The Jewish Conundrum in World History

The Jewish Conundrum in World History


Alexander Militarev

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781934843437 (hardcover)
Pages: 306 pp.
Publication Date: July 2010

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Following what may be conventionally called the Jewish ethno-cultural model and tracing its performance throughout history, Alexander Militarev’s book is the first scholarly attempt to apply a synthetic, comprehensive approach to the Jewish phenomenon—an alternative to the metaphysical and religious ones—and to evaluate it in a comparative context. In highlighting the unique and disproportionately great Jewish contributions, and the recent Russian Jewish contribution in particular, to human civilization, it poses as its main question: “Why the Jews?” Militarev dedicates his book to the analysis of the Jewish phenomenon, its manifold reasons and consequences. Laying bare the “kitchen” of scholarly research, Militarev embarks on a scholarly adventure akin to a film-noir who-dunnit, complete with intrigue, the need for stringent self-control, inexorable doubts, and the thrill of the chase after the enigma’s solution.

Alexander Militarev is a linguist and cultural anthropologist specialized in Semitic, Jewish, Biblical, Near Eastern and African studies, Professor of History and Philology of the Ancient East at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, ex-president of the Jewish University in Moscow, and member of the American-Russian Project "Evolution of Human Languages" at the Santa Fe Institute (Santa Fe, NM).

This remarkable and thought-provoking work, by one of the leading figures in the scholarly revival of Jewish studies in the former Soviet Union is a sustained reflection on the course of Jewish history and of the impact of the Jews over the past millennia on wider developments. It is one of the most fascinating reflections on this vital topic to appear in recent times.
— Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
A Russian-educated linguist and cultural anthropologist, Alexander Militarev offers in this elegantly written study a novel approach to address the ‘conundrum’ posed by the prominence of the Jews in the unfolding of humanistic cosmopolitan culture. With prodigious erudition, yet with manifest humanity and no small measure of humor, he probes the deep structures of what he calls the ‘Adamic universalism’ inscribed in the biblical lexicon and worldview and which, he argues, continue to inform the cognitive reflexes and ethical sensibilities of Jewish intellectuals.
— Paul Mendes-Flohr, Professor of Modern Jewish Thought, Divinity School, The University of Chicago; Professor Emeritus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem