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New Directions in Jewish Political Thought

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Backbay 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


The categories of Western politics are currently subject to intense critique, from challenges to territorial sovereignty, the emergence of a distinctively modern political religion, and persistent moral questions about the world order posed by economic and racial inequality. This session explores the possibility of recovering strands of the Jewish political tradition that might have something to say about these pressing questions. To do so requires the reconstruction of an intellectual history of Jewish political thought which may also be applied constructively to contemporary life. Questions to be considered include: Can there be a history of Jewish political thought that takes seriously both Jewish distinctiveness and Jewish embeddedness in wider social structures? What ought to be some new conceptual categories of Jewish political thought? Which overlooked thinkers, texts and resources should this project revisit? The participants in this roundtable are scholars at different career stages, from Israel and the United States, who approach these questions from various perspectives. Julie Cooper (Tel Aviv University) has written extensively about Jewish and Christian political thought and is working on a project about the allure of the idea of sovereignty for contemporary Jewish scholars. Alexander Kaye, (the Ohio State University) is exploring the possibility of constructing an account of Jewish political thought along the lines of classic works in Western political thought in the tradition of the "Cambridge School." James Loeffler (the University of Virginia) has recently published a celebrated book about the complicated relationship between Zionism and cosmopolitanism among the Jewish founders of human rights discourse. Yehudah Mirsky (Brandeis University) is researching the meaning of human personhood, in modern Jewish thought, (in liberalism, Zionism and other forms of nationalism,) and the modern discourse of human rights. Samuel Moyn (Yale University) has written several works about the role of religion in the creation of a liberal, rights-based international order, and is exploring resources that might supplement its deficiencies. The moderator, Leora Batnitzky (Princeton University) has written widely on modern Jewish thought and will guide the conversation against the current state of the field of political theology in Jewish studies and beyond.

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