Jeffrey Alexander: The Return of Anti-Semitism? Waves of Societalization and What Conditions Them


Friday, February 25, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Zoom Link available upon registration

History, Culture, and Society Workshop presentation by Jeffrey Alexander, Yale.

Please email for the Zoom link.

A social strain becomes societalized when problems that have created episodic indignation are constructed as explosive crises endangering the moral self-regard of society itself. Instead of being traumatic for particular victims, they become traumas for all "humankind." In the decades after Nazi genocide against European Jewry, anti-Semitism came to be reconstructed in this broader way, and structural and cultural barriers to Jewish incorporation were dramatically weakened and often destroyed. Yet, over the last decade, publicly anti-Jewish words and deeds have remerged, adding historically combustible fuel to backlash issues propelling rightwing populism. While this new antisemitism has itself been societalized, responses have differed significantly across Western societies, a variation that corresponds with the unevenness of national responses to the Holocaust decades ago. This is our principal hypothesis, to which we add a series of contextualizing factors: The secular decline in Holocaust memory; the tarnishing of Israel as a democratic symbol; the centrality of the Palestinian struggle in progressive ideology; and the shifts in progressive ideology toward race, gender, and post-coloniality.