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Semitism and Capitalism: The Merits and Inadequacies of Middleman Minority Theory in Explaining the Jews Part I

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“The middleman and the host society come in conflict because elements in each group have incompatible goals. To say this is to deny the viewpoint common in the sociological literature that host hostility is self-generated (from psychological problems or cultural traditions).”
Edna Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities,” 1973.[1]Bonacich, Edna. “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94, (589).

An interesting accompaniment to Nathan Cofnas’s 2018 attempted debunking of Kevin MacDonald’s work on Jews was the subtle resurfacing of Steven Pinker’s claim that a more plausible theory of the Jewish historical experience can be found in “Thomas Sowell’s convincing analysis of ‘middleman minorities’ such as the Jews, presented in his magisterial study of migration, race, conquest, and culture.” Pinker first involved himself in criticism of MacDonald’s work in a letter to Slate, in January 2000, where he made the above comment. A mere teenager in January 2000, it was only in the wake of the Cofnas affair that I first discovered and read Pinker’s initial response to MacDonald’s theory. It goes without saying that I disagreed with almost everything Pinker had to say, but I was especially vexed by his invocation of the “middleman minority” theory, something I’ve been familiar with for over a decade and always found strongly lacking. Pinker himself, of course, has relatively little expertise in the area, his only comment on the theme coming from a quasi-memoir on Jewish intelligence written for New Republic. Additionally, his gushing use of persuasive language (“convincing,” “magisterial”) to describe Thomas Sowell’s extremely derivative and now rather dated Migrations and Cultures: A World View (1996) struck me as a wholly contrived inflation of what isn’t really a rival theory at all, and certainly not a Sowell innovation. In fact, the history of “middleman minority” theory, and especially its application to the Jews, has a patchy, chequered, and ambiguous history that is worth exploring in its own right. The following essay is intended to provide such a history, as well as to broadly assess the merits and inadequacies of exploring Jewish history through this lens, and also the ways it complements, and falls short of, Kevin MacDonald’s theory.

History of the Theory

The comparing of Jews with other sojourning or diaspora trading peoples is far from new, and has even been a staple of anti-Jewish writing since at least the Enlightenment. Voltaire, for example, wrote in his Oeuvres Complètes (Geneva, 1756) and Dictionnaire Philosophique (Basle, 1764) that “The Guebers [Parsis in the modern terminology], the Banyans [Indian merchants] and the Jews, are the only nations which exist dispersed, having no alliance with any people, are perpetuated among foreign nations, and continue apart from the rest of the world.”[2]Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, Oeuvres Complètes (Geneva, 1756), Vol. 7. Ch.1. See also Dictionnaire Philosophique (Basle, 1764), Vol. 14 . In the course of his essay, however, Voltaire concluded that, some surface similarities aside, “It is certain that the Jewish nation is the most singular that the world has ever seen.” Bruno Bauer (1809–1882), the German Protestant theologian, philosopher and historian, also used the example of the Parsis and Overseas Indians, writing in The Jewish Problem (1843),


The base [of the tenacity of the Jewish national spirit] is lack of ability to develop with history, it is the reason of the quite unhistorical character of that nation, and this again is due to its oriental nature. Such stationary nations exist in the Orient, because there human liberty and the possibility of progress are still limited. In the Orient and in India, we still find Parsees [sic] living in dispersion and worshipping the holy fire of Ormuz.[3]B. Bauer, The Jewish Problem (Die Judenfrage, 1843) ed Ellis Rivkin and trans. Helen Lederer (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, 1958).

After Voltaire, commentary on the relationship between the economic activity of the Jews and other aspects of their behavior and history, a key theme in modern middleman minority theory, were common points of discussion and debate. Jakob Friedrich Fries (1773–1843), an avowedly anti-Semitic German philosopher, argued in his essay On the Danger to the Well-Being and Character of the Germans Presented by the Jews (1816), that Jews adopted their historical middleman role willingly, out of a hunger for profit and an innate sense of separateness, rather than being forced into it by broader economic structures and contexts (which again are a major focus of modern middleman minority theory). For Fries,


Both in Germany and abroad the Jews had free states where they enjoyed every right, and even countries where they reigned—but their sordidness, their mania for deceitful, second-hand dealing always remained the same. They shy away from industrious occupations not because they are hindered from pursuing them but simply because they do not want to.

Following Bauer and Fries—and before modern scholarship on the subject, the most prominent invocation of ideas similar to modern middleman minority theory can be observed in the work of Karl Marx. In fact, Marx’s essay On the Jewish Problem is an explicit reply to Bauer, with Marx accusing Bauer of “a one-sided conception of the Jewish problem.”[4]K. Marx, On the Jewish Problem (Zur Judenfrage, 1844) ed Ellis Rivkin and trans. Helen Lederer (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, 1958). Marx decried Bauer’s focus on religious matters, perceiving the roots of the Jewish problem to reside instead in resource competition and raw economics. In many of his arguments and assessments of the economic and sociological position of the Jews, Marx anticipated Edna Bonacich (1940–), the Jewish Marxist anti-Zionist sociologist who essentially invented middleman minority theory in its modern form (and whose work will be discussed below), in arguing for a structural-contextual explanation of the middleman role of the Jews. In this view, the historical development of Capital essentially invites and entices certain sojourning or diaspora groups, including the Jews, to adopt lucrative but exploitative and antagonistic roles within society. In the words of Marx, “we recognize therefore in Judaism a generally present anti-social element which has been raised to its present peak by historical development, in which the Jews eagerly assisted.” [emphasis added] These antagonistic roles then generate host hostility, which reinforces ethnocentrism and negative characteristics in the minority, accelerating and deepening conflict.

Marx’s emphasis on economic opportunity and the capitalist superstructure influenced later writers such as the German economist Wilhelm Roscher (1817–1894), Werner Sombart (1863–1941), Max Weber (1864–1920), and Georg Simmel (1858–1918), all of whom attempted in some form to trace the relationship of ethnicity to occupational choice (a major concern of modern middleman minority theory), with particular attention paid to the Jews. In keeping with his flamboyant Marxism, Sombart was closest to Marx’s ideas on the Jews, arguing in The Jews and Modern Capitalism (1911) that Capital had drawn Jews into their influential, exploitative, and lucrative roles in such a comprehensive manner that Jews had become a kind of ur-middleman minority, and thus were both the prime movers of modern capitalism and the very embodiment of exploitative capital itself. Later, in Der moderne Kapitalismus (1913), Sombart claimed that the middleman nature of the Jews had become endemic in society, creating generations of mere “traders,” a bourgeois “Jewish species” whose entire intellectual and emotional world is “directed to the money value of conditions and dealings, who therefore calculates everything in terms of money.” This “spirit of Moloch” compelled the entrepreneur to “make money relentlessly until at last he conceives this as the real goal of all activity and all existence.”[5]W. Sombart, Der moderne Kapitalismus, Munich and Leipzig 1913. This work was published in an English translation by E. Epstein under the title, The Quintessence of Capitalism, London, 1915. For Sombart, the origins of the worst of modern capitalism can be found in the early middleman role of the Jews, their medieval semi-nomadic quest for usury-derived profit and Victorian hawking of shoddy goods being a precursor to modern advertising and the mass production of superfluous and quickly obsolete consumer products.

Max Weber’s interpretation of the Jewish middleman role was slightly softer, with Weber advancing the notion of “pariah capitalism.” Pariah capitalists, who include the Jews as well as the Parsis, the Overseas Indians, and the Overseas Chinese, are groups whose characteristics and situational contexts make them prone to willingly adopt socially negative positions in order to obtain wealth and influence. For Weber, capitalism itself was not intrinsically bad. The Puritans, with their industry and hard work, were held up in Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904/5) as exemplars of positive, “rational” capitalism. Jews, and other pariah capitalists, however, invariably advanced a negative “irrational” capitalism typified by consumer credit, speculation, and colonialism. According to Weber, middleman minorities or “pariah capitalist groups” perverted the essentially good nature of capitalism because of their practice of “dual ethics,” or moral double-standards, which was itself a product of their sojourning nature and situational context. Weber also perceived Judaism itself as reinforcing the Jewish preference for pariah capitalism.[6]W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 5.

[7] W. Roscher, “Die Stellung der Juden im Mittelalter, betrachtet vom Standpunkt der allgemeine Handelspolitik,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft Bd. 31 (1875) S. 503–526.

Softer still were the ideas of Wilhelm Roscher, one of the founders of the historical school of political economy. Roscher was part of the historical economist or European Institutionalist movement (which also influenced Weber) that argued for a study of economics based on empirical work that laid special methodological emphasis on context, rather than logical philosophy. Roscher’s emphasis on context and the historical development of capitalism are exemplified in his 1875 essay “The Status of the Jews in the Middle Ages Considered from the Standpoint of Commercial Policy.”[7] In this essay, Roscher presented capitalism as neither inherently good or bad, and he made the argument that Jews, who like other middleman minorities were economic modernizers, were positive influences and crucial to the development of a burgeoning economic trading system. Gideon Reuveni offers the following summary:


According to Roscher, the modernizing role of the Jews explains the change in attitudes within the social majority: from tolerance and acceptance to exclusion and persecution. In other words, once, in the eyes of the majority the role of the Jews becomes superfluous, resentments towards the Jews become more prevalent. This cycle in relations towards Jews, Roscher observed, was not specific to the relationship between Jews and non-Jews but was rather a general development among many peoples who allow their economies to be administered by a foreign and more highly cultivated people, but later, upon having reached the necessary level of development themselves, often after intense struggles, try to emancipate themselves from this tutelage. According to Roscher, “one may defiantly speak in this connection of a historical law here.”[8]G. Reuveni, “Prolegomena to an “Economic Turn” in Jewish History,” in G. Reuveni (ed) The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship Between Ethnicity and Economic Life (Berghahn, 2011), 3.

Similar to Roscher’s ideas were the theories of the Jewish Marxist anti-Zionist Abram Leon (1918–1944). Leon, a Polish Jew said to have been executed at Auschwitz at the age of 26, published The Jewish Question: A Marxist Interpretation around 1942, in which he proposed that Jews were a “people-class.” For Leon, “Judaism mirrors the interests of a pre-capitalist mercantile class.” He explains,

Judaism was an indispensable factor in precapitalist society. It was a fundamental organism within it. That is what explains the two-thousand-year existence of Judaism in the Diaspora. The Jew was as characteristic a personage in feudal society as the lord and the serf. It was no accident that a foreign element played the role of “capital” in feudal society. Feudal society as such could not create a capitalist element; as soon as it was able to do so, precisely then it ceased being feudal. Nor was it accidental that the Jew remained a foreigner in the midst of feudal society. The “capital” of precapitalist society existed outside of its economic system. From the moment that capital begins to emerge from the womb of this social system and takes the place of the borrowed organ, the Jew is eliminated and feudal society ceases to be feudal. It is modern capitalism that has posed the Jewish problem. Not because the Jews today number close to twenty million people (the proportion of Jews to non-Jews has declined greatly since the Roman era) but because capitalism destroyed the secular basis for the existence of Judaism. Capitalism destroyed feudal society; and with it the function of the Jewish people-class. History doomed this people-class to disappearance; and thus the Jewish problem arose. The Jewish problem is the problem of adapting Judaism to modern society.

Georg Simmel, an ethnically Jewish sociologist, philosopher, and critic, moved in much the same theoretical direction as Roscher and Leon, as evidenced in his famous and still influential essay “Der Fremde” (“The Stranger”) (1908). Simmel argued that certain groups like Jews and other diaspora peoples may be members of host nations in a spatial sense but not in a social sense. They may be in the nation, but not of it. These groups are both near and far, familiar and foreign. This contextual scenario influences the behavior of “stranger” groups by permitting them freedom from convention and allowing them access to an alleged greater objectivity. For Simmel, “the Stranger,” the classic example of which in his estimation is the Jew, is “the person who comes today and stays tomorrow. He is, so to speak, the potential wanderer: although he has not moved on, he has not quite overcome the freedom of coming and going.”[9]As the son of Catholic and Lutheran converts from Judaism, Simmel’s relationship to his Jewishness is fascinating in itself. See A. Morris-Reich, The Quest for Jewish Assimilation in Modern Social Science, (New York: Routledge, 2008), chapter 4. For the influence of Simmel’s stranger minority theory see Werner Cahnman, “Pariahs, Strangers, and Court Jews — A Conceptual Classification,” Sociological Analysis, 35 (1974); C. R. Hallpike, “Some problems in Cross-Cultural Comparison,” in The Translation of Culture, T. Beidelman (ed), (London: Tavistock, 1971); Hilda Kuper, “Strangers in Plural Societies: Asians in South Africa and Uganda,” in Pluralism in Africa, Leo Kuper and M. G. Smith (eds) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); Jack H. Porter, “The Urban Middleman: A Comparative Analysis,” Comparative Social Research, 4 (1981); R. A. Reminick, “The Evil Eye Belief among the Amhara of Ethiopia,” Ethnology, 13 (1974), W. Shack and E. Skinner, Strangers in African Societies (Berkelely: University of California Press, 1979); Paul Siu, “The Sojourner,” American Journal of Sociology, 58, (1952). This freedom, argues Simmel, makes “the Stranger” ideally suited to fulfil the role of middleman minority.[10]J. Stone, Racial Conflict in Contemporary Society, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 96. As with Roscher’s theory, which is markedly contradicted in several key areas of the historical record, there are a number of obvious logical and evidential problems with Simmel’s theory, and these will be discussed later.

Between Simmel’s 1908 essay and the 1970s, middleman minority theories continued to be advanced. With the exception of Philip Curtin and his Cross-cultural Trade in World History (1984), these efforts were developed primarily by Jewish scholars, and overwhelmingly within the context of trying to explicitly or implicitly explore, explain, or offer apologetics for the Jewish experience. For example, Abner Cohen (1921–2001), was an anthropologist at the University of London, who advanced, in his influential work Urban Ethnicity (1974) and numerous other publications, the idea that there are “trading diasporas.”[11]This coinage is frequently attributed to Philip Curtin, who employs the term in his Cross-cultural Trade in World History (1984), but the term was in use by Cohen, within a strict thematic sense, as early as the latter’s 1974 chapter “Cultural Strategies in the Organisation of Trading Diasporas,” in C. Meillassoux (ed) The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa (London, 1971). Of particular interest are Cohen’s ideas about “visibility strategies” pursued by such groups:


The use of symbols to maintain group boundaries can thus be seen as a cultural strategy. In fact, many groups in traditional and modern societies find that their interests are guarded better through invisible organisations such as cousinhoods, membership in a common set of social clubs, religious ties, and informal networks, than through a highly visible, formally recognised institution. At times, ethnic groups may need to heighten their visibility as strangers to maintain their interests while in other instances they may wish to lower their profile and appear to be an integral part of the society.[12]Quoted in W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 8.

This bears a striking similarity to the sixth chapter of Kevin MacDonald’s Separation and Its Discontents, which is concerned with visibility strategies, especially among crypto-Jews, and concludes with the argument that “this attempt to maintain separatism while nevertheless making the barriers less visible is the crux of the problem of post-Enlightenment Judaism.”[13]K. MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism, 187. In fact, beginning in the 1970s, middleman minority theory began to develop several ideas that dovetail very well with the concept of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the work of Edna Bonacich.

Although the modern refinement of middleman minority theory is often traced to Hubert Blalock’s 1967 Toward a Theory of Minority-Group Relations, the greater scholarly interest has been shown in Edna Bonacich’s 1973 American Sociological Review article “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.”[14]E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94. Bonacich sought to refine and systematize Blalock’s theory within an anti-capitalist framework, essentially making the argument that all group conflict in such scenarios is the result of a rational competition for resources in which group characteristics and interests play a crucial role. A Jewish Marxist and anti-Zionist, Bonacich’s interpretations borrow heavily from Marx, Sombart, Weber, Roscher, and Leon, to the extent that Bonacich essentially concurs that capitalism created opportunities for exploitative middleman communities and the Jews and other middleman minorities, who possess certain predisposing characteristics including dual loyalty and a level of unscrupulousness, willingly and enthusiastically engaged in these roles.

Bonacich is well-known for her work on East Asian middleman minorities in the United States, especially her 1980 monograph The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community, but her earliest work on middleman minorities clearly demonstrates a concern with the Jewish experience.[15]E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980). In her discussion of middleman minorities in the 1973 article, Bonacich describes Jews as “perhaps the epitome of the form.” Some of the key features of the 1973 article include the arguments that Jews and other middleman minorities are essentially economic “teams,” and that these teams rely upon very high levels of ethnocentrism and related social and economic strategies, which in turn enable them to succeed in individualistic societies. Bonacich writes,


The modern industrial capitalist treats his workers impartially as economic instruments; he is as willing to exploit his own son as he is a stranger. This universalism, the isolation of each competitor, is absent in middleman economic activity, where primordial ties of family, region, sect, and ethnicity unite people against the surrounding, often individualistic economy. [emphasis added][16]Ibid, 589.
(E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980).)

Bonacich makes some very interesting, and controversial, remarks on the nature of conflict between middleman minorities and their hosts, with special reference to Jews. For Bonacich, accusations that Jews have simply been scapegoats for the woes of Europeans are based on nothing more than a “surface impression.”[17]Ibid.
(E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980).)
While noting that middleman minorities “are noteworthy for the acute hostility they have faced,” it remains that,


host members have reason for feeling hostile toward middleman groups. … Even the extremity of the host reaction can be understood as “conflict” behavior. The reason is that the economic and organisational power of middleman groups makes them extremely difficult to dislodge. … The difficulty of breaking entrenched middleman monopolies, the difficulty of controlling the growth and extension of their economic power, pushes host countries to ever more extreme reactions. One finds increasingly harsh measures, piled on one another, until, when all else fails, “final solutions” are enacted.[18]Ibid, 592.
(E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980).)
[emphasis added]

Bonacich has also argued that Jews and other middleman minorities do engage in economic and social “dual loyalty,” and that middleman minorities do in fact “drain” resources away from host populations and can become very powerful as a result. This then frequently causes host elites and masses to unite against the sojourning element, a conflict that can escalate rapidly if the sojourning element refuses to give up its monopolies. Bonacich explicitly rejects any idea that “host hostility is self-generated (from psychological problems or cultural traditions),” arguing instead that “the middleman and the host society come in conflict because elements in each group have incompatible goals.” With her apparent justification of host violence against middleman minorities, including Jews, as well as her objective view of certain Jewish characteristics, Bonacich’s theory has been heavily criticized in some quarters, despite its ongoing influence in contemporary sociology. Robert Cherry, for example, has lamented that Bonacich’s ideas on middleman minorities “reinforce persistent, negative Jewish stereotypes.”[19]R. Cherry, “American Jewry and Bonacich’s Middleman Minority Theory,” Review of Radical Political Economics, 22 (2–3), 158–173, 161.

Discussion

Before moving to an assessment of the merits and inadequacies of middleman minority theory in explaining Jewish history, it’s worth reflecting on the history of the theory in light of Steven Pinker’s claim that it represents a rival, or “more convincing,” analysis of the Jewish historical trajectory. The first problem, of course, is that, despite Pinker’s lavish praise, Thomas Sowell is not remotely regarded within scholarship as a leading or original thinker in the area of middleman minority theory. Not only does discussion of middleman minorities form a relatively small element of Sowell’s Migrations And Cultures, but what does appear is highly derivative of the work of Edna Bonacich, Walter Zenner, and others.

A further problem is Pinker’s assumption that there exists a single, unified theory on middleman minorities that will help explain the Jewish historical experience, and that somehow this will also be sufficient to counter the theory of Kevin MacDonald, or at least offer a more convincing framework that would allow MacDonald’s ideas to be dispensed with. As should already be clear from this brief, and incomplete, bibliographical overview, within middleman minority theory there is a plethora of often competing interpretations, as well as a general problem of definitions. Walter Zenner, a key proponent of middleman minority theory, concedes that “we tend to make our definitions and models fit the prototypical group. For decades, the Jews were the archetype.”[20]W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 10. See also W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11–30, 18. Zenner argues that “As a synthetic concept, the phrase “middleman minority” is difficult to define so as to cover all groups so designated.” In other words, for a considerable time, middleman minority theory was built around trying to explain the experience of Jews, with other groups haphazardly mapped onto the theory in way that tried to give the impression of similarity, even where these similarities were thin to non-existent. Bonacich has made roughly the same argument, asserting that middleman minority theory should be regarded as incomplete because it can only point to an “ideal type,” and


In reality there are problems of fit between any actual ethnic group and this picture, problems in establishing which or how many of the traits a population need have before it can be classified as a middleman minority.[21]E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980), 22. See also E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94, 585.

Bonacich, very reasonably in my opinion, proposes that middleman minority theory, of which she herself is a pioneer, is something of a misnomer and should be regarded as little more than “a useful sensitiser to a host of interrelated variables.”[22]Ibid, 24.
(E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980), 22. See also E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94, 585.)
One is therefore pressed by Pinker’s claim to ask not only which of the many strands of middleman minority theories Steven Pinker is praising, but also just how “convincing” and “magisterial” he can find it given the field’s leading contemporary thinkers regard their work in such ambiguous terms.

Finally, it is not at all clear how any of the aspects of middleman minority theory obviate the need for a deeper theoretical framework in which to understand the behaviors and contexts under study. Middleman minority theory, as remarked above, is an incomplete tool, and has little to offer in terms of deeper explanatory value for such relevant key concepts under discussion as resource competition, ecological strategies, visibility strategies, psychological attitudes toward the majority, and social identity theory. One of the strong points of Kevin MacDonald’s work, which is truly cross-disciplinary and unusually well-equipped in terms of the relevant historical literature, is that is does offer such an analysis, and can be argued to fill a lot of the logical and evidential gaps of middleman minority theory. This is not to say that the two frameworks are in opposition, but that the concept of a group evolutionary strategy can be usefully and seamlessly integrated into middleman minority theory, especially in relation to Jews.

It’s been continually remarked by many scholars in the field that Jews should be regarded as either an “ideal type,” “the epitome of the form,” a singular example, or otherwise unique case—even within the context of broad comparative approaches with other trading diaspora peoples. The qualities that have made Jews so unique — cultural, historical, religious, and even biological — are rarely remarked or elaborated upon in sociological studies of middleman minorities, which are often lacking in depth in terms of their historical analysis. As will be discussed below, Zenner, in particular, has highlighted ways in which Jews do not fit the standard middleman minority pattern, especially in terms of their extravagant and influential involvement in the culture and politics of the host nation (see also MacDonald’s Diaspora Peoples on the Overseas Chinese, xlii ff). Unfortunately, middleman minority literature has little to say in terms of further explanatory theory on how or why Jews came to both define and exceed the middleman typology. Here, middleman minority theory not only isn’t a rival for MacDonald’s work, it positively cries out for it.


“American Jews do not fit the sojourner pattern, since their political involvement goes far beyond the support of Jewish causes. … Much Jewish political activity, whether right, center, or left, can be related to a perception of how to make America and the world safe for Jews. American Jewish support for domestic liberalism and internationalism can be interpreted in this way.”
Walter Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of Middleman Minority Theories,” 1980.[23]W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 18.

Merits of Middleman Minority Theory

 

 

The most obvious merit of middleman minority theory is that, like Kevin MacDonald’s theory of a group evolutionary strategy, it places an unusual and welcome emphasis on rational resource competition as the basis for social conflict involving certain minorities. By offering a socio-economic explanation for hostility toward Jews, middleman minority theory represents a unique space within academia where the otherwise ubiquitous “pure prejudice” idea that host hostility is self-generated (from psychological problems or cultural traditions) is summarily and comprehensively dismissed. Although this has not come without criticism, as seen in Robert Cherry’s denunciation of Edna Bonacich’s work as reinforcing bigotry[24]R. Cherry, “American Jewry and Bonacich’s Middleman Minority Theory,” Review of Radical Political Economics, 22 (2-3), 158-173, 161., this emphasis has been able to continue largely untroubled thanks to its advancement under a hardline traditional Marxist interpretive veneer.

Middleman minority theory, especially the variant advanced by Bonacich, also insists that host populations do have interests, and that these interests are genuinely and seriously threatened by middleman minorities who drain away resources. These minorities then use their accumulated resources to build up power and influence, sometimes even to the extent of gaining considerable economic, social, and political monopolies over the hosts. Since these monopolies can be very difficult to dislodge, and since monopolies may satisfy some interests of host populations or segments of host populations, middleman minority theory insists that it is rational and somewhat inevitable that increasingly harsh and even violent measures will be taken against the offending minority. As a result, middleman minority theory offers a far more plausible and objective understanding of group conflict than many of the ideas that dominate the academic discussion of group conflict, especially conflict involving Jews. In addition, the outright rejection of “scapegoat” theories as “superficial,” and the lack of appeals to concepts of victimhood in such a framework, can only be described in the context of the current academic climate as utterly refreshing.

A second major merit of middleman minority theory is the emphasis that some strands place on the characteristics of the minorities themselves. Middleman minority theory contains within it three basic theoretical approaches. Context-based theories like that of Roscher, and revived to some degree by Nathan Cofnas (who is particularly concerned with the urban environment-context), argue that middleman minorities are essentially creatures of the societies in which they are found, and are for the most part created by opportunities, status gaps, and vacuums over which they have no control and which have nothing to do with their inherent characteristics (a slight advantage in intelligence being the only characteristic that Cofnas feels comfortable in applying). Situational theories, like that advanced by Simmel are similar, but place more emphasis on the culturally-located role of the trader, the Stranger, and the “sojourner as trader,” as the determinant factor in the creation of middleman minorities. Culture-based, or characteristic-based, middleman minority theories, however, tend to be more numerous, and more convincing. These theories, like that advanced by Weber and given tacit assent by Bonacich and Zenner, place strong emphasis on the broad range of traditions, ideologies, behaviors, and aptitudes of middleman minority groups.

The most frequently highlighted of such traits within middleman minority theory is ethnocentrism, which again dovetails with the primary emphasis of Kevin MacDonald’s theory. Ethnocentrism is acknowledged as a central factor in the maintenance of self-segregation among middleman minority groups, and is often supported by ideological beliefs such as the caste system, or what Zenner describes as “the Chosen People complex.”[25]W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 18. Ethnocentrism in middleman minorities is presented as crucial to understanding host hostility not only because of the way it facilitates the draining of resources from the host population, but also because of highly antagonistic correlates such as dual loyalty and a willingness to engage in lucrative but morally destructive (for the host) trading. Walter Zenner speaks of a “double standard of morality” that is


Expressed in dealings with outsiders, such as lending to them with interest, unscrupulous selling practices, and providing outsiders with illicit means of gratifying their appetites, while at the same time, denying the same means to in-group members.[26]Ibid.
(W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 18.)

An excellent example of this process in action is the fact Israel is the largest producer and host of international online gambling sites, while making it illegal for its own citizens to use such sites. Of course, we are talking here about a nation state rather than a minority population, but this contradiction, and the nature of Israel within the international community, will be discussed in a critique of the narrowness of middleman minority theory later.

A further merit of middleman minority theory is the heavy emphasis the cultural-characteristic interpretation places on group strategies. Middleman minorities, again with Jews being held up by both Zenner and Bonacich as an exemplar or especially acute case, are said to engage in constantly adaptive activity in order to manage their visibility, ensure their safety, advance their interests, accumulate power and wealth, and entrench themselves ever deeper within the host. Bonacich has indicated that Jews are especially keen to remain entrenched in the West, and the United States in particular, because it is financially and politically lucrative, and only a catastrophic weakening of their monopolies would bring an end to existing strategies.[27]E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583-94, 592. Zenner goes as far as to claim that “much of the content of American Jewish life can be seen as visibility strategies. Strategy here includes both unconscious mechanisms of coping with situations and consciously formulated plans.”[28]W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 23. Zenner speaks of a “dynamic process” whereby Jews minimise visibility to avoid hostility, maximise visibility when pursuing certain interests, and generally work unceasingly to make their image more favorable in the minds of the host. Again, all of this corresponds very well with one of the central themes of the Culture of Critique — the idea that Jewish involvement in certain intellectual movements could be seen in the context of a pursuit of Jewish interests either consciously or in ways that involved unconscious motivations and self-deception. It also maps very closely to MacDonald’s framework on Jewish crypsis and other attempts to mitigate anti-Semitism, advanced in the sixth chapter of Separation and Its Discontents.

Problems in Middleman Minority Theory

Given the prevalence of Jews in the development and promotion of the modern incarnation of middleman minority theory, including Georg Simmel, Edna Bonacich, Abner Cohen, Abram Leon, Walter Zenner, Werner Cahnman,[29]W. Cahnman, ”Pariahs, Strangers and Court Jews,” Sociological Analysis 35, 3 (1974): 155-66. Donald Horowitz,[30]D. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). Gideon Reuveni,[31]G. Reuveni (ed) The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship Between Ethnicity and Economic Life (Berghahn, 2011). Ivan Light, Steven J. Gold,[32]I. Light & S. J. Gold, Ethnic Economies (Bingley: Emerald, 2000). and Robert Silverman,[33]R. Silverman, Doing Business in Minority Markets (New York: Garland, 2000). a reasonable concern might be that middleman minority theory is itself an intellectual “visibility strategy.” Just as it has been posited that Jews tend to support mass migration because it will result in Jews becoming “one among many” ethnic minorities, and thus in their logic less conspicuous and therefore safer, middleman minority theory can act to reduce Jewish visibility by offering the idea that Jews are just one among many diaspora trading groups and their history and behavior is therefore not unique or worthy of special attention. It remains the case that even in those interpretations which highlight negative Jewish behavior and portray host responses as rational (e.g. the work of Bonacich and Zenner), the proposed framework still insists on some level of commonality, no matter how tenuous, with the experiences of other minority groups, and it ultimately places the blame for conflict on a much broader context, often the impersonal historical development of capitalism.

In other words, while the framework can deny that Jews are “victims” of host nations, these theories also deny that host nations are truly the victims of Jewish exploitation. Both are simply argued to be the victims of capitalism, and any sense of individual or group agency is rhetorically dissolved. Again, this acts to lower Jewish visibility and culpability and remains attractive for that reason. There are certainly good reasons along this line of thought for proposing that Steven Pinker’s promotion of the theory over Kevin MacDonald’s ideas has less to do with a serious engagement with the content of the work of Bonacich et al. and significantly more to do with deflecting the entire conversation into an area of discussion in which Pinker feels Jews are less visible.

A major problem with middleman minority theory is that it has a very uncomfortable and unsatisfactory way of handling the obviously unique aspects of the Jewish experience, especially in relation to the unprecedented involvement of Jews in post-Enlightenment Western culture and politics, something for which there is absolutely no parallel among other diaspora trading groups anywhere. As has been discussed, middleman minority theory was essentially first created, consciously or unconsciously, by scholars anxious to find a way to explain the Jewish experience. Attempts to connect this experience, amounting to some two millennia of history, with the much more modern and straightforward experiences of, for example, the Chinese in the Philippines or the Japanese in America, have been doomed to the grossest of generalizations and the clumsiest of associations. This has resulted in a steady stream of admissions within the field that the best way to interpret middleman minority theory is simply that it proposes an “ideal type” (essentially the Jews) with unfortunate “problems of fit between any actual ethnic group and this picture [the Jewish experience].”[34]E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980), 22. Zenner has conceded that the concept has been very “difficult to define so as to cover all groups so designated.”[35]W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 13. All of which calls into question whether this concept possesses any real efficacy as an analytical or predictive tool in a comparative sense at all.

An interesting point of difference between the Jewish experience and that of other diaspora trading peoples is that the latter are acknowledged as possessing a genuine sense of sojourn. In other words, their first generations tend to be truly temporary, semi-nomadic groups who aim to make money before eventually returning to a homeland. A subtly different experience is observed in the Jews, as noted by Jack Kugelmass in his 1981 PhD thesis Native Aliens: The Jews of Poland as a Middleman Minority. For Kugelmass, “the so-called “middleman” character of the Jew is seen as an aspect of the Jewish sense of sojourn, which unlike most sojourns is ideological rather than sociological in nature.” [emphasis added] Another way of phrasing this would be to say that the Jewish sense of sojourn is cultural-biological rather than contextual, and since the concept of sojourning has been a major feature of Jewish life since at least the writing of the Exodus, this difference between other groups is really so stark as to require a distinct analysis — something offered to an unparalleled degree in Kevin MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone. In this analysis, it would appear that, unlike a relatively small number of other peoples who have merely adopted some tactics in order to pursue a specific diaspora trade role, Jews have, from time immemorial, given themselves over entirely to these strategies as an entire way of life — the “middleman minority” as a raison dêtre.

This absolutely crucial distinction is linked to the remarkable fact of contemporary political life that the state of Israel exists largely according to the same strategies employed by Jews when in a diaspora condition. As stated above, an excellent example of the dual morality process in action is the fact Israel is the largest producer and host of international online gambling sites, while making it illegal for its own citizens to use such sites. The creation of the state of Israel has also exacerbated, rather than ameliorated, issues of dual loyalty in Jewish minority populations, even if these issues are more or less kept out of the public eye through diplomatic soothing around Israeli spying and the maintenance of certain taboos in the mass media. Israel itself would appear to be a kind of middleman minority archetype within the international community, cultivating close and lucrative ties with the elite (the United States), while engaging in more or less unchallenged exploitative and oppressive activities against lower social orders (Palestinians, and other vulnerable or indebted population groups in South America).

Like the “ideal type” of middleman minority, Israel heavily drains the resources even of its allies (U.S. military and diplomatic aid) and pursues its strategies in a ceaseless quest for security, while maintaining moral double standards and being rather shameless in engaging in what Zenner has described as the classic overrepresentation of middleman minorities in “morally shady” activities.[36]Ibid, 15.
(W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 13.)
Even in recent years, Israel has become notorious in the international organ trade, moneylending, and allegations of humanitarian atrocities. Israeli newspapers have also described their country as a “monopoly nation” due to the intense tendency towards economic monopoly in the country’s business life — a key feature of middleman minority life that Jews appear to continue to embody to an extent unparalleled in any other ethnic group. Further evidence for the apparently deep-seated, rather than contextual, nature of “middleman” traits in Jews might be found in studies indicative of a biological underpinning to Jewish ethnocentrism, such as that described by Kevin MacDonald in the Preface to the Culture of Critique:


Developmental psychologists have found unusually intense fear reactions among Israeli infants in response to strangers, while the opposite pattern is found for infants from North Germany. The Israeli infants were much more likely to become “inconsolably upset” in reaction to strangers, whereas the North German infants had relatively minor reactions to strangers. The Israeli babies therefore tended to have an unusual degree of stranger anxiety, while the North German babies were the opposite — findings that fit with the hypothesis that Europeans and Jews are on opposite ends of scales of xenophobia and ethnocentrism.

As well as dealing poorly with obviously unique aspects of the Jewish experience, a significant portion of middleman minority theory is devoted to context-based narratives that are often in stark contrast to, or completely disproven by, the historical record. With the exception of the work of Kevin MacDonald, which demonstrates a very extensive engagement with works of history, a general weakness in all of the late twentieth-century sociological studies discussed above is the fact that, despite their incredibly ambitious claims about the historical trajectory of capitalism or middleman minority populations, there is a quite serious neglect of any of the relevant historiography. This leads, in the case of the modern adherents of Simmel, Roscher, and Leon, to the constant repetition of error-laden tropes such as the idea that Jews turned to commerce because they were prohibited from owning land (rather than arriving as profit-seeking financiers), that Jews were most often invited into nations by elites seeking a financial stimulus, or that Jews were banished from countries once their position as loan merchant was superfluous. In fact, these three tropes, all of which remove Jewish agency and characteristics from consideration, are essentially the pillars of context-based middleman minority theory pertaining to Jews, and are absolutely crucial to Roscher’s ideas in particular.

The historical record is now acknowledged as more or less complete in relation to the issue of the Jewish ownership of land. It has been conclusively established, for example, that the general trend across Europe was that Jews were in fact able to possess and own land during the centuries immediately following their initial spread and expansion in Europe (c.1000–1300). Restrictions on land ownership were later enacted as penalties for exploitation or as part of a system of elite land transfer—e.g., the desire of the English kings to obtain the land of indebted lesser knights, and doing so by financially compensating Jewish moneylenders for forfeited lands they could no longer legally hold.

One of the correlates of the land ownership trope is the astonishingly naive assumption that land ownership would preclude involvement in financial speculation. Again, the historical record contradicts this. Mark Meyerson’s Princeton-published A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Spain (2010), for example, offers an expansive analysis of Jewish landowners in Spain who “did not necessarily cultivate the land themselves” and combined wine production operations worked by non-Jewish peasants with “lending operations and tax farming.”[37]M. D. Meyerson, A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 111. Pointing to the prevalence of early Jewish land ownership in Poland, France, and Germany, in which Jews enjoyed a “privileged status available to few Christians,” Norman Roth has described the trope that Jews were forced out of agriculture by restrictive laws and the violence of the Crusades as “patently absurd.”[38]N. Roth, Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 2003),

The theory that Jews, and by tenuous implication other middleman minorities, were most often invited into nations by elites seeking a financial stimulus or to fill a “status gap,” is also contradicted by the historical record. The early entry and expansion of Jews in Europe is relatively well-documented, the dominant trend being that Jews either presented themselves before elites in order to solicit business, or that they acted as financiers for conquest and then followed in the wake of the conquerors (e.g., the well-documented role of Jewish financiers in Norman Conquest of England and Strongbow’s conquest of Ireland).[39]J. Hillaby, “Jewish Colonisation in the Twelfth Century,” in P. Skinner (ed), The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary, and Archaeological Perspectives (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003), 36. Ireland’s Annals of Innisfallen (1079 A.D.) record: “Five Jews came from over sea with gifts to Tairdelbach [King of Munster], and they were sent back again over sea.” Unless Tairdelbach (Turlough O’Brien, 1009–86) had undergone a dramatic change of mind, it’s likely that the arrival of the Jews hadn’t been preceded by an invitation. In fact, unsolicited approaches for request to settle and establish financial activities are in evidence from the time of O’Brien to the 1655 “Humble Address” of Manasse ben Israel to the English government.

A very common form of government documentation found in the study of Early Modern Jewish communities are the charters outlining their terms of settlement, and these are very revealing. Rather than act as economic catalysts, Jews are more frequently observed following the trail of already economically improving areas, hoping to profit from their advancement. As Felicitas Schmeider has pointed out, in terms of the German context, “permission to settle Jews in a newly privileged town is one thing kings were frequently, if not regularly, asked for, especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.”[40]F. Schmeider, “Various Ethnic and Religious Groups in Medieval German Towns? Some Evidence and Reflections,” in, Segregation, Integration, Assimilation: Religious and Ethnic Groups in the Medieval Towns of Central and Eastern Europe (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009), 15.

The theory that Jews were banished from countries once their position as loan merchant or general role as a middleman minority was superfluous is also forcefully contradicted by the historical record. Just as medieval Jews perceived that they were the innocent victims of evil Gentiles, so Jewish historiography has overwhelmingly portrayed the expulsions as the result of “rumors, prejudices, and insinuating and irrational accusations.”[41]Joseph Pérez, History of a Tragedy: The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 60. Context-based middleman minorities theories absorbed these tropes and reinvented them in narratives that blamed the expulsions on the fact that Capital had simply exhausted the usefulness of the Jews. Such understandings of the expulsions have only very recently come to be revised, most saliently in the work of Harvard historian Rowan W. Dorin, whose 2015 doctoral thesis and subsequent publications have for the first time helped to fully contextualize the mass expulsions of Jews in Europe during the medieval period, 1200–1450.[42]R. W. Dorin, Banishing Usury: The Expulsion of Foreign Moneylenders in Medieval Europe, 1200—1450 (Harvard PhD dissertation, 2015); R. W. Dorin, “Once the Jews have been Expelled,” Intent and Interpretation in Late Medieval Canon Law,” Law and History Review, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2016), 335-362.

Dorin points out that Jews were never specifically targeted for expulsion qua Jews, but as usurers, and notes that the vast majority of expulsions in the period targeted “Christians hailing from northern Italy.” Jews were expelled, like these Christian usurers, for their actions, choices, and behaviors. What the period witnessed was not a wave of irrational anti-Jewish actions, or for that matter an impersonal reflex of glutted Capital, but rather a widespread ecclesiastical reaction against the spread of moneylending among Christians that eventually absorbed Jews into its considerations for common sense reasons. A number of laws and statutes, for example Usuranum voraginem, were designed in order to provide a schedule of punishments for foreign/travelling Christian moneylenders. These laws contained provisions for excommunication and a prohibition on renting property in certain locales. The latter effectively prohibited such moneylenders from taking up residence in those locations, and compelled their expulsion in cases where they were already domiciled. It was only after these laws were in effect that some theologians and clerics began to question why they weren’t also applied to Jews who, in the words of historian Gavin Langmuir, were then “disproportionately engaged in moneylending in northern Europe by the late 12th century.”[43]G. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 304. The Church had historically objected to the expulsion of Jews in the belief that their scattered presence fulfilled theological and eschatological functions. It was only via the broader, largely common sense, application of newly developed anti-usury laws that such obstructions to confrontations with Jews became theologically and ecclesiastically permissible, if not entirely desirable. And once this Rubicon had been crossed, it paved the way for a rapid series of expulsions of Jewish usury colonies from European towns and cities, a process that accelerated rapidly between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The lack of engagement with developments in historiography is worsened to a large extent by the absence of a truly cross-disciplinary approach in most, if not all, existing middleman minority analyses. This is particularly glaring in the works of Bonacich and Zenner which, while making multiple and apparently crucial references to conscious and unconscious group “strategies,” fail to engage in any kind of historiographical or psychological scholarly contextualization. How exactly such strategies as “visibility strategies” can operate at group level are left completely unexplained and without any substantial evidence beyond common sense observations of Jewish behavior. The lack of a cross-disciplinary approach in such instances doesn’t necessarily mean that these ideas are wrong, or that “visibility strategies” don’t exist, but it does mean that explanations and evidence are still required. To date, the only convincing attempt to fill in such gaps, and offer a truly cross-disciplinary approach (incorporating history, sociology, and psychology) to the idea of group strategies, is found in the work of Kevin MacDonald.

Conclusion

As stated at the outset of this essay, it isn’t at all clear how any of the aspects of middleman minority theory obviate the need for a deeper theoretical framework in which to understand the behaviors and contexts under study. Middleman minority theory, as remarked above, is an incomplete tool, and has little to offer in terms of deeper explanatory value for such relevant key concepts under discussion as resource competition, ecological strategies, visibility strategies, and social identity theory. Middleman minority theory, or at least some strands of it, is useful and valuable in the study of Jews to the extent that it places an unusual emphasis on group conflict as arising from resource competition, the characteristics of Jews (including Jewish ethnocentrism), and the existence of group strategies. There are, however, multiple, serious inadequacies in middleman minority theory, including the possibility that it is in part itself a “visibility strategy,” that is has a general problem of definitions, that it fails to adequately deal with unique qualities of the Jews and their experiences, that it generally fails to engage with the historical record, and that it has no real explanatory or predictive frameworks for many of the ideas it discusses, including group strategies. I am forced to concur with Edna Bonacich that, in regards to the study of Jews, middleman minority theory should be conceived, at best, as “a useful sensitiser to a host of interrelated variables.”[44]Ibid, 24.
(G. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 304.)

Notes

[1] Bonacich, Edna. “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94, (589).

[2] Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, Oeuvres Complètes (Geneva, 1756), Vol. 7. Ch.1. See also Dictionnaire Philosophique (Basle, 1764), Vol. 14 .

[3] B. Bauer, The Jewish Problem (Die Judenfrage, 1843) ed Ellis Rivkin and trans. Helen Lederer (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, 1958).

[4] K. Marx, On the Jewish Problem (Zur Judenfrage, 1844) ed Ellis Rivkin and trans. Helen Lederer (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, 1958).

[5] W. Sombart, Der moderne Kapitalismus, Munich and Leipzig 1913. This work was published in an English translation by E. Epstein under the title, The Quintessence of Capitalism, London, 1915.

[6] W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 5.

[7] W. Roscher, “Die Stellung der Juden im Mittelalter, betrachtet vom Standpunkt der allgemeine Handelspolitik,” Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft Bd. 31 (1875) S. 503–526.

[8] G. Reuveni, “Prolegomena to an “Economic Turn” in Jewish History,” in G. Reuveni (ed) The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship Between Ethnicity and Economic Life (Berghahn, 2011), 3.

[9] As the son of Catholic and Lutheran converts from Judaism, Simmel’s relationship to his Jewishness is fascinating in itself. See A. Morris-Reich, The Quest for Jewish Assimilation in Modern Social Science, (New York: Routledge, 2008), chapter 4. For the influence of Simmel’s stranger minority theory see Werner Cahnman, “Pariahs, Strangers, and Court Jews — A Conceptual Classification,” Sociological Analysis, 35 (1974); C. R. Hallpike, “Some problems in Cross-Cultural Comparison,” in The Translation of Culture, T. Beidelman (ed), (London: Tavistock, 1971); Hilda Kuper, “Strangers in Plural Societies: Asians in South Africa and Uganda,” in Pluralism in Africa, Leo Kuper and M. G. Smith (eds) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); Jack H. Porter, “The Urban Middleman: A Comparative Analysis,” Comparative Social Research, 4 (1981); R. A. Reminick, “The Evil Eye Belief among the Amhara of Ethiopia,” Ethnology, 13 (1974), W. Shack and E. Skinner, Strangers in African Societies (Berkelely: University of California Press, 1979); Paul Siu, “The Sojourner,” American Journal of Sociology, 58, (1952).

[10] J. Stone, Racial Conflict in Contemporary Society, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), 96.

[11] This coinage is frequently attributed to Philip Curtin, who employs the term in his Cross-cultural Trade in World History (1984), but the term was in use by Cohen, within a strict thematic sense, as early as the latter’s 1974 chapter “Cultural Strategies in the Organisation of Trading Diasporas,” in C. Meillassoux (ed) The Development of Indigenous Trade and Markets in West Africa (London, 1971).

[12] Quoted in W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 8.

[13] K. MacDonald, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism, 187.

[14] E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94.

[15] E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980).

[16] Ibid, 589.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid, 592.

[19] R. Cherry, “American Jewry and Bonacich’s Middleman Minority Theory,” Review of Radical Political Economics, 22 (2–3), 158–173, 161.

[20] W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 10. See also W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11–30, 18. Zenner argues that “As a synthetic concept, the phrase “middleman minority” is difficult to define so as to cover all groups so designated.”

[21] E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980), 22. See also E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583–94, 585.

[22] Ibid, 24.

[23] W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 18.

[24] R. Cherry, “American Jewry and Bonacich’s Middleman Minority Theory,” Review of Radical Political Economics, 22 (2-3), 158-173, 161.

[25] W. P. Zenner, Minorities in the Middle: A Cross-Cultural Analysis (Albany: State University of New York, 1991), 18.

[26] Ibid.

[27] E. Bonacich, “A Theory of Middleman Minorities.” American Sociological Review 38, no. 5 (1973): 583-94, 592.

[28] W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 23.

[29] W. Cahnman, ”Pariahs, Strangers and Court Jews,” Sociological Analysis 35, 3 (1974): 155-66.

[30] D. Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

[31] G. Reuveni (ed) The Economy in Jewish History: New Perspectives on the Interrelationship Between Ethnicity and Economic Life (Berghahn, 2011).

[32] I. Light & S. J. Gold, Ethnic Economies (Bingley: Emerald, 2000).

[33] R. Silverman, Doing Business in Minority Markets (New York: Garland, 2000).

[34] E. Bonacich, The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community (Berekely: University of California Press, 1980), 22.

[35] W. Zenner, “American Jewry in the light of middleman minority theories,” Contemporary Jewry, 5:1 (1980), 11-30, 13.

[36] Ibid, 15.

[37] M. D. Meyerson, A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth-Century Spain (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 111.

[38] N. Roth, Medieval Jewish Civilization: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 2003),

[39] J. Hillaby, “Jewish Colonisation in the Twelfth Century,” in P. Skinner (ed), The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary, and Archaeological Perspectives (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003), 36.

[40] F. Schmeider, “Various Ethnic and Religious Groups in Medieval German Towns? Some Evidence and Reflections,” in, Segregation, Integration, Assimilation: Religious and Ethnic Groups in the Medieval Towns of Central and Eastern Europe (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009), 15.

[41] Joseph Pérez, History of a Tragedy: The Expulsion of the Jews from Spain (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 60.

[42] R. W. Dorin, Banishing Usury: The Expulsion of Foreign Moneylenders in Medieval Europe, 1200—1450 (Harvard PhD dissertation, 2015); R. W. Dorin, “Once the Jews have been Expelled,” Intent and Interpretation in Late Medieval Canon Law,” Law and History Review, Vol. 34, No. 2 (2016), 335-362.

[43] G. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 304.

[44] Ibid, 24.

Originally published by Andrew Joyce at Occidental Dissent.

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