Type: Review
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The sociological approach of insiders and outsiders appears to be a prolific one when classifying the roots of anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe and beyond it. As Robert Merton states in Insiders and Outsiders: A Chapter in the Sociology of Knowledge, social change is a key factor in deepening diversity and distrust between conflicting groups and hence making distrust between them more profound. Referring to a wide range of philosophers, mainly Existentialists and their forefathers such as Camus, Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard, he states the philosophical categorization into insiders and outsiders in terms of sociology. As he points out, “Insiders are the members of specified groups and collectivities or occupants of specified social statuses; Outsiders are the non-members”.

According to the opposition between Insiders and Outsiders, outsiders are not simply marginalized but are perceived as hostile to insider group. As Bergmann states in Anti-Semitic Attitudes in Europe: A Comparative Perspective, there is a tension caused by fear that the diversity is going to be annihilated by means of outsiders stepping on insiders’ territory. So, one cause for anti-Semitic attitudes, according to him, is potential danger of identity loss. This means that the very existence of opposition between insiders and outsiders helps maintain the unity of both insiders and outsiders. This diversity and even hostility is a means of keeping stability, which otherwise might be broken based on insiders’ fear that they are going to be merged with outsiders. In conjunction with the above mentioned sociological approach suggested by Merton, the author points out the perception of Jews as “collective threat to social identity”. In this way, the author differentiates a sociological aspect of opposition from the most commonly named cultural and religious identity. Among the most commonly named concerns is suspected exploitation of Holocaust, which makes native European population uneasy about their own social status tarred by history, which they believe is used to extensively and hence makes them choose defense reaction. At the same time Bergmann suggests that the division into insiders and outsiders does not only promoted by the ethnically dominant nations but also by the Jews themselves. Being in the status of Outsiders makes them get certain benefits, achieve higher unity and even be more socially successful.

In his article In Hiding? the Jews of Europe Nick Lambert continues to consider the place of Jews in post-war Europe in the context of their outsider status. He believes that this outsider status has not changed much because of European trend to build society, which is based on the dominant nations’ cultural heritage, where Jews are not included. He believes that cultural and religious factors are crucial as “the constructors of Europe had pursued a Christian vision of Europe, to whom surviving Jews were of little consequence.”.

In his turn, Jonathan Magonet, expresses a critical vision of today’s Jewish community in Europe, which he believes causes its own seclusion. As he states, “European Jewry cannot be effective as a force in Europe unless it becomes a pluralist community”. Because of increasing secularization within the Jewish community, there has been a significant split between its members, as orthodox and progressive groups emerge. As a result, the borderline between outsiders and outsiders becomes internal, which makes Jews less able to face external concerns of maturing inside European society and taking the proper place in it. Hence, the author calls on pluralism as a remedy to unite the Jewish community, which will facilitate the process of overall integration and make its voice strong enough to contribute to building a new Europe.

In Exploration of Jewish Ethnic Identity by Altman, Arpana and other authors, the context of insiders and outsiders is presented in a different way. As a means of paradox, it is stated that Jews are “simultaneously insiders and outsiders, both victims of and members of a privileged class”, with Jewish identity complicated by the need for Jewish people to adapt to the demands of their environments in the form of anti-Semitism”. This dual status of Jews of being both marginalized and powerful within any society in which they function created their specific identity, which is flexible to external circumstances. Because of this even Jewish thinkers cannot reach consensus about the Jewish identity, let alone the factors of heterogeneity within the Jewish community itself. Based on the conducted research, the authors conclude that most Jews have bicultural identities, “that were not mutually exclusive.”. Hence, there is a trend of bridging the gap between outsiders and outsiders, at least in Jews’ self-identification.

In The Origins of Anti-Semitism( 1985), John Gager reflects on historical perspective which created insider-outsider opposition to make life of Jews complicated in any other ethnic community. Referring to the Christian context, the author suggests that the New Testament is the first source when opposition between Judaism and the new religion is put, which serves the basis for further differentiation. He points out that many biblical chapters underline inability of Pharisees understand even the basics of the new teachings because of them being outsiders from the very beginning, that is those who should stay aside. It is noted that ” the peculiar theory of parables is that Jesus used them as a kind of code whose purpose was to convey the truth to insiders while purposely concealing it from “those outside” so they may not understand or be forgiven. This is a harsh passage, presupposing an unbridgeable gap between insiders who understand and outsiders who do not”. The author claims that this initial historical and religious factor created favorable background for split that eventually led to anti-Semitism.

In Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism, the controversy about Jewish identity is covered. As has been mentioned above, it appears that the Jews turn to be both insiders and outsiders to societies to which they belong, which gives several different perspectives of identity and social status. Moreover, because both the Jews as a community and the researchers who are interested in them are not homogeneous at all, this only escalates debate. Thus, it is stated that ” for Jews who can still point to clear instances of anti-Semitic bigotry and discrimination, multiculturalists’ insistence that Jews are American insiders is not only false but an insult to a group of people who have been staunch in their defense of outsider groups”.

Finally, Jefferson in Separation and Its Discontents continues the theme of Jews’ own influence on becoming outsiders in societies. “Jewish breeding, educational, and cultural practices have all combined to produce a tightly bounded in-group that draws upon disdain toward outsiders and fear of infiltration by other races.”. Thus, the author believes that being an outsider can be a useful strategy of survival in the hostile environment and at the same time it reflects fear of assimilation with majority.

Hence, the researched sources demonstrate that there is no consensus between the scholars on the nature of insider-outsider oppositions in the context of anti-Semitism. At the same time it appears that while social, religious and cultural factors are involved, all elements of the system are mutually dependent. Thus, the status of both insiders and outsiders can be considered as psychologically beneficial to the corresponding groups under certain circumstances, as it creates an illusion of keeping their identity.

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