Toward a Theory of Disproportionate American Jewish Liberalism

Geoffrey Brahm Levey

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XI: Values, Interests, and Identity

Published in print May 1996 | ISBN: 9780195103311
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854585 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Toward a Theory of Disproportionate American Jewish Liberalism

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Jews have risen to become one of the best-educated and most economically secure ethno-religious groups in the United States. Some of the existing theories explain why American Jews are, or have been, liberal; others help explain variance among American Jews in the degree of their liberalism. This chapter seeks to advance a new approach to explaining the disproportionate liberalism of Jews in America. Specifically, it rejects the standard assumption that American Jews are predisposed by their experience among non-Jews in wider society—whether considered in terms of marginality, minority status, or political interests—to be especially politically liberal. The central argument advanced here is that the pronounced liberalism of American Jews is best understood in terms of dynamics and tensions in their relation to the Jewish community as a religious body politic rather than in their relations with non-Jews or with non-Jewish society.

Keywords: Jews; United States; liberalism; marginality; Jewish community; body politic; non-Jews

Chapter.  11004 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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