teenager. I’d read deeply about Marxism since the age of seventeen, and was familiar with its cultish elements. None of this prepared me for my adventure in this otherwise unremarkable Englishman’s office, the walls of which were festooned with small red flags and quasi-religious images of Lenin and Trotsky. So, I thought, here was a Red in the flesh. I was in the presence of a dedicated Marxist, and that right there in front of me stood a solitary tangible example of the long march through the institutions. He made tea, and we sat down. He began to talk, I listened. During his initial monologue, my host started speaking from a personal perspective, explaining that even in his private life he aimed to live in accordance with his “socialist beliefs.” Before he got married, he explained, he and his fiancée agreed that they wouldn’t take traditional vows, agreeing they wouldn’t be so possessive as to make an oath of exclusivity to one another. They might “expect” exclusivity, but they wouldn’t demand it. They believed in “freedom,” he said, and ultimately this was what social progressivism and modern gender and sex politics was all about. It wasn’t anything to get upset over, he implied, or laugh about.
Except that it was. The faculty gossip I’d heard was that the wife of this “free love” advocate had been on a short-term teaching stint in Norway and had just recently decided to permanently settle there with a Norwegian lover she’d been having an affair with for some time. She had the marital couple’s two children with her in Norway, and was making it extremely difficult for the meek, permissive, Lenin-loving Englishman to see them. The family home had also been declared off-limits, and my Marxist colleague was apparently reduced to staying in a local bed and breakfast. Tragic? Quite possibly. Hilarious? Most definitely. All of this flooded my mind as the cuckolded Leninite sat opposite me recounting his lukewarm marriage vows, tea in hand, eyes glistening with — tears? Steam from the tea he said, wiping them casually and glancing at the window. My face was stone. The time passed, and my host gradually fell silent. I thanked him most disingenuously, and made a hasty retreat, taking a deep breath as I emerged from the building. I never set foot in that office again.
What does any of this have to do with anti-Semitism? If you’re the superstar Marxist intellectual Slavoj Žižek, it has everything to do with anti-Semitism, since as we will find out, infidelity and anti-Semitism are irrefutably linked. I say “irrefutably” quite deliberately, because his arguments are irrefutable — and they are irrefutable because they are nonsensical.
First, who is Slavoj Žižek? Ostensibly, he’s a serious philosopher from Slovenia who’s held teaching positions in New York and London and tackles a wide range of subjects including political theory, culture, psychoanalysis, film criticism, Marxism, theology, and the philosophy of Hegel and Jacques Lacan. He is the subject of The International Journal of Žižek Studies, and has been declared “the Elvis of cultural theory,” and “the most dangerous philosopher in the West.” Žižek enjoys high levels of popularity among non-academics and young Leftists, due mainly to his idiosyncratic method of speech, his use of pop culture references during his talks, his regular employment of “dirty jokes,” and the packaging of many of his talks and documentaries as “The Pervert’s Guide to … .” In April 2019, Žižek and Jordan Peterson sold out the Sony Centre in Toronto for their debate titled “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism,” billed by some as the debate of the century, but generally regarded afterwards as anti-climactic. The main point here is that Žižek enjoys a very considerable audience and is regarded, for the most part, as a serious thinker. This means that his pronouncements are influential, and it is therefore of some interest to examine what Žižek has to say on Jews and anti-Semitism.
Žižek’s ideas on specific themes can be difficult to determine, owing to the fact he often scatters his perspectives across several books, numerous articles, and innumerable lectures and interviews. It’s clear, however, by comparing his YouTube view counts to web traffic at The Philosophical Salon, the blog where he showcases most of his topical writing, that he has significantly more appeal as an audio-visual entertainer than as a serious writer. Anti-Semitism is not a subject that Žižek has ever tackled with prolonged effort and interest, but he does reference it with somewhat surprising and casual regularity, and has given a small number of lectures dedicated to the theme. Here we turn to Žižek’s theories of anti-Semitism.
As an heir to the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jacques Lacan, it should come as little surprise that psychoanalytic theories of anti-Semitism feature very strongly in Žižek’s written and audio-visual productions. It is here that we return to the subject of extra-marital affairs because, in a February 2016 essay on the migrant crisis for New Statesman, Žižek opined:
Jacques Lacan claimed that, even if a jealous husband’s claim about his wife — that she sleeps around with other men — is true, his jealousy is still pathological. Why? The true question is “not is his jealousy well-grounded?”, but “why does he need jealousy to maintain his self-identity?”. Along the same lines, one could say that even if most of the Nazi claims about the Jews were true — they exploit Germans; they seduce German girls — which they were not, of course, their anti-Semitism would still be (and was) pathological, since it represses the true reason why the Nazis needed anti-Semitism in order to sustain their ideological position. And is it not exactly the same with the growing fear of refugees and immigrants? To extrapolate to the extreme: even if most of our prejudices about them were proven to be true — they are hidden fundamentalist terrorists; they rape and steal — the paranoid talk about the immigrant threat is still an ideological pathology. It tells more about us, Europeans, than about immigrants.
There is a lot to unpack here and, even at first reading, one is stunned that such a car-wreck of logic should emanate from someone regarded by many in contemporary culture as a serious and celebrated philosopher. The first problem is, of course, the citation of the risible Lacan as an authority, and his statement as authoritative. If a man has reasonable grounds to believe his wife has been unfaithful, it would be difficult to describe him bluntly as jealous, never mind pathological, since he would be reacting against a very clear infringement of his interests (sexual, reproductive, financial, emotional, even religious and professional—all of which are unsurprising to an evolutionist). It also doesn’t logically follow that he would need such a reaction in order to maintain his self-identity. In fact, failure to react in such a context would more clearly result in a destruction of self-identity, since all of the emotional and constituent aspects of his life as a man and a husband will have been undermined by the cuckold scenario. Kevin MacDonald has observed that Jewish intellectual activism, especially that tainted by psychoanalysis, has often involved the construction of self-serving arguments couched in universalistic terms. Jacques Lacan wasn’t Jewish, but his theories on jealousy and infidelity, including his famous statement that “there is no such thing as a sexual relationship,” were unquestionably self-serving. Catherine Millot, one of his patients, recalled in her 2017 autobiography Life with Lacan, that he “had affairs with patients and ex-wives of close friends,” and propositioned many of them for threesomes.
Returning to Žižek then, the implication is present in his statement that even if it is proven that there are legitimate complaints to be made about Jewish influence in Western society, these complaints, like those of the suspicious husband, are “still an ideological pathology” that Europeans require in order to maintain their self-identity. At this stage one would have to ask Žižek precisely how one might define any complaint about any subject as legitimate. For example, even if Marx’s critique of capitalism could be proven true, what would make these complaints against the bourgeoisie as a class less pathological than complaints against Jews as a class? Would Žižek agree that Marxists are pathological because they require a paranoia about the bourgeoisie in order to maintain their self-identity? I doubt it. Is it, then, solely complaints from the Right that are pathological, and if so, why? At what point would one have a healthy and non-pathological “paranoia” about terrorists, rapists and thieves? When one is in the process of being blown up, raped, or robbed? No, perhaps this is too early. While one’s limbs are still attached, we presume, the potential is there for a stubborn effort to maintain self-identity via prejudicial paranoia.
Sarcasm aside, isn’t it rather the case that most complaints in life are grounded in the real world of perspectives and interests of individuals and groups, and that pathologizing the complaints of one party or another is simply another means of fighting against that party’s interests and delegitimizing their perspective?It’s particularly worrying that Žižek here essentially makes an argument for “truth is no defense,” a principle that is now in place in Canadian and UK hate speech legislation. Isn’t it simply the case that Žižek, for reasons unknown(although it certainly hasn’t hurt his career), is offering an explanation of anti-Semitism, totally bankrupt of logic, that is designed to smooth over the “irrelevant truth” of Jewish behavior? I don’t believe Žižek to be a philo-Semite in my understanding of that term. Rather, he could be usefully categorized as a combination of “naive true believer in the Marxist creed” and “knowing charlatan.” This is evident in many of his other statements on anti-Semitism, which are merely crude and unthinking regurgitations of Jean-Paul Sartre, who was a firm proponent of the “irrelevant truth” thesis.
If the first major feature of Marxist-psychoanalytic interpretations of anti-Semitism is the negation of authentic complaints as a legitimate origin of the phenomenon, then the second is the presentation of a set of false contradictions within the anti-Semitic perspective. In a 2009 lecture at the European Graduate School titled “Anti-Semitism, Anti-Semite and Jew,” Žižek argued that anti-Semitism places Jews in “impossible Otherness,” and continued:
One of the ironies of the history of anti-Semitism is that Jews can stand, within the anti-Semitic space, for both poles of an opposition. They are stigmatised as upper class, rich, merchants, exploiting us; and low class, filthy. They are perceived as too intellectual, and too earthy, sexual predators and so on. As lazy and workaholics.
In my 2015 review of the late Theodore Isaac Rubin’s Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind, I noted that Rubin, an avowed psychoanalyst, declared “the Jew” to be little more than a symbol in the anti-Semitic mind, with Rubin adding that anti-Semitism contains an endless list of contradictions and “mutually exclusive superlatives.” The idea that anti-Semitism contains logical contradictions is extremely commonplace in Jewish narratives, histories and apologetics. For example, Jewish historian Derek Penslar has stated that “the anti-Semite’s arguments are by their very nature illogical, inaccurate and indefensible.”D. Penslar (ed) Contemporary Anti-Semitism: Canada and the World (University of Toronto Press, 2005), 3. Jeffrey Herf argues that anti-Semitism is “riddled with contradictions and highly irrational.”J. Herf (ed) Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Historical Perspective: Convergence and Divergence (Routledge, 2007), 11. This Jewish response to anti-Semitism has a substantial pedigree. Kevin MacDonald has noted that a sizeable part of the Frankfurt School’s The Authoritarian Personality was devoted to “an attempt to demonstrate the irrationality of anti-Semitism by showing that anti-Semites have contradictory beliefs about Jews. …The Authoritarian Personality exaggerates the self-contradictory nature of anti-Semitic beliefs in the service of emphasizing the irrational, projective nature of anti-Semitism.”K. MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1st Books, 2002), 449 (endnote 120).
In Rubin’s work, as in Žižek’s, we see allegations about Jews that are either clearly consistent when considered in context, or have probably never been made by those considered anti-Semites. For example, Rubin wrote that all anti-Semites see Jews as both:
- Moronic, brilliant.
- All-powerful, weakling.
- Cosmopolitan, provincial.
- Cunning, naïve.
- Extraordinarily sensitive, calloused.
- “Nigger-lovers,” “worst bigots.”
- Richest, poorest.
- Artistic, tasteless.
- Money-lovers, intellectual snobs.
- Socially pushy, exclusively clannish.
But the ‘contradictions’ offered by Rubin and Žižek are inevitably over-simplifications. In Culture of Critique, Kevin MacDonald reviewed works by Levinson, Ackerman and Jahoda, in which the authors argued that it was contradictory for individuals to believe that Jews are clannish and aloof yet still want them to be segregated and restricted. It was also proposed that another contradictory attitude was that Jews are both clannish and intrusive.MacDonald, 449. Similarly, Žižek offers the formulation that there is an inherent contradiction in anti-Semitic beliefs that Jews are “particularist” and “cosmopolitan.” But, as MacDonald states,
Agreement with such items is not self-contradictory. Such attitudes are probably a common component of the reactive processes discussed in Separation and Its Discontents. Jews are viewed by these anti-Semites as members of a strongly cohesive group who attempt to penetrate gentile circles of power and high social status, perhaps even undermining the cohesiveness of these gentile groups, while retaining their own separatism and clannishness. The belief that Jews should be restricted is entirely consisted with this attitude. Moreover, contradictory negative stereotypes of Jews, such as their being capitalist and communist, may be applied by anti-Semites to different groups of Jews.Ibid.
In much the same way, Rubin’s ‘contradictions’ can also be resolved very quickly as soon as over-simplification is done away with. Jews are rarely, if ever, portrayed simply as ‘nigger-lovers,’ but are seen as being in frequent partnership with Blacks in places like the American South and in efforts to bring down Apartheid in South Africa. To my knowledge, this behavior has never been seen by anti-Semites as arising from an altruistic “love” for the Black man. Rather, the partnership is incredibly one-sided, and its ultimate goal is to serve Jewish interests in undermining the White power structure in America. Indeed, for an anti-segregation organization, the early NAACP was essentially divided between the Jews who ran it, and the Blacks who went along for the ride. As Hasia Diner puts it in In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915–1935, many in the NAACP’s Jewish leadership “worked most intensely with other Jews.”H. Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935 (The John Hopkins University Press, 1995), 123.
Viewing Jews as the “worst bigots” would be consistent with this account of events since the partnership with Blacks is purely opportunistic and often patronizing, and also because of traditions of slave ownership within Jewish populations, and extremely negative Talmudic pronouncements on Africans. For example, in The Image of the Black in Jewish Culture, Abraham Melamed explains that while the Romans had a “climate theory” of race in which they “assumed that the inferior psycho-physical traits of the Blacks in the south and the Whites in the north arose from harsh geographical and climatic surroundings,” they also believed that “change and improvement are possible.” By contrast, Rabbinic teaching was much more deterministic and held that Blacks were “to suffer perpetual slavery forever.”A. Meladmed, Image of the Black in Jewish Culture: A History of the Other (RoutledgeCurzon, 2001), 114.
The other ‘contradictions’ offered by Rubin and Žižek are equally flimsy. For example, history shows extremely few examples of anti-Jewish propaganda playing on a stereotype of a moronic Jew. Instead, it is an overwhelmingly universal theme that Jews are extremely adept at resource competition, and attaining economic, cultural and political dominance. While there is a sub-theme that the notion of ‘Jewish Genius’ does involve ethnic networking and exaggeration, there is little doubt that attempts to reckon with Jewish influence have been built primarily on the need to tackle the realities of Jewish intelligence as well as the organizational and strategic efforts arising from it. Nowhere does the “moronic Jew” make an appearance. Nor do opinions of Jews as being uniquely “artistic” feature in historical anti-Jewish writing. In fact, another universal theme and consensus of anti-Jewish thought is that Jews are devoid of genuine artistic talent, and in the past this was often linked to (as a cause or product of) the Jewish ban on creating ‘graven’ images. Wagner’s Das Judenthum in der Musik may be seen as a classic in this regard.
Contrary to Žižek’s assertion, Jews have also never really been portrayed as “the low class” or poor of society, outside of the brief period in the early twentieth century when the first masses of Jewish immigrants arrived in Western Europe and the United States from the former Russian Empire. This was very specific in terms of time and place, and even then it was frequently remarked by contemporaries that the economic ascent of Jewish migrants was nothing less than remarkable. Also, Žižek opposes being an intellectual to sexual predation, which appears to defy any logical consistency or progression. Is Žižek implying that intellectuals are less sexual? How does he square this with the lives of some of his intellectual heroes like Sartre and Lacan, both of whom were sexually predatory, with one (Sartre), like Freud “earthily” obsessed with defecation and excrement, and the other (Lacan) taking great joy in public farting and burping? Most importantly, does Žižek see any contradiction or absence of logic in the established facts that Jews are over-represented in both academia and the pornography industry? In the same sense, can Žižek actually point to any instance of anti-Semitic thought that posits Jews as both “lazy and workaholics”? Is it not the case, to borrow a brilliant self-description from the writer Cormac McCarthy, that Jews historically have “worked hard at not working,” which is to say that Jews have clustered in non-labor trades, particularly those related to the circulation of money, in which they have excelled as innovators in debt, and in other economic spheres that can only be categorized as exploitative?
These anti-Jewish position are all too consistent. However, out of conscious evasion, or unconscious self-deception, Jewish scholars and their Marxist partners persist in clinging to the idea that these ideas are somehow innately contradictory. For Žižek, as with Rubin and countless Jews, the ‘contradictions’ are real — and the product of a fractured psyche and the ‘anti-Semite’s’ own frustrated desires. Rubin once opined that “Since inner conflicts are very powerful and tend to be seen in an utterly self-hating light or in a purely idealizing one, polarization usually takes place. This polarization makes for the necessity of characteristics to project to in order to encompass the conflicting extremes.” In reality, these psuedo-scholars aren’t just barking up the wrong tree — they are barking up a tree that simply isn’t there.
It is a matter of special irony that Marxists should present their own contradictions in relation to anti-Semitism and the supposed psychosocial aspects of the anti-Semite. While it is often argued that anti-Semitism is a contradictory, irrational, and pathological ideological proposition, it is equally argued by Marxists that it possesses a kind of logic, but is ultimately misguided or misdirected. This latter argument is the Marxist theory that anti-Semitism is a manipulation by the ruling classes and that “the Jew” is offered to exploited workers as a distraction or “fetish” to enable exploitation under capitalism to continue. Žižek is a very strong proponent of this theory.
In his 2009 lecture at the European Graduate School titled “Anti-Semitism, Anti-Semite and Jew,” Žižek suggests that anti-Semitism began when
features attributed to Jews expanded into the whole of society. Commodity exchange became hegemonic … . It all started, not in Ancient Rome, but in 11th-, 12th-century Europe, which was waking from the inertia of the so-called Dark Ages and experienced a fast growth of market exchange, and the role of money. At that precise point, the Jew emerged as the enemy, a parasitic intruder who disturbs the harmonious social edifice.
The dating of the origins of anti-Semitism from medieval Christendom, rather than the ancient world, is an overwhelmingly common feature of Jewish apologetics, a tactic that typically owes much of its development to the convenience of placing the blame for anti-Semitism on ascendant Christianity. The trend reached its apogee in the work of the late non-Jewish historian Gavin Langmuir (1924–2005), now remembered and celebrated by Jews and the psychoanalytically-inclined as a “worldwide authority on anti-Semitism.” Langmuir’s explanation of anti-Semitism participated in developing trends in the transformation of the study of historical anti-Jewish attitudes during the 1960s and 1970s. These decades witnessed a shift away from the study of ‘prejudiced’ individuals — as had been the case from the 1940s–50s with studies like the Authoritarian Personality — and towards the pathologizing of entire cultures and epochs. Condemnations of Western culture had certainly been strongly implied in the earlier decades, but works like Jules Isaac’s Has Anti-Semitism Roots in Christianity? (1961) and Alan Davies’ Anti-Semitism and the Christian Mind (1969), made this even more explicit. Langmuir benefited from riding the crest of this wave.
The new paradigm for psychological explanations of ‘prejudice’ was that whole groups, societies, and cultures (of course, only really the people and culture of the West) could have collective psychological processes like projection and narcissism. Psychoanalysis played a huge part in the development of this pseudo-historiography and, indeed, many of the works produced during this period were penned not by historians or social scientists but by avowed psychoanalysts like Avner Falk. Langmuir’s work mimicked Jewish productions by essentially absolving medieval Jewish populations of any responsibility in provoking negative reactions from their Christian host populations, and by ascribing to Christian/Western society a deep-seated psychological malfunction shot through with fantasy, repression, and sadism.
Despite his actually very limited expertise in medieval legal history, Langmuir saw fit to quickly make grand pronouncements on the nature and origins of anti-Jewish feeling across Europe and over the course of centuries. His works, often with pitifully thin evidence of wider reading, portrayed anti-Semitism as “a primarily Western phenomenon.”G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15. He arrogantly claimed to have been able to “define Christianity and categorize its manifestations, including Catholicism, objectively.”Ibid, 13.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.) He bluntly confessed in his books that “I shall not discuss pagan attitudes to Jews in antiquity.”Ibid, 275.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.) He dismissively described attempts to come to rational, interest-based, theories of inter-group conflict between Jews and non-Jews as “misguided pseudoscientific efforts of racial theorists,” and even argued that attempts to come to “common sense” explanations of anti-Semitism would prove “disastrous.”Ibid, 19 &67.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.) Anti-Semitism was instead “both in its origin and in its recent most horrible manifestation … the hostility aroused by irrational thinking about Jews.”Ibid, 275.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.) Above all, Langmuir seems to have dated his discussion of the origins of anti-Semitism to the medieval period because, by his own admission, “I am respectably knowledgeable only about the history of the West since the fall of the Roman Empire and am most at home in the Middle Ages.”Ibid, 15.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.) This can hardly be considered an optimal foundation for Langmuir’s later sweeping theories, and his work, and that of a series of Jewish psychosocial theorists like Norman Cohn and Joshua Trachtenberg, has since been savaged with some intensity in the work of Hannah Johnson, a Princeton-educated medievalist from England, especially her Blood Libel: The Ritual Murder Accusation at the Limit of Jewish History (2012).
What Žižek accomplishes with his own theory is the semi-plagiarizing of existing psychosocial theories like those of Langmuir, merely substituting ascendant Christianity with ascendant Capital and leaving the rest of the interpretive framework intact. Žižek’s theory has the same starting point, the same pathologizing features, the same oversimplifications, and the same minimizing or denial of antagonistic Jewish behavior.
If one wanted to make any concession to the idea that something novel occurred in the relationship between Jews and Europeans in the eleventh century, it is because the Jewish population, rather than Capital, radically expanded and extended in the period.See P. Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), 205. In other words, “the Jew emerged as the enemy” in Western Europe simply because “the Jew emerged” in Western Europe, and enmity was the product of the behavioral features attending that emergence.
The problematic aspect of Žižek’s dating remains, however, that Western European anti-Semitism, if it has any unique characteristics, originated in the tenth century with the forming of Jewish-elite relationships under the Carolingians and the pursuance of an anti-Jewish strategy by Agobard, the Spanish archbishop of Lyon. It is interesting that Žižek does not specify which events or personalities he sees as commencing “it all.” Nor does he explain whether such events, anti-Jewish riots for example, followed a pattern of intensification of putative capitalist crises, such as famines, shortages, or warfare. In this regard, it is interesting that the Carolingian period has been described by historians not as one of capitalist expansion but as something approaching “complete economic and social retrogression.”R. H. Hilton and C. Hill, “The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism,” Science & Society, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Fall, 1953), 340-351. So then, does anti-Semitism follow economic expansion or retrogression? Does it follow prosperity and competition for surplus, or economic decline and famine? If it is the expression of the frustrations of exploited workers under capitalism, why has it spiked in such disparate times as the liberation of the serfs and decadent Weimar of the roaring 1920s? Žižek doesn’t have any answers because he doesn’t even pose such questions.
In the course of his European Graduate School lecture, Žižek comments that “the real mystery of anti-Semitism is why it is a constant. Why does it persist through all historical mutations?” What Žižek fails to add is that it has also persisted through all economic contexts, including Communism, rendering any Marxist interpretation of the phenomenon utterly redundant. This doesn’t prevent Žižek from musing:
[Anti-Semitism] concerns the false identification of the antagonism of the enemy. As we all know, class struggle, or another social antagonism, is displaced onto the struggle against the Jews, so that the popular rage at being exploited is redirected from capitalist relations as such to the Jewish plot. … When the anti-Semite says that “the Jews are the cause of our misery,” he really means Big Capital is the cause of our misery. Workers have a right to be furious at their exploitation, they just direct it at the wrong target. … Jew is the fetish of anti-Semitic fascists. … Anti-Semitism is just a manipulation by the ruling class, so that they are free to exploit [workers].
This proposition is deeply problematic, due mainly to the assumptions underlying the argument. Foremost among these problematic assumptions is the implication that the vast majority anti-Semites (those making complaints about Jewish behavior or influence) would be blindly uncritical of Big Capital, and that Big Capital and the establishment ruling class is not significantly Jewish. Otherwise, anti-Semitism would be a very poor and
counter-productive manipulation indeed. Together with these problematic assumptions, one should also consider Žižek’s proposition to give insufficient consideration to the unquestionably special relationship Jews have enjoyed with capitalism, especially its more exploitative rather than organic aspects (for example, high-interest moneylending as opposed to the basic principle of private property). These problems should be considered individually.
The assertion that anti-Semites would be blindly uncritical of Big Capital, or for that matter the excesses of any financial systems, is quite contrary to the historical record. Prior to Marx and Engels, there were instances of true, authentic, even quasi-ethnic or ‘national’ “socialisms” where complaints about Jewish behavior were common. An excellent example is William Cobbett (1763–1835), a British farm laborer, gardener, clerk, soldier, journalist, and politician. Cobbett opposed the Corn Laws, legislation imposed between 1815 and 1846 which essentially blocked cheap food imports from abroad, artificially maintaining high domestic food prices. Cobbett blamed Britain’s increasingly aloof and selfish aristocracy as well as its mercantilist culture—built on the development of debt finance—for the decline in the fortunes of the English working class as well as the starvation of the Irish. His Political Register newspaper is often credited with the invention of popular radical journalism, and was the main newspaper read by the working class. His bitter opposition to the British aristocracy led the government to consider arresting him for sedition in 1817—rumors of which caused Cobbett to flee to the United States, where he remained until matters settled somewhat two years later. When he returned, he paved the way for the 1832 Reform Act, which expanded the British franchise and paved the way for the expansion of democracy within the British Isles.
Cobbett was also profoundly oppositional to Jews. He was simultaneously one of the greatest champions of Catholic political emancipation and one of the fiercest and most relentless opponents of Jewish political emancipation. He pointed to the detachment of Jews from the masses, rejecting the idea that Jews should have a say in government unless someone could “produce a Jew who ever dug, or who ever made his own coat or his own shoes, or who did anything at all, except get all the money he could from the pockets of the people.”A. Julius, Trials of the Diaspora, 401. Instead, argued Cobbett, Jews “did not merit any immunities, any privileges, any possessions in house, land, or water, any civil or political rights. … They should everywhere be deemed aliens and always at the absolute disposal of the sovereign power of the state, as completely as any inanimate substance.” He frequently praised the expulsion of Jews from England under Edward I. Jewish academic activist Anthony Julius quotes Cobbett as having argued that Jews “damaged France and killed Poland,” and that Jews are a people “living in all the filthiness of usury and increase…extortioners by habit and almost by instinct. Julius laments that Cobbett’s “anti-Semitism exercised a certain diffuse influence on radicals in the early nineteenth century, if only at the level of vocabulary. … Cobbett enjoyed an immense popularity during his lifetime, and has a substantial posthumous reputation.” In 1830 he published Good Friday: or the Murder of Jesus Christ by the Jews, where he wrote:
[Jews are] everywhere are on the side of oppression, assisting tyranny in its fiscal extortions; and everywhere they are bitter foes of those popular rights and liberties. … It is amongst masses of debt and misery that they thrive, as birds and beast of prey get fat in times of pestilence. … This race appear always to have been instruments in the hands of tyrants for plundering their subjects; they were the farmers of the cruel taxes; they lent a support to despotism, which it could not otherwise obtain.
In Paper Against Gold (1812), Cobbett expressed the belief that the concepts of paper money and the national debt were basically Jewish “tricks and connivances,” endorsed by an aristocracy grown greedy and toothless. Initially a loyalist, Cobbett later came to the opinion that while the concept of aristocracy was not altogether bad or illegitimate, the British aristocracy had betrayed and exploited the people it was supposed to lead. That the aristocracy had given itself over to Jewish thought, through ties of blood and finance, was hinted most strongly in the Political Register of December 6 1817:
Let us, when they have the insolence to call us the ‘lower orders,’ prepare ourselves with useful knowledge, and let these insolent wretches marry amongst one another, ‘till, like the Jews, they have all one and the same face, one and the same pair of eyes, and one and the same nose. Let them, if they can, prevent their footmen from bettering their blood and from reinforcing the limbs of their rickety race; and let us prepare for the day of their overthrow. They have challenged us to the combat. They have declared war against us.
Cobbett’s views on finance capital and the ruling class can only be regarded as fiercely oppositional, and the same holds for such “infamous anti-Semites” as Wilhelm Marr, Adolf Stoecker, Georg Ritter von Schonerer, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Alphonse Toussene l, all of whom combined a radical critique of Big Capital with opposition to the specific role of Jews in finance, culture, politics, and society. In fact, many of these figures articulated specific reasons as to why a separate and distinct critique of “Semitism” was required. A key feature of nineteenth century socialism was a strong anti-Semitism that rejected Jewish-Marxist claims to being part of “the people,” and many anti-Jewish socialists portrayed such claims as opportunistic and cryptic strategies to secure power anew under the new form of government. One of the most memorable statements of the era in this regard is the French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s remark that far from being genuine, Karl Marx was “the tapeworm of socialism.” Proudhon (1809–1865), seen by many as the father of anarchism, regarded apparently socialist Jewish “allies” like Heinrich Heine as “nothing but secret spies” whose hidden agenda was merely to secure the continuation of age-old Jewish privileges and protections under the guise of a putative social justice. In light of the historical trajectory of anti-Jewish critique and the biographies of its major proponents, Žižek’s assertion that anti-Semitism is merely a “fetish” that obstructs criticism of capitalism is simply unsustainable.
Equally unsustainable is the implication that Big Capital and the establishment ruling class is not, and has not been, significantly Jewish over historical time. Žižek simplifies and caricatures the Middle Ages as a time when “the Jew emerged as the enemy, a parasitic intruder who disturbs the harmonious social edifice.” Žižek obviously employs the term “harmonious social edifice” with skepticism and disdain, seeing the pre-existing order (that before the arrival of the Jews) as fraught with exploitation, tensions, and contradictions. In Žižek’s framework then, Jews may be a chaotic capitalist force that enters Europe, but this was a Europe already experiencing chaotic capitalist forces, and therefore it would be irrational to blame Jews for anything arising from their emergence and expansion in Europe. What needs to be distinguished here is the distinction between what might be termed the organic development of finance in Europe,For an excellent summary in relation to this process in feudalism, see R. Allen Brown, Origins of English Feudalism, (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1973). and the exorbitant and often extremely negative developments ushered in by the arrival of the Jews and their subsequent special relationship with European elites and with capitalism itself.
The organic development of finance and class divisions in Europe is demonstrated in the evolution of feudalism as a result of the adoption of heavy cavalry by the Franks in the eighth century, with other, non-military, aspects of continental feudalism arising as the inevitable social repercussions of this change in military organization.Ibid.
(For an excellent summary in relation to this process in feudalism, see R. Allen Brown, Origins of English Feudalism, (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1973).) Since knights needed money, horses, servants, attendants, and freedom from all other non-military occupations, like tilling the soil, knighthood gradually became an upper-class affair. Increasing technological sophistication then made mounted warfare more and more expensive and caused knights to become more sharply distinguished from the ordinary peasant. It also caused free peasants to become less and less valuable as soldiers, and they therefore declined towards mere servitude. It was, therefore, in a sense inevitable that the new class of knights should become a landed aristocracy, and its members were thus in a sense destined to low-level jurisdiction of a semi-agricultural kind over their peasants. This situation really was, in a sense, a “harmonious social edifice” to the extent that it followed a clear logic and permitted these communities and their territories to be competitive in a rapidly changing military and geopolitical context. The ruling classes were obliged to adopt paternalistic practices in relation to the peasantry, and outright exploitation was rare since it could be dangerous and counterproductive in that it could provoke a mass uprising and thus damage militarily-valuable social cohesion. The social edifice was thus indeed “harmonious” in the sense that it was coordinated and balanced, and was generally beneficial to the organic national community.
The arrival of Jews in Europe undoubtedly created an imbalance in these class relations, and between the ruling class and the lower orders. Evidence of this imbalance in medieval Europe can be obtained both from surviving documentation and artefacts, and from analogous modern situations such as the the Great Romanian Peasant Revolt of 1907, during which Jewish intrusion into the existing quasi-feudal social arrangement ended in widespread rebellion and societal collapse due to the specific excesses of Jewish exploitation. The arrival of the Jews in Western Europe as a financial and geopolitical power can be dated to their ascent under the Carolingians in the ninth century, and possibly earlier in the Narbonne where they were noted as an extraordinarily wealthy class. In this development, the birth of formal, symbiotic relationships between Jews and self-interested European elites, we see a crucial fissure in European class relations. Jewish financiers entered into the harmonious social edifice as privileged and protected outsiders whose sole purpose was to accelerate and distort resource transfer between European classes, rendering internal class division less about communal efficiency than about personal gain. In this system, paternalism gave way to such situations as the permitted Jewish trade in Christian slaves (a key reason for the agitations for Agobard of Lyons) and widespread exploitative tax farming.
One of the great modern myths, a stroke of Jewish revisionist genius, is that Jews were forced into such practices by restrictive laws on the ownership of land, and certain other local contexts. This is historicist relativism at its most bankrupt and, thankfully, modern scholarship is slowly eroding such misrepresentations and outright falsehoods. Take, for example, the most recent edition of The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion, which states the “remarkable” fact that Jews
whether in Narbonne in 899 or Gironne in 922, in Trier in 919 or Worms in 1090, in Barcelona in 1053 or Toledo in 1222, or in early medieval England, were permitted to acquire and own land if they wished. Not only were Jews legally permitted to own land, they could acquire significant amounts (especially in Italy, southern Spain, southern and east-central France, and Germany); possessed fields, gardens, and vineyards; and owned, transferred, and mortgaged land holdings. They preferred to hire tenants, sharecroppers, and wage laborers to work their lands. For themselves, they chose the most skilled and profitable occupations, foremost money lending.R. M. McCleary (ed), The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, 68.
Essentially then, we see the immediate and deliberate entrance of the Jews into European society at the level of knight, if not higher, but without any of the logic or benefits of the position of knight within the organic social edifice. The Jew in this new social order existed for no logical reason other than the personal enrichment of certain elites and the communal enrichment of the Jews themselves. This may be regarded as the first perversion of capitalism and the first true exploitation (excessive or unfair use of workers with no reason other than greed) of the serving class within this system.
Again, dispensing with historicist relativism, we can demonstrate the pattern of Jewish disruptive behaviors within capitalism with reference to analogous modern conditions. For example, the arenda system of late nineteenth- and early twentieth century-eastern Europe (especially Poland, Ukraine, and Romania) was remarkably similar to the feudal system of medieval Western Europe. The arenda system can be regarded as broadly harmonious until the mass influx of Jewish arendasi during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which saw the Jews increasingly operate as tax farmers, property agents, customs agents, and loan merchants. Jewish monopoly in these roles prompted both the rapid commercialization of land and the expansion of Big Capital, both of which were intended by Jews to exclusively benefit their in-group. Since the existence of entire Jewish communities depended on exploitative capitalism, Jews fiercely contended for monopolies in key areas. For example, The Va’ad Medinat Lita (Lithuanian Jewish Council) twice passed a resolution supporting the lease of customs and taxes by Jews, stating: “We have openly seen the great danger deriving from the operation of customs in Gentile hands; for the customs to be in Jewish hands is a pivot on which everything (in commerce) turns, since thereby Jews may exert control.”
Crucially, high Jewish position in the social hierarchy was not accompanied by paternalism of any kind. In fact, Jews are notable throughout history for their incredibly hostile and exploitative behaviors towards non-elite Europeans. Philip Eidelberg, a historian of the Great Romanian Peasant Revolt of 1907, describes how Jewish arendasi “exploited the estates more ruthlessly than the native Rumanian arendasi.” He continues by explaining that Jews were not interested in the long-term prosperity of estates or their workers, and often hiked rents to breaking point “even at the risk of eventually exhausting the available land and inventory.”P. G. Eidelberg, The Great Rumanian Peasant Revolt of 1907: Origins of a Modern Jacquerie (), 39. In Rumania, Jews enjoyed monopolies, with Eidelberg demonstrating that Jewish bankers would decline to grant capital to any non-Jew wanting to enter this form of finance.Ibid, 120.
(P. G. Eidelberg, The Great Rumanian Peasant Revolt of 1907: Origins of a Modern Jacquerie (), 39.) Thus, the Jews competed for profit solely with each other, ever-increasing the chokehold on their European peasantries. Eidelberg writes that “the result was a bidding spiral in which the peasant was the loser. In fact, it was just such a competition between the two greatest Jewish arendas families—the Fischers and the Justers—which was to help spark the 1907 revolt.”Ibid, 39.
(P. G. Eidelberg, The Great Rumanian Peasant Revolt of 1907: Origins of a Modern Jacquerie (), 39.)
Jews, of course, continue to occupy conspicuous roles in the worst and most exploitative aspects of capitalism. Jews have also continued to acquire land for exploitative purposes, the most interesting example being the Argentinian activities of the British Jewish oligarch Joe Lewis, a tax avoider and currency speculator who made his billions alongside George Soros when both gambled on the British pound sterling crashing out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992. As one commentator explains, “Soros’ and Lewis’ bet against the pound actually led to the pound crashing, after Soros ordered his hedge fund to “go for the jugular” and aggressively trade against the currency, thereby prompting its sharp devaluation. Though Soros is often called “the man who broke the Bank of England” as a result of the $1 billion in profits he made on that fateful day, Lewis is said to have made an even larger profit than Soros.” While these Jews made billions, the British public suffered a rapid economic recession. Lewis didn’t mind. He repeated the experiment in Mexico, causing the Mexican peso crisis, which “led to a massive jump in poverty, unemployment and inequality in Mexico and left its government beholden to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through a loan package arranged by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton.”
Growing extravagantly rich from parasitic currency speculation, Jewish oligarchs Soros and Lewis, together with co-ethnic Big Capitalists Eduardo Elsztain and Marcelo Mindlin, started buying massive tracts of Argentine real estate, particularly in Patagonia, where they pooled resources to take over local banks, the regional water supply, oil and gas wealth, and the area’s largest energy supplier. Lewis then set about buying tens of thousands of hectares, declaring his wish to create “his own state in Patagonia.” Some locals were willing to sell their land. One, Irineo Montero, had refused, and he, along with his wife María Ortiz and their employee José Matamala, were all found dead under mysterious circumstances. Lewis’ land consolidation was then made complete, and paved the way for a Zionist enclave that has exploited locals so thoroughly that there have been regular massive demonstrations (“March for Sovereignty) against this new Jewish ruling class, attracting 80 percent of the local population. According to the research of former French intelligence officer turned journalist Thierry Meyssan, Lewis is much more amenable to his fellow Jews, and has been inviting thousands of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers to his territory annually. In late 2017, former French intelligence officer turned journalist Thierry Meyssan alleged: “Since the Falklands War, the Israeli army has been organizing ‘holiday camps’ in Patagonia for its soldiers. Between 8,000 and 10,000 of them now come every year to spend two weeks on Joe Lewis’ land.”
What we see here is just a very modern example of the millennia-old Jewish pattern of establishing full-scale operations for extracting a nation’s riches and exploiting its people. We must earnestly ask of Slavoj Žižek: Has Big Capital and the establishment ruling class not been, and does it not remain, significantly Jewish?
A possible explanation for Žižek’s ignorance in relation to anti-Semitism, aside from blind ideological fanaticism, is an extreme lack of serious reading in the subject, a habit he shares with the late Jean-Paul Sartre and Marxist intellectuals more generally. It is interesting in this regard to look briefly at Žižek’s treatment of the work of Kevin MacDonald. In 2014, Žižek published a piece during which he mentions Kevin MacDonald as a “proponent of a new barbarism” before snidely adding, in relation to the Culture of Critique, “the only thing to bear in mind is that this new barbarism is a strictly post-modern phenomenon, the obverse of the highly reflexive self-ironical attitude—no wonder that, reading authors like MacDonald, one often cannot decide if one is reading a satire or a “serious” line of argumentation.” In other words, he has no substantive argument. However, as later covered by Newsweek, Inside HigherEd, and a number of other mainstream news organizations, it became apparent that Žižek had not only failed to read Kevin MacDonald’s work, but had merely plagiarized a summary of Culture of Critique from a review that appeared in American Renaissance. Žižek’s plagiarism had apparently first aroused suspicions when Steve Sailer, in a piece for The Unz Review, pointed out that [Žižek], “achieves a higher degree of clarity while expounding MacDonald’s message than in any other passage I’ve read by [him].” It was left to an anonymous blogger to then discover that this unusually high degree of clarity was due to Žižek copying, almost verbatim, a review of MacDonald’s book by Stanley Hornbeck that appeared in the March 1999 issue of The American Renaissance. Confronted with evidence, Žižek then offered a weak apology before conceding that he hadn’t read Kevin MacDonald’s work, and that the inclusion of MacDonald in his essay arose when “a friend told me about Kevin MacDonald’s theories, and I asked him to send me a brief résumé.” And so, on the basis of some comments from a friend, and a brief résumé Slavoj Žižek, supposedly a superstar academic, saw fit to pronounce Kevin MacDonald, a tenured college professor and author of a number of extremely well-referenced texts on Jews and their history, as “a proponent of a new barbarism.” Žižek is right that there is satire here, but it’s not where he suggests.
As Slavoj Žižek should well know, Marx and Engels famously described ideology as arising from the superstructure of society (the ruling social ideas, which are themselves the product of the ruling class). It should be obvious by now that anti-Semitism could scarcely be regarded today as part of the superstructure, since no intellectuals of the ruling class advance anti-Semitic ideas of any kind. This includes both Slavoj Žižek and Jordan Peterson, ostensibly figures who are ideologically diametric opposites in political and economic outlook, who are almost identical in their position in relation to Jews and anti-Semitism. In fact, anti-Semitism may be regarded, almost uniquely, as something that remains outside the superstructure, advanced by organic intellectuals and activists who are themselves the last vestiges of an organic form of society that has been subjected to many centuries of distortion and exploitation. As such, anti-Semitism today, as in the past, remains the most radical, coherent, and dangerous critique of the prevailing social order. It is the last, and only, truly revolutionary idea of our time.
If there is anything of use in the ideas of Slavoj Žižek, perhaps, ironically, it can be found in the analogy of the suspicious husband. Casting my mind back to the cuckolded Leninite, I recall thinking: “That which we do not lay exclusive claim to, we are surely already on our way to losing.” The pathetic figure that sat across from me didn’t lose his wife when she went to Norway — he lost her the moment he renounced his interests and left open a door that, ultimately, she would walk through. We must jealously protect our interests, our families, and our land. Against competitors. Against exploiters. Against Jews. What we have, we hold.
 It’s particularly worrying that Žižek here essentially makes an argument for “truth is no defense,” a principle that is now in place in Canadian and UK hate speech legislation.
 D. Penslar (ed) Contemporary Anti-Semitism: Canada and the World (University of Toronto Press, 2005), 3.
 J. Herf (ed) Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism in Historical Perspective: Convergence and Divergence (Routledge, 2007), 11.
 K. MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1st Books, 2002), 449 (endnote 120).
 MacDonald, 449.
 H. Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915-1935 (The John Hopkins University Press, 1995), 123.
 A. Meladmed, Image of the Black in Jewish Culture: A History of the Other (RoutledgeCurzon, 2001), 114.
 G. Langmuir, History, Religion and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 15.
 Ibid, 13.
 Ibid, 275.
 Ibid, 19 &67.
 Ibid, 275.
 Ibid, 15.
 See P. Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), 205.
 R. H. Hilton and C. Hill, “The Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism,” Science & Society, Vol. 17, No. 4 (Fall, 1953), 340-351.
 A. Julius, Trials of the Diaspora, 401.
 For an excellent summary in relation to this process in feudalism, see R. Allen Brown, Origins of English Feudalism, (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1973).
 R. M. McCleary (ed), The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, 68.
 P. G. Eidelberg, The Great Rumanian Peasant Revolt of 1907: Origins of a Modern Jacquerie (), 39.
 Ibid, 120.
 Ibid, 39.