Human Conditions: ‘Anti-Semite and Jew’ by Jean-Paul Sartre

Judith Butler and Adam Shatz

Judith Butler joins Adam Shatz for the first episode of Human Conditions to look at Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 book Anti-Semite and Jew, originally published in French as Réflexions Sur La Question Juive. Sartre’s ‘portraits’ of the ‘anti-Semite’ and the ‘Jew’, as he saw them, caused controversy at the time for directly confronting anti-Jewish bigotry in France and how Jewish people had been treated under the Vichy government and before the war.

Judith and Adam discuss Sartre’s attempt to develop a philosophical understanding of this kind of hatred and the apparent moral satisfaction it brings, and his contentious suggestion that not only does the antisemite owe his identity to the Jew, but that 'the Jew' is a creation of the antisemitic gaze. They also consider some of the criticisms levelled at the book, such as its focus on the bourgeois personality, and Sartre’s definition of Jews in entirely negative terms.

NOTE: This episode was recorded on 5 October 2023.

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