The Secular Polysystem

Benjamin Harshav

in Language in Time of Revolution

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 1993 | ISBN: 9780520079588
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912960 | DOI:
The Secular Polysystem

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This chapter states that the definition of Jewishness in the Religious Polysystem was legal and essentialist: A Jew was defined by being a Jew and was included in the whole network; whereas in the new, Secular Jewish Polysystem, it is voluntary and aspectual. The system itself may contain all aspects and institutions of modern life, but the individual may join voluntarily only some of those and join the polysystem of another nation for other aspects. This openness of coterritorial systems was convenient for the trend of assimilation to other societies, which increasingly enveloped more descendants of the Jews. In other words, the existence of a Jewish Secular Polysystem, even in its heyday in Poland and the Soviet Union between the two world wars, was not coextensive with the Jewish population.

Keywords: Jewishness; Secular Jewish Polysystem; Jew; coterritorial systems; trend; assimilation; Poland; Soviet Union

Chapter.  3162 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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