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The Right to Difference: French Universalism and the Jews (Hardback)
  • The Right to Difference: French Universalism and the Jews (Hardback)
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The Right to Difference: French Universalism and the Jews (Hardback)

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£34.00
Hardback 264 Pages / Published: 20/01/2017
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Universal equality is a treasured political concept in France, but recent anxiety over the country's Muslim minority has led to an emphasis on a new form of universalism, one promoting loyalty to the nation at the expense of all ethnic and religious affiliations. This timely book offers a fresh perspective on the debate by showing that French equality has not always demanded an erasure of differences. Through close and contextualized readings of the way that major novelists, philosophers, filmmakers, and political figures have struggled with the question of integrating Jews into French society, Maurice Samuels draws lessons about how the French have often understood the universal in relation to the particular. Samuels demonstrates that Jewish difference has always been essential to the elaboration of French universalism, whether as its foil or as proof of its reach. He traces the development of this discourse through key moments in French history, from debates over granting Jews civil rights during the Revolution, through the Dreyfus Affair and Vichy, and up to the rise of a "new antisemitism" in recent years. By recovering the forgotten history of a more open, pluralistic form of French universalism, Samuels points toward new ways of moving beyond current ethnic and religious dilemmas and argues for a more inclusive view of what constitutes political discourse in France.

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226397054
Number of pages: 264
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 23 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Particularism and Universalism: ever since St. Paul, the Jews have served as a stage upon which to act out the tension between these two ideals. That tension did not diminish with revolution, democracy, modernity, or secularization, nor did figures of Judaism lose their utility in these revolutions. Today Zionism and Israel continue to play a special role in fervent debates about the relationship between claims of universal justice and those of particularist, often minoritarian identities. The Right to Difference is a clear and critical guide through this history and these debates, a guide all of us who live in this age of increasingly passionate convictions should be grateful for."--David Nirenberg, author of Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today
"Timely and thought-provoking, The Right to Difference will interest scholars and lay readers alike. Ambitious in scope, the book offers a broad survey of French universalism's multifaceted attitude toward the Jews since the eighteenth century. Just as importantly, it represents a much needed intervention in public discussions about the ambiguous legacy of the French Revolution, the politics of la cit , and debates over the assimilation of religious minorities in France today. At a time when France's Jews are in the news more than ever before, Samuels offers illuminating new ways of thinking about their position, and, through that analysis, about the politics of difference in modern France."--Lisa Moses Leff, author of The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust
"The Right to Difference is a timely and compelling study that urges us to rethink some rather widely held perceptions about universalism, secularism [la cit ], the French state, and modern European society in relation to religious minorities and ethnic communities. Maurice Samuels combines insightful and sometimes surprising reexaminations of historical sources with sharp analyses."--Jonathan Skolnik, University of Massachusetts Amherst
"The Right to Difference is a useful and clairvoyant book full of rigorously researched evidence that allows us to better grasp our relationship to universalism. From the years leading up to the Revolution to the rigid universalism of Finkelkraut and the universalism that Badiou calls an instrument of exclusion, Maurice Samuels charts a nuanced path that never seeks to reach a definitive, prescriptive conclusion. Because undertaking this archeology of universalism is not an attempt to establish a philosophy of history, a typology, or a user's guide, but rather to establish a global frame of reference that might even provide keys to understanding the present."--Nonfiction (France)
"The Right to Difference is a beautifully written, accessible book that is suitable for undergraduate teaching, while offering fruitful opportunities for engagement by specialists. . . .Samuels's argument unfolds in seven chapters in which he engages with current scholarship in Jewish studies and French history in textual readings that challenge long-settled scholarly consensus. His careful analyses elucidate the ways universalism has been understood since the eighteenth century to 'offer new possibilities for thinking through France's current social and political dilemmas--and perhaps some American ones as well'. . . . The Right to Difference persuasively demonstrates that the current political understanding of republican universalism is not the only version available for the French body politic."--Journal of Modern History

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