Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Ideology and Experience

Antisemitism in France at the Time of the Dreyfus Affair
Stephen Wilson

'An unprecedentedly complete compendium of evidence . . . exceptionally well written.'
The Observer

'An excellent historical, sociological and psychological examination . . . even those who believe they understand the mechanics of antisemitism will benefit from a reading of this book.'
Jerusalem Post

In this analysis of racialism in late-nineteenth-century France, antisemitism is studied not in isolation but in its social context, as an indicator and symptom of profound social change. As anticapitalism, for example, antisemitism expressed hostility to modern economic forms and 'the rule of money'; as a kind of socialism, it expressed opposition to the establishment without calling the social hierarchy into question; as a kind of nationalism and as racialism, it created a sense of belonging, in opposition to the Jews and to other supposedly alien groups within French society. Other aspects studied in the book are the religious, the sexual, and the cultural and intellectual, in which antisemitism again acted as the vehicle for the expression of the fears inspired by and in reaction to the experience of rapid change, which was seen as a fundamental decadence. Always the supposed action of the Jews supplied an explanation of otherwise inexplicable phenomena.

Analysis of involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, which dramatized antisemitism and gave it new appeal and legitimacy, and of the antisemitic movement and its activities indicates which social groups were particularly attracted to antisemitism: students, the clergy and Catholics generally, shopkeepers, army officers, members of the liberal professions, and the aristocracy. In each case, particular anxieties and grievances were articulated through a common ideology. There is little evidence that antisemitism was prompted by any experience of actual co-existence with any Jewish communities, except in the east of France; the choice of Jews as scapegoats has, rather, historical and religious explanations. Antisemitism at this time was propagated by 'intellectuals' through newspapers, pamphlets, and books; the new cultural media were used to fashion an abstract ideology from much older folk beliefs. The antisemitic movement of the time had no coherent programme. It did advocate various measures, culminating in extermination, against the Jews, but this was rhetoric, not practical policy.

Publication details

Format

23.5 x 15.5 cm / 6" x 9"

Pages 828, 13 maps, 6 tables
ISBN 978-0-19-710052-3
Price £29.95 / $45.00
Date of publication January 2007 paperback

Contents

List of maps and tables
Acknowledgements
Introduction
Part 1 The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion, and Antisemitism
The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion, and Antisemitism I * The Dreyfus Affair, Public Opinion, and Antisemitism II * The Antisemitic Riots of 1898 * The Henry Subscription of 1989-9
Part 2 The Antisemitic Movement in France at the End of the Nineteenth Century
Drumont, La France Juive, and La Libre Parole * The Ligue Antisemitique Française * The Antisemitic Movement: Miscellaneous Organizations, General Characteristics, and the Press * Antisemitism in French Politics: The Antisemitic Group in the Chamber of Deputies, 1898-1906 * The Antisemitic Movement in Algeria: French Antisemitism in Decline
Part 3 Types of Antisemitism
Economic Antisemitism * Social Antisemitism: 'A Kind of Socialism' * Nationalist Antisemitism: 'France for the French' * Racial Antisemitism: 'A Race Apart' * Religious Antisemitism: 'Among French Catholics' * Sexual Antisemitism: 'Horribly Sensual' * Antisemitism as an Ideology and its General Function
Part 4 Antisemitism and the Jews
Antisemitism and Jewish Presence: The Geography of Antisemitism * The Aims of Antisemitism * Antisemitism and Jewish Response
Part 5 Conclusion
Guide to further reading
Select bibliography
Index

 

Reviews

'An excellent historical, sociological and psychological examination of anti-semitism . . . even those who believe they understand the mechanics of anti-semitism will benefit from a reading of this book.'
Jerusalem Post

'An unprecedentedly complete compendium of evidence . . . exceptionally well written.'
The Observer