This is me with my co-editors, in the middle of yesterday afternoon, hard at work on Jewish Thought, Utopia and Revolution. The book is in its final stages of production–we’ve edited all of the chapters into shape, made all of the necessary checks for style and consistency, agreed the final running order, filled out most of the marketing questionnaire (don’t laugh, that ate up most of the time between this photograph being taken and supper!), and outlined the introduction (with agreement regarding exactly who is writing which bits). This last task has involved a shift in the platform of the collaboration from Dropbox to Google Docs, so that we can all have the same document open and work on our little chunks without running into version conflicts. It’s not too many years ago that part of our meeting agenda this weekend would have been working out a precise schedule by which each person would finish their bit and email it to the next one.
I will write more about the book itself as the publication deadline draws near; suffice to say, as you may discern from the title, the focus is on the Jewish underpinnings of twentieth-century political philosophies; this means that the Judaism on the table is, largely, a universalised (and often, though not necessarily, secularised) philosophy of history, rather than the particular covenantal model that is more recognisable as religious Judaism. In this regard, the book does speak to the old question of what is “Jewish” about “Modern Jewish Thought”–although the latter is not a formulation that any of the authors in the volume use to identify their own field of research; very few of the writers in the volume are specialists in Judaism per se, but rather specialists in their own fields (philosophy, history, political science, literary studies) who find that thinkers who were formed by the strange circumstances of being Jewish in early 20th century Europe have a very important contribution to offer to those fields. There is something deeply satisfying to me in being able to see Judaism treated not as an entirely separate object of study that should be kept hemmed off in its own special space, but as a necessary precondition for understanding the larger movements in the world of ideas.