Ars Cultura

The Ordeal of Civility (citations)

  • John Murray Cuddihy
  • The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Lévi-Strauss and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity. Basic Books, Inc., Publishers. New York, 1974.

The ideologies of the post-Emancipation era—-Marxism, Freudianism, Haskalah, Reform Judaism — have a double audience: on the one hand, they have “designs” on their Jewish audience, which they wish to change, enlighten, or reform; but, on the other hand, they constitute an elaborate effort at apologetics, addressed to the “Gentile of good will” and designed to reinterpret, excuse, or explain to him the otherwise questionable public “look” of emancipating Jewry: secular Jewish intellectual ideologies are exercises in antidefamation, addresses in defense of Jewry to the cultured among its despisers.


As we shall see, the ideology of the Jewish intellectual is frequently a projection onto the general, Gentile culture of a forbidden ethnic self-criticism. Shame for “one’s own kind” is universalized into anger at the ancestral enemy. The intrapunitive theodicy of the shtetl — “We are in Galut as a punishment for our sins” — is secularized, after Emancipation, into either exteropunitive sociodicies — “You made us what we are today” — or into the great impunitive, ideological, “value-free” edifices of Freud and Marx — “Neither Jew nor Gentile is to be blamed for the tsuris of the Diaspora: it is but a symptom of capitalist exploitation [Marx] or a medical symptom of anxiety [Freud].” The relation of the secular Jewish ideologists to the “Jewish problem” is frequently forgotten or obscured. The late George Lichtheim’s essay “Socialism and the Jews,” for example, obnubilates the “Jewish problem” matrix of Marxian as of other socialisms. Of this whole problem-complex, for example, he writes that, by a “stroke of bad luck, the problem has somehow become entangled with the issue of Jewish emancipation”. Lichtheim exhibits a curious disinclination to explore this “somehow” entanglement. “Bad luck” rushes in where historians fear to tread.

— Introduction