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Isaac Breuer’s Political Theory: State, Sovereignty, and Law

Sun, December 13, 12:30 to 1:45pm

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel aims to shed light on the political philosophy of Isaac Breuer (1883-1946), who was one of the main ideologists of the ultra-Orthodox organization _Agudath Israel_. As one of only a few Orthodox thinkers who anchored their rejection of secularism in a broader philosophical system, Breuer developed a religious philosophy that had a key role in the development of the ideology of ultra-Orthodoxy in the 20th century. Yet his large corpus of writings, in German and in Hebrew, put forward multi-faceted and often conflicting positions, along with his unusual biography, including his early involvement with Neo-Kantian philosophy, participation in Weimar philosophical and political discourse, and immigration to Palestine in 1936 – has given rise to divergent scholarly assessments and interpretations.
While Breuer's corpus has been examined philosophically and historically, this panel will focus on his political philosophy. This focus is of interest given Breuer’s prominent position and influence within _Agudath Israel_, as well as his sustained attempts to translate his philosophical positions into practical political initiatives of different kinds in Weimar Germany and Palestine. An assessment of Breuer’s political philosophy will contribute to an understanding of his position within German-Jewish thought and his exact role in the development of ultra-Orthodox ideology. The papers will accordingly examine three essential themes in Breuer's political philosophy: state, sovereignty, and law.
Itamar Ben-Ami's paper explores Breuer's notion of Total Theocracy. Ben-Ami argues that, between 1926-1935, in the face of the accelerating collapse of Weimar, Breuer envisioned a novel Jewish regime marked by religious fundamentalism and negation of liberalism. Julie Cooper will examine the extent to which Breuer presents Jewish theocracy as an alternative to hegemonic Western ideals of sovereignty. Situating Breuer within the broader contexts of Weimar era philosophy, Cooper will highlight affinities between Breuer’s theocratic vision and that of Martin Buber. Dana Hollander broadens the investigation's scope with a conceptual exploration of the function of two terms used for “law,” _Gesetz_ and _Recht_, in German-Jewish juristic-philosophical discourse, comparing Breuer's positions to those of Hermann Cohen and Leo Strauss. Responding to these papers will be Yonatan Brafman, who has explored Breuer’s legal theory as a unique Haredi theory of politics.

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