Myth and Madness: The Psychodynamics of Anti-Semitism

Myth and Madness: The Psychodynamics of Anti-Semitism

by Mortimer Ostow
     
 

The persistence of anti-Semitism and its current resurgence after a brief post-Holocaust suppression, challenge those who study human behavior to locate the causal bases of anti-Semitism and find approaches to combat it. This is an astonishing report of a nine-year study of the psychodynamics of anti-Semitism. Undertaken by Dr. Mortimer Ostow on behalf of the

Overview

The persistence of anti-Semitism and its current resurgence after a brief post-Holocaust suppression, challenge those who study human behavior to locate the causal bases of anti-Semitism and find approaches to combat it. This is an astonishing report of a nine-year study of the psychodynamics of anti-Semitism. Undertaken by Dr. Mortimer Ostow on behalf of the Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund, it puts flesh and bones on the discussion of antisemitism in Sigmund Freud's 1939 classic theoretical study Moses and Monotheism. Its close adherence to case material, and application of psychoanalytic theory to historical data and cultural products, yields new insights into bigotry and equity alike.

By examining prejudiced patients and their myths, Dr. Ostow shows the common threads of anti-Semitism in a variety of national and cultural settings, even under supposed optimal conditions when antisemitism is stringently controlled. The work uses the psychiatric approach, and can be read as a study of how this area of behavioral science reveals the interplay of the individual and the group, cultural background and material opportunities.

The book is divided into five major segments: Psychoanalytic interpretation of anti-Semitism in the past; clinical data on anti-Semitic sentiments in a variety of personal and national settings; mythological dimensions of anti-Semitism and apocalyptic doctrines; specific anti-Semitic myths including pre-Christian early and medieval Christian, "racial" and post-modern Muslim anti-Semitism. The final segment focuses on the pogrom mentality, including the Nazi phenomenon, antisemitic fundamentalism, and black anti-Semitism.

Myth and Madness is informed by an amazing breadth of learning: from biblical exegesis to modern sociology, from close attention to mundane patients to evaluating mythic claims of the loftiest, and at times most dangerous sort. This is a landmark effort—one that will be the touchstone for theoretical and clinical works to come.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Informative, perceptive, penetrating—Mortimer Ostow’s book is a necessary and creative quest for meaning.” —Elie Wiesel “An endlessly fascinating work of psycho-history that contextualizes the genesis of antisemitism in the nexus between individual needs and cultural constructs. Professor Ostow has masterfully distilled his extraordinary collaboration with colleagues over many years into a benchmark of inter-disciplinary scholarship. The result illuminates not only the age-old dynamics of antisemitism but also the shocking resurgence of ethnic hatred since the end of the cold war.” —Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America “This is a landmark psychoanalytic survey and investigation of . . . anti-Semitism. . . . a unique blend of analytic, Judaic, historical and cultural contributions. . . . Dr. Ostow and his research group have rendered distinguished service in providing an informative, insightful, and stimulating study of anti-Semitism. It is recommended to all students of psychoanalysis and the humanities and to everyone concerned with the irrational and anti-social forces represented by anti-Semitism.” —Harold P. Blum, New York University; Vice President, International Psychoanalytical Association "This is an important and necessary book for our times. Concentrating on a study of antisemitism and based on clinical observations and processes, this volume will also be a source book for how to study the unending torrents of racism without overlooking contributory historical, cultural, religious and mythical currents and whirlpools." —Albert J. Solnit, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
Jewish Book World
Informative, thematically organized, psycho-history of anti-Semitism, with emphasis on the era since 1945. Ostow is very careful to base his study on empirical data to the extent that such is possible. Following leads offered by a previous generation of scholars (including Joshua Trachtenberg), Ostow discovers a clear nexus between mysticism, demonology, and anti-Semitism. In eras of intense stress (both individual and societal), this form of "mystical madness" can become a potent force, especially when combined with a "pogromist mentality."
Booknews
The report of a nine-year study of the psychodynamics of anti- semitism undertaken by the Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund. Ostow provides psychoanalytic interpretations of antisemitism in the past; clinical data on current antisemitism; mythological dimensions of antisemitism and apocalyptic doctrines; specific myths throughout history; and the pogrom mentality. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781560002246
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
01/01/1995
Pages:
204

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Mortimer Ostow is president of The Psychoanalytic Research and Development Fund; and professor emeritus of pastoral psychiatry at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He is the author of ten major books in the field, including Ultimate Intimacy: The Psychodynamics of Jewish Mysticism; Judaism and Psychoanalysis; The Psychodynamic Approach to Drug Therapy; Sexual Deviation; and The Psychology of Melancholy.

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