Sparknotes: Anti-Semite & The Jew

Sartre constructs his landmark postwar analysis of anti-Semitism around four feature characters: the anti-Semite, the democrat, the authentic Jew, and the inauthentic Jew. He presents their interactions as a kind of hypothetical drama. Sartre examines how the four actors in the “drama” create the others, or more precisely, how each character both defines the others and is defined by them.

Sartre first explains that the anti-Semite character represents the most reactionary tendencies of a French cultural nationalist. He hates modernity and sees the Jew as the representative of all that is new and mysterious within society. In this way, the anti-Semite creates for himself a Jew that is representative of all that he loathes. In turn, the presence of the Jew, the object of his hatred, forms the anti-Semite and gives him his very reason for being. In perhaps the most famous passage of the work, Sartre declares that even if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would create him.

Sartre then explains that the democrat is the proud upholder of the Enlightenment, a believer in reason and the natural equality of man. However, the democrat is blind to the true effects of anti-Semitism: he expounds on the virtues of the universal rights of humanity while denying the Jew his identity as a Jew. While the anti-Semite creates the Jew to destroy him, the democrat negates the Jew to pretend the problem of anti-Semitism does not exist. In Sartre’s analysis of the democrat, his contempt for all things bourgeois is plainly evident, as is his rejection of the Enlightenment as the ultimate savior.

Finally, Sartre discusses the Jews themselves, who are divided into two representatives—the authentic and inauthentic Jew—who represent slightly different ways of confronting and dealing with anti-Semitism and contemporary society. Sartre describes all the Jewish people as without a civilization of their own, without a history save for martyrdom and suffering. Thus, they are the perfect candidates for assimilation, wherever they may find themselves in the Diaspora. Both the authentic Jew and the inauthentic Jew, in Sartre’s view, live wholly in the present. The reason they exist in the present, as opposed to the anti-Semite, who dwells in the past, and the democrat, who inhabits the future, is that the anti-Semite has placed them firmly in the here and now. The Jew, Sartre argues, affirms his role in the drama by believing the Jewish identity that is imposed on him by the other, the anti-Semite, who acts as the oppressor.

Sparknotes: Anti-Semite & The Jew

The question for discussion is: What difference exist between Jean-Paul Sartre’s description of ‘the democrat’ and members of the squad or its supporters?

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