The Jews, the Revolution, and the Old Regime in French Anti-Semitism and Durkheim's Sociology


  • Chad Alan Goldberg, University of Wisconsin, Department of Sociology, 8128 W. H. Sewell Social Sciences Bldg., 1180 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706. Tel.: 608-262-2108; E-mail: Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the 2008 International Conference on Antisemitism and the Emergence of Sociological Theory at the University of Manchester; the 2009 American Sociological Association meeting; the Ninth Annual William H. Sewell Memorial Lecture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; the 2010 Midwest Sociological Society meeting; and the New School for Social Research in 2010. I thank everyone who provided suggestions for improvement, including Mustafa Emirbayer, Marcel Fournier, Mara Loveman, Sébastien Mosbah-Natanson, Anna Paretskaya, David Spreen, Marcel Stoetzler, Edward Tiryakian, and Sociological Theory's reviewers.


The relationship between European sociology and European anti-Semitism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is investigated through a case study of one sociologist, Émile Durkheim, in a single country, France. Reactionary and radical forms of anti-Semitism are distinguished and contrasted to Durkheim's sociological perspective. Durkheim's remarks about the Jews directly addressed anti-Semitic claims about them, their role in French society, and their relationship to modernity. At the same time, Durkheim was engaged in a reinterpretation of the French Revolution and its legacies that indirectly challenged other tenets of French anti-Semitism. In sum, Durkheim's work contains direct and indirect responses to reactionary and radical forms of anti-Semitism, and together these responses form a coherent alternative vision of the relationship between modernity and the Jews.