The Schmooze

The Meaning of Money

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Many moons ago, when I was a graduate student in Jewish history happily spending my days doing little else but reading, one of the most intriguing books I encountered was not Maimonides’ “Guide to the Perplexed,” or “Transactions of the Paris Sanhedrin” or, for that matter, Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” but Werner Sombart’s “The Jews and Economic Life.”

Published in German in 1911, this work sought to account for why, time and again throughout history, the Jews were to be found on one side, and one side only, of the ledger book — the side that placed a premium on money, on matters mercantile, rather than on agriculture and the production of organic matter. How was it, Sombart asked, that the Jews seemed characterologically drawn to capitalism?

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The Meaning of Money

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