Jewish Thought, Utopia, and Revolution


In response to the grim realities of the present world Jewish thought has not tended to retreat into eschatological fantasy, but rather to project utopian visions precisely on to the present moment, envisioning redemptions that are concrete, immanent, and necessarily political in nature. In difficult times and through shifting historical contexts, the messianic hope in the Jewish tradition has functioned as a political vision: the dream of a peaceful kingdom, of a country to return to, or of a leader who will administer justice among the nations. Against this background, it is unsurprising that Jewish messianism in modern times has been transposed, and lives on in secular political movements and ideologies.
The purpose of this book is to contribute to the deeper understanding of the relationship between Jewish thought, utopia, and revolution, by taking a fresh look at its historical and religious roots. We approach the issue from several perspectives, with differences of opinion presented both in regard to what Jewish tradition is, and how to regard utopia and revolution. These notions are multifaceted, comprising aspects such as political messianism, religious renewal, Zionism, and different forms of Marxist and Anarchistic movements.

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”During an age when we never lack catastrophes but are becoming more and more short of imagination and courage for utopia and revolution, when the idea of universalism sounds most unpopular in a world obsessed with clash of identities, these authors bravely revisit and redefine the notions of utopia, revolution and universalism, through examining Jewish thought, which irreplaceably inspired and informed the thinking and praxis of revolutions in the 20th century, and exploring their universal significance and new potentialities … This collection of insightful essays provides richly diverse perspectives - theological, political, philosophical, and aesthetic - but conveys the same strong message: one always has the right to hope for a better future.” - Dr. Hai Wang, Lecturer in Comparative Literature, Renmin University
Elena Namli, Jayne Svenungsson, and Alana M. Vincent: Introduction
Victor Jeleniewski Seidler: Tikkun Olam— “Repairing the World”: Embodying Redemption and Utopia
Catherine Chalier: Jewish Hope Versus Revolutionary Hope
Mattias Martinson: Adorno, Revolution, and Negative Utopia
Michael Löwy: Utopia and Revolution: The Romantic Socialism of Gustav Landauer and Martin Buber
Jayne Svenungsson: A Secular Utopia: Remarks on the Löwith-Blumenberg Debate
Carl Cederberg: Thinking Revolution With and Beyond Levinas
Alana M. Vincent: Topos and Utopia: The Place of Art in the Revolution
Oleg Budnitskii: Berlin Debates: The Jews and the Russian Revolution
Elena Namli: Jewish Rationalism, Ethics, and Revolution: Hermann Cohen in Nevel
Alexandra Polyan: Reflections of Revolutionary Movements in American Yiddish Poetry: The Case of Proletpen
Jon Wittrock: Nihilism and the Resurrection of Political Space: Hannah Arendt’s Utopia?
Björn Thorsteinsson: Left (in) Time: Hegel, Benjamin, and Derrida Facing the Status Quo
Works Cited
About the Contributors