The Ideology of Affliction: <i>Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis</i>

Bernard Susser

in Diasporas and Exiles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520228641
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520926899 | DOI:
The Ideology of Affliction: Reconsidering the Adversity Thesis

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This chapter is concerned with victimhood. The “adversity thesis” maintains that anti-Jewish prejudice and oppression have been the key to Jewish identity and survival over the last millennium, at least in the Ashkenazi world. But the Enlightenment, with its support for religious skepticism, and post-Shoah developments—specifically the character of Western, democratic, pluralist societies—have caused trouble for the adversity thesis and the marriage of theology and Jewish oppression. To begin with, once the theodicy loses its grip, oppression no longer has any clear or specific significance. Once we stop thinking of oppression as punishment for our waywardness from God or as purification on the way to messianic liberation, it can come to mean many different things. Perhaps it has no special significance at all. In any case, adversity no longer automatically yields group solidarity. Indeed, oppression may encourage assimilation, a “massive silent exit”.

Keywords: Jewish identity; Enlightenment; oppression; adversity thesis; assimilation

Chapter.  5890 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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