Money on the Left

Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender with Julie Mell

February 15, 2019
Money on the Left
Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender with Julie Mell
Chapters
Money on the Left
Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender with Julie Mell
Feb 15, 2019
Money on the Left

On this episode, we talk to Julie Mell, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University and author of the two volume book, The Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender.

In The Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender, Mell marshals previously untapped primary sources to upend the common historical narrative regarding the role of Jewish moneylenders in the development of the modern economy. On Mell’s reading, the prevailing understanding of the medieval Jewish moneylender--common to both antisemitic and philosemetic discourses in the 19th and 20th centuries-- has no more basis in history than does the prevailing myth of barter. 
 
At North Carolina State University, Mell teaches courses in medieval history, Jewish history, and economic thought; she also recently served as a fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy and as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Hebrew and Judaic Studies at the University of Oxford. 

In this episode, Scott and Max speak with Mell about these and other connections that may be drawn between her own and neochartalism’s critical projects. 


Show Notes Transcript

On this episode, we talk to Julie Mell, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University and author of the two volume book, The Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender.

In The Myth of the Medieval Jewish Moneylender, Mell marshals previously untapped primary sources to upend the common historical narrative regarding the role of Jewish moneylenders in the development of the modern economy. On Mell’s reading, the prevailing understanding of the medieval Jewish moneylender--common to both antisemitic and philosemetic discourses in the 19th and 20th centuries-- has no more basis in history than does the prevailing myth of barter. 
 
At North Carolina State University, Mell teaches courses in medieval history, Jewish history, and economic thought; she also recently served as a fellow at the Center for the History of Political Economy and as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Hebrew and Judaic Studies at the University of Oxford. 

In this episode, Scott and Max speak with Mell about these and other connections that may be drawn between her own and neochartalism’s critical projects. 


Speaker 1:
0:14
[inaudible] [inaudible]
Speaker 2:
0:14
you were listening to money on the left, the official podcast of the modern money network humanities division or m m n h t Julie Mill, associate professor of history at North Carolina State University and author of the book. The myth of the medieval Jewish money lender is this week's guest at NC state. Mel teaches courses in medieval history, Jewish history and economic thought. She also recently served as a fellow at the center for the history of political economy and as a visiting scholar at the center for Hebrew and Judaic studies at the University of Oxford in the myth of the medieval Jewish money lender, Mel Marshall's previously untapped primary sources to up end the common historical narrative regarding the role of Jewish money lenders in the development of the modern economy. On Mel's reading, the prevailing understanding of the medieval Jewish money lender common to both antisemitic and Elo Semitic discourses in the 19th and 20th centuries has no more basis in history. Then does the prevailing myth of barter. In this episode, Scott and Max speak with mal about fees and other connections that made me drawn between her own and Neil [inaudible] critical projects. Thank you for listening and thanks also to Alex Williams for producing.
Speaker 1:
1:27
Yes,
Speaker 3:
1:35
Julie, Mel of welcome to money on the left.
Speaker 4:
1:39
Thank you. I'm delighted to be here.
Speaker 3:
1:42
So I was wondering if we could start by having you tell us a little bit about your scholarly background and your intellectual training and what sort of brought you to your current book project.
Speaker 4:
1:55
Sure. I was a major and the history of religions and I started out, uh, interested in East Asian Studies, um, and I gravitated, uh, back to, uh, ever how Mac religions, um, by the end of, uh, by the end of college. And I had, was really struck I think with two, uh, fields, um, that I was thinking about going on to graduate school. And one was the rabbinics rabbinic Judaism and the other was medieval history. Um, as things turned out, I did enter a Master's program and medieval history, uh, working with a, a women's historian and a very, um, well recognized women's historian. At the time. Uh, but I had, um, meanwhile then, uh, not only working on my Latin Center medieval studies program, but I had been learning modern Hebrew and I'd just come back from a summer, uh, and an open in Tel Aviv. Um, and so I asked her can I continue with a modern Hebrew?
Speaker 4:
3:12
Uh, fortuitously, there had just been hired in the, um, research area, uh, where I was a graduate student, um, at other universities. But, um, once it collaborated with ours, a, uh, professor of Hebrew literature and a chaired, uh, professor in Jewish history who happened to be a medievalist. Um, so through the kind of confluence of those of those things, I ended up a working, starting out, working on, um, uh, the Jewish community and medieval England. My, uh, uh, my professor who is a women's historian at the time, um, was, uh, let's see. Well, it was at, at a point where, um, women's history was transitioning into, uh, gender studies. Um, there was a lot of discussion and debate around the issues of difference, um, and recognizing differences among women. Um, and so she asked me to write on, asked me to work on shoes as a way of, uh, bringing, um, the Jews as a major minority group in medieval Europe, um, as a way of bringing in difference into conversations about gender and women's history.
Speaker 4:
4:40
Um, so actually the first paper I wrote in graduate school was on medieval Jewish women money vendors. Um, but even then I, I had a sense when I finished that first research paper that there was something profoundly wrong about, about it or there was something off when one could say, um, women's history at the time, well, still today very often has a heroic mode to it. I'd say you're recovering voices, you're recovering women's economic activities where we've assumed there weren't any. Um, and so the, the, the female moneylenders became the heroes. The hero wins, right, of this piece of research. I know. At the same time, I was aware in the background of all the stereotypes about Jews and money lending. And so it sat very uneasily with me. Um, and I actually abandoned that work, um, and moved in very different areas. Ended up, um, uh, moving after the masters to religious to do a lot more training with the rabbinic, um, scholar, um, who was the one who ultimately oversaw my, my dissertation.
Speaker 4:
6:08
Um, and, um, and my plan when I started out with the dissertation that would eventually become the book, um, was that, um, I would work on a type of Hebrew, uh, text known in English as response. Uh, and Hebrew is sheer vote to votes, questions and answers. And these are actually legal texts that are sent from one rabbi or one ribbon at court, um, to another, which they recognize a superior asking for advice on a particular case or, um, sometimes asking theoretical questions, um, which they'll frame as if it were a case. Um, and we have many, many of these from medieval Europe. Um, they have not been used, um, very much at all for historical work. So I wanted to, um, work on a gender issue in relation to economics through this kind of, of source. So I actually, uh, had a dissertation project that was, well, it was inspired, I would say by Marxist feminist, uh, work that was looking at household as a form of work.
Speaker 4:
7:30
Um, and then, um, and, and this was at a point in the 90s when major turn to, um, uh, notions of, of identity, of, um, performativity, uh, were, um, really forefront. Um, and I felt that there was something been lost in terms of the materialist, uh, base in a kind of, um, a Marxist or socialist critique. Um, so what I, what I wanted to do was, um, to examine this issue of separation between market and household. Um, and I was going to do it in, um, in this type of source known as response, uh, using the Jewish community as an example for all of Europe. Um, and the more that I got into the project, the mark kept thinking to myself, you know, the problem is nobody's going to take, uh, the Jewish communities, um, of Europe as in western Europe as, um, a representative case study for Europe as a whole because they're going to say Jews were different economically. Um, and so what initially started as an introduction, oh, well I'll set the story straight. Um, over time became the dissertation, um, that turned into the book, the myth of the medieval Jewish money lender.
Speaker 2:
9:01
That was a very long answer to your question. Um, that's great. Um, so in the book, as you've just said, that you critique, um, what you call the mythic meta-narrative of the medieval Jewish money lender. And I was wondering if you can, uh, explain for our audience what this mythic Merredin meta-narrative is and why it's so deleterious for understanding the roles that Jews have played in political and economic life both past and present as well. Perhaps you could talk about how the narrative has changed over time.
Speaker 4:
9:38
[inaudible] sure. Um, so that narrative, um, is one that tells a story of European economic development as something which is spurred by the Jewish population as modernizers. Um, the way this kind of simple narrative goes is that, uh, in the early medieval period that Jews were the traders for Western Europe until European peoples as very 19th century version right now, a European peoples, um, developed enough to take on trade, uh, for themselves. Once they had done. So they pushed, um, they pushed Jews out of trade, um, and Jews turn to the new economic niche, which was opening up, um, that is credit. Um, and they became the moneylenders for Europe. Um, money lending as well. We know from our wise modern perspective, um, is necessary or credit is necessary for economic development. Um, and so the Jewish money lenders were actually benefiting Europe. Um, and yet at the same time they suffered an antisemitic backlash, uh, for providing credit or tag does usury, um, at the time.
Speaker 4:
11:16
Um, uh, so they suffered, they separate a backlash precisely for doing the thing that was in Europe's best interest. So it tragic tale. Um, so this is, this is the standard narrative, um, that you've had from, I would say the late 19th century through today. Um, it's, I mean, we can talk maybe a little bit later about how it's grounded in older layers of history, but, um, as a mainstream academic narrative it in, uh, late 19th century, uh, Germany in particular, um, as a fellow semetic a story. In other words, one that's, uh, sympathetic to the dues, sympathetic to the kind of plight that they suffered. Um, and one which is though it's presented by, um, uh, members of the German historical school political economy. Um, it's grounded in the work of Jewish historians and in the, um, in the interwar period and particularly during World War Two, um, as the Holocaust is, is happening, um, in the latter part of the war, uh, there are a number of Jewish emigres who take up the narrative and really refashioned that, um, in relation to the Holocaust.
Speaker 4:
12:50
Um, and that narrative then has become the one that we find in history textbooks we find in Jewish museums. Um, it's kind of a, a common sense of, um, history that a lot of people, uh, no. Um, but you know, one thing too to point out about this narrative is that it's, um, it's dropped down in different places at different times. Um, and as a historian who looks for, uh, uniqueness and contingency, um, in historical events, when I see the same, the same narrative being used in three different places and periods of time, I become very suspicious. Um, so, uh, so medieval England, northern France, 13th century as one locus for this narrative, another is 15 16th century Italy, and the third one is early modern Germany, uh, and the court shoes. Um, so it's, it can be tweaked in different ways, but that's, that's essentially the narrative. Um, and maybe I should just point out that I call it a meta-narrative. Um, pretty much in the sense that, um, the postmodern philosopher Leotard uses it, um, as a grand narrative master narrative. Um, and, and, and for me, that signals, uh, the fact that it's, it's a kind of framework. It's the, it's the box within which we've been asking questions, but we've never questioned that box itself, that framework. Um, and once we do, so I think that new, um, avenues of exploration will open up.
Speaker 3:
14:48
So can, um, can you tell us about, um, why you see this box? This meta narrative is so problematic and so damaging,
Speaker 4:
14:59
right? Um, well it's shares a lot of assumptions with, um, antisemitic stereotypes. Um, and in fact it's really just an inversion of those stereotypes, uh, based on, um, a liberal economic point of view that the development of markets, commerce, et Cetera, is positive. Therefore Jewish money. London was positive. Um, mm. My, uh, my own research as attempted to show that this, uh, that most Jews were not money lenders, even in the very places and periods where we thought that most Jews were, um, and, uh, that most of the dish population, uh, were quite poor. Um, and so my, okay, my target audience are really Jewish studies scholars. Um, the, uh, Jewish public, um, Jewish museum curators and so on who are, are there, they're nice, antisemitic at all. Um, but I think attempting to, to start there and change the kind of stereotypes, um, that are still, um, very strong, um, and still circulate really widely, uh, today, um, is strategically, I think the best place to begin to revise those and hopefully once textbooks are rewritten, um, and so on, then, um, which will gain more purchase.
Speaker 3:
16:57
Yeah. And you're saying that, um, both the, the positive and the negative version of this story just to clarify, are end up both being equally problematic because they don't challenge the Meta, the Meta narrative, the Meta frame or box, is that correct?
Speaker 4:
17:16
Right. Um, and they both, they both assume that a m Jews are in a way non European, they're different. There are other that, um, to uh, perform this modernizing role in the economy, um, that there's something in some inherent connection and this is framed differently by different fingers, but inherent connection between twos, Judaism and money. Um, let's see. What, what, what else do they share? I think that's enough. Yeah.
Speaker 3:
18:01
Well, this actually dovetails nicely or leads us nicely into the next question we had for you. Uh, which is, um, you know, we're certainly interested in your project, uh, for pushing back against a problematic history of, of the Jewish people and this, this problematic figure of the Jew. Uh, but it also, um, speaks to our interests in a heterodox economics and modern monetary theory. And you know, what's also known as neo charter realism, um, which understands that money is a medium that arises not from as the, as, as another great myth of modality goes, not from private barter relations between individual people. Um, but from a centralized governance project, whether that, that project, uh, is the Catholic church in the high middle ages or it's the emerging modern nation state. Um, and it, it struck us that your, your critique of the Jewish money lender as, as a kind of origin of modern European, uh, political economy, um, really speaks to and helps flesh out the modern monetary theory critique, uh, that, that, that barter is somehow this a social, you know, external, uh, interpersonal activity that that somehow begins on the fringes of society and comes, um, comes into the middle rather than actually starting as a governance project.
Speaker 3:
19:46
And I was wondering, you know, how much did you think about this barter myth while you were researching and writing your book? And has your thinking changed as you've kind of, you know, come into contact with folks like us, uh, embracing your work and beginning a dialogue?
Speaker 4:
20:03
[inaudible] yeah, that's a great question. Um, our current two different ways. I, uh, go with that. Um, yeah. And attempting to figure out where this narrative had come from. Um, and what was, uh, inaccurate about that. Um, I was led back into 19th century political economy, um, and then to the school specifically known as the German historical school, political economy. Um, and there, the way in which they describe the historical development of the economy is in discrete stages. So you go from barter to money to credit would be the most simple, um, kind of Schema, but you can get more complex ones up to seminar eight stages. Think among, depending on which thinker you're looking at. Um, and I became aware of the fact that the very same intellectuals that were thinking through this norcal development of economy were also those that were thinking about Jews as modernizers, um, choose as having like an instinctive kind of capitalist, um, in, um, instinct.
Speaker 4:
21:34
Um, so, and those, um, those would be, I mean some of the names there would be a bill rusher. Um, then Vernors Lombard and Max Faber, uh, would be two others who kind of carry the historical school forward and at the same time are bringing, bringing forward, um, Marxism into new, uh, academic discussion. Um, and so for all these thinkers, the two really worked hand in hand. That is the stages theory of um, economy or what, what, um, what you refer to as the barter myth, um, is closely linked to this narrative about Jews as money lenders. And the reason why is that what the stage is theory you need, you need an agent that's going to propel movement from one stage to the next. And in this construct, Jews are defined as a non European people there on the outside, they're already, um, uh, civilized.
Speaker 4:
22:50
There's a, along with this as an organic folk model, uh, for how nations evolve and develop, um, it follows a kind of pattern of, of the human life cycle. Um, um, and say the, uh, the, the Jewish population has seen as, um, older, more, more, more advanced. I'm mature, and they then teach the Europeans, um, like a tutor does, um, tutors them and trade and economy, um, and so on. And so if you have this stage theory, you also have to have an outside agent that's gonna Propel that change forward. So that's how I saw the two linked and they've become, they became disjoined in the 20th century with, um, with kind of critiques. Um, so there, there are people who've critiqued a few, um, his critiqued the, um, Jewish, uh, uh, narrative. Um, and then there are, um, a whole bunch of others, uh, medieval historians, um, who really created the field of medieval economic history, who critiqued, um, the stages theory. Let me just pause there. You had asked me to bring this up. C M m t.
Speaker 3:
24:18
Sure. I think the connection to MMT is NMT insists that there is no outside money doesn't begin outside. It's always internal and it's always internal to, um, uh, a centralized governance project. So it, it, it seems to us that there's a kind of homology, uh, here in critiquing the, um, the Jew as outsider who's not and, and money itself as outsider as not. And it seems to me that the Jew then becomes, I mean, yes, we've long thought about the Jew as scapegoat, but the Jew becomes here a scapegoat for, uh, an emerging modern Europe's incapacity to deal with its own, its own monetary technology as, as internal to itself.
Speaker 4:
25:12
Yeah.
Speaker 3:
25:12
If that makes sense.
Speaker 4:
25:13
Yes. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So the, I guess the second part of my story of my kind of intellectual journey, um, is that in my initial interest in this relationship between household and market, um, I hit on, um, through a a Hungarian, um, economist, um, your conversation with the Hungarian economist on, uh, Carl Palani. Um, and uh, his, his work not only in the great transformation but particularly the work that he did later. Um, with the group of ancient historians, um, sociologist, um, anthropologist at Columbia University, um, in the 1950s, um, really was the inspiration for the way in which I have approached, um, economy. So, and what, what, what he says. Um, and it, and I think this is, um, mm, you know, runs, runs right along a side, the barter myth. Um, and if, uh, if David Graber work would be the one who coined barter myth.
Speaker 4:
26:30
I'm not sure if that's the case. He also is influenced then by Carl Palani cause there's a whole anthropological tradition influenced, uh, by him. What he says is that, um, the economy is an instituted process. Um, there's no such thing as separate market. Um, rather it's created and constructed by, by governments. And the great transformation that he wrote during the last years of the war has really, uh, a brilliant study that argues that even the free market per se, is only possible when it's constructed by governments and when it's closely regulated by governments. Um, so what emerges out of this kind of tradition of, of a work around Palani is what's known as the substantive, um, economics. Um, and that is redefining economics not as money market and trade, but rather as, um, the substance, uh, that we require is, is human beings for continuing our lives, for improving our lives, um, and so on.
Speaker 4:
27:52
So in that way, it's, um, quite in line with, um, m and t. Um, and what I was seeking for, um, both in the dissertation and, and, uh, and it remains an open question for me. I, I haven't, um, I think you solve this, this problem yet, but was to find a way to narrate a European economic history from this kind of Palani s uh, model, um, economy as an instituted process, um, which gets rid of the, the, the barter myth and maybe not surprisingly a lot of medieval historians, um, that, um, have contributed to that rethinking of money, um, and acquainted people like Mark Block, um, and others
Speaker 1:
29:02
[inaudible] in your
Speaker 2:
29:33
book, you do spend quite a bit of time on the medieval period and you suggest that the, the Jewish money lender miss originates in the medieval period. So I wanted to ask what the main social, legal and cultural features that you find in medieval society and how we've repeated those structures and perhaps the meta-narrative of those structures in a way which is wrong. And to those ends, you've, you started to mention, um, some historians who've dealt with the medieval question of money and antisemitism a little bit in your book. You drawn Geo Como Toto skinnies critical analysis of these medieval Franciscans and find the roots of modern market based society in their, in their thought. And I was wondering how your story about medieval times and the Jewish medieval money wonder myths develop or even complicate his narrative.
Speaker 4:
30:30
Okay. [inaudible] um, okay. Let me respond to Twitter skinny first then maybe I'll go back to those social legal, um, uh, features of medieval society that do you initiate this association between Jews and usury? Um, I see toady skinnies, uh, work and my own as, uh, like a pair that fits together. Um, beautifully though. Um, I did most of my work before I encountered his. Um, I have not yet, um, really integrated, um, his thinking into mine. Um, he goes at it from, uh, the angle of intellectual history, uh, looking particularly at those new kinds of Christian movements. Um, like the Franciscans in particular that are defining the best kind of Christian life around the ideal of voluntary poverty. Um, and it's those individuals who, um, not only are the radical preachers, um, and kind of movers of, uh, medieval western Christianity at the time. But they also become the great intellectuals in the universities.
Speaker 4:
31:52
So they're also the, um, sort of thinkers that are initiating new kinds of ideas about economy. Um, what are the limits? What's permissible, what's impermissible? Um, and my own work goes at it from an angle of, of I'm on the one hand Jewish history, um, and uh, uh, sort of traditional economic, uh, history, um, and at the same time from 20th century Historia Graphic, um, tradition and how it's been constructed. Um, so I, I think our I work really sits well together. What what's really brings out, um, is that one of the things that has emerged by the 15th century is the notion of the good merchant, um, over against the bad user. Um, and this is depicted, you know, brilliantly of course in, uh, Shakespeare's merchant of Venice where you have, um, those two ideals pitted against each other. Well, what is it that makes one different from the other?
Speaker 4:
33:10
It's not actually the economic activity that they're doing, but it's the valuation or that the, um, the assessment of the value of their activity for the community as a whole. So a merchant is seen as a good merchant because whatever he's doing economically benefits the Christian society as whole. Um, and the user, whether Jewish or not, Jewish, um, is seen as, um, uh, as bad, uh, because what they're doing and their economic activities harmful, um, to the good of the community as a whole. Um, and these, um, uh, these labels of, of like merchant and user are also deeply rooted in religious, uh, notions so that, um, only a Christian, a true Christian can be a good merchant. Um, so Jews in a way are already, um, they're, they're set up to be users by virtue of being non Christians and the, the major, um, non-Christian religious minority in Europe at the time.
Speaker 4:
34:35
Um, so what we can still see these kinds of associations like in, in, in the use of a words like trust, um, which can have an economic meaning, but also has a, has a kind of a, a moral, um, meaning as well. Um, and there, and so this kind of intellectual history piece of it I think is really important. Um, and, and what strikes me most about the toto skinny's work is the way in which he's uncovering the medieval, um, Christian and theological roots of many of our basic economic concepts. If I may, I'll go learn a little bit more about user. You care. One of the misconceptions is that in the medieval period, and here you gonna hear it again, a kind of a stages theory. This is a narrative I do not agree with. Um, that in the, in the earlier medieval period was a church dominated society.
Speaker 4:
35:45
It was an agrarian society. Economy was static in the 12th and 13th century. We see what medieval is, we'll refer to it as a commercial revolution happening, um, spurred by our cultural revolution and demographic growth and so on. Um, and the church now is put in a position where they can no longer hold the line against usury, but they have to give in to the market. So we have a model where market and religion are in, um, conflict, intention with each other. Um, religion has to give away to the progress of a market society. Um, in fact, what's happening is really different. Um, there isn't a prohibition on usury except for clergy until we hit this high medieval, um, uh, commercial revolution. Um, and it's the very same, uh, Franciscan Dominican thinkers who are, uh, who hold up, uh, poverty as the ideal Christian life, um, who are thinking out both what is permissible, um, economically and what is not permissible.
Speaker 4:
37:07
Um, and so they are the ones that really flesh out and create a concept of usery at the very same time that they're creating all kinds of ways to, uh, to loan and make a profit on that loan that's perfectly legitimate. So they actually invent the term interest. Um, and that has, uh, no, um, no negative moral implications to it. Um, so at there are actually two things that go hand in hand, so that usury really is, um, inherent, uh, I know other medievalist that, that, that work on. This would agree with me here that usury is really, um, just a, a label that marks out, uh, someone is undesirable. Theirs, it's not usually should not be understood as lending money on, on profit. So it's going to go back to, um, th th the first part of your question about social legal, cultural features that, um, lead to the development of this, um, inception of Jews as users.
Speaker 4:
38:24
Um, so I've, I told some of the story in terms of, uh, the Franciscans and the kind of intellectual thought that's going into economy. And so it's a surprise that the outsider for two issues, I'm not one of the faithful who's not a believer, um, would be tagged as a user. Um, but there's at the same time, um, a kind of development of Antifa Judaism or someone even call antisemitism, um, in this high medieval period that, um, I think runs together and crosses over then with this economic discourse. Um, so that Jews are seen as an internal enemy, um, during the period of early rampant crusading, um, who is dangerous and two wishes to harm, uh, Christian society, um, out of share malice. Um, and one of the ways in which they could do that potentially is through their economic activity. Having said that, um, one of the things I try to emphasize to other medievalist is that actually the usury, um, there's a whole church campaign against usury.
Speaker 4:
39:50
Um, and that campaign is actually not focused on Jews. It's focused on Christians, um, and only kind of later, um, is it applied to Jews so that even this notion of the Jewish user or that we can, that that stereotype developing take, uh, in the 12th and 13th century when you have, um, great intellectuals with it's Benard of Clairvaux who says, you know, you Christian, um, uh, merchants are, uh, are Judy icing because of your usery. Um, things like that. Um, it even, even in that context, the principle campaign against usury is not directed towards the Jews. Um, and so that I think actually our perception of Jewish usery is really shaped much by a modern, uh, context of political antisemitism, uh, from the late 19th century on
Speaker 2:
40:59
and, and so, yeah, I mean, just to like really heighten the point that you're making there is that money is central to the construction. I mean, you know, there's a lot of, uh, there's a lot of inversions along the way, but of the way in which modernity thinks about, um, Jews and, and how antisemitism has developed. And I think what, what you've suggested and what Toda Skine has suggested, uh, as well, is that the drawing of the line of what the community represents and who's allowed in it. Um, it, you know, a lot of that work gets done in this period and, and money is central, uh, to that question and politicizing that is in, on from a historical perspective, um, is really, really important. And so that I wanted to ask you, given given that, how, how did the, um, the myth about the Jewish medieval moneylender, how did that change shape under, uh, modern fascisms and totalitarianisms specifically? How, how did the Nazis mobilize and reshape it?
Speaker 4:
42:17
Right. Um, uh, there's a really good example. If I can go from a kind of the, the macro down to the micro, um, example in the thinking about court shoes during the 1920s, thirties and forties. Um, and there's a famous, um, rather famous novel, um, by few stronger, uh, written about one of the most famous, uh, court shoes, uh, known as you'd Zeus, Mr Rick. Quite a sympathetic, uh, novel. Um, but it spurs a lot of, um, um, a lot of other accounts. So, um, there's a first archival study, uh, done by Sama Stern. There's a, uh, play versions and there's a film, uh, that's made in, I think it's made in England, um, in the late thirties, um, which is, uh, very, uh, very, very sympathetic portrait of, uh, Youtube, um, as a man. And it's the same kind of narrative then that is taken and, uh, appropriated by the Nazis and made into, um, one of the most viciously antisemitic of films, um, known as you do so much.
Speaker 4:
43:41
Um, one that, um, I don't know if it still is today, but for many, many years it was banned, um, in post postwar Germany. Um, something that was thought to have been seen by millions of people to have been shown at, um, uh, you know, like Hitler, youth, Youth Evenings, um, and so on. So if you look at those two films, you could see in the second one that you, Zeus is demonized as, um, actually as a rapist. Um, uh, who is, uh, um, after, uh, the beautiful German blonde. Um, so there's, um, there's, uh, there's demonization and, and other kinds of accusations that are, that are brought together, uh, there, um, [inaudible] so I don't know if that quite answers your question. Yeah, that's me. It's a really striking example of how, how this kind of narrative can shift. Another example would be the fact, uh, which is often often noted that, uh, choose, um, Nazi Germany were demonized, um, both as hyper capitalist and as Rabid Marxists. Right? How you can be both at once. Nobody's ever figured out. [inaudible]
Speaker 1:
45:34
[inaudible]
Speaker 4:
45:42
[inaudible] court shoe is interesting because in the, in the 30s, it really becomes a kind of locust for these struggles between anti-semites and, um, and, and German Jews. Um, over the question of Jewish emancipation, Jewish inclusion in the nation. Um, and the, the reason they become a kind of a touchstone is that they are seen as the precursors of emancipation in the sense that they were allowed to dress, um, without a distinctive Jewish garb to participate in court society. Um, they became core, these individuals became quite, quite wealthy and, um, a number of them, but not all of them would shed, uh, their, uh, religious practices and, and certainly their religious dress and become, um, art patrons and collectors and so on. So really they figure in a period when integration wasn't yet allowed as an integrated, um, precursor for choose as a whole. Um, but that very same kind of image of them then becomes for Nazi thinkers.
Speaker 4:
47:10
A great example of how, um, Jews can present one face to the world and yet are something else. So that kind of falseness, the fakeness, um, that's there so that, um, so that they become then a negative locus for that mover, for that modernizer that's line outside. And I haven't done this work, but I would, I would speculate that perhaps it may be something worth researching, whether the Nazi ideas aren't grounded in that notion of a stages theory, um, of economic development in which all studies go through these stages. And the same sequence arriving at, um, uh, you know, a fully developed, uh, economy at the end of that, that role. And, uh, that they are the Nazi, uh, thinkers in other words, are drawing from that German historical school, which itself was quite follows medic. Um, they're drawing the nation of the Jews as that outside agent that is effecting the modernization.
Speaker 4:
48:30
Um, and, and, and one of the, I think one of the underlying elements, um, whether it's by this medic antisemitic, um, is that the notion that, uh, court choose Jewish bankers. Um, in the medieval period, Jewish money lenders represent the Jewish community as a whole. They stand in for all other Jews and therefore one can say the Jews, quote unquote, had a powerful economic role in Europe. Um, so that's, that's, that's one piece of it. And then we have to pay attention though also to the fact that there's a process of racialization that's going on. Um, where Jewishness is, is being redefined not as a religion but really as a racial, uh, national, uh, essence, um, which is alien from European, uh, peoples and alienated from European political in class structures.
Speaker 3:
49:37
So I want to give you a chance to potentially put something into relief that feels to me like, um, uh, at the level of the larger stakes of your, your project and your claims, which is, um, we've long known that the Jew as a figure, uh, has played the role of escape goat and that, that role, um, that figure and that sort of phantom if you will, um, uh, played a central role in, um, various moments and the rise of modern antisemitism. And maybe we could say culminating, uh, at a moment, uh, uh, with World War II. Um, but how does your rethinking of the myth of the Jewish money lender and, and really taking us outside of that Meta narrative frame, how does it, how does it rethink the critique of Jew as scapegoat? Like, what, what is the, how, how would you put that? How would you speak back to the Jewish community, Jewish studies scholars, um, uh, maybe Marxists who also will use the trope of the, the Jew as, uh, as scapegoat. I'm curious if you have any thoughts about that.
Speaker 4:
51:09
Um, yeah. Uh, I, I actually, I would start there with Hannah Arendt's, origins of totalitarianism. Um, and I'm not sure I can pull a quote out of my head about this, but she, uh, starts off with a critique of both the notion of, uh, Jewish scapegoat and the notion of Jews as all powerful and she's seeking for some way in between those two. Um, and in article that I've been working on then goes on to unpack the way in which she appropriates and all them and transforms also the other narrative as the judicial moneylender, um, in order, uh, to answer that question. Um, so my, my reading of her is quite critical, um, at that point. But I think her initial starting point, which is to firmly reject both the scapegoat and the notion of Jewish power, um, is right on. So my own work, I think it does both.
Speaker 4:
52:30
Um, also, and it leaves us, I think in a kind of uncharted terrain in terms of thinking through how we describe of variety and the diversity of Jewish economic life. How do we, uh, narrate, uh, the, um, Jewish history from the medieval period through, uh, the early modern ghettoisation expulsions, uh, to then emancipation, uh, and the opening up of, uh, European life and the integration that happens later. Um, so I think that's, that's really an open question. Uh, it does, eh, you know, as my lovely life companion likes to joke that my book is, uh, rights to use out of history. Um, so it does in fact, um, you know, my argument does argue that Jews are not the central, um, in terms of economic development, um, that, eh, this scapegoating function, right, is not, it is not at least a real part of the narrative.
Speaker 4:
53:58
I mean, there are points where it can be a kind of imaginary, um, accusation, but it's not real because most of you who aren't in fact moneylenders. Um, so it leaves us at a point that's more ambiguous, ambivalent. Um, and therefore I think difficult also to immediately integrate with kind of political action. Um, I was at, uh, the Association of Jewish Studies Conference in December, and one of the things that we discussed in the panel that I was on was, um, uh, choose for racial and economic justice, a pamphlet that they had put out that uses that narrative in order to, um, explain kind of antisemitism, explain, um, Jews to non Jews. Um, and you know, it's, it's, it's used for good purposes and yet, um, I think it's something, it's dangerous because it's easy to, to flip it back, um, um, on its head and turned that all on its head.
Speaker 4:
55:12
So, uh, sorry, I wish I had a good answer for what, what we could substitute, you know, as a, as a kind of new narrative, um, in order to answer that, it doesn't have the kind of, uh, defensive force that, uh, concept of scapegoating, um, does have behind it. Um, and this is, I mean, this is part of my argument to why this narrative become so important in the 20th century. Um, and something that people hold to so strongly is that it really provided the best support against, um, antisemitic, um, rhetoric. Uh, my own feeling is that where we are in terms of post-holocaust, um, moment and the kind of absorption of the, the Holocaust, um, in North America, in Europe, um, has put us in a different place. But no, since I was at the end of the book today, right, the whole world is changed. Um, and so there are ways in which the anti antisemitic rhetoric, um, with new kinds of ashes, Adams is, is really in its head. And my more nuanced careful, um, sort of m big m ambiguous history, maybe it's not, uh, maybe simply the post Holocaust setting that we're in isn't going to be strong enough to allow, uh, uh, allow that to be sufficient. Hmm.
Speaker 3:
56:59
I guess I would say in defense of your project, uh, is, um, you know what, what your companion says is that, you know, you've made, you've, you've made Jews not no longer, you know, the center of history. To me, the, the great achievement here is by you, you've, you've actually integrated Jews into history. Um, and so it's not simply that you leave us with ambiguity and a kind of it, you leave us with, uh, uh, an important critical ambiguity. Um, but it's also you're telling us that there is no outside and there are no figures that are outside and political economy is, uh, and, and, and, and social life and culture is complicated and contested. And, and that if we, if we want to avoid fascistic tendencies or the rise of, of fascistic forms of governance, we have to fully reckon with our mutual inter-relatedness and, and, and our social interiority.
Speaker 4:
58:06
Yeah, that's, that's beautifully put. Um, and I, I mean, I would, um, say I have said, um, on an intellectual level that the revision of our understanding of Jewish history has really important implications for our understanding of economic history more broadly, which I think you all responded to. And recognizing that, um, my, my, my book speaks to common interests with the NMT movement.
Speaker 2:
58:37
I'm currently working on a project on the, uh, Jewish critical theorists, 20th century critical theorist, Siegfried Krakauer. And he has this figure for the, what he calls himself is so called wandering Jew. He calls himself extra territorial and intellectual Sirius have thematized um, this, uh, in talking about critical theory and his ideas, but it seems to me what your work shows and then as you, as you bring it together, as you were suggesting with, uh, heterodox economics, um, there, there's really this reassertion of intro territoriality and, and the ways in which they don't
Speaker 4:
59:23
eliminate or [inaudible] difference, but the different experience of, of being a Jew in the 20th century or throughout modernity and earlier, and I think as Scott was saying, and as soon as your work has shown, it really isn't a difference. That that is categorical in a sense that that changes the way in which we need to think about what our community is and what it represents and who, who deserves a power and a voice in that community. And obviously we would say everyone because everyone's already incited. So I just want, you know, just to highlight, I think your work really, really puts into a sharp relief, the sort of way forward that you were alluding to and it, and, and integrating Jews back into history. Um, I, I think having that in mind is just such a really important, um, idea. Yeah. Thank you for that comment. That's a wonderful way to see my, my own thinking, expanding for beyond orders that I had imagined.
Speaker 3:
60:40
Um, so I wanna shift gears a little bit, um, and go back to, um, some of the, the origins of, of modern monetary theory and, and charter realism, uh, which was, um, diva. I mean, it has a long history that takes us, you know, all around the world and, and to, to the medieval period and before, um, but in it's sort of high modern form, uh, it was, um, you know, originated or re originated, um, by this, by this figure, Georg Friedrich Canape, uh, who happened to not only be a late 19th, early 20th century German, but he also, um, belonged to the German historical school. Um, that is so response, so much responsible for them. The myth of the, the Phylo Semetic myth of the, the Jewish money lender. And, um, you may or may not have, have encountered or thought all that much about cannot, but you know, his claim was that money is a creature of the state. And, uh, I think implicit in what he was saying was, um, that there is no outside, there is no, there is no external, uh, a private partner relationship that then somehow is absorbed, uh, by the center of the community. And I was wondering if you've encountered up in your work and if you've given much thought, uh, about that
Speaker 4:
62:14
I have encountered cannot in my work as one of the representatives, as you said, of the German historical school, one of the known as the younger, uh, German historical school. Um, and in particular in terms of his model of, uh, the stages of economic development. Um, and, and actually after I, after I was at the, um, the recent MMT conference, I, I were turned home and I was reading up on neo charter wisdom and yeah, discovered, right. The surprising fact that Canape is actually also, uh, you know, a basis for a charter realism. And, um, someone that's spoken about and reference to me a charter realism. And I was really struck by that because it seemed to me, you know, quite kind of contradictory. Um, and I th I don't have, um, I don't have a, um, an answer for you today, but I, I mean I have a hunch, I mean in any kind of issue that would be a great, um, piece of research for an article say, um, and my hunch is this, that, um, he is both he, uh, and, and the way in which, um, tribalism fits into his model.
Speaker 4:
63:47
And again, I'm speaking off the cuff here, haven't gone back to look at this stuff, but is that, it, it, it fits at the end of that sequence of economic stages. Um, so that it's, uh, a manifestation of, uh, the modern form of economy that's at the end of the teleological trajectory. Um, so that, that, that's my guess. And if that's, if I'm right about that, then I think, um, this kind of, uh, tension between the barter myth and Charter Lisen, um, I think raises some critical issues for neo charter was, and for MNC more generally. Um, um, and, and those are really around the issue of, um, whether the critiques MMT scholars are applicable only to nation state models or whether, um, they can be extended in how can they be extended, uh, beyond a nation state. Um, and I think that's a really important question to take up, not only because the EU still exists, um, but because we're at a moment in history where yes, we still have strong nation states, but intellectually I think the thinking is moving to, um, transnational models. Um, and that that's where now in terms of our political structures, where we're, where we're headed, what do you think?
Speaker 3:
65:36
Um, I think those are all, uh, um, like it important and, um, interesting tensions to think about. I will say that in my own experience, the history of charter lists thinking mmm mmm. Sometimes gives up when it comes to history. They'll sort of, yeah, they'll, they'll kind of, they'll put charlatanism in the present and then they'll, um, somehow the, it gets lost at the origin. Um, I will say that, um, in, you know, not, not in MMT one oh one soundbites for the public, but in the, the actual scholarship, um, that, or in a lot of the actual scholarship, I'll say, um, there is a, uh, a less positivistic and much more elastic understanding of, um, of [inaudible] what is meant by a state. And it's not, we don't mean a modern nation state. Right. You know, you might have noticed that I kept using the expression centralized governance.
Speaker 4:
66:44
Okay. Right.
Speaker 3:
66:44
So, so, uh, you know, that can be overlapping. It can be nested, it can be, it can be called different things. It can be organized in a number of ways. Um, but this is sort of just to get away from the [inaudible] mmm. MMM. That, you know, the, the December bedded barter, the disinvested market, uh, and, uh, those, those sorts of imaginaries basically.
Speaker 4:
67:11
Right, right.
Speaker 2:
67:14
I think as you were talking, I was thinking, I had, I had done a little bit of reading a while back of a [inaudible] talking about kidnap. Um, and, and maybe this will illuminate something about Kanab that's maybe only implicit, but it seems like some Bart seems to draw a distinction between commerce, money and state money. And so there seems to be this sense that, I mean, I think as your intuitions suggested that, that, um, there's, there's a contradiction happening and it's happening simultaneously in this sense that, that there is both commerce or commodity money and state money and they both come from private actors who implicitly, right, often Jews or, and the state, and that they're sort of trying to straddle this on both sides in order to say, to not, uh, allow for the incoherence to actually change the way that, that their thinking, at least sambar in this case about the question of, of, uh, where the money comes from.
Speaker 4:
68:20
Yeah, that's, that's a wonderfully illuminating comment. Um, and it, it, uh, brings to my mind, um, also a distinction that I've found, um, troubling as well. I think our kind of runs kind of alongside that one, which is the distinction between credit, uh, for consumption and credit for production. Um, so the one is highly about the second is highly valued and the first is, um, not, which ignores, um, to get back to Carl Palani. Um, right. Really the basic definition of economy, right? Which, um, really hinges on consumption, right? We're, we're, we're not economic actors in order to make profits, but, um, in order to, to live,
Speaker 2:
69:13
right. And that that consumption is inextricable from the production and the allocation of credit for such production. Exactly.
Speaker 3:
69:23
Well, I'm curious maybe for a, maybe for a final question, if we could come back to the, to the present moment. And I mean, I don't, I don't think anybody here is, uh, you know, uh, an expert, uh, you know, political scientists or political theorist who has, you know, mapped all, all of what's going on right now across the globe. But as you, as you noted, we're, we're at a moment of where we're seeing the rise of various kinds of neo, neo fascisms. And you mentioned that, um, those neo fascism, some of them are include, uh, and, and are, are turning upon the figure of the, um, um, uh, you know, and the negative figure of the Jew. And I'm curious if, if we could just, uh, zoom in a bit, uh, and, uh, do you, do you have any examples of that? And then, um, also I'm curious if you've noticed, um, I guess are there, are there other examples of rising the, uh, fascisms that don't call upon, uh, the figure of the Jew? Um, and if they don't, what, how are they working and are they maybe working in the same kind of Meta narrative and frame, but without, without naming the Jew specifically? I'm just Kinda, I'm just kinda curious if you've been thinking about, um, the present u political context.
Speaker 4:
70:51
Right. I have, I would say that a number of events I think in, in Hungary are particularly disturbing. Um, and that the kind of neo fascism there has gone, um, much further than we've seen. Um, and other in other areas, I'm having trouble thinking of a specific instance right now that that would be a good example, um, of the antisemitism, um, there. Um, but I'll, I'll, so I'll turn to the other sort of side of that question. Um, do I see it appearing in other ways other places? Yes. Um, I think the figure of the Muslim and the Muslim immigrant, um, is really up a much greater target on, uh, uh, than juice, um, in, um, in these new movements. Um, and whether, it's a really interesting question for me, whether there are patterns or tropes, Meta narratives that have moved from right, antisemitism to this anti-immigrant, uh, language or, um, anti Islamic, um, language.
Speaker 4:
72:16
And they're, yes, in certain ways, but I don't think it's the economic ones there. Um, I would say the, um, the immigrant is posed as, uh, an internal danger, right to society in the same way that, uh, the Medieval Chu was, um, that the, uh, immigrant is seen as one that's taking something in that belongs to the citizens of that, of that nation. That's somehow a threat. Um, and that's heightened through the association between, um, is the association that's made unjustly between Islam and, um, and terrorism. Um, so that there are, uh, there are similarities, I guess, structurally, uh, that I see there. Um, and I see very much, um, immigrant populations, uh, not, not only, uh, the Muslim population, but immigrant populations in the U S and Europe. Um, and a very similar situation to, uh, the Jewish population, uh, previously in the history that is marked out as the outsider, uh, the unwanted, um, outsider, um, and so on.
Speaker 2:
73:46
Well, Julie, Mel, thank you so much for coming on Monday on the left.
Speaker 4:
73:51
Thank you all so much. Enjoy the conversation.
Speaker 1:
73:55
Thanks. [inaudible] [inaudible] hello? [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].
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