Two very different Jewish intellectuals & their two very different conceptions of the 'Jewish Question'...
Just finished Angus Burgin's masterful "Great Persuasion." Still plenty of time for another book to overtake it, but it is way out in front of my personal "best book of yr."
Among the many other gems is his discussion of Milton Friedman's "Capitalism and the Jews."
Friedman reflects on his perplexity over what he sees as the strong, persistent strain of anti-capitalism in Jewish intellectual culture. He doesn't get it -- b/c he is convinced that liberal market institutions & the cultural norms they propagate have done more than anything else to constrain persecution of Jews, by quieting the impulses of religious zealotry responsible for centuries of butchery & violence (Friedman would not have joined the historically illiterate chorus that condemned Obama for noting the parallels between Islamic Jihadism and the Christian Crusades). Security and tolerance are are underwritten by capitalism's redirection of human beings' attention on the welfare-enhancing benefits of free trade: don't cut off his head-- you might be able to sell him something!
Burgin doesn't note the contrast but it's fascinating to juxtapose Friedman's essay (lecture; it has been transcribed & circulated since) w/ Marx's "Jewish Question." In contrast to Friedman, Marx reacts dismissively toward the demands of Jews, supported w/ uneven degrees of commitment by 19th century European liberal parties, to remove barriers to full integration of Jews into emerging liberal political & mkt institutions. No "special pleading" was the essential msg: if you want to be free, then "liberate humanity," not your particular identity group -- & from liberal mkt institution's acquisitive individualist sensibilities, which estrange human beings from their natural sociality (M's "The Jewish Question" should definitely be read together with his "The German Ideology").
So strikingly different!
I'm sure someone has written on the two essays. It's interesting, of course, that both were written by intellectuals who were estranged from their Judaism, while by no means assimilated to anything else.
For my part, I think Friedman was right to see the benefits of liberal market institutions for Jews and for pretty much everyone else. This is simply the "doux commerce thesis," which Hirschman develops systematically in his The Passions and the Interests (and which Pinker appropriates/elaborates in his Better Angels).
But what most intrigues me is how the two could have such different views of Jewish attitudes toward liberal market institutions: Friedman that Jews were misguidedly hostile; Marx that they were self-delusionally enamored...
I don't think the answer, btw, has anything to do with the different eras they lived in. On the contrary, I think their opposing "Jewish Questions" are still very much in conversation-- or noncoversation-- with respect to the stance Jews and members of various other identity-defining affinity groups should adopt toward liberal market institutions.