Commentary Magazine


Can Anti-Semitism Be Measured?

With regard to anti-Semitism I don’t really want to search for explanations; I feel a strong inclination to surrender to my affects in this matter and find myself confirmed in my wholly non-scientific belief that mankind on the average and taken by and large are a wretched lot.

Sigmund Freud, in a letter to
Arnold Zweig, December 2, 1927

In an age when sociological scrutiny seems to extend into the most obscure corners of our experience, it may come as a surprise to learn that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism—one of the more enduring of social phenomena and, needless to say, one of special significance in our own time—has received scant attention from American social scientists. The apathy of the sociologists has been matched by the indifference of the great foundations, whose general view has been that anti-Semitism is (or should be) a parochial concern. Be that as it may, it is to the American Jewish organizations that we are indebted for whatever studies of consequence exist. The latest studies, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, have appeared in a series called “Patterns of American Prejudice,” undertaken in conjunction with the Survey Research Center of the University of California at Berkeley.

The ADL series evokes resonances of the past. Some twenty years ago the American Jewish Committee sponsored another series, the five-volume “Studies in Prejudice,” whose research was conducted jointly by the University of California Berkeley Public Opinion Study (no connection with the present Survey Research Center) and the Institute of Social Research, then at Columbia University in exile from its original home in Frankfurt am Main. It should be noted that in the period between the appearance of the two series, no other serious work on anti-Semitism in the United States was published, with the exception of Jews in the Mind of America, by Charles Stember and others (also sponsored by the American Jewish Committee; Basic Books, 1966).

Four volumes of a projected eight in the ADL series, all published by Harper & Row, have so far been produced: Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism, by Charles Y. Glock and Rodney Stark (1966); The Apathetic Majority: A Study Based on Public Responses to the Eichmann Trial, by Charles Y. Glock, Gertrude J. Selznick, and Joe L. Spaeth (1966); Protest and Prejudice: A Study of Belief in the Black Community, by Gary T. Marx (1967); and The Tenacity of Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in Contemporary America, by Gertrude J. Selznick and Stephen Steinberg (1969).

The first of the four volumes probed the opinions and attitudes of 3,000 church members on the relation of their Christian beliefs to anti-Semitism, and discovered that one-fourth of those professing anti-Semitic attitudes based their prejudice on what they took to be Christian teaching.1 The second book, which set itself the task of finding out whether public interest in the Eichmann trial bore any relation to anti-Semitism, is really too slight and inconclusive an effort to merit extended discussion. For the record, suffice it to note that of the 460 Oakland, California residents who were interviewed by the authors in the summer of 1961, 84 per cent had heard of the trial, but only 59 per cent knew that Eichmann was a Nazi; and only 33 per cent knew that six million was the standard estimate of the number of Jews killed by the Nazis. I shall, therefore, deal here chiefly with the two most recent books in the series. Of these, The Tenacity of Prejudice is the more ambitious effort. Based on lengthy interviews conducted in October 1964 with about 2,000 respondents—a representative sampling of Americans by age, sex, education, income, race, religion, and region—it sought to gauge the extent of anti-Semitic feeling in the United States. As for Gary Marx’s Protest and Prejudice, it is a by-product, so to speak, of the riots in Negro slums in 1964; “Patterns of Prejudice” did not originally envisage an investigation of black anti-Semitism, but the seemingly anti-Jewish features of the riots, as directed at Jewish merchants in the ravaged communities, prompted the addition to the series.

These studies, as noted, have been carried out for the ADL by the Survey Research Center at Berkeley. Survey research, or survey analysis, as it is more commonly called—which I shall have occasion to discuss in greater detail below—can briefly be described as the technique of interpreting data gathered from interviews. It endeavors to identify and isolate the significant causal factors (“independent variables”) of a given phenomenon and to determine how these affect the pattern of behavior under examination. Which is precisely what Gertrude Selznick and Stephen Steinberg, the authors of The Tenacity of Prejudice, set out to do with regard to anti-Semitism. Drawing up a series of negative statements about Jews, they constructed an “Index of Anti-Semitic Belief” which they submitted for comment to the 2,000 respondents. Included were such questions as: are Jews “clannish”; “dishonest in business”; “disloyal to America”; “powerful in finance and government.” One-third of the respondents denied that Jews fit any of the unflattering descriptions. Another third subscribed to only a few of these commonly held anti-Semitic notions (Jewish clannishness proved the most popular). The final third, endorsing varied clusters of the proferred opinions, checked in with a pronounced strain of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, most people who registered high on the index did not express any appreciable approval of political anti-Semitism.

Selznick and Steinberg then proceeded to locate anti-Semitism according to population patterns. Young people, they found, tended to be less prejudiced than their elders, native Americans less than foreign-born. “Liberal” Protestants (Congregationalists and Episcopalians) and Catholics proved less biased than “conservative” Protestants (Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans). Geographically speaking, the greater concentration of anti-Semitism, it was discovered, was in the rural South and Midwest, regions with the least educated and most fundamentalist populations. Indeed, education turned out to be a more significant determinant of anti-Semitism than social class: the poorly educated registered more anti-Semitic than the well educated, regardless of income or occupational status. Yet among the college-educated, the authors learned, the higher the status and income, the greater the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes. Negroes, the index showed, responded no differently from whites, except with regard to the “economic” portion of the questionnaire; twice as many Negroes as whites believed that Jews were dishonest and exploitative in business practices. Also, unlike the situation prevailing among the white respondents, where greater youth and higher education tended to reduce the level of anti-Semitism, among Negroes the opposite pattern obtained.

Education, or the lack of it, the authors were certain, was the independent variable in determining the extent of anti-Semitic bias. Yet the relation between education and anti-Semitism, though strong, turned out to be imperfect: there was still a persistence of anti-Semitism among educated people, white and black. Selznick and Steinberg probed a variety of related factors in search of the culprit—the level of educational sophistication, exposure to the mass media, tolerance of cultural diversity, and, of course, authoritarianism and anomie. Still, correlations, where they appeared, suggested not a causal relationship but rather a syndrome.

In sum, 16 per cent of the respondents were revealed to be consistently free of anti-Semitic prejudice, rejecting anti-Jewish stereotypes, opposing social discrimination, and declaring they would vote against an anti-Semitic candidate. At the opposite end of the opinion scale were the 5 to 10 per cent who could be characterized as out-and-out anti-Semites. The majority occupied the vast middle ground, not favoring anti-Semitism but lacking in determination to oppose any of its manifestations. Anti-Semitism, Selznick and Steinberg concluded, is widespread in the United States, though not in virulent form. For rectification, they looked to educational institutions, which, with all their shortcomings, “are the primary means whereby the individual is integrated into the ideal norms and values that constitute and sustain a democratic and humane society.”

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For Gary T. Marx, the study of anti-Semitism, even within his more specialized context, was secondary. His primary concern in Protest and Prejudice was to examine the climate of opinion in the black community regarding the civil-rights movement; Negro attitudes toward Jews were of subsidiary interest. In October 1964, he interviewed over 1,000 Negro adults in various parts of the country, North and South. To probe the depth and extent of civil-rights militancy and/or extremism in the black community, Marx fashioned a survey-analysis index which revealed most Negroes to be moderates, overwhelmingly rejecting black nationalism. And, like his illustrious namesake, he too found religion to be the opiate of the people, encouraging quietism rather than protest.

As for anti-Semitism, Marx certified from his data that most blacks were not anti-Semitic, or, at any rate, not more so than whites. Three out of ten non-Southern Negroes (a higher proportion than the Southerners) registered as anti-Semitic on Marx’s index. Most Negroes (75 per cent) thought Jews were neither better nor worse than white Christians, while 20 per cent said Jews were better, and 5 per cent, worse. By this calculation Marx concluded that “Jews were seen in a more favorable light than other whites by a four-to-one ratio” (italics in the original). Comparing his data with those of the Selznick-Steinberg study, Marx at first found no consistent pattern of differences between blacks and whites in anti-Semitic attitudes, but an “Index of Predisposition to Economically Based Anti-Semitism” showed that Negroes registered high. Marx explained the prevalence of such anti-Semitism as the consequence of the blacks’ “actual experiences with Jews in the economic world.” “While Negro anti-Semitism is deplorable,” he summed up, “it certainly is more understandable than white anti-Semitism” (my italics—L.D.).

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II

In the social sciences, questions of methodology are inextricably linked with questions of substance. Before proceeding further, we might therefore do well to consider the subject of survey analysis, a matter of no small pertinence to our discussion in view of the fact that the particular technique has established itself as dominant in the sociological investigation of American anti-Semitism. Is survey analysis an adequate tool for the study of a phenomenon as complex as anti-Semitism? To what extent has survey analysis itself affected the conceptualization of the problem? Finally, do the studies represent survey analysis at its best? Some answers to these questions, I trust, will emerge from the discussion that follows.

Survey analysis developed out of two diverse but not unrelated fields, market research and the study of propaganda. As new interviewing and statistical techniques were developed to elicit, describe, and measure public opinion on a wide range of matters, vox populi, hitherto absent from social or historical records, became a source of scientific information. Paul F. Lazarsfeld, author of the pathbreaking work The People’s Choice (a study of the 1940 Presidential election), is generally acknowledged as the founder of survey analysis. His contributions to the discipline include the development of sophisticated mathematical formulas to study the interrelation of assembled data; the invention of the “panel,” a body of respondents whom surveyors periodically reinterview; contextual analysis; and indeed the whole apparatus of survey analysis—administration, training, data-gathering, analysis, publication, even funding. Not content with a technique that depended solely on statistical data and quantification for its findings and insights, Lazarsfeld has always been aware of the need to diversify. In 1933, the year of his arrival in United States from Germany, he set down, in a paper entitled “Principles of Sociography,” four basic methodological rules:2

  1. For any phenomenon one should have objective observations as well as introspective reports.
  2. Case studies should be properly combined with statistical information.
  3. Contemporary information should be supplemented by information on earlier phases of whatever is being studied.
  4. One should combine “natural and experimental data.” By experimental, I meant mainly questionnaires and solicited reports, while by natural, I meant what is now called “unobtrusive measures”—data deriving from daily life without interference from the investigator.

It would be unfair to demand that the survey analysts of the “Patterns in American Prejudice” series adhere to the ideal standards that the master himself could not always observe. Still, I, for one, found the reliance on survey data, in both Protest and Prejudice and The Tenacity of Prejudice, to the near exclusion of other data, intellectually constricting. Marx, to be sure, occasionally drew upon literary, historical, and journalistic sources, but then, as if to retain survey-analysis purity in his text, he relegated this material to footnotes. Selznick and Steinberg used even fewer auxiliary sources. Their various findings must therefore stand or fall entirely on the basis of the quantitative empirical data. Yet how does one measure the extent and intensity of anti-Semitism? Is there a National Bureau of Standards for the study of social phenomena which has specified the standard content, density, or weight of anti-Semitism?

In survey analysis, the standard measuring procedure for all phenomena is scaling. The scale, or index, can be constructed from a collection of statements, as we have seen, to which respondents are asked to register assent or disagreement, indicating also the degree of response (“a lot,” “a little,” “not at all”). Each item is designed to elicit a specific attitude or opinion, and their grouping reflects the conception that certain attitudes and opinions form a single general outlook. The critical process involved in constructing a scale lies in the selection and formulation of items that will provide a valid continuum and thus serve as an accurate and sensitive measuring device. The items selected for the scale naturally reflect the surveyors’ hypotheses about the significant variables under study. Formulation of the items, too, obviously entails problems, since the wording can influence the response. After the scale items are finally drawn up, techniques for the testing of validity are applied, designed to enforce the scale’s empirical objectivity.

As should be evident, in good survey analysis everything depends on the ingenuity of the scale. How good then is the anti-Semitism scale of the ADL studies? Unfortunately, no one thought to draw up a uniform scale that might be applied to all the surveys in the series and that might therefore yield a more scientific understanding of the varieties of anti-Semitism. Instead we are given a patchwork of scales, with each study constructing a different index, using different items, in different quantities, often differently formulated. Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism used six items for its index; The Apathetic Majority, three; Protest and Prejudice, nine; and The Tenacity of Prejudice, eleven (seven of Marx’s items were the same as Selznick and Steinberg’s). Of the various authors, Marx alone employed “positive” items, that is, items favorable toward Jews. (“Positive” items, the experts tell us, are more likely to elicit the accepted “tolerant” responses and are thus less satisfactory in tapping hostile attitudes.)

Given this variety, what is one to make of the different indices? Are the scales of Glock, Marx, Steinberg and Selznick, et al. comparable to the Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Réaumur scales—that is, although they use different measuring units, do they measure the same phenomenon? Are the anti-Semitism scales interchangeable and their findings convertible? Obviously not, for anti-Semitism has no commonly accepted boiling or freezing point; no standard weights or intervals have been assigned to religious anti-Semitism, political anti-Semitism, economic anti-Semitism, authoritarianism, or ethnocentrism. Altogether, the disparity among the various scales raises serious doubts as to their validity. That the Survey Research Center made no attempt to standardize a scale to measure anti-Semitism is not very reassuring; nor is the fact that barely any use was made of the pioneer anti-Semitism scale developed in the early 1940′s by Daniel J. Levinson and R. Nevitt Sanford for The Authoritarian Personality. That scale, of 52 items, among other things, distinguished between opinions and attitudes, and probed different images of Jews as individuals/group/culture.

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III

A claim of survey analysis is that it can transcend the surveyor’s subjective hypotheses. Yet, in the very construction of the apparatus for the gathering and measuring of empirical data, subjectivity inevitably plays a role and must, in the end, color the findings themselves. The fiction of total impartiality in social research has recently come under attack by, among others, Gunnar Myrdal, who in the interest of honesty and greater objectivity has made the suggestion—in which I concur—that social scientists disclose the personal and political values underlying their search.3 This is a tricky business, however. Values may at times be so deeply internalized that the researcher has genuine difficulties in standing aside and acknowledging them. Even the selection of topics shelters subjective viewpoints and values that can infiltrate research, sometimes innocently and subconsciously, occasionally with the intention to influence and manipulate. The reader is at a loss. He does not have even the poker player’s option to pay to see the bidder’s hand.

The Tenacity of Prejudice is a good example of how the researchers’ premises—in this case, with regard to what constitutes the ideal society—have led to a misreading of the data. Selznick and Steinberg, it will be recalled, concluded that education was the independent variable in anti-Semitism, even though anti-Semitism continued to persist among the educated. That irregularity was most pronounced in the following items designed to measure intolerance: attitudes of non-Jews toward intermarriage with Jews; toward the exclusion of Jews from social clubs; and toward the continued observance of Christmas in the public schools. Respondents who otherwise came out very low on the anti-Semitism scale, here registered “intolerant”; in fact, the more educated a respondent, the greater the level of his intolerance. As already noted, the authors looked for assorted explanations, but the data nevertheless remained intractable.

The fault, I suggest, lies not in the data but in the attitudes held by Selznick and Steinberg about the nature of American society and of group relations. These attitudes are nowhere set forth explicitly, but are revealed by a close reading of their approach to the data. We see, for instance, that they consider a Christian intolerant if he is against intermarriage with a Jew. By the goose/gander rule, they must therefore also regard as intolerant Jews who are opposed to intermarriage. In so doing, however, they are forced to ignore considerations that apply with far greater weight to Jews than to American Christians. By making approval of intermarriage a barometer of tolerance, Selznick and Steinberg must logically regard a commitment to group survival as an obstruction to the creation of a prejudice-free, neutral society. Oddly enough, for a study that purports to gauge anti-Semitic feeling, nowhere is an effort made to deal with the question of the legitimacy of group life, religious or ethnic. Selznick and Steinberg seem to believe that anti-Semitism must be combatted because it is the ultimate obstacle to Jewish assimilation. Jewish survivalists, on the other hand, start from the premise that anti-Semitism constitutes a peril to Jewish continuity.

If their commitment to the neutral society has caused them to misread their data, the enthrallment of Selznick and Steinberg with education distorts their conclusions. Indeed, the emphasis on education as the countervailing force to prejudice exposes the weakness of this method of relying exclusively on attitudes and opinions without referring to ancillary or supplementary considerations, such as the capacity of social and political institutions to absorb and neutralize group conflict. Moreover, nothing that one has learned from contemporary and historical sources supports confidence in the healing properties of education in overcoming prejudice. And nowadays especially, when a college education is no longer a bulwark against the superstitions of astrology, when propaganda of the Third World and Al Fatah can flourish on college campuses as the New Received Truth, and when rationalism on the campuses is not only straight and square but dead, we can scarcely depend on educational institutions to provide defenses against the blandishments of ethnic prejudice.

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Gary Marx makes no bones about the values he holds. In the preface to Protest and Prejudice, he writes:

With respect to my own values, I have been involved in the civil rights struggle and am concerned with the issues of which this book treats. The effect of my personal concerns on the analysis of the data has, I hope, been minimal. However, someone with a different commitment might have written a different book.

The message is even more explicitly spelled out in the dedication, which reads:

To those oppressed because of their racial, religious, or ethnic identity in the hope that they will become more militant and more tolerant and thus transcend evils so long and cruelly perpetrated by man on man

It therefore comes as no surprise, given his “commitment,” that Marx should have produced a thoroughly tendentious piece of work, which, when all is said and done, stands as an uncritical apology for black militancy. (The tendenz is further adumbrated early in the book when the author, in another lapse from social-science cool, enthusiastically endorses Malcolm X’s highly ideological description of American society as “the American Nightmare.”) Such a partisan approach, of course, is not likely to view the black militants as engaging, in thought or deed, in violence and racism; by Marx’s criteria, anti-social behavior can be explained simply as justified protest: tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner—an attitude better suited to social workers, perhaps, than to social scientists.

Marx’s text is distinguished throughout by a tension, to borrow Guenther Roth’s phrase, “between partisanship and scholarship.” Which raises a question about his techniques. Were the scales he devised intended to buttress his predictions or were they merely slipshod efforts? For example, Marx constructed an “Index of Conventional Militancy,” meaning “the kind of militancy manifested by the conventional civil-rights groups in 1964.” It consisted of the following eight items (the “militant” response appears in parenthesis):

  1. A restaurant owner should not have to serve Negroes if he doesn’t want to. (Disagree.)
  2. An owner of property should not have to sell to Negroes if he doesn’t want to. (Disagree.)
  3. Before Negroes are given equal rights, they have to show that they deserve them. (Disagree.)
  4. Negroes who want to work hard can get ahead just as easily as anyone else. (Disagree.)
  5. In your opinion, is the government in Washington pushing integration too slow, too fast, or about right? (Too slow.)
  6. Negroes should spend more time praying and less time demonstrating. (Disagree.)
  7. To tell the truth, I would be afraid to take part in civil rights demonstrations. (Disagree.)
  8. Would you like to see more demonstrations or less [sic] demonstrations? (More.)

Agreement with the first four items registered as bigotry—but is militancy the converse of bigotry? And the last four items, while more germane than the first to civil-rights “militancy,” have an antiquated ring about them, even for the dark ages of 1964. That was the year, after all, of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, which was supported by the full spectrum of civil-rights groups. Up North, the moderate (“conventional”) groups were all under pressure from the militants, and the militants in turn were under pressure from extremists. Yet Marx’s militancy scale—whose items tread rather gingerly, it seems to me—registered most respondents as moderate rather than militant, even in New York, even in Chicago. Blacks in Atlanta were less militant than their counterparts in Birmingham. Nothing, it seemed, was what it appeared to be. Was the index at fault? Was the sample at fault? Were the interviewers at fault?4

Another example: Marx’s “Index of Support for Black Nationalism” consisted of the following four items: (1) refusal to fight for the United States in the event of a war; (2) giving American Negroes their own state; (3) singling out the Black Muslims as a group doing the most to help Negroes; (4) singling out Malcolm X as the leader doing the most to help his people. The data disclosed that less than one per cent of the respondents agreed with three or more of the statements, leading Marx to conclude, somewhat triumphantly, that “reports of a ‘rising tide’ of black nationalism . . . were widely misleading.” Meanwhile, social researchers at UCLA, studying aspects of the Watts riot, found that 30 per cent of their respondents indicated signs of black militancy.5 Their measuring devices differed from Marx’s; but when the UCLA researchers administered Marx’s scale to their Los Angeles respondents, the latter’s black militancy evaporated.

The radical shifts in the civil-rights movement have, of course, turned Marx’s sociology of the black community in 1964 into ancient history. Was he an innocent victim of unpredictable change? The folk-wisdom cautions: Forewarned is forearmed. The one constant characteristic of the civil-rights movement since the Supreme Court decision of 1954 has been change. In 1955 the Montgomery bus boycott catapulted Martin Luther King, Jr., into national prominence; in 1960 Negro college students organized the first sit-ins in North Carolina; in 1963, the March on Washington gave the highest national sanction to civil-rights protest and demonstration. A year later, the urban riots began. Given the fact of change, it remains a mystery why Marx did not avail himself of the protection that survey analysis provides through the techniques of sociological prediction. Prediction for social action is really what sociology is all about, at least to its activists. Comte’s savoir pour prévoir still remains the sociological watchword.

In 1964, as in 1960 when the sit-ins began, young, college-educated Negroes provided the impetus for the changing patterns of black protest. Yet Marx sampled young and educated blacks only randomly. Only 13 per cent of his respondents had some college education; only 22 per cent were eighteen to twenty-nine years old. Had Marx, extrapolating from the trend of young, college-educated militants, drawn a larger sample of this group, his survey might have had more validity. Indeed, the role of strategic elites in influencing social behavior calls into question the usefulness of studies of mass opinion in some contexts. Such studies minimize the roles of opinion-molders, political leaders, and social activists, and blur the selective impact of propaganda. In his postscript to the paperback edition of Protest and Prejudice,6 Marx at last confronts this problem. His final paragraph delivers a coup de grâce not only to his own study, but to the entire enterprise of “Patterns in American Prejudice”:

The important questions are clearly not so much how many, but who, how intensively, and in what way? As the unprecedented domestic violence in the late 1960′s and the changing tone of much black-white dialogue indicates, playing the numbers game with public-opinion data can be conducive to highly unrealistic assessments. . . . “Mass” in polls of black opinion can be an umbrella concept for a highly diverse collectivity which includes the youthful unskilled and unemployed, and ideologically articulate college students, as well as a great many older, more passive people. Everyone’s opinion does not count the same, and opinions are changing—if not fast enough for the most radical, certainly much too fast for the most conservative. (Italics in the original.)

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IV

Let us return to the subject of black anti-Semitism. In opening his discussion of this subject, Marx immediately takes the sting out of the problem by remarking that “anti-Semitism is a ‘normal’ aspect of our culture” and a component of “our common culture”—shared, that is, by white and black alike. (Would he, I wonder, characterize racism as “normal” in the same way?) Attitudes, he adds, are “fashioned from experiences,” and “for Negroes, anti-Semitic stereotypes appear to be much more related to actual experiences with Jews in the economic world”—hence, while Negro anti-Semitism is to be “deplored,” it is also, according to Marx (and as I have already noted), “certainly . . . more understandable than white anti-Semitism.” In confusing attitudes with social realities, and in assigning to subjective feelings the authority of objectivity, Marx would seem to have fallen into a trap that critics of survey analysis have long warned of. The late Theodor Adorno, who never cared much for survey research anyway, put it this way: “What was axiomatic according to the prevalent rule of social research, namely, to proceed from the subjects’ reactions as if they were a primary and final source of sociological knowledge, seemed to me thoroughly superficial and misguided.”7 The formation of attitudes is a complex matter to which experience, of course, contributes. But anti-Semitism, like all prejudices) is also a creature of propaganda and of indoctrination in centuries-old hatreds; its unhappy recrudescence in some black literature today is a phenomenon which Marx ignores altogether.

Marx’s treatment of black anti-Semitism is in general on the capricious side. He begins by minimizing its existence; then he changes course to say that, yes, there is anti-Semitism in the black community, but that it derives from experience; finally, in a third shift, he maintains that the anti-Semitism in question is but a reflection of Negro hostility toward all whites. In one of his extra-survey-analysis footnotes, however, Marx himself offers evidence to refute this last contention—a passage from Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land which would seem to indicate that blacks do distinguish between Jews and other whites. Negro folklore, says Brown, pictures all white people as mean and stingy: if a man is more mean than he is stingy, he is white—Christian or cracker; if he is more stingy than mean, he’s a Jew. The sophistication of this piece of folklore should be sufficiently conclusive to indicate that black anti-Semitism is exactly that and nothing else, harking back as it does to the stereotype of the Jew as swindler and exploiter, as ancient a stereotype as that of the Jew as Christ-killer. The new articulateness of today’s American blacks—many of whom form an uprooted peasantry becoming urbanized—simply gives fresh currency in the United States to one of Europe’s oldest myths. It is indeed only in terms of the myth that one can understand the psychological process that makes this urban peasantry blame the Jews, rather than other ethnic groups whose occupational roles afflict Negroes far more severely than do Jewish merchants and landlords. The salience of the Jew as Jew, not as merchant or landlord, sets the dynamics of prejudice moving. And it is the myth, more than the experience, which makes it possible for young blacks today to parrot the pseudo-scientific mouthings of anti-Semites in Germany and Austria of one hundred years ago.

In 1968, when anti-Jewish fulminations on the part of various black militant groups rose to a particularly strident pitch, there were many, including Jews, who sought to minimize the significance of what was being said. This was not surprising. Nor was it surprising that these apologists should have adduced Protest and Prejudice, with its imposing array of statistics and tables, all at the service of “scientific, objective truth,” in support of their contention: that black anti-Semitism was of no significance; that where it existed it was deserved; and that, in any event, Jews weren’t being singled out as Jews but as whites. Finally, Protest and Prejudice was invoked as evidence for the “fact” that blacks were not even particularly anti-Semitic, at any rate not more so than whites, and perhaps less so. The use of the “protective authority” of science, in Max Weber’s phrase, to advance partisan commitments is, of course, nothing new. Still, it was saddening to see yet another instance of scholarship pressed into the service of ideology, even if Gary Marx’s effort lent itself only too readily to the purpose at hand. Perhaps more distressing is the apparent concurrence of other social scientists in the political uses of scholarship.

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V

Survey analysis even at its best, free from intrusive values and obtrusive politics, is, with its single focus on opinion, not properly geared to study the etiology of anti-Semitism. Useful for periodic pulse-taking, it nevertheless serves ultimately to limit our understanding of anti-Semitism, which is a phenomenon marked by a high degree of multiformity and contradictoriness. A pariah people everywhere for most of their history, Jews have been persecuted for believing in Judaism and excoriated for disbelieving; despised when poor and loathed when rich; shamed for their ignorance of the host culture and rebuffed for mastering it; denounced as capitalists and assailed as Communists; derided for their separatism and reviled for their assimilationism. In the course of its long life, anti-Semitism has also assumed pseudo-rational guises, e.g., the Christian “teachings of contempt,” the theories of alleged Jewish economic control and manipulation, the ideologies of alleged Jewish political domination or cultural pollution. The very persistence of anti-Semitism, as Shmuel Ettinger of the Hebrew University recently has argued, consolidates and intensifies the syndrome. Historical precedents, historical folk memory—these, almost inevitably, have at various times combined with other factors to make the Jews expedient scapegoats and expendable victims (as witness the most recent resurgence of anti-Semitism in Poland, where only 8,000 Jews remain in a population of 32 million).

Studying anti-Semitism as strictly an American phenomenon, without reference to its occurrence elsewhere in time and geography, strikes me as a highly provincial exercise. The specificity of anti-Semitism in America, to be sure, rests in indigenous political traditions and institutions, and it is important to know how these have affected certain forms of anti-Semitism,8 but the themes, images, and ideas from which anti-Semitism draws its force have throughout history been transnational and transcultural. (Thus, the imported racist theories of Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain played a part in the passage of the restrictive immigration laws of the 1920′s in the United States.) Indeed, anti-Semitic mythology often assumes a life of its own, with its own peculiar pattern of migration. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, consigned yesterday to the ash-heap of history, has today been resurrected for use by Arab propagandists. And the 18th-century European myth of the Illuminati, a somewhat less notorious variant on the theme of the international conspiracy, still persists in our own day, feeding the anti-Semitic prejudices of many a home-grown American bigot.

Survey analysis, in my opinion, is by its nature unequipped to investigate the historic images and themes of anti-Semitism which still flourish in the American variety, or to trace their passage from one culture to another. How, then, can survey analysis, all by itself and without the support of other disciplines, be expected to perform the more difficult but necessary task of locating a specific variety of anti-Semitism within a meaningful historical continuum? Time, in the two books we have been discussing, was frozen at October 1964, when the interviews were conducted. But what does that date represent? Was October 1964 part of a continuing stable time, a time of long duration and slow motion? Was it part of a deceptive slow-motion time, continuously interrupted by abrupt crises? Or was it cyclical time, regular or irregular? Or retarded time—time-lagging time? Or explosive time?9 Society is in constant motion, yet social time is marked by intervals of different duration. Do opinions and attitudes match the patterns of societal time? Are they behind or ahead? Do they reflect a period’s decline or beginning, or even a period in flux?

In Jews in the Mind of America, Ben Halpern elucidated a persuasive theory of a perennial syndrome called anti-Semitism, “compounded of simultaneous or alternating toleration and hostility.” That syndrome exists in the time of Jewish history. But other rhythms of time flow outside and around, as well as through, Jewish history, quickening or retarding Jewish time. For instance, a new theory of cyclical societal expansion in the United States, propounded by P.M.G. Harris, claims:10

It turns out that not just the bread and butter in our society since 1870 . . . but the essence of American social structure—linking personal opportunity, community growth, institutional development, and societal change—since its very inception has always reflected, and re-created, cyclical fluctuations in rate of expansion of our population.

Drawing from many academic disciplines, theories, and research methods, in a complex demographic-historical study that locates, identifies, and describes cyclical fluctuations, Harris concludes that there appears to be a 22½-year cycle of oscillating socio-economic conditions in America, with concomitant wide-ranging effects on the family, socialization, life-cycles, educational and economic opportunity. The “mood of the nation,” Harris declares, “also goes through swings or cycles adhering closely to the familiar interval.” Is it not possible that anti-Semitic prejudice, too, is woven into the tapestry of this cycle, and should not social scientists address themselves to investigating this possibility?

It is to be hoped that subsequent volumes in the “Patterns of American Prejudice” series will contribute more to our understanding of anti-Semitism in America than their four predecessors. Perhaps if survey researchers were to yield some of their disciplinary autonomy and sovereignty and begin to share the insights of other fields of study, their work might progress beyond the commonplace and self-indulgent. Certainly, the study of anti-Semitism is too serious a matter to be left to the exclusive attention of survey analysts.

_____________

 


Footnotes

1 See the review by Sidney Monas, COMMENTARY, December 1966.

2 Paul F. Lazarsfeld, “An Episode in the History of Social Research: A Memoir,” in Donald Fleming and Bernard Bailyn, eds., The Intellectual Migration: Europe and America, 1930-1960 (Harvard University Press, 1969), pp. 282-83.

3 Objectivity in Social Research, Pantheon, 1969.

4 In 1968 George Gallup scrapped a poll his organization had conducted in Harlem for the New York Times. Reporters on a follow-up story discovered that two interviewers had falsified some of the data. Carolyn Atkinson, doing a pilot study in New York City of Negro attitudes toward Jews, commissioned by the American Jewish Committee through Columbia's Bureau of Applied Social Research, discovered that one of her interviewers had falsified a whole set of interviews with young black militants.

5 See T. M. Tomlinson, “Ideological Foundations for Negro Action: A Comparative Analysis of Militant and Non-Militant Views of the Los Angeles Riot”; and T. M. Tomlinson and Diana L. TenHouten, “Method: Negro Reaction Survey,” Los Angeles Riot Study, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles, June 1, 1967.

6 Harper Torchbook, 1969.

7 Theodor W. Adorno, “Scientific Experiences of a European Scholar in America,” in Fleming and Bailyn, op. cit., p. 343.

8 A forthcoming book in the “Patterns of American Prejudice” series, by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, will probably deal with these questions.

9 See Georges Gurvitch, “Social Structure and the Multiplicity of Time,” in Edward A. Tiryakian, ed., Sociological Theory, Values, and Sociocultural Change (Harper, 1967).

10 P.M.G Harris, “The Social Origins of American Leaders: The Demographic Foundations,” Perspectives in American History, III (1969), p. 811.

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