Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts - Volume 5, Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 5753/1993)
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

Jewish Political Studies Review Abstracts

Volume 5, Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 5753/1993)

"Communal Democracy and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish Political Tradition"

Communal Democracy and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish Political Tradition - Daniel J. Elazar

This article describes the emergence of liberal democracy, then compares and contrasts liberal democracy with communal democracy, showing the latter to be a prior form of democratic self-government. It then discusses the two in the perspective of self-government and rights, the two dimensions of democracy. Having given the United States as the best example of liberal democracy and Switzerland as the best modern example of communal democracy, it then goes on to explore the Jewish political tradition and how it is also an example of communal democracy. The article then turns to the crisis of modernity and the Jewish polity and how the modern commitment to liberal democracy won over a majority of Jews even as it posed problems for the Jewish polity, examining classical Judaism and pluralism, looking for accommodations between the two in the contemporary Jewish polity. It suggests a series of accommodations that have been developed, especially for less traditionally observant Jews, and examines their implications for the Jewish political tradition. In conclusion the article suggests that a bridging between modern conceptions of liberal democracy and premodern conceptions of communal democracy has begun and that one way to help that bridging would be for Jews to turn to the concept of federal liberty as it was developed by the English Puritans and their heirs out of the biblical tradition, at the beginning of the modern epoch, as a source of ideas and directions to pursue.

The Attitude Towards Democracy in Medieval Jewish Philosophy - Avraham Melamed

Medieval Jewish thought, following Platonic and Muslim political philosophy, on the one hand, and halakhic concepts, on the other, was basically, although reluctantly, monarchist, and inherently anti-democratic. It rejected outright what we term here as the ancient Greek variety of liberal democracy, which went against its basic philosophical and theological assumptions.

Democracy and Judaism: The Question of Equality - Martin Sicker

This essay considers the place of democratic ideas within the context of Judaic political thought, with special reference to the idea of equality. The views of Louis Finkelstein, Simon Federbusch, and Sol Roth on this question are considered. Distinctions are drawn between descriptive and prescriptive concepts of equality, as well as between absolute equality and the uniquely Judaic concept of infinite human value. Also discussed is the conflict between complete equality and absolute liberty and its resolution in the prescriptive concept of equality of negative liberty. The essay concludes that although there are fundamental ideological differences between democracy and the religious and ethnical system of Judaism, the democratic form of government has the greatest current potential for accommodating the Judaic search for higher values.

From Private Rights to Public Good: The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism in Judaic Perspective - Alan Mittleman

Contemporary communitarian thought critiques liberalism for the latter's anemic conception of community. Liberalism requires a doctrine of community and common good in order to ground its predilection for distributive justice. For communitarians, liberalism here tries to square a circle. Mishnah, Talmud, and Maimonides anticipate this contempoorary debate by conceiving of community and common good in a way thick enough to allow for distributive justice, yet limited enough to preserve individual rights.

Communal Democracy, Modernity, and the Jewish Political Tradition - Robert A. Licht

This essay connects the theme of communal democracy and the Jewish political tradition with the twin themes of nationalism and modernity. The modern idea of communal democracy, it is argued, is best understood within the context of the modern phenomenon of nationalism. In Part I, the emergence and meaning of the modern nation and nationalism is explored in Alexis de Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the French Revolution and Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism. Part II revises Gellner's understanding of modernity to include a non-historicist appreciation of the founding ideas of modernity, and the new sciences of nature and of politics from which they issue. The new conventions based on the new sciences make inevitable the "crisis of identity" that is characteristic of modernity, and the idea of a "primordial community" is vitiated. This crisis is not only one of the roots of ideological nationalism, but also the modern idea of non-political "freedom," or the will to self- liberation. Part III discusses the fate of the Jewish political tradition within modernity. It is argued that the Jewish political tradition contains an intrinsic natural principle of political liberty, t'shuvah, that addresses the decay, under the impact of modernity, of the other two principles of political liberty, virtue and self-interest.