Judaism vs. Neo-Paganism and Neoconservatism
The always sharp Leon Hadar has just posted to @TAC the new grand theory of the noted anti-Straussian Shadia Drury, that monotheism itself is responsible for birthing both communism and world-saving revolutionary liberalism.
As a practicing Jew following the examples of Isaac Mayer Wise and Will Herberg, I have to take exception to cavalierly lumping Judaism into this mix. As Philip Rieff argued, against the cant of both “Athens and Jerusalem” and “Judeo-Christian values”, the greatness of Hebraic civilization was that it placed man squarely under the authority of death, the most powerful reproach imaginable to immanentizing the eschaton.
Even in the case of Zionism, it is narrowly nationalist in the extreme and therefore can not be considered “world redemptive” in any sense. As such, it is exuberantly pagan, as yesterday’s blood-and-soil oration by Netanyahu should make abundantly clear.
In the ideal, therefore, Judaism stands for rationalism over paganism and for humility before the infinite over the redemption of the world by man.
But Drury is on to something, which is that beyond the narrow nationalism of old-school Zionism, in neoconservatism we have the attempt to project that nationalism, or at least a related parochialism, into a universal world-redemptive idea of global democratic revolution. I do not believe this to be merely a cancerous outgrowth of Zionism, but rather I find that it is the outcome of the whole crisis of the Jews in modernity going back nearly four centuries.
Indeed, Drury’s crude laying of the blame on monotheism does not hold up to much scrutiny at all. We have only historical Protestantism and its analogs in Islam which have existed only for the last century or so in support of her thesis (though both, of course, hearken back to the idealized early church militant). Catholicism, it should be noted, adopted both pagan and universalist motifs which, in practice, seem to have historically canceled each other out.
But given, then, that Zionism is a narrow nationalism and not a world-redemptive idea, only since World War II has a fully realized version of anything remotely approaching a world-redemptive analog in Judaism existed. How this came to pass is a fascinating and woefully neglected question.