Hitler, Hicks, Nietzsche and Nazism

Nietzsche and the Nazis: A Personal View by Stephen Hicks (Ockham’s Razor Publishing 2010) 

Scholarly (and not so scholarly) interpretations of Nietzsche always remind me somewhat of biblical interpretation

In both cases, the interpretations always seem to say at least as much about the philosophy, worldview and politics of the person doing the interpretation as they do about the content of the work ostensibly being interpreted. 

Just as Christians can, depending on preference, choose between, say, Exodus 21:23–25 (an eye for an eye) or Matthew 5:39 (turn the other cheek), so authors of diametrically opposed political and philosophical worldviews can almost always claim to find something in Nietzsche’s corpus of writing to support their own perspective. 

Thus, whereas German National Socialists selectively quoted passages from Nietzsche that appear critical of Jews, so modern apologists cite passages that profess great admiration for the Jewish people, and other passages undoubtedly highly critical both of Germans and anti-Semites.  

Similarly, in HL Mencken’s The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche appears as an aristocratic elitist, opposed to Christianity, Christian ethics, egalitarianism and herd morality, but also as a scientific materialist—much like, well, HL Mencken himself. 

Yet, among leftist postmodernists, Nietzsche’s moral philosophy is largely ignored, and he is cited instead as an opponent of scientific materialism who rejects the very concept of objective truth, including scientific truth—in short, a philosophical precursor to postmodernism. 

There are indeed passages in Nietzsche’s work that, at least when quoted in isolation, can be interpreted as supporting any of these mutually contradictory notions. 

In his book Nietzsche and the Nazis, professor of philosophy Stephen Hicks discusses the association between the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche and the most controversial of the many twentieth century movements to claim Nietzsche as their philosophical precursor, namely the National Socialist movement and regime in early- to mid-twentieth century Germany. 

Since he is a professor of philosophy rather than a historian, it is perhaps unsurprising that Hicks demonstrates a rather better understanding of the philosophy of Nietzsche than he does of the ideology of Hitler and the German National Socialist movement. 

Thus, if the Nazis can be accused of misinterpreting, misappropriating or misrepresenting the philosophy of Nietzsche, Hicks can claim to have outdone even them—for he has managed to misrepresent, not only the philosophy of Nietzsche, but also that of the Nazis too. 

Philosophy as a Driving Force in History 

Hicks begins his book by making a powerful case for the importance of philosophy as a force in history and as a factor in the rise of German National Socialism in particular. 

Thus, he argues: 

The primary cause of Nazism lies in philosophy… The legacy of World War I, persistent economic troubles, modern communication technologies, and the personal psychologies of the Nazi leadership did play a role. But the most significant factor was the power of a set of abstract, philosophical ideas. National Socialism was a philosophy-intensive movement” (p10-1). 

This claim—namely, that “National Socialism was a philosophy-intensive movement”—may seem an odd one, especially since German National Socialism is usually regarded, not entirely unjustifiably, as a profoundly anti-intellectual movement. 

Moreover, to achieve any degree of success and longevity, all political movements, and political regimes, must inevitably make ideological compromises in the face of practical necessity, such that their actual policies are dictated at least as much pragmatic considerations of circumstance, opportunity and realpolitik as it is by pure ideological dictate.[1]

Yet, up to a point, Hicks is right. 

Indeed, Hitler even saw himself as, in some ways, a philosopher in his own right. Thus,  historian Ian Kershaw, in his celebrated biography of the German Führer, Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, observes: 

“In Mein Kampf, Hitler pictured himself as a rare genius who combined the qualities of the ‘programmatist’ and the ‘politician’. The ‘programmatist’ of a movement was the theoretician who did not concern himself with practical realities, but with ‘eternal truth’, as the great religious leaders had done. The ‘greatness’ of the ‘politician’ lay in the successful practical implementation of the ‘idea’ advanced by the ‘programmatist’. ‘Over long periods of humanity,’ he wrote, ‘it can once happen that the politician is wedded to the programmatist.’ His work did not concern short-term demands that any petty bourgeois could grasp, but looked to the future, with ‘aims which only the fewest grasp’… Seldom was it the case, in his view, that ‘a great theoretician’ was also ‘a great leader’… He concluded: ‘the combination of theoretician, organizer, and leader in one person is the rarest thing that can be found on this earth; this combination makes the great man.’ Unmistakably, Hitler meant himself” (Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris: p251–2). 

Moreover, philosophical ideas have undoubtedly had a major impact on history in other times and places. 

Thus, for example, the French revolution and Bolshevik Revolution may have been triggered and made possible by social and economic conditions then prevailing. But the regimes established in their aftermath were, at least in theory, based on the ideas of philosophers and political theorists.  

Thus, if the French revolution was modelled on the ideas of thinkers such as Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire, and the Bolshevik Revolution on those of Marx, who then were the key thinkers, if any, behind the National Socialist movement in Germany? 

Hicks, for his part, tentatively ventures several leading candidates: 

Georg Hegel, Johann Fichte, even elements from Karl Marx” (p49).[2]

In an earlier chapter, as part of his attempt to argue against the notion that German National Socialism had no intellectual credibility, he also mentions several contemporaneous thinkers who, he claims, “supported the Nazis long before they came to power” and who could perhaps be themselves be considered intellectual forerunners for National Socialism, including Oswald Spengler, Martin Heidegger, and legal theorist Carl Schmitt (p9).[3]

Besides Hitler himself, and Rosenberg, each of whom considered themselves philosophical thinkers in their own right, other candidates who might merit honourable (or perhaps dishonourable) mention include Hitler’s own early mentor Dietrich Eckart, racial theorists Arthur De Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the American Madison Grant, biologist Ernst Haeckel, geopolitical theorist Karl Haushofer, and, of course, the composer Richard Wagner – though most of these are not, of course, philosophers in the narrow sense.  

Yet, at least according to Hicks, the best known and most controversial name atop any such list is almost inevitably going to be Friedrich Nietzsche (p49). 

Nietzsche’s Philosophy 

Although the association between Nietzsche with the Nazis continues to linger large in the popular imagination, mainstream Nietzsche scholarship in the years since World War II, especially the work of influential Jewish philosopher Walter Kaufmann, has done much rehabilitate the reputation of Nietzsche, sanitize his philosophy and absolve him of any association with, let alone responsibility for, Fascism or National Socialism. 

Hick’s own treatment is rather more balanced. 

Before directly comparing and contrasting the various commonalities and differences between Nietzsche’s philosophy and that of the National Socialist movement and regime, Hick devotes one chapter to discussing the political philosophy and ideology of the Nazis, another to discussing their policies once in power, and a third to discussion of Nietzsche’s own philosophy, especially his views on morality and religion. 

As I have already mentioned, although Nietzche’s philosophy is the subject of many divergent interpretations, Hicks, in my view, mostly gets Nietzsche’s philosophy right. There are, however, a few problems.

Some are relatively trivial, perhaps even purely semantic. For example, Hicks equates Nietzsche’s Übermensch with Zarathustra himself, writing:

Nietzsche gives a name to his anticipated overman: He calls him Zarathustra, and he names his greatest literary and philosophical work in his honor” (p74)

Actually, as I understood Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra (which is to say, not very much at all, since it is a notoriously incomprehensible work, and, in my view, far from Nietzsche’s “greatest literary and philosophical work”), Nietzsche envisaged his fictional Zarathustra, not as himself the Übermensch, but rather as its herald and prophet.

Indeed, to my recollection, not only does Zarathustra never himself even claim to embody the Übermensch, but he also repeatedly asserts that the most contemporary man, Zarathustra himself presumably included, can ever even aspire to be is a ‘bridge’ to the Übermensch, rather than the Übermensch himself.

A perhaps more substantial problem relates to Hick’s understanding of Nietzsche’s contrasting master’ and ‘slave moralities. Hicks associates the former with various traits, including:  

Pride, Self-esteem; Wealth; Ambition, boldness; Vengeance; Justice… Pleasure, Sensuality… Indulgence” (p60). 

Most of these associations are indeed unproblematically associated with Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’, but a few require further elaboration. 

For example, it may be true that Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’ is associated with the idea of “vengeance” as a virtue. However, associating the related, but distinct concept of “justice” exclusively with the master morality as Hicks does (p60; p62) strikes me as rather more questionable. 

After all, the ‘slave morality’ of Christianity also concerns itself a great deal with “justice”. It just has a different conception of what constitutes justice, and also sometimes defers the achievement of “justice” to the afterlife, or to the Last Judgement and coming Kingdom of God (or, in pseudo-secular modern leftist versions, the coming communist utopia). 

Similarly problematic is Hicks’s characterization of Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’ as championing “indulgence”, as well as “pleasure [and] sensuality”, over “self-restraint” (p62; p60). 

This strikes me as, at best, an oversimplification of Nietzsche’s philosophy 

On the one hand, it is true that Nietzsche disparages and associates with ‘slave morality’ what Hume termed ‘the monkish values’, namely ideals of self-denial and asceticism. He sees them as both a sign of weakness and a denial of life itself, writing in Twilight of the Idols:  

To attack the passions at their roots, means attacking life itself at its source: the method of the Church is hostile to life… The same means, castration and extirpation, are instinctively chosen for waging war against a passion, by those who are too weak of will, too degenerate, to impose some sort of moderation upon it” (Twilight of the Idols: iv:2.). 

The saint in whom God is well pleased, is the ideal eunuch. Life terminates where the ‘Kingdom of God’ begins” (Twilight of the Idols: ii:4). 

Yet it is clear that Nietzsche does not advocate complete surrender to indulgence, pleasure and sensuality either. 

Thus, in the first of the two passages quoted above, he envisages the strong as also imposing “some sort of moderation” without the need for complete abstinence. 

Indeed, in The Antichrist, Nietzsche goes further still, extolling: 

The most intelligent men, like the strongest [who] find their happiness where others would find only disaster: in the labyrinth, in being hard with themselves and with others, in effort; their delight is in self-mastery; in them asceticism becomes second nature, a necessity, an instinct” (The Antichrist: 57) 

Indeed, advocating complete and unrestrained surrender to indulgence, sensuality and pleasure is an obviously self-defeating philosophy. If someone really completely surrendered himself to indulgence, he would do presumably nothing all day except masturbate, shoot up heroin and eat cake. He would therefore achieve nothing of value. 

Thus, throughout his corpus of writing, Nietzsche repeatedly champions what he calls self-overcoming

In short, to be effectively put into practice, the Nietzschean Will to Power necessarily requires willpower

Individualism vs Collectivism (and Authoritarianism) 

Another matter upon which Hicks arguably misreads Nietzsche is the question the extent to which Nietzsche’s philosophy is to be regarded as either individualist or a collectivist in ethos/orientation. 

This topic is, Hicks acknowledges, a controversial one upon which Nietzsche scholars disagree. It is, however, a topic of direct relevance to the extent of relationship between Nietzsche’s philosophy and the ideology of the Nazis, since the Nazis themselves were indisputably extremely collectivist in ethos, the collective to which they subordinated all other concerns, including individual rights and wants, being that of the nation, Volk or race. 

Hicks himself concludes that Nietzsche was much more of a collectivist than an individualist

“[Although] Nietzsche has a reputation for being an individualist [and] there certainly are individualist elements in Nietzsche’s philosophy… in my judgment his reputation for individualism is often much overstated (p87). 

Yet, elsewhere, Hicks comes close to contradicting himself, for, among the qualities that he associates with Nietzsche’s ‘master morality’, which Nietzsche himself clearly favours over the ‘slave morality’ of Christianity, are “Independence”, “Autonomy” and indeed “Individualism” (p60; p62). Yet these are all clearly individualist virtues.[4]

In reaching his conclusion that Nietzsche is primarily to be considered a collectivist rather than a true individualist, Hicks distinguishes three separate questions and, in the process, different forms of individualism, namely: 

  1. Do individuals shape their own identities—or are their identities created by forces beyond their control?”; 
  1. Are individuals ends in themselves, with their own lives and purposes to pursue—or do individuals exist for the sake of something beyond themselves to which they are expected to subordinate their interests?”; and 
  1. Do the decisive events in human life and history occur because individuals, generally exceptional individuals, make them happen—or are the decisive events of history a matter of collective action or larger forces at work?” (p88). 

With regard to the first of these questions, Nietzsche, according to Hicks, denies that men are masters of their own fate. Instead, Hicks contends that Nietzsche believes: 

Individuals are a product of their biological heritage” (p88). 

This may be correct, and certainly there is much in Nietzsche’s writing to support this conclusion. 

However, even if human behaviour, and human decisions, are indeed a product of heredity, this does not in fact, strictly speaking, deny that individuals are nevertheless the authors of their own destiny. It merely asserts that the way in which we do indeed shape our own destiny is itself a product of our heredity. 

In other words, our actions and decisions may indeed be predetermined by hereditary factors, but they are still our decisions. 

Individuals may determine their own fate, but the way in which they choose to do so is itself determined by heredity. 

However, it is not clear that Nietzsche believes this is true of all men, but rather only of certain men of a superior type, this superior type being itself largely determined by heredity. 

Indeed, for Nietzsche, the superior type of man determines not only his own fate, but also often that of the society in which he lives and of mankind as a whole. 

This leads to the third of Hicks’s three types of individualism, namely the question of whether the “decisive events in human life and history occur because individuals, generally exceptional individuals, make them happen”, or whether they are the consequence of factors outside of individual control such as economic factors, or perhaps the unfolding of some divine plan. 

On this topic, I suspect Nietzsche would side with Thomas Carlyle, and Hegel, that history is indeed shaped, in large part, by the actions of so-called ‘great men. This is among the reasons he places such importance on the emerging Übermensch

Admittedly, Nietzsche repeatedly disparages Carlyle in many of his writings, and, in Ecce Homo, repudiates any notion of equating of his Übermensch with what he dismisses as Carlyle’s “hero cult” (Ecce Homo (iii, 1).

However, as Will Durant writes in The Story of Philosophy, Nietzsche often reserved his greatest scorn for those contemporaries, or near-contemporaries (e.g. the Darwinians and Social Darwinists), who had independently developed ideas that, in some respects, paralleled or anticipated his own, if only as a means of emphasizing his own originality and claim to priority, or, as Durant puts it, of “covering up his debts” (The Story of Philosophy: p373).

Hitler, of course, would also have agreed with Carlyle regarding the importance of great men, and indeed saw himself as just such a ‘world historical figure’. 

Indeed, for better or worse, given Hitler’s gargantuan impact on world history from his coming to power in Germany in the 1930s arguably right up to the present day, he might even find ourselves reluctantly forced to agree with him.[5]

As I have written previously, it is ironic that the so-called great man theory of history seemingly became perennially unfashionable at almost precisely the same time that, in the persons of first Lenin and then Hitler, it was proven so terribly true. Just as the October revolution would surely never have occurred without Lenin as driving force and instigator, so the Nazis, though they may have existed, would surely never have come to power, let alone achieved the early diplomatic and military successes that briefly conferred upon them mastery over Europe, without Hitler as leader.

Yet, for Nietzsche, individual freedom is restricted, or at least should be restricted, only to such ‘great men’, or at least to a wider, but still narrow, class of superior types, and not at all extended at all to the great mass of humanity. 

Thus, I believe that we can reconcile Nietzsche’s apparently conflicting statements regarding the merits of, on the one hand, individualism, and, on the other, collectivism, by recognizing that he endorsed individualism only for a small elite cadre of superior men. 

Indeed, for Nietzsche, the vast majority of mankind, namely those whom he disparaged as ‘herd animals’, were incapably of such individualism and should hence to subject to a strict authoritarian control in the service of the superior caste of man. 

Indeed, Nietzsche’s prescription for the majority of mankind is not so much collectivist, as it is authoritarian, since Nietzsche regards the lives of such people, even as a collective, as essentially worthless. 

The mass of men must be controlled and denied freedom, not for the benefit of such men themselves even as a collective, but rather for the benefit of the superior type of man, and of the higher evolution of mankind.[6]

Yet Hicks reaches almost the opposite conclusion, namely, rather than the lives of the mass of mankind serving the interests of the higher man, even the individualism accorded the higher type of man, and even the Übermensch himself, ultimately serves the interest of the collective – the human species as a whole. 

Thus, Nietzsche writes in Twilight of the Idols

The individual… is nothing in himself, no atom, no ‘link in the chain,’ no mere heritage from the past,—he represents the whole direct line of mankind up to his own life” (Twilight of the Idols: viii: 33). 

National Socialist Ideology 

As I have already said, however, Hicks’s understanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy is rather better than his understanding of the ideology of German National Socialism. 

This is not altogether surprising. Hicks is, after all, a professor of philosophy by background, not an historian.

Hicks lack of background in history his especially apparent in his handling of sources, which leaves a great deal to be desired.

For example, several quotations attributed to Hitler by Hicks are sourced, in their associated footnotes, to one of two works – namely Unmasked: Two Confidential Interviews with Hitler in 1931 and The Voice of Destruction (aka Hitler Speaks) by Hermann Rauschning – that are both now widely considered by historians to have been fraudulent, and to contain no genuine quotations from Hitler whatsoever.[7]

Other quotations are sourced to secondary sources, such as websites and biographies of Hitler, which makes it difficult to determine both the primary source from which the quotation is drawn, and in what context and to whom the remark was originally said or written.

This is an especially important point, not only because some sources (e.g. Rauschning) are very untrustworthy, but also because Hitler often carefully tailored his message to the specific audience he was addressing, and was certainly not above concealing or misrepresenting his real views and long-term objectives, especially when addressing the general public, foreign statesmen and political rivals.

Perhaps for this reason, Hicks seemingly misunderstands the true nature of the National Socialist ideology, and Hitler’s own Weltanschauung in particular.

However, in Hicks’s defence, the core tenets of Nazism are almost as difficult to pin down are those of Nietzsche. 

Unlike in the case of Nietzsche, this is not so much because of either the inherent complexity of the ideas, or the impenetrability of its presentation—though admittedly, while Nazi propaganda, and Hitler’s speeches, tend to be very straightforward, even crude, both Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Rosenberg’s The Myth of the Twentieth Century both make for a difficult read. 

Rather the problem is that German National Socialist thinking, or what passed for thinking among National Socialists, never really constituted a coherent ideology in the first place. 

After all, like any political party that achieves even a modicum of electoral success, let alone actually seriously aspires to win power, the Nazis necessarily represented a broad church.  

Members and supporters included people of many divergent and mutually contradictory opinions on various political, economic and social matters, not to mention ethical, philosophical and religious views and affiliations. 

If they had not done so, then the Party could never have attracted enough votes in order to win power in the first place. 

Indeed, the NSDAP was especially successful in presenting itself as ‘all things to all people’ and in adapting its message to whatever audience was being addressed at a given time. 

Therefore, it is quite difficult to pin down what exactly were the core tenets of German National Socialism, if indeed they had any. 

However, we can simplify our task somewhat by restricting ourselves to an altogether simpler question: namely what were the key tenets of Hitler’s own political philosophy? 

After all, one key tenet of German National Socialism that can surely be agreed upon is the so-called Führerprinzip’, whereby Hitler himself was to be the ultimate authority for all political decisions and policy. 

Therefore, rather than concerning ourselves with the political and philosophical views of the entire Nazi leadership, let alone the whole party, or everyone who voted for them, we can instead restrict ourselves to a much simpler task – namely, determining the views of a single individual, namely the infamous Führer himself. 

This, of course, makes our task substantially easier.

Yet we then encounter yet another problem: namely, it is often quite difficult to determine what Hitler’s real views actually were. 

Thus, as I have already noted, like all the best politicians, Hitler tailored and adapted his message to the audience that he was addressing at any given time. 

Thus, for example, when he delivered speeches before assembled business leaders and industrialists, his message was quite different from the one he would deliver before audiences composed predominantly of working-class socialists, and his message to foreign dignitaries, statesmen and the international community was quite different to the hawkish and militaristic one presented in Mein Kampf, to his leading generals  and before audiences of fanatical German nationalists

In short, like all successful politicians, Hitler was an adept liar, and what he said in public and actually believed in private were often two very different things. 

National Socialism and Religion 

Perhaps the area of greatest contrast between Hitler’s public pronouncements and his private views, as well as Hicks’ own most egregious misunderstanding of Nazi ideology, concerns religion. 

According to Hicks, Hitler and the Nazis were believing Christians. Thus, he reports: 

“[Hitler] himself sounded Christian themes explicitly in public pronouncements” (p84). 

However, the key words here are “in public pronouncements”. Hitler’s real views, as expressed in private among conversations among confidents, seem to have been very different. 

Thus, Hitler was all too well aware that publicly attacking Christianity would be an unpopular stance with the public, and would not only alienate much of his erstwhile support but also provoke opposition from powerful figures in the churches whose tacit support or acquiescence he could ill afford to do without. 

Hitler therefore postponed his eagerly envisaged kirchenkampf, or settling of accounts with the churches, until after the war, if only because he wished to avoid fighting a war on multiple fronts. 

Thus, Speer, in his post-war memoirs, noting that “in Berlin, surrounded by male cohorts, [Hitler] spoke more coarsely and bluntly than he ever did elsewhere”, quotes Hitler as declaring more than once: 

Once I have settled my other problems… I’ll have my reckoning with the church. I’ll have it reeling on the ropes” (Inside the Third Reich: p123). 

Hicks also asserts: 

The Nazis took great pains to distinguish the Jews and the Christians, condemning Judaism and embracing a generic type of Christianity” (p83).  

In fact, the form of Christianity that was, at least in public, espoused by the Nazis, namely what they called Positive Christianity was far from “a generic type of Christianity” but rather a very idiosyncratic, indeed quite heretical, take on the Christian faith, which attempted to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and portray Jesus as an Aryan hero fighting against Jewish power, while even attempting to incorporate elements of Gnosticism and Germanic paganism

Moreover, far from attempting to deny the connection between Christianity and Judaism, there is some evidence that Hitler actually followed Nietzsche in directly linking Christianity to the Jews. Thus, in his diary, Goebbels quotes Hitler directly linking Christianity and Judaism:  

“[Hitler] views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element” (The Goebbels Diaries, 1939-1941: p77). 

Likewise, in his Table Talk, carefully recorded by Bormann and others, Hitler declares on the night of the 11th July: 

The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew” (Table Talk: p7). 

Here, in linking Christianity and Judaism, and attributing Jewish origins to Christianity, Hitler is, of course, following Nietzsche, since a central theme of the latter’s The Antichrist is that Christianity is indeed very much a Jewish invention. 

Indeed, the whole thrust of this quotation will immediately be familiar to anyone who has read Nietzsche’s The Antichrist. Thus, just as Hitler describes Christianity as “the heaviest blow that ever struck humanity”, so Nietzsche himself declared: 

Christianity remains to this day the greatest misfortune of humanity” (The Antichrist: 51). 

Similarly, just as Hitler describes “Bolshevism” as “Christianity’s illegitimate child”, so Nietzsche anticipates him in detecting this family resemblance, in The Antichrist declaring: 

The anarchist and the Christian have the same ancestry” (The Antichrist: 57). 

Thus, in this single quoted passage, Hitler aptly summarizes the central themes of The Antichrist in a single paragraph, the only difference being that, in Hitler’s rendering, the implicit anti-Semitic subtext of Nietzsche’s work is made explicit. 

Elsewhere in Table Talk, Hitler echoes other distinctly Nietzschean themes with regard to Christianity.  

Thus, just as Nietzsche famously condemned Christianity as a expression of slave morality and ‘ressentiment’, so Hitler declares: 

Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilisation by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society” (Table Talk: p75-6). 

Another common theme is the notion of Christianity as rejection of life itself. Thus, in a passage that I have already quoted above, Nietzsche declares: 

To attack the passions at their roots, means attacking life itself at its source: the method of the Church is hostile to life… The saint in whom God is well pleased, is the ideal eunuch. Life terminates where the ‘Kingdom of God’ begins” (Twilight of the Idols: iv:1) 

Hitler echoes this theme, himself declaring in one passage where he elucidates a social Darwinism ethic

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure” (Table Talk: p51). 

In short, in his various condemnations of Christianity from Table Talk, Hitler is clearly drawing on his own reading of Nietzsche. Indeed, he could almost be accused of plagiarism. 

Historians like to belittle the idea that Hitler was at all erudite or well-read, suggesting that, although famously an avid reader, his reading material was likely limited to such material Streicher’s Der Stürmer and a few similarly crude antisemitic pamphlets circulating in the dosshouses of pre-War Vienna. 

Hicks rightly rejects this view. From these quotations from Hitler’s Table Talk alone, it is clear that Hitler had read his Nietzsche.[8]

National Socialism and Socialism 

Another area where Hicks misinterprets Nazi ideology, upon which other reviewers have rather predictably fixated, is the vexed and perennial question of the extent to which the National Socialist regime, which, of course, in name at least, purported to be socialist, is indeed accurately described as such. 

Mainstream historians generally reject the view that the Nazis were in any sense truly socialist

Partly this rejection of the notion that the Nazis were at all socialist may reflect the fact that many of the historians writing about this period of history are themselves socialist, or at least sympathetic to socialism, and hence wish to absolve socialism of any association with, let alone responsibility for, National Socialism.[9]

Hicks, who, for his part, seems to be something of a libertarian as far as I can make out, has a very different conclusion: namely that the National Socialists were indeed socialists and that socialism was in fact a central plank of their political programme. 

Thus, Hicks asserts: 

The Nazis stood for socialism and the principal of the central direction of the economy for the common good” (p106). 

Certainly, Hicks is correct that the Nazis stood for “the central direction of the economy”, albeit not so much “for the common good” of humanity, nor even of all German citizens, as for the “for the common good” only of ethnic Germans, with this “common good” being defined in Hitler’s own idiosyncratic terms and involving many of these ethnic Germans dying in his pointless wars of conquest. 

Thus, Hayek, who equates socialism with big government and a planned economy, argues in The Road to Serfdom that the Nazis, and the Fascists of Italy, were indeed socialist

However, I would argue that socialism is most usefully defined as entailing, not just the central direction of the economy, but also economic redistribution and the promotion of socio-economic equality.[10]

Yet, in Nazi Germany, the central direction of the economy was primarily geared, not towards promoting socioeconomic equality, but rather towards preparing the nation for war, in addition to various proposed vanity architectural projects.[11]

To prove the Nazis were socialist, Hicks relies extensively on the party’s 25-point programme

Yet this document was issued in 1920, when Hitler had yet to establish full control over the nascent movement, and still reflected the socialist ethos of many of the movement’s founders, whom Hitler was later to displace. 

Thus, German National Socialism, like Italian Fascism very much began on the left, attempting to combine socialism with nationalism, and thereby provide an alternative to the internationalism of mainstream Marxism.  

However, long before either movement had ever even come within distant sight of power, each had already toned down, if not abandoned, much of their earlier socialist rhetoric. 

Certainly, although he declared the party programme as inviolable and immutable and blocked any attempt to amend or repudiate it, Hitler also took few steps whatever to actually implement most of the socialist provisions in the 25-point programme.[12]

Hicks also reports: 

So strong was the Nazi party’s commitment to socialism that in 1921 the party entered into negotiations to merge with another socialist party, the German Socialist Party” (p17). 

Hicks admits “the negotiations fell through”, but what he does not mention is that the deal was scuppered precisely because Hitler himself, then not yet the movement’s leader but already the NSDAP’s most dynamic organizer and speaker, specifically vetoed any notion of a merger, threatening to resign if he did not have his way. 

To further buttress his claim that the Nazis were indeed socialist, Hicks also quotes extensively from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda (p18). 

Goebbels was indeed among the most powerful figures in the Nazi leadership besides Hitler himself, and the quotations attributed to him by Hicks do indeed suggest leftist socialist sympathies

However, Goebbels is, in this respect, something of an exception and outlier among the National Socialist leadership, since he had defected from the Strasserist wing of the Party, which was indeed socialist in orientation, but which was first marginalized then suppressed under Hitler’s leadership long before the Nazis came to power, with most remaining sympathizers, Goebbels excepted, purged or fleeing during the Night of the Long Knives

Goebbels may have retained some socialist sympathies thereafter. However, despite his power and prominence in the Naz regime, he does not seem to have had any great success at steering the regime towards socialist redistribution or other leftist policies

In short, while National Socialism may have begun on the left, by the time the regime attained power, and certainly while they were in power, their policies were not especially socialist

Nevertheless, it is indeed true that, with their centrally-planned economy and large government-funded public works projects, the National Socialist regime probably had more in common with the contemporary left, at least in a purely economic sense, than it would with the neoconservative, neoliberal free market ideology that has long been the dominant force in American conservatism. 

Thus, whether the Nazis were indeed ‘socialist’, ultimately depends on precisely how we define the wordsocialist’. 

Nazi Antisemitism 

Yet one aspect of National Socialist ideology was, in my view, left-wing and socialist in origin—namely their anti-Semitism

Of course, anti-Semitism is usually associated with the political right, more especially the so-called ‘far right’. 

However, in my view, anti-Semitism is always fundamentally leftist in nature. 

Thus, Marxists claim that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. 

Nazis and anti-Semites, on the other hand, claim that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy Jewish capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. 

The distinction between Nazism and Marxism is, then, largely tangential. Antisemites and nazis believe that our capitalist oppressors are all, or mostly, Jewish. Marxists, on the other hand, take no stance on the matter either way and prefer not to talk about it. 

As a famous German political slogan had it: 

Antisemitism is the socialism of fools.’ 

Indeed, anti-Semites who blame all the problems of the world on the Jews always remind me of Marxists who blame all the problems of the world on capitalism and capitalists, feminists who blame their problems on men, and black people who blame all their problems on ‘the White Man’. 

Interestingly, Nietzsche himself recognized this same parallel, writing of what he calls “ressentiment”, an important concept in his philosophy, connotations of repressed or sublimated envy and inferiority complex, that: 

This plant blooms its prettiest at present among Anarchists and anti-Semites” (On the Genealogy of Morals: ii: 11). 

In other words, Nietzsche seems to be recognizing that both socialism and anti-Semitism reflect what modern conservatives often term ‘the politics of envy’. 

Thus, in The Will to Power, Nietzsche observes: 

The anti-Semites do not forgive the Jews for having both intellectand money’” (The Will to Power: IV:864). 

Nietzschean Antisemitism 

Yet Jews themselves are, in Nietzsche’s thinking, by no means immune from the “ressentiment” that he also diagnoses in socialists and antisemites

On the contrary, it is Jewish ressentiment vis a vis successive waves of conquerors—especially the Romans—that, in Nietzsche’s thinking, birthed Christianity, slave morality and the original transvaluation of values that he so deplores. 

Thus, Nietzsche relates in Beyond Good and Evil that: 

The Jews performed the miracle of the inversion of valuations, by means of which life on earth obtained a new and dangerous charm for a couple of millenniums. Their prophets fused into one the expressions ‘rich,’ ‘godless,’ ‘wicked,’ ‘violent,’ ‘sensual,’ and for the first time coined the word ‘world’ as a term of reproach. In this inversion of valuations (in which is also included the use of the word “poor” as synonymous with “saint” and “friend”) the significance of the Jewish people is to be found; it is with them that the slave-insurrection in morals commences” (Beyond Good and Evil: V: 195).[13]

Thus, in The Antichrist, Nietzsche talks of “the Christian” as “simply a Jew of the ‘reformed’ confession”, and “the Jew all over again—the threefold Jew” (The Antichrist: 44), concluding: 

Christianity is to be understood only by examining the soil from which it sprung—it is not a reaction against Jewish instincts; it is their inevitable product” (The Antichrist: 24). 

All of this, it is clear from the tone and context, is not at all intended as a complement—either to Jews or Christians

Thus, lest we have any doubts on this matter, Nietzsche declares in Twilight of the Idols

Christianity as sprung from Jewish roots and comprehensible only as grown upon this soil, represents the counter-movement against that morality of breeding, of race and of privilege:—it is essentially an anti-Aryan religion: Christianity is the transvaluation of all Aryan values, the triumph of Chandala values, the proclaimed gospel of the poor and of the low, the general insurrection of all the down-trodden, the wretched, the bungled and the botched, against the ‘race,’—the immortal revenge of the Chandala as the religion of love” (Twilight of the Idols: VI:4). 

Thus, if Nietzsche rejected the anti-Semitism of his sister, brother-in-law and former idol, Wagner, he nevertheless constructed in its place a new anti-Semitism all of his own, which, far from blaming the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ, instead blamed them for the genesis of Christianity itself—a theme that is, as we have seen, directly echoed by Hitler in his Table Talk

Thus, Nietzsche remarks in The Antichrist

“[Jewish] influence has so falsified the reasoning of mankind in this matter that today the Christian can cherish anti-Semitism without realizing that it is no more than the final consequence of Judaism” (The Antichrist: 24). 

An even more interesting passage regarding the Jewish people appears just a paragraph later, where Nietzsche observes: 

The Jews are the very opposite of décadents: they have simply been forced into appearing in that guise, and with a degree of skill approaching the non plus ultra of histrionic genius they have managed to put themselves at the head of all décadent movements (for example, the Christianity of Paul), and so make of them something stronger than any party… To the sort of men who reach out for power under Judaism and Christianity,—that is to say, to the priestly class—décadence is no more than a means to an end. Men of this sort have a vital interest in making mankind sick” (The Antichrist: 24). 

Here, Nietzsche echoes, or perhaps even originates, what is today a familiar theme in anti-Semitic discourse—namely, that Jews champion subversive and destructive ideologies (Marxism, feminism, multiculturalism, mass migration of unassimilable minorities) only to weaken the Gentile power structure and thereby enhance their own power.[14]

This idea finds its most sophisticated (but still flawed) contemporary exposition in the work of evolutionary psychologist and contemporary anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald, who, in his book, The Culture of Critique (reviewed here), conceptualizes a range of twentieth century intellectual movements such as psychoanalysis, Boasian anthropology and immigration reform as what he calls ‘group evolutionary strategies’ that function to promote the survival and success of the Jews in diaspora. 

Nietzsche, however, goes further and extends this idea to the genesis of Christianity itself. 

Thus, in Nietzsche’s view, Christianity, as an outgrowth of Judaism and an invention of Paul and the Jewish ‘priestly class’, is itself a part of what Macdonald would call a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’ designed in order to undermine the goyish Roman civilization under whose yoke Jews had been subjugated. 

Nietzsche, a professed anti-Christian but an admirer of the ancient Greeks (or at least of some of them) would likely agree with Tertullian that Jerusalem has little to do with Athens – or indeed with Rome. However, Hicks observes: 

As evidence of whether Rome or Judea is winning, [Nietzsche] invites us to consider to whom one kneels down before in Rome today” (p70). 

Racialism and the Germans 

Yet, with regard to their racial views, Nietzsche and the Nazis differ, not only in their attitude towards Jews, but also in their attitude towards Germans. 

Thus, according to Hicks: 

The Nazis believe the German Aryan to be racially superior—while Nietzsche believes that the superior types can be manifested in any racial type” (p85). 

Yet, here, Hicks is only half right. While it certainly true that the Nazis extolled the German people, and the so-called ‘Aryan race’ in general, as a master race, it is not at all clear that Nietzsche indeed believed that the superior type of man can be found among all races. 

Actually, besides a few comments about Jews, mostly favourable, and a few more about the Germans and the English, almost always disparaging, Nietzsche actually says surprisingly little about race. 

However, on reflection, this is not at all surprising, since, being resident throughout his life in a Europe that was then very much monoracial, Nietzsche probably little if any direct contact with nonwhite races or peoples. 

Moreover, living as he did in the nineteenth century, when European power was at its apex, and much of the world controlled by European colonial empires, Nietzsche, like most of his European contemporaries, probably took white European racial superiority very much for granted. 

It is therefore only natural that his primary concern was the relative superiority and status of the various European subtypes – hence his occasional comments regarding Jews, English, Germans and occasionally other groups such as the French. 

Hicks asserts: 

The Nazis believe contemporary German culture to be the highest and the best hope for the world—while Nietzsche holds contemporary German culture to be degenerate and to be infecting the rest of the world” (p85). 

Yet this is something of a simplification of National socialist ideology. 

In fact, the Nazis too believed that the Germany of their own time – namely the Weimar Republic – was decadent and corrupt. 

Indeed, a belief in both national degeneration and in the need for national spiritual rebirth and awakening has been identified as a key defining element in fascism.[15]

Thus, Nietzsche’s own belief in the decadence of contemporary western civilization, and arguably also his belief in the coming Übermensch promising spiritual revitalization, is, in many respects, a paradigmatically and prototypically fascist model. [17]

Of course, the Nazis only believed that German culture was corrupt and decadent before they had themselves come to power and hence supposedly remedied this situation.  

In contrast, Nietzsche never had the chance to rejuvenate the German culture and civilization of his own time – and nor did he live to see the coming Übermensch.[16]

The Blond Beast’  

Hicks contends that Nietzsche’s employment of the phrase “the blond beast” in The Genealogy of Morals is not a racial reference to the characteristically blond hair of Nordic Germans, as has sometimes been interpreted, but rather a reference to the blond mane of the lion. 

Actually, I suspect Nietzsche may have intended a double-meaning or metaphor, referring to both the stereotypically blond complexion of the Germanic warrior and to the mane of the lion. 

Indeed, the use of such a double-meaning or metaphor would be typical of Nietzsche’s poetic, literary and distinctly non-philosophical (or at least not traditionally philosophical) style of writing. 

Thus, even in one of the passages from The Genealogy of Morals employing to this metaphor that is quoted by Hicks himself, Nietzsche explicitly refers to the “the blond Germanic beast [emphasis added]” (quoted: p78).[18]

It is true that, in another passage from the same work, Nietzche contends that “the splendid blond beast” lies at “the bottom of all these noble races”, among whom he includes, not just the Germanic, but also such distinctly non-Nordic (and stereotypically non-blond) races as “the Roman, Arabian… [and] Japanese nobility” among others (quoted: p79). 

Here, the reference to the Japanese “nobility”, rather than the Japanese people as a whole, is, I suspect, key, since, as we have seen, Nietzsche clearly regards the superior type of man, if present at all, as always necessarily a minority among all races. 

However, in referring to “noble races”, Nietzsche necessarily implies that certain other races are not so “noble”. Just as to say that certain men are ‘superior’ necessarily implies that others are inferior, since superiority is a relative concept, so to talk of “noble races” necessarily supposes the existence of ignoble races too. 

Thus, if the superior type of man, in Nietzsche’s view, only ever represents a small minority of the population among any race, it does not necessarily follow that, in his view, such types are to be found among all races. 

Hicks is therefore wrong to conclude that: 

Nietzsche believes that the superior types can be manifested in any racial type” (p85). 

In short, just because Nietzsche believed that vast majority of contemporary Germans were poltroons, Chandala, ‘beer drinkers’ and ‘herd animals’, it does not necessarily follow that he also believes that an Australian Aboriginal could be an Übermensch

A Nordicist Aryanist Milieu? 

Thus, for all his condemnation of Germans and German nationalism, one cannot help forming the impression on reading Nietzsche that he very much existed within, if not a German nationalist milieu, then at least a broader Nordicist, Aryanist and Völkisch intellectual milieu – the same milieu that birthed certain key strands in the National Socialist Weltanschauung

This is apparent in the very opening lines of The Antichrist, where Nietzsche declares himself, and his envisaged readership, “Hyperboreans”, a term popular among proto-Nazi occultists, such as the Thule Society, the group which itself birthed what was to become the NSDAP, and which had named itself after the supposed capital of the mythical Hyperborea

It is also apparent when, in Twilight of the Idols, he disparages Christianity as specifically an “anti-Aryan religion… [and] the transvaluation of all Aryan values” (Twilight of the Idols: VI:4). 

Apologists sometimes insist that Nietzsche, as a philologist by training, was only using the word Aryan in the linguistic sense, i.e. where we would today say ‘Indo-European

However, Nietzsche was writing at a time and place, namely Germany in the nineteenth century, when Aryanist ideas were very much in vogue, and it would be naïve to think that Nietzsche was not all too aware of the full connotations of this word. 

Moreover, his references to “Aryan values” and “anti-Aryan religion”, referring, as they do, to values and religion, clearly go beyond merely linguistic descriptors, and seem to envisage, not so much a scientific biological conception of race, including race differences in behaviour and psychology, as much as they anticipate the mystical, quasi-religious and slightly bonkers ‘spiritual racialism’ of his self-professed disciples, Spengler and Evola

Less obviously, this affinity for Nazi-style ‘Aryanism’ is also apparent in Nietzsche’s later extolment for the Law of Manu and Indian caste system, and his adoption of the Sanskrit term Chandala for those whom he disparages, since, although South Asians are obviously far from racially Nordic, Nazi esotericists nevertheless had a curious obsession with Hindu religion and caste, and it is from India that the Nazis seemingly took both the swastika symbol and the very word ‘Aryan’. 

Will Durant, in The Story of Philosophy, writes: 

Nietzsche was the child of Darwin and the brother of Bismarck. It does not matter that he ridiculed the English evolutionists and the German nationalists: he was accustomed to denounce those who had most influenced him; it was his unconscious way of covering up his debts” (The Story of Philosophy: p373).[19]

This perhaps goes some way to making sense of Nietzsche’s ambiguous relationship to Darwin, whose theory he so often singles out for criticism. 

Perhaps something similar can be said of Nietzsche’s relationship, not only to German nationalism, but also to anti-Semitism, since, as a former disciple of Wagner, he existed within a German nationalist and anti-Semitic intellectual milieu, from which he sought to distinguish himself but which he never wholly relinquished. 

Thus, if Nietzsche condemned the crude antiSemitism of Wagner, his sister and brother-in-law, he nevertheless constructed in its place a new antiSemitism that blamed the Jews, not merely for the crucifixion of Christ, but rather for the very invention of Christianity, Christian ethics and the entire edifice of what he called ‘slave morality’ and the ‘transvaluation of values’. 

Nietzschean Philosemitism?

Thus, even Nietzsche’s many apparently favorable comments regarding the Jews can often be interpreted as backhanded complements

As a character from a Michel Houellebecq novel observes: 

All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiority. If you read anti-Semitic literature, you’re struck by the fact that the Jew is considered to be more intelligent, more cunning, that he is credited with having singular financial talents – and, moreover, greater communal solidarity. Result: six million dead” (Platform: p113). 

Indeed, Nazi propaganda provides a good illustration of this. 

Thus, in claiming that Jews, who only ever represented only a tiny minority of the Weimar-era German population, nevertheless dominated the media, banking, commerce and the professions, Nazi propaganda often came close to inadvertently implicitly conceding Jewish superiority – since to dominate the economy of a mighty power like Germany, despite only ever representing a tiny minority of the population, is hardly a feat indicative of inferiority. 

Indeed, Nazi propaganda came close to self-contradiction, since, if Jews did indeed dominate the Weimar-era economy to the extent claimed in Nazi propaganda, this not only suggests that the Jews themselves are far from inferior to the German Gentile Goyim whom they had ostensibly oppressed and subjugated, but also the Germans themselves, in allowing themselves to be so dominated by this tiny minority of Jews in their midst, were something rather less than the Aryan Übermensch and master race of  Hitler’s own demented imagining. 

Meanwhile, Arthur De Gobineau, considered by many the ultimate progenitor of Nazi race theory, was, far from anti-Semitic, positively effusive in his praise for and admiration of the Jewish people.[20]

Thus, many antisemites have praised the Jews for their tenacity, resilience, survival, alleged clannishness and ethnocentrism, and, perhaps most ominously, their supposed racial purity

For example, contemporary antisemite Kevin MacDonald claims that, despite his reputation as an anti-Semite

I greatly admire Jews as a group that has pursued its interests over thousands of years, while retaining its ethnic coherence and intensity of group commitment (Macdonald 2004). 

Indeed, even Hitler himself came close to philosemitism in one passage of Mein Kampf, where he declares: 

“The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew. In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self-preservation developed more strongly than in the so-called ‘chosen’. Of this, the mere fact of the survival of this race may be considered the best proof” (Mein Kampf).[21]

Many of Nietzsche’s own apparently complementary remarks regarding the Jewish people can be interpreted in the same vein 

Thus, Hicks himself credits Nietzsche with deploring the slave morality that was their legacy, but nevertheless recognizing that this slave morality was a highly successful strategy in enabling them to survive and prosper in diaspora as a defeated and banished people. Thus, Nietzsche admires them as: 

Inheritors of a cultural tradition that has enabled them to survive and even flourish despite great adversity… [and] would at the very least have to grant, however grudgingly, that the Jews have hit upon a survival strategy and kept their cultural identity for well over two thousand years” (p82). 

Thus, in another one of his many backhanded complements, Nietzsche himself declares:  

The Jews are the most remarkable people in the history of the world, for when they were confronted with the question, to be or not to be, they chose, with perfectly unearthly deliberation, to be at any price: this price involved a radical falsification of all nature, of all naturalness, of all reality, of the whole inner world, as well as of the outer” (The Antichrist: 24). 

Defeating Nazism 

In Hicks’s final chapter, he discusses how best Nazism can be defeated. In doing so, he seemingly presupposes that Nazism is, not only an evil that must be defeated, but moreover the ultimate evil that must be defeated at all costs and that we must therefore structure our entire economic and political system in order to prevent its reemergence. 

In doing so, he identifies what he sees as “the direct opposite of what the Nazis stood for” as necessarily “the best antidote to National Socialism we have” (p106-7). 

Yet, to assume that there is a “direct opposite” to each of the Nazis’ central tenets assumes that all political positions can be conceptualized on a single dimensional axis, with the Nazis at one end and Hicks’s own rational free market utopia at the other. 

In reality, the political spectrum is multidimensional and there are many alternatives to each of the tenets identified by Hicks as integral to Nazism, not just a single opposite. 

More importantly, it is not at all clear that the best way to defeat any ideology is necessarily to embrace its polar opposite. 

On the contrary, embracing an opposite form of extremism is often only provokes a counter-reaction and is hence counterproductuve. In contrast, often the best way to defeat extremism is to actually address some of the legitimate issues raised by the extremists and offer practical, realistic solutions and compromise – i.e. moderation rather than extremism. 

Thus, in the UK, the two main post-war electoral manifestations of what was arguably a resurgent Nazi-style racial nationalism were the National Front in the 1970s and the British National Party (BNP) in the 2000s, each of whom achieved some rather modest electoral successes, and inspired a great deal of media-led moral-panic, in their respective heydays before quickly fading into electoral irrelevance. 

Yet each were defeated, not by the emergence of an opposite extremism of either left or right, nor by the often violent agitation and activism of self-styled ‘anti-fascists’, but rather by the emergence of political figures or movements that addressed some of the the legitimate issues raised by the extremist groups, especially regarding immigration, but cloaked them in more moderate language. 

Thus, in the 2000s, the BNP was largely outflanked by the rise of the UKIP, which echoed many of the BNP’s concerns regarding mass immigration, but largely avoided any association with racism, white supremacism or neo-Nazism. In short, UKIP outflanked the BNP by being precisely what the BNP had long pretended to be – namely, a non-racist, anti-immigration civic nationalist party – only, in the case of UKIP, the act actually appeared genuine.

Meanwhile, in the 1970s, the collapse and implosion of the National Front was largely credited to the rise of Margaret Thatcher, who, in one infamous interview, empathized with the fear of many British people that their country being “swamped by people with a different culture”, though, in truth, once in power, she did little to arrest or even slow, let alone reverse, this ongoing and now surely irreversible process of demographic transformation

Misreading Nietzsche 

Why, then, has Nietzsche come to be so misunderstood? How is it that this nineteenth German philosopher has come to be claimed as a precursor by everyone from Fascists and libertarians to leftist postmodernists. 

The fault, in my view, lies largely with Nietzsche himself, in particular his obscure, esoteric writing style, especially in his infamously indecipherable, Thus Spake Zarathustra, but to some extent throughout his entire body of writing. 

Indeed, Nietzsche, perhaps to his credit, even admits to adopting a deliberately impenetrable prose style, not so much admitting as proudly declaring as much in one parenthesis from Beyond Good and Evil that has been variously translated as: 

I obviously do everything to be ‘hard to understand’ myself


I do everything to be difficultly understood myself”  (Beyond Good and Evil: II, 27).

Admittedly, here, the wording, or at least the various English renderings, is itself not entirely clear in its meaning. However, the fact that even this single seemingly simple sentence lends itself to somewhat different interpretations only illustrates the scale of the problem. 

In my view, as I have written previously, philosophers who adopt an aphoristic style of writing generally substitute bad poetry for good arguments. 

Thus, in one sense at least leftist postmodernists are right to claim Nietzsche as a philosophical precursor: He, like them, delights in pretentious obfuscation and obscurantism

The best writers, in my view, generally present their ideas in the clearest and simplest language that the complexity of their ideas permit. 

Indeed, the most profound thinkers generally have no need increase the complexity of ideas that are already inherently complex through deliberately obscure or impenetrable language. 

In contrast, it is only those with only banal and unoriginal ideas who adopt deliberately complex and confusing language in order to conceal the banality and unoriginality of their ideas. 

Thus, Richard DawkinsFirst Law of the Conservation of Difficulty states: 

Obscurantism in an academic subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity.”  

What applies to an academic subject applies equally to individual writers – namely. as a general rule, the greater the obscurantism, the less the substance and insight. 

Yet, unlike the postmodernists, poststucturalists, deconstructionalists, continental philosophers and other assorted ‘professional damned fools’ who so often claim him as a precursor, Nietzsche is indeed, in my view, an important, profound and original thinker. 

Moreover, far from replacing good philosophy with bad poetry, Nietzsche is, besides being a profound and original thinker, also a magnificent prose stylist, the brilliance of whose writing shines through even in translation. 

Conclusion – Was Nietzsche a Nazi? 

The Nazis, we are repeatedly reassured by leftists, misunderstood Nietzsche. Either that or they deliberated misrepresented and misappropriated him. At any rate, one thing is clear – they were wrong. 

This argument is largely correct – as far as it goes. 

The Nazis did indeed engage in a disingenuous and highly selective reading of Nietzsche’s work, selectively quoting his words out of context, and conveniently ignoring, or even suppressing, those passages of his writing where he explicitly condemns both antiSemitism and German nationalism

The problem with this view is not that it is wrong – but rather with what it leaves out. 

Nietzsche may not have been a Nazi, but he was certainly an elitist and anti-egalitarian, opposed to socialism, liberalism, democracy and pretty much the entire liberal democratic political and social worldview of the contemporary west.

Indeed, although, today, in America at least, atheism tends to be associated with leftist, or at least liberal views, and Christianity with conservatism and the right, Nietzsche opposed socialism precisely because he saw it as an inheritance of the very JudeoChristianslave morality’ to which his philosophy stood in opposition, albeit divested of the very religious foundation which provided this moral system with a justification and basis.

Thus, in The Will to Power, he observes that “socialists appeal to the Christian instincts” and bewails “the socialistic ideal” as merely “the residue of Christianity and of Rousseau in the de-Christianised world” (The Will to Power: III, 765; IV, 1017). Likewise, he laments of the English in Twilight of the Idols:

They are rid of the Christian God and therefore think it all the more incumbent upon them to hold tight to Christian morality” (Twilight of the Idols: IX, 5).

While Nietzsche would certainly have disapproved of many aspects of Nazi ideology, it is not at all clear that he would have considered our own twenty-first century western culture as any better. Indeed he may well have considered it considerably worse. 

Thus, it is indeed true that Nietzsche was no National Socialist, but he was also far from a leftist or a liberal, and was far from politically correct by modern standards in his views regarding the Jews, for example. 

Indeed, the worldview of this most elitist and anti-egalitarian of thinkers is arguably even less reconcilable with contemporary left-liberal notions of social justice than is that of the Nazis themselves.  

Thus, if the Nazis did indeed misappropriate Nietzsche’s philosophy, then this misappropriation was as nothing compared to that of those leftists, post-modernists, post-structuralists and other such ‘professional damned fools’ who have vainly, and dishonestly, attempted to claim this most anti-egalitarian and elitist of thinkers on behalf of the left


[1] The claim that the foreign policies of governmental regimes of all ideological persuasions are governed less by their ideology than by power politics, is, of course, a central tenet, indeed perhaps the central tenet of the realist school of international relations theory. Indeed, Hitler himself provided a good example of this when, despite his ideological opposition to Judeo-Bolshevism and desire for lebensraum in the East, not to mention disparaging racial attitude to the Slavic peoples, nevertheless, rebuffed in his efforts to come to an understanding with Britain and France, or form an alliance with Poland, instead sent Ribbentrop to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. It can even be argued that it was Hitler’s abandonment of pragmatic realpolitik in favour of ideological imperative, when he later invaded the Soviet Union that led to his own, and his regime’s, demise.

[2] Curiously missing from all such lists is Nietzsche’s own early idol, Arthur Schopenhauer. Yet it was Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, that Hitler claimed to have carried with him in the trenches in his knapsack throughout the First World War, and Schopenhauer even has the dubious distinction of having his antisemitic comments regarding Jews favourably quoted by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Indeed, according to the recollections of filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler professed to prefer Schopenhauer over Nietzsche, Hitler being quoted as asserting: 

I can’t really do much with Nietzsche… He is more an artist than a philosopher; he doesn’t have the crystal-clear understanding of Schopenhauer. Of course, I value Nietzsche as a genius. He writes possibly the most beautiful language that German literature has to offer us today, but he is not my guide” (quoted: Hitler’s Private Library: p107). 

Somewhat disconcertingly, this assessment of Nietzsche – namely as “more… artist than philosopher” and far from “crystal-clear” in his writing style, but nevertheless a brilliant prose stylist, the beauty of whose writing shines through even in English translation – actually rather reflects my own assessment. Moreover, I too am an admirer of Schopenhauer’s writings, albeit not so much his philosophy, let alone his metaphysics, but more his theory of human behaviour and psychology.
Yet, on reflection, Schopenhauer is surely rightly omitted from lists of the philosophical influences on Nazism. Save for the antisemitic remarks quoted in Mein Kampf, which are hardly an integral part of Schopenhauer’s philosophy, there is little in Schopenhauer’s body of writing, let alone in his philosophical writings, that can be seen to jibe with National Socialism policy or ideology.
Indeed, Schopenhauer’s philosophy, to the extent it is prescriptive at all, advocates an ascetic withdrawal from worldly temptation, and championed art as a form of escapism. Although Hitler was indeed in later lifereportedly, a vegetarian, who also abstained from alcohol, and also an art lover who found escapism in both movies and the operas of Wagner, the latter himself a disciple of Schopenhauer. and seems, for most of his adult life, to have had little active sex life, nevertheless the NSDAP programme, like all political programmes, involved active engagement with the world, something Schopenhauer would likely have dismissed as largely futile and a waste of effort.
Indeed, Hitler himself aptly summarized why Schopenhauer’s philosophy could never be a basis for any type of active political programme, let alone that of the NSDAP, in a comment quoted by Hanfstaengl, where he bemoans Schopenhauer’s influence on his own former mentor Eckart, remarking: 

Schopenhauer has done Eckart no good. He has made him a doubting Thomas, who only looks forward to a Nirvana. Where would I get if I listened to all his [Schopenhauer’s] transcendental talk? A nice ultimate wisdom that: To reduce on[e]self to a minimum of desire and will. Once will is gone all is gone. This life is War” (quoted in: Hitler’s Philosophers: p24). 

Modern left-liberal apologists for Nietzsche often attempt to characterize Nietzsche as a largely apolitical thinker. This is, of course, deluded apologetics. However, as applied to Schopenhauer, the claim is indeed largely valid. 

[3] Hicks does not mention the figure who was, in my perhaps eccentric view, the greatest thinker associated with the NSDAP, namely Nobel Prize winning ethologist Konrad Lorenz, perhaps because, unlike the other thinkers whom he does discuss, Lorenz only joined the NSDAP several years after they had come to power, and his association with the NSDAP could therefore be dismissed as purely opportunistic. Alternatively, Hicks may have overlooked Lorenz simply because Lorenz was a biologist rather than a philosopher, though it should be noted that Lorenz also made important contributions to philosophy as well, in particular his pioneering work in evolutionary epistemology.

[4] It is true that Nietzsche does not actually envisage or advocate a return to the ‘master morality’ of an earlier age, but rather the construction of a new morality, the outline of which could, at the time he wrote, only be foreseen in rough outline. Nevertheless, it is clear he favoured this ‘master morality’ over the ‘slave morality’ that he associated with Christianity and our own post-Christian ethics, and also that he viewed the coming morality of the Übermensch as having much more in common with the ‘master morality’ of old than with the Christian ‘slave morality’ he so disparages. 

[5] Hitler exerted a direct impact on world history from 1933 until his death in 1945. Yet Hitler, or at least the spectre of Hitler, continues to exert an indirect but not insubstantial impact on contemporary world politics as a kind of ‘bogeyman’, whom we define our views in opposition to, and invoke as a kind of threat or form of guilt-by-association. This is most obvious in the familiar ‘reductio ad Hitlerum’. Of course, in considering the question of whether Hitler may indeed qualify as a ‘great man’, we are not using the word ‘great’ in a moral sense. Rather, we are employing the term in the older sense, meaning ‘large in size’. This exculpatory clarificiation we might aptly term the Farrakhan proviso

[6] Collectivists are, almost by definition, authoritarian, since collectivism necessarily demands that individual rights and freedoms be curtailed or restricted for the benefit of the collective, and this invariably requires coercion because people have evolved to selfishly promote their own inclusive fitness at the expense of that of rivals and competitors. However, authoritarianism can also be justified on non-collectivist grounds. Thus, Nietzsche’s proposed restrictions of the individual liberty of the ‘herd animal’ and ‘chandala’ are justified not by reference to the individual or collective interests of such ‘chandala’, but rather by reference to the interests of the superior man and of the higher evolution of mankind.

[7] The first of these is a pair of interviews that were supposedly conducted with Hitler by German journalist Richard Breiting in 1931, to which Hicks sources several supposed quotations from Hitler (p117; p122; p124; p125; p133). Unfortunately, however, the interviews, only published in 1968 by Yugoslavian journalist Edouard Calic several decades after they were supposedly conducted, contain anachronistic material and are hence almost certainly post-war forgeries. Richard Evans, for example, described them as having obviously been in large part, if not completely, made up by Calic himself (Evans 2014).
The other is Hermann Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, published in Britain under the title Hitler Speaks, to which Hicks sources several quotations from Hitler (p120; p125; 126; p134). This is now widely recognised as a fraudulent work of wartime propaganda. Historians now believe that Rauschning actually only met with Hitler on a few occasions, was certainly not a close confident and that most, if not all, of the conversations with Hitler recounted in The Voice of Destruction are pure inventions.
Thus, for example, Ian Kershaw in the first volume of his Hitler biography, Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris, makes sure to emphasize in his preface: 

I have on no single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning’s Hitler Speaks [the title under which The Voice of Destruction was published in Britain], a work now regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether” (Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris: pxvi). 

Similarly, Richard Evans definitively concludes:

Nothing was genuine in Rauschning’s book: his ‘conversations with Hitler’ had no more taken place than his conversations with Göring. He had been put up to writing the book by Winston Churchill’s literary agent, Emery Reeves, who was also responsible for another highly dubious set of memoirs, the industrialist Fritz Thyssen’s I Paid Hitler” (Evans 2014).

Admittedly, Rauschning’s work was once taken seriously by mainstream historians, and The Voice of Destruction is cited repeatedly in such early and still-celebrated works as Trevor-Roper’s The Last Days of Hitler, first published in 1947, and Bullock’s Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, first published in 1952.  However, Hicks’s own book was published in 2006, by which time Rauschning’s work had already long previously been exposed as a hoax. 
Indeed, it is something of an indictment of the standards, not to mention the politicized and moralistic tenor, of what we might call ‘Hitler historiography’ that this work was ever taken seriously by historians in the first place. First published in the USA in 1940, it was it was clearly a work of anti-Nazi wartime propaganda and much of the material is quite fantastic in content.
For example, there are bizarre passages about Hitler having been “long been in bondage to a magic which might well have been described, not only in metaphor but in literal fact, as that of evil spirits” and of Hitler “wak[ing] at night with convulsive shrieks”, and one such passage describes how Hitler: 

Stood swaying in his room, looking wildly about him. “He! He! He’s been here!” he gasped. His lips were blue. Sweat streamed down his face. Suddenly he began to reel off figures, and odd words and broken phrases, entirely devoid of sense. It sounded horrible. He used strangely composed and entirely un-German word-formations. Then he stood quite still, only his lips moving. He was massaged and offered something to drink. Then he suddenly broke out — “There, there! In the comer! Who’s that.?” He stamped and shrieked in the familiar way. He was shown that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the room, and then he gradually grew calm” (The Voice of Destruction: p256) 

Yet, oddy, the first doubts regarding the authenticity of the conversations reported in The Voice of Destruction were raised, not by mainstream historians studying the Third Reich, but rather by an obscure Swiss researcher, Wolfgang Haenel, who first presented his thesis at a conference organized by a research institute widely associated with so-called ‘holocaust denial’. Moreover, other self-styled ‘holocaust revisionists’ were among the first to endorse Haenel’s critique of Rauschning’s work. Yet his conclusions are now belatedly accepted by virtually all mainstream scholars in the field. This perhaps suggests that such ‘revisionist’ research is not always without value.

[8] It must be acknowledged here that the question of the religious views of Hitler is a matter of some controversy. It is sometimes suggested that the hostile view of Christianity expressed in Hitler’s Table Talk reflect less the opinion of Hitler, and more those of of Hitler’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, who was responsible for transcribing much of this material. Bormann is indeed known to have been hostile to Christianity, and Speer, who disliked Bormann, indeed remarks in his memoirs that:

If in the course of such a monologue Hitler had pronounced a more negative judgment upon the church, Bormann would undoubtedly have taken from his jacket pocket one of the white cards he always carried with him. For he noted down all Hitler’s remarks that seemed to him important; and there was hardly anything he wrote down more eagerly than deprecating comments on the church” (Inside the Third Reich: p95). 

However, Speer does not deny that Hitler himself indeed made such remarks. Indeed, it is hardly likely that Bormann, a faithful, if not obsequious, acolyte of the Fürher, would ever dare to falsely attribute to Hitler remarks which the latter had never uttered or views to which he did not subscribe. At any rate, the views attributed to Hitler in Table Talk are corroborated in other sources, such as in Goebbels’s diaries and indeed in Speer’s memoirs
It is also true that, elsewhere in Table Talk, Hitler talks approvingly of Jesus as “most certainly not a Jew”, and as fighting “against the materialism of His age, and, therefore, against the Jews”. This is, of course, a very odd and eccentric, not to mention historically unsupported, perspective on the historical Jesus.
However, it is interesting to note that, despite his disdain for Christianity, Nietzsche too, despite his more orthodox view of the historical Jesus, nevertheless professes to admire Jesus in The Antichrist. Indeed, in placing the blame for Christianity squarely on Paul of Tarsus, not Jesus himself, Hitler is therefore again following Nietzsche, who, in The Antichrist, similarly condemns Paul as the true founder of Christianity and of the Christian slave morality that infected western man.
Just to clarify, I am not here suggesting that Hitler’s views with respect to Christianity are identical to those of Nietzsche. On the contrary, they clearly differ in several respects, not least in their differing historical perspectives on the historial Jesus.
Nevertheless, Hitler’s religious views, as expressed in his Table Talk, clearly mirror those of Nietzsche in certain key respects, not least in seeing Christianity as the greatest tragedy to befall humanity, as inimical to life itself, and as a malign invention of or inheritance from Jews and Judaism. Given these parallels, it seems almost certain that the German Führer had read the works of Nietzsche and, to some extent, been influenced by his ideas.
Interestingly, elsewhere in his Table Talk, Hitler also condemns atheism, describing it as “a return to the state of the animal” and argues that “the notion of divinity gives most men the opportunity to concretise the feeling they have of supernatural” (Table Talk: p123; p61). Hitler also often referred to God, and especially providence, in a metaphoric sense. Indeed, he even himself professes a belief in a God, albeit of a decidedly non-Chrisitian Pantheistic form, defining God as “the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe” (Table Talk: p6).
However, this only demonstrates that there are other forms of theism, and deism, besides Christianity, and that one can be opposed to Christianity without being opposed to all religion. Thus, Goebbels declares in his Diary: 

The Fuhrer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian” (The Goebbels diaries, 1939-1941: p77). 

The general impression from Table Talk is that Hitler sees himself, perhaps surprisingly, as a scientific materialist, albeit one who, like, it must be said, no few modern scientific materialists, actually often knows embarrassingly little about science. (For example, in Table Talk, Hitler repeatedly endorses Hörbiger’s World Ice Theory, comparing Hörbiger to Copernicus in his impact on cosmology, and even proposing opposing the “pseudo-science of the Catholic Church” with the ‘science’ of PtolemyCopernicus, and, yes, Hörbiger: Table Talk: p249; p324; p445.)

[9] After all, socialists already have the horrors of Mau, Stalin, Pol Pot and North Korea among many others on their hands. To be associated also with National Socialism in Germany as well would effectively make socialism responsible for virtually all of the great atrocities of the twentieth century, rather than merely just the vast majority of them. 

[10] Interestingly, although dictionary definitions available on the internet vary considerably, most definitions of ‘socialism tend to be much narrower than my definition, emphasizing, in particular, common or public ownership of the means of production. Partly, this reflects, I suspect, the different connotations of the word in British- and American-English. Thus, in America, where, until recently, socialism was widely seen as anathema, the term was associated with, and indeed barely distinguished from, communism or Marxism. In Britain, however, where the Labour Party, one of the two main parties of the post-war era, traditionally styled itself ‘socialist’, despite generally advocating and pursuing policies that would be closer to what would be called, on continental Europe, ‘social democracy’, the word has much less radical connotations.

[11] Admittedly, reducing unemployment also seems to have been a further objective of some of the large public works projects undertaken under the Nazis (e.g. the construction of the autobahns), and this can indeed be seen as a socialist objective. However, socialists are, of course, not alone in seeing job creation as desirable and high rates of unemployment as undesirable. On the contrary, the desirability of job creation and of reducing unemployment is widely accepted across the political spectrum. Politicians differ primarily on the best way to achieve this goals. Those on the left are more likely to favour increasing public sector employment, including through the sorts of public works projects employed by the Nazis. Neo-liberals favour cutting taxes, in order to increase spending and investment, which they theorize will increase private sextor employment.

[12] It is possible Hitler’s own views evolved over time, and he too may initially have been more sympathetic to socialist policies. Thus, still largely unexplained is the full story of Hitler’s apparent involvement with the short-lived revolutionary communist regime in Munich in 1919, led by the Jewish communist Kurt Eisner. Ron Rosenbaum writes:

One piece of evidence adduced for this view documents Hitler’s successful candidacy for a position on the soldier’s council in a regiment that remained loyal to the short-lived Bolshevik regime that ruled Munich for a few weeks in April 1919. Another is a piece of faded, scratchy newsreel footage showing the February 1919 funeral procession for Kurt Eisner, the assassinated Jewish leader of the socialist regime then in power. Slowed down and studied, the funeral footage shows a figure who looks remarkably like Hitler marching in a detachment of soldiers, all wearing armbands on their uniforms in tribute to Eisner and the socialist regime that preceded the Bolshevik one” (Explaining Hitler: pxxxvii). 

If indeed Hitler was indeed a supporter of the Peoples’ State of Bavaria, which remains far from proven, and this was not mere opportunism, then it remains to be proven when his later antiSemitic and anti-Marxist views became crystalized. It is clear that, by the time he joined the nascent DAP, Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite. However, perhaps he still remained something of a socialist at this time. Indeed, this might explain why he was attracted to the German Workers’ Party, which, at that early time, indeed seems to have had a broadly socialist orientation. 

[13] In fact, Nietzsche is wrong to credit the Jews as the first to perform this transvaluation of values that elevated asceticism, poverty and abstinence from worldly pleasures into a positive value. On the contrary, similar and analogous notions of asceticism seem to have had an entirely independent, and apparently prior, origin in the Indian subcontinent, in the form of both Buddhism and especially Jainism

[14] The supposed proof of this theory in to be found in the state of Israel, where Jews find themselves as a majority, and where, far from embodying the sort of ideals of multiculturalism and tolerance that Jews have typically been associated with championing in the west, there is an apartheid state, the persecution of the country’s Palestinian minority, an immigration policy that overtly discriminates against non-Jews, not to mention increasing levels of conservatism and religiosity

[15] This is, for example, an integral part of the influential definition of fascism espoused by historian and political theorist Roger Griffin in his book, The Nature of Fascism.

[16] In fact, whether Nietzsche indeed envisaged the Übermensch in this way – namely as a real-world coming savior promising a new transvaluation of values and revitablization of society and civilization that would restore the warrior ethos of the ancients – is not at all clear. In fact, the concept of the Übermensch is mentioned quite infrequently in his writings, largely in Thus Spake Zarathustra and Ecce Homo, and is neither fully developed nor clearly explained. It has even been suggested that the importance of this concept in Nietzsche’s thought has been exaggerated, partly on account of its use in use in the title of George Bernard Shaw’s famous play, Man and Superman, which explores Nietzschean themes.
Elsewhere in his writing, Nietzsche is seemingly resolutely ‘blackpilled’ regarding the inevitability of moral and spiritual decline and the impossibility of any recovery. Thus, in Twilight of the Idols, he reproaches the conservatives for attempting to turn back the clock, declaring that an arrest, let alone a reverse, in the degeneration of mankind and civilization is an impossibility:

It cannot be helped: we must go forward,—that is to say step by step further and further into decadence (—this is my definition of modern ‘progress’). We can hinder this development, and by so doing dam up and accumulate degeneration itself and render it more convulsive, more volcanic: we cannot do more” (Twilight of the Idols: VIII, 43).

In other words, not only is God indeed dead (as are Zeus, Jupiter, Thor and Wotan), but, unlike Jesus in the Gospels, he can never be resurrected.

[17] Of course, another difference between Nietzsche and the Nazis is that the contemporary German culture that each regarded as decadent were separated from each other by several decades. Thus, while Hitler may have despised the German culture of the 1920s as, in many respects, decadent, he nevertheless admired in many respects the German culture of Nietzsche’s time and certainly regarded this Germany as superior to the Weimar-era Germany in which he found himself after the First World War. 
Nevertheless, Hitler did not regard the Germany of Nietzsche’s own time as any kind of ‘golden age’ or ‘lost Eden’. On the contrary, he would have deplored the Germany of Nietzsche’s day both for its alleged domination by Jews and the fact that, even after Bismarck’s supposed unification of Germany, Hitler’s own native Austria remained outside the German Reich.
Thus, neither Nietzsche nor Hitler were mere reactionaries nostalgically looking to turn back the clock. On the contrary, Nietzsche considers this an imposibility, writing:

It cannot be helped: we must go forward,—that is to say step by step further and further into decadence (—this is my definition of modern ‘progress’). We can hinder this development, and by so doing dam up and accumulate degeneration itself and render it more convulsive, more volcanic: we cannot do more” (Twilight of the Idols: VIII, 43).

Thus, just as Nietzsche does not yearn for a return to the master morality or paganism of pre-Christian Europe and classical antiquity, but rather for the coming Übermensch and new transvaluation of values that he would deliver, so Hitler’s own ‘golden age’ was to be found, not in the nineteenth century, nor even in classical antiquity, but rather in the new thousand year Reich he envisaged and sought to construct.

[18] Other English translations render the German as the “blond Teutonic beast [emphasis added]”. At any rate, regardless of the precise translation, it is clear that a reference to the ancient Germanic peoples is intended. 

[19] Nietzsche has an odd attitude to Darwinism and social Darwinism. On the one hand, he frequently disparages Darwin and Darwinism. On the other hand, his moral philosophy directly parallels that of the social Darwinists, albeit bereft of the Darwinian theory that provides the ostensible justification and basis for this moral philosophy
Interestingly, Hitler too has an ambiguous, and, in some respects, similar, relationship with both Darwinism and social Darwinism. On the one hand, Hitler, like Nietzsche, frequently espouses views that read very much like social Darwinism. For example, in Mein Kampf, Hitler writes:

Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live” (Mein Kampf).

Similarly, in his Table Talk, Hitler is quoted as declaring:

By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest” (Hitler’s Table Talk).

Both these quotations definitely sound like social Darwinism. Yet, interestingly, Hitler never actually mentions Darwin or Darwinism, his reference to the law of selection” being the closest he comes to referencing the theory of evolution, and even this is ambiguous. Moreover, in a different passage from Table Talk, Hitler seemingly emphatically rejects the theory of evolution, demanding: 

Where do we acquire the right to believe that man has not always been what he is now? The study of nature teaches us that, in the animal kingdom just as much as in the vegetable kingdom, variations have occurred. They’ve occurred within the species, but none of these variations has an importance comparable with that which separates man from the monkey — assuming that this transformation really took place” (Hitler’s Table Talk: p248). 

What are we to make of this? Clearly, Hitler often contradicted himself and seemingly expressed contradictory and inconsistent views.
Moreover, both Hitler and Nietzsche didn’t really understand Darwin’s theory of evolution. Thus, Nietzsche suggested that the struggle between individuals concerns, not mere survival, but rather power. In fact, it concerns neither survival nor power as such – but rather reproductive success (which tends to correlate with power, especially among men,which is why men, in particular, are known to seek power). Spencer’s phrase, survival of the fittest, is useful only once we recognise that the ‘survival’ promoted by selection is the survival of genes rather than of individual organisms themsevles.
But we must recognize that it is possible, and quite logically consistent, to espouse something very similar in content to a social Darwinist moral framework without actually justifying this moral framework by reference to Darwinism.
In short, both Nietzsche and Hitler seem to be advocating something akin to ‘social Darwinism without the Darwinism’.

[20] Interestingly, even Gobineau’s successor and disciple, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, widely and rightly regarded as a virulent anti-Semite, at least with respect to the  Ashkenazim, nevertheless professed to admire Sephardi Jews. He did so primarily on account of their supposed ‘racial purity’, including their refusal to intermingle and intermarry with the Ashkenazim.

[21] The exact connotations of this passage may depend on the translation. The version I have quoted comes from the Manheim edition. However, a different translation renders the passage, not as The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew, but rather The Jew offers the most striking contrast to the Aryan”. This alternative translation has rather different, and less flattering, connotations, given that Hitler famously extolled Aryans as the master race. 


Kevin Macdonald’s ‘Culture of Critique’: A Fundamentally Flawed Theory of Twentieth Century Jewish Intellectual and Political Activism

Kevin Macdonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Involvement of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1st Books Library 2002). 

In A People That Shall Dwell Alone (which I have reviewed here), psychologist Kevin Macdonald conceptualized Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy that functioned to promote the survival and prospering of the Jewish people and religion in diaspora. 

In ‘Culture of Critique’, its more famous (and controversial) sequel, Macdonald purports to extend this theory to the behaviour of secular twentieth-century intellectuals of Jewish ancestry

Here, however, he encounters an immediate and, in my view, ultimately fatal problem. 

For, in A People That Shall Dwell Alone (PTSA) (reviewed here), Macdonald was emphatic that his theory of Judaism was a theory of cultural, not biological, group selection

In other words, it is a strategy that is encoded, not in Jewish genes, but in the rather teachings of Judaism, the religion. 

It is therefore a theory, not of genetics, but rather memetics, in accordance with the idea of memes’ as units of cultural selection analogous to genes, as first proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (which I have reviewed here).[1]

Yet Macdonald envisages even secular Jews as continuing to pursue this so-called group evolutionary strategy, even though they have long previously abandoned the religion in whose precepts this cultural group strategy is ostensibly contained, or, in some cases, raised in secular homes, never even exposed to it in the first place.[2]

Presumably Macdonald is not arguing that these intellectuals, many of them militant atheists (e.g. Marx and Freud), are actually secret practitioners of Judaism, engaging in what Macdonald somewhat conspiratorially terms crypsis

How then is this possible? 

Group Commitment 

Macdonald never really directly addresses, or even directly acknowledges, this fundamental problem with his theory. 

The closest he comes to addressing it is by arguing that, since Jewish collectivism and ethnocentrism are, at least according to Macdonald, partly innate, secular Jews continued to pursue ethnocentric ends even after abandoning the religion of their forebears. 

Moreover, just as Jewish ethnocentrism is innate, so, Macdonald argues, is Jewish intelligence and other aspects of the typical Jewish personality profile. Thus, Macdonald claims that the ethnic Jews drawn to movements such as psychoanalysis and Marxism

Retained their high IQ, their ambitiousness, their persistence, their work ethic, and their ability to organize and participate in cohesive highly committed groups” (p4). 

These traits, he argues, gave them a key advantage in competition with other intellectual currents. 

The success of these intellectual movements (i.e. Freudianism, Boasian anthropology, Marxism, the Frankfurt School) reflected, then, not their (decidedly modest) explanatory power, but rather the intense commitment and dedication of their adherents to the movement and ideology. 

Thus, just as Macdonald attributes the economic success of Jews to their collectivism and hence their tendency to operate  price-fixing trade cartels and favour their co-ethnics in commercial operations, so, he argues, the success of Jewish intellectual movements reflects the commitment and solidarity of their members: 

Cohesive groups outcompete individualist strategies. The fundamental truth of this axiom has been central to the success of Judaism throughout its history whether in business alliances and trading monopolies or in the intellectual and political movements discussed here” (p5-6; see also p209-10). 

Thus, Macdonald emphasizes the cult-like qualities of psychoanalysis, Marxism and Boasian anthropology, whose members evince a fanatical quasi-religious devotion to the movement, its ideology and leaders. 

He argues that these movements recreated the structure of traditional Jewish religious groups in Eastern European shtetlach, being grouped around a charismatic leader (a rebbe) who is the object of reverence and veneration, and against whom no dissent was tolerated on pain of excommunication from the group (p225-6).  

Thus, according to Macdonald, ideologies such as Marxism, psychoanalysis and the ‘standard social science model’ (SSM) in psychology, sociology and anthropology take on many features of traditional religion, including the tendency to persecute heresy

This does indeed seem to represent an accurate model of how the psychoanalytic movement operated under the dictatorial leadership of Freud. It is also an accurate model of how the Soviet Union operated under communism, with deviationism relentlessly persecuted and suppressed in successive purges

Similarly, among social scientists, biological approaches to understanding human behaviour, such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and behavioural genetics, and especially theories of sex and race differences (and social class differences), for example in intelligence, have aroused an opposition among sociologists and anthropologists that often borders on persecution and witch-hunts

However, such quasi-religious political cults are hardly exclusive to Jews

On the contrary, National Socialism in Germany evinced a very similar structure, being organized around a charismatic leader (Hitler), who elicited reverence and whose word was law (the so-called führerprinzip). 

But Nazism was, of course, a movement very much composed of and led by white European Gentiles. 

To this, Macdonald would, I suspect, respond by quoting from the previous installment in the Culture of Critique series, where he argued: 

Powerful group strategies tend to beget opposing group strategies that in many ways provide a mirror image of the group which they combat” (Separation and Its Discontents: pxxxvii). 

Thus, in Separation and its Discontents, Macdonald provocatively contends: 

National Socialist ideology was a mirror image of traditional Jewish ideology… [Both shared] a strong emphasis on racial purity and on the primacy of group ethnic interests rather than individual interests[and] were greatly concerned with eugenics” (Separation and Its Discontents: p194). 

On this view, Judaism provided, if not necessarily the conscious model for Nazism, then at least its ultimate catalyst. Nazism was, on this view, ultimately a defensive, or at least reactive, strategy.[3]

In other words, Macdonald suggests cult-like movements in Europe are mostly either manifestations of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy, or reactions against Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy. 

This strikes me as doubtful, and as according the Jews an importance in determining the course of European history which, for all their gargantuan and vastly dispropotionate contributions to European culture, science and civilization, they do not wholly warrant. 

Instead, I believe there is a pan-human tendency to form such fanatical cult-like groups led by charismatic leaders. 

Indeed, in Separation and Its Discontents, Macdonald himself acknowledges that there is a pan-human proclivity to form such groups but insists that “Jews are higher on average in this system” than are other Europeans (Separation and Its Discontents: p31). 

At any rate, Macdonald’s claim at least has the advantage that it leads to testable predictions, namely that: 

(1) That few such cult-like movements existed in Europe before the settling of Jews, or in regions where Jews were largely absent; and

(2) That all (or most) such movements were either:

(a) Jewish movements, led and dominated by Jews; or
(b) Anti-Semitic movements opposed to Jews.

As noted above, I doubt these predictions can be borne out. However, interestingly, in Separation and Its Discontents, Macdonald does cite two studies that supposedly found that Jews were indeed “overrepresented among [members of] non-Jewish religious cults” (Separation and Its Discontents: p24).[4]

At any rate, a final problem with Macdonald’s theory is that, even if the Jewish tendency towards ethnocentrism and collectivism is indeed partly innate, this surely involves a disposition towards, not a specifically Jewish ethnocentrism, but rather an ethnocentrism in respect of whatever group the person in question comes to identify as. 

Thus, since many Jews are raised in secular households, often not even especially aware of their Jewish ancestry, we would hence expect Jewish ethnocentrism to manifest itself in disproportionate numbers of Jews joining the white nationalist movement![5]

Debunking Marx, Boas and Freud 

Undoubtedly the strongest part of Macdonald’s book is his debunking of the scientific merits of such intellectual paradigms as Boasian anthropology, the the standard social science model and Freudian psychoanalysis

Macdonald fails to convince me that these ideologies and belief-systems function as part of a Jewish ‘group evolutionary strategy’ (read: Jewish conspiracy) to subvert Western culture. He does, however, amply demonstrate that they are indeed pseudo-scientific nonsense. 

Yet, for Macdonald, the very scientific weakness of such paradigms as Marxism, Freudian psychoanalysis and the Standard Social Science Model is positive evidence that they serve a group evolutionary function, as otherwise their success in attracting adherents is difficult to explain. 

Thus, he writes: 

The scientific weakness of these movements is evidence of their group-strategic function” (pvi). 

Here, however, Macdonald goes too far. 

The scientific weakness of the theories and movements in question does indeed suggest that the reason for their popularity and success in attracting adherents must reflect something other than their explanatory power. However, he is wrong in presupposing this something is necessarily their supposed “group strategic function” in ethnic competition.[6]

Therefore, Macdonald’s critique of the theoretical and scientific merits of the intellectual movements discussed is not only the best part of his book, but also, in principle, entirely separable from his theory of the role of these movements in promoting an ostensible Jewish group evolutionary strategy. 

Take, for example, his critiques of Boasian anthropology and Freudian psychoanalysis, which are, of those discussed by Macdonald, the two intellectual movements with which I am most familiar and hence with respect to which I am most qualified to assess the merits of his critique.[7]

In assessing the scientific merits of Boasian cultural anthropology, Macdonald concludes that Boasian psychoanalysis was not so much a science, nor even a pseudo-science, as an outright rejection of science: 

An important technique of the Boasian school was to cast doubt on general theories of human evolution, such as those implying developmental sequences, by emphasizing the vast diversity and chaotic minutiae of human behavior, as well as by emphasizing the relativism of standards of cultural evaluation. The Boasians argued that general theories of cultural evolution must await a detailed cataloguing of cultural diversity, but in fact no general theories emerged from this body of research in the ensuing half-century of its dominance of the profession… Because of its rejection of fundamental scientific activities such as generalization and classification, Boasian anthropology may thus be characterized more as an anti-theory than as a theory” (p24). 

In other words, the Boasian paradigm involves, and seeks to make a perverse virtue out of, throwing one’s arms up in despair and declaring that human behaviour is simply too complex, and too culturally variable, to permit the formulation of any sort of general theory. 

This reminds me of David Buss’s critique of the notion that ‘culture’ is itself an adequate explanation for cultural differences, another idea very much derived from post-Boasian American anthropology. Buss writes: 

Patterns of local within-group similarity and between-group differences are best regarded as phenomena that require explanation. Transforming these differences into an autonomous causal entity called ‘culture’ confuses the phenomena that require explanation with a proper explanation of the phenomena. Attributing such phenomena to culture provides no more explanatory power than attributing them to God, consciousness, learning, socialization, or even evolution, unless the causal processes subsumed by these labels are properly described. Labels for phenomena are not proper causal explanations for them” (Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind: p404). 

Accepting that no society is more advanced than another, that there is no general direction to cultural change and that all differences between societies and cultures are purely random is essentially to accept the null hypothesis as true and abandoning, or ruling out a priori, any attempt to generate a causal framework for explaining cultural differences. 

It is not science, but a form of obscurantism in direct opposition to science. 

Jews and the Left 

Another interesting element of Macdonald’s work is his summary of just how predominantly Jewish-dominated these ostensibly Jewish intellectual movements indeed really were. 

This is something of a revelation precisely because this is a topic politely passed over in most mainstream histories of, say, revolutionary communism in Eastern Europe and America, or the psychoanalytic movement, both those sympathetic, and those hostile, to the movements under discussion. 

Among radical leftists, the Jewish overrepresentation is especially striking in the USA, probably because of both the relatively high numbers of Jews resident in the USA and the only very low levels of support for socialism among non-Jewish Americans throughout most of the twentieth century.  

Thus, Macdonald reports that: 

From 1921 to 1961, Jews constituted 33.5 percent of the Central Committee members [of the Communist Party USA] and the representation of Jews was often above 40 percent (Klehr 1978, 46). Jews were the only native-born ethnic group from which the party was able to recruit. Glazer (1969, 129) states that at least half of the CPUSA membership of around 50,000 were Jews into the 1950s” (p72). 

Similarly, Macdonald reports: 

In the 1930s Jews ‘constituted a substantial majority of known members of the Soviet underground in the United States’ and almost half the individuals prosecuted under the Smith Act of 1947 (Rothman & Lichter 1982)” (p74).

Likewise, with respect to the so-called new left and 1960s student radicalism, Macdonald reports: 

Flacks (1967: 64) found that 45% of students involved in a protest at the University of Chicago were JewishJews constituted 80% of the students signing a petition to end the ROTC at Harvard and 30-50% of the Students for a Democratic Society – the central organization for radical students. Adelson (1972) found that 90 percent of his sample of radical students at the University of Michigan were JewishBraungart (1979) found that 43% of the SDS had at least one Jewish parent and an additional 20 percent had no religious affiliation. The latter are most likely to be predominantly Jewish: Rothman and Lichter (1982: 82) found that the ‘overwhelming majority of radical students who claimed that their parents were atheists had Jewish backgrounds” (p76-7).  

In short, it appears not unreasonable to claim that the radical left in twentieth century America, which never gained significant electoral support but nevertheless had a substantial social, cultural, academic and indirect political influence on American society, would scarcely have existed were it not for the presence of Jewish radicals.

However, in this respect, the USA was quite exceptional, due to both the relatively large numbers of Jews resident in the country, and the almost complete lack of support of radical leftism among non-Jewish Americans until very recently.[8]

Jewish Dominated Sciences – and Pseudo-Sciences

Just as Jews numberically dominated the American radical left, so, Macdonald reveals, they dominated the psychoanalytic movement. Thus, we learn from Macdonald’s account that, not only were the leaders of the psychoanalytic movement, and individual psychoanalysts, disproportionately Jewish, so were their clients: 

Jews have been vastly overrepresented as patients seeking psychoanalytic treatments, accounting for 60 percent of the applicants to psychoanalytic clinics in the 1960s” (p133). 

Indeed, Macdonald reports that there was: 

A Jewish subculture in New York in mid-twentieth-century America in which psychoanalysis was a central cultural institution that filled some of the same functions as traditional religious affiliation” (p133). 

This was that odd, and now fast disappearing, New York subculture, familiar to most of us only through watching Woody Allen movies, where visiting a psychoanalyst was a regular weekly ritual analogous to attending a church or synogogue. 

Yet, as noted above, the overrepresentation of Jews in the psychoanalytic movement is an aspect of Freudianism that is usually downplayed in most discussions or histories of the psychoanalytic movement, including those hostile to psychoanalysis. 

For example, Hans Eysenck, in his Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, mentions the allegation that psychoanalysis was a ‘Jewish science’, only to dismiss it as irrelevant to question of the substantive merits of psychoanalysis as a theoretical paradigm or method of treatment (Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire: p12).  

Yet, here, Eysenck is right. Whether an intellectual movement is Jewish-dominated, or even part of a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’, is ultimately irrelevant to whether its claims are true and represent a useful and empirically-productive way of viewing the world.[9]

For example, many German National Socialsts dismissed theoretical physics as a ‘Jewish science, and, given the overrepresentation of Jews among leading theoretical physicists in Germany and elsewhere, it was indeed a disproportionately Jewish-dominated field. 

However, whereas psychoanalysis was indeed a pseudoscience, theoretical physics certainly was not. 

Indeed, the fact that so many leading theoretical physicists were forced to flee Germany and German-occupied territories in the mid-twentieth century on account of their Jewishness, together with the National Socialist regime’s a priori dismissal of theoretical physics as a discredited Jewish science, has even been implicated as a key factor in the Nazis ultimate defeat, as it arguably led to their failure to develop an atom bomb

Cofnas’s Default Hypothesis 

In a recent critique of Macdonald’s work, Nathan Cofnas (2018) argues that Jews are in fact overrepresented, not only in the political and intellectual movements discussed by Macdonald, but indeed in all intellectual and political movements that are not overtly antisemitic

Here, Cofnas is surely right. Whatever your politics (short of Nazism), you are likely to count Jews among your intellectual heroes. 

For example, Karl Popper was ethnically Jewish, yet was also a leading critic of both psychoanalysis and Marxism, dismissing both as quintessential unfalsifiable pseudo-sciences. Likewise, Robert Trivers and David Barash were pioneering early-sociobiologists, but also of Jewish ethnicity. 

Indeed, Macdonald, to his credit, himself helpfully lists several prominent Jewish sociobiologists and behavior geneticists, acknowledging: 

Several Jews have been prominent contributors to evolutionary thinking as it applies to humans as well as human behavioral genetics, including Daniel G Freedman, Richard Herrnstein, Seymour Itzkoff, Irwin Silverman, Nancy Sigel, Lionel Tiger and Glenn Weisfeld” (p39) (p39). 

Indeed, ethnic Jews are even seemingly overrepresented among race theorists

These include Richard Herrnstein, co-author of The Bell Curve (which I have reviewed here); Stanley Garn, the author of Human Races and co-author, with Carleton Coon, of Races: A Study of the Problems of Race Formation in Man; Nathaniel Weyl, the author of, among other racialist works, The Geography of Intellect; Daniel Freedman, the author of some controversial and, among racialists, seminal, studies on race differences in behaviour among newborn babies; and Michael Levin, author of Why Race Matters.[10]

Likewise, the most prominent champions of hereditarianism with regard to race differences in intelligence in the mid- to late twentieth, namely Hans Eysenck and Arthur Jensen, were half-Jewish and a quarter-Jewish respectively.[11]

Meanwhile the most prominent contemporary populariser and champion of hereditarianism, including with respect to race differences, is Steven Pinker, who is also ethnically Jewish.[12]

Indeed, Nathan Cofnas is himself Jewish and likewise a staunch hereditarian

Also, although not a racial theorist as such, it is perhaps also worth noting that the infamous nineteenth-century ‘positivist criminologist’, Cesare Lombroso, a bête noire of radical environmental determinists, who infamously argued that criminals were an atavistic throwback to an earlier stage in human evolution, was also of Jewish background, albeit Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi. 

On the other hand, however, the first five opponents of sociobiology I could name offhand when writing this review (namely, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Lewontin, Leon Kamin, Steven Rose and Marshall Sahlins) were all ethnic Jews to a man.[13]

In short, if ethnic Jews are vastly overrepresented among malignly influential purveyors of obscurantist pseudoscience, they are also vastly overrepresented among important contributors to real science, including in controversial areas such as the study of sex differences and race differences in intelligence and behaviour

Indeed, if there is a national or ethnic group disproportionately responsible for obscurantist, faddish, anti-scientific and just plain bad (but nevertheless highly influential) ideas in philosophy, social science, and the humanities, then I would say that it is not Jewish intellectuals, but rather French intellectuals.[14]

Are we then to posit that these intellectuals were somehow secretly advancing a ‘Group Evolutionary Strategy’ to advance the interests of the France? 

Why Are Jews Overrepresented Among Leading Intellectuals? 

Cofnas (2018), for his part, attributes the overrepresentation of Jews among leading intellectuals to: 

1) The higher average IQ of Jews; and
2) The disproportionate concentration of Jews in urban areas.

In explaining the overrepresentation of Jews by reference to just two factors, Cofnas’s theory is certainly simpler and more parsimonious than Macdonald’s theory of partly unconscious group strategizing, which comes close to being a conspiracy theory. 

Indeed, if one were to go through passages of Macdonald’s work replacing the words “Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy” with “Jewish conspiracy”, it would read much a traditional antisemitic conspiracy theory. 

However, I suspect Macdonald is right that a further factor is the tendency of Jews to promote the work of their co-ethnics. Thus, he cites one interesting study which used surname analysis to suggest that academic researchers with stereotypically Jewish surnames were more likely to both collaborate with, and cite the work of, other academic researchers with stereotypically Jewish surnames, as compared to those with non-Jewish surnames (p210; Greenwald & Schuh 1994). 

This, of course, reflects an ethnocentric preference. However, to admit as much is not necessarily to agree with Macdonald that Jews are any more ethnocentric than Gentile Europeans, but rather to recognize that ethnocentrism is a pan-human psychological trait and Jews are no more exempt from this tendency than are other groups (see The Ethnic Phenomenon: which I have reviewed here). 

Leftism and Iconoclasm 

But there is one thing that Cofas’s default hypothesis cannot explain—namely why, if Jews are overrepresented in leadership positions among all political and intellectual movements, they are nevertheless especially overrepresented on the Left (see here for data confirming this pattern). 

This overrepresentation on the left is paradoxical, since Jews are disproportionately wealthy, and leftism is hence against their economic interests. 

Moreover, Macdonald himself argues in A People That Shall Dwell Alone that Jews traditionally acted as agents and accessories of governmental oppression (e.g. as tax farmers), resented by the poor, but typically protected by their elite patrons.[15]

Why, then, were Jews, throughout most of the twentieth century, especially overrepresented on the left?

Cofnas (2018) suggests that Jews will be overrepresented among any political or intellectual movements that are not overtly antisemitic

However, this cannot explain the especial overrepresentation of Jews on the Left, since, since at least by the middle of the twentieth century, overt antisemitism has been as anathema among mainstream conservatives as it is among leftists.[16]

Yet all the movements discussed by Macdonald are broadly leftist. 

Perhaps the only exception is Freudian psychoanalysis.  

Indeed, although Macdonald emphasizes its co-option by the Left, especially by the Frankfurt School, some leftists dismiss Freudianism as inherently reactionary, as when student radicalism is dismissed as a form of adolescent rebellion against a father-figure, or feminism as a form of penis envy.[17]

Nevertheless, though not intrinsically leftist, Freudianism is certainly iconoclastic. 

Thus, one almost universal feature of Jewish intellectuals has been iconoclasm

Thus, Jews seem as overrepresented among leading libertarians as among leftists. For example, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, Robert Nozick and Murray Rothbard were all of Jewish ancestry. 

Yet libertarianism is usually classed as an extreme right-wing ideology, at least in accordance with the simplistic one-dimensional left-right axis by which most people attempt to conceptualize the political spectrum and plot people’s politics. 

However, in reality, far from being in any sense ‘conservative’, libertarian ideas, if and when put into practice, are just as destructive of traditional societal mores as is Marxism, possibly more so. It is therefore anything but ‘conservative’ in the true sense. 

In contrast, while prominent among neoliberals and, of course, so-called neoconservatives, relatively few Jews seem to be socially conservative (e.g. in relation to issues like abortion, gay rights and feminism, not to mention immigration).  

Orthodox and Conservative Jews are perhaps an exception here. However, the latter are highly insular, living very much in a closed world, like religious Jews in the pre-emancipation era.  

Therefore, although they may indeed vote predominantly for conservative candidates, beyond voting, they rarely involve themselves in politics outside their own communities, either as candidates or activists. 

Macdonald himself seeks to explain Jewish iconoclasm in terms of social identity theory

On this view, Jews, by virtue of their alien origins, enforced separation and minority status, not to mention the discrimination and resentment often directed towards them by host populations, felt estranged and alienated from mainstream culture and hence developed a hostility towards it. 

Here, Macdonald echoes Thorstein Veblen’s theory of Jewish intellectual preeminence (Veblen 1919). 

Veblen argued that Jewish intellectual achievements reflected their only partial assimilation into western societies, which meant that they were less committed to the prevailing dogmas of those societies, which produced both a degree of scholarly detachment and objectivity, and a highly skeptical, and enquiring, state of mind, which ideally suited them to careers in scholarship and science. 

At first, Macdonald reports: 

Negative views of gentile institutions were… confined to internal consumption within the Jewish community” (p7). 

However, with emancipation and secularization, Jewish critiques of the West increasingly went mainstream and began to gain a following even among Gentiles. 

Jewish Radical Critique… of Judaism Itself? 

However, the problem with seeing Jewish iconoclasm as an attack on Gentile culture is that the ideologies espoused necessarily entail a rejection of traditional Jewish culture too. 

Thus, if Christianity was indeed delusional, repressive and patriarchal, then this critique applied equally to the religion whence Christianity derived – namely Judaism

Indeed, far from Judaism being a religion that, unlike Christianity and Islam, is not sexually repressive (a view Macdonald attributes to Freud), the most sexually repressive, illiberal and, from a contemporary left-liberal perspective, problematic elements of Christian doctrine almost all derive directly from Judaism and the Old Testament

Thus, explicit condemnation of homosexuality occurs, not in the teaching of Jesus, but rather in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13). Similarly, it is principally from a passage in the Old Testament, that the Christian opposition to masturbation and coitus interruptus derives (Genesis 38:8-10). 

The Old Testament also, of course, contains the most racist and genocidal biblical passages (e.g. Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Joshua 10:40) as well as the only biblical commandments seemingly advocating mass rape and sexual enslavement (e.g. Deuteronomy 20: 13-14; Numbers 31: 17-18) – see discussion here

Only in respect of the question of divorce and remarriage is the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament arguably less liberal than that in the Old Testament.[18]

Likewise, if the nuclear family was pathological, patriarchal and the root cause of all neurosis, then this applied also to the traditional Jewish family. 

In short, radical critique is necessarily destructive of all traditional values and institutions, Jewish values and traditions very much included. 

Neither is this radical critique of Jewish culture always merely implicit. 

True, many Jewish iconoclasts concentrated their fire on Christian and Gentile cultural traditions. However, this might be excused by reference to the fact that it was Christian and gentile cultural traditions that represented the dominant cultural traditions within the societies in which they found themselves. 

However, secular Jewish intellectuals had, not least by virtue of their secularism, rejected Jewish culture and traditions too. 

Indeed, far from arbitrarily exempting Jews from their radical critique of traditional society and religion, many Jewish intellectuals were positively anti-Semitic in the degree of their criticism of Jews and of Judaism.  

A case in point is the granddaddy of Jewish Leftism, Karl Marx, who receives comparatively scant attention from Macdonald, probably for precisely this reason.[19]

Yet Marx’s writings, especially but not exclusively, in his infamous essay On the Jewish Question, are so anti-Jewish that, were it not for Marx’s own Jewish background and impeccable leftist credentials, modern readers would surely dismiss him as a raving anti-Semite, if not insist upon his cancellation for crimes against political correctness (see Whisker 1984).[20]

Although I dislike the term self-hating Jew on account of its pejorative and Freudian connotations of psychopathology, the tradition of Jewish self-criticism continues – from the anti-Zionism of radical leftists like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, to broadly ‘alt right’ Jews like Ron Unz and David Cole.[21]

Macdonald claims that Jewish leftists envisaged an ethnically inclusive society in which Jews would continue to exist as a distinct group. 

Actually, however, in my understanding, most radical leftists envisaged all forms of religious or ethnic identity as withering away in the coming communist utopia, such that both Judaism as a religion and the Jews as a people would ultimately cease to exist in a post-revolutionary society. 

Indeed, it is difficult to see how Jewishness could survive in the long-term without religion. 

Admittedly, Macdonald does amply demonstrate that even secular Jews, in both the West and Soviet Russia, continued to socialize, and intermarry, overwhelmingly among themselves. However, it is difficult to see how this pattern could continue indefinitely in the absence of a shared religion, as, over subsequent generations, the basis for their shared kinship becomes increasingly remote. 

It is true that some Marranos in Iberia and elsewhere managed to retain a Jewish identity over multiple generations by secretly continuing to practise Judaism, practising what Macdonald calls crypsis.  

However, this could hardly apply to Jewish leftists, since even Macdonald does not go as far as to claim that such militant secularists and anti-religionists as Marx and Freud were actually secret practitioners of Judaism.[22]

Macdonald also argues that, since the Jewish tendency towards higher IQs, high conscientiousness and highinvestment parenting is (supposedly) partly innate, Jews were relatively immunized against the destructive effects of the sexual revolution on rates of divorce, illegitimacy and single-parenthood (p147-9).[23]

Likewise, if the Jewish tendency towards ethnocentrism is also innate, Jews would be presumably less vulnerable to the impact of universalist and antiracist ideologies on group cohesion.

However, even assuming that this is true, does Macdonald actually envisage that the Jewish psychoanalysts and other Jewish thinkers who (supposedly) promoted hedonism and universalism actually consciously foresaw and intended that their social, intellectual and political activism would have a greater effect on gentile family and culture than on that of Jews for this reason?

This is surely implausible and would amount to a preposterous conspiracy theory. 

Moreover, it might instead be argued that, since Jews were at the forefront of, and overrepresented within, these intellectial movements, Jewish culture was actually especially vulnerable to the effect of such ideologies. 

Thus, perhaps Orthodox Jews were indeed relatively insulated from the effects of the 1960s counterculture. But, then, so were the Amish and Christian fundamentalists. 

On the other hand, however, many Jewish student radicals very much practised what they preached (e.g. hedonism, promiscuity, drug abuse, and terrorism). 


Macdonald’s penultimate chapter discusses the role of Jews in reforming immigration law in the USA.[24]

Macdonald shows that Jewish individuals, networks and organizations played a central role in advocating for the opening up of America’s borders, and the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which exposed white America to replacement levels of non-white immigration, resulting in an ongoing, and now surely irreversible, demographic displacement.[25]

The basis of Macdonald’s thesis is that Jews perceive themselves as safer in multi-ethnic societies where they, as Jews, don’t stand out so much. This essence of this cynical logic was perhaps best distilled by Jewish comedienne, Sarah Silverman, who, during one of her stand-up routines, claimed: 

The Holocaust would never have happened if black people lived in Germany in the 1930s and 40s… well, it wouldn’t have happened to Jews.”[26]

There is indeed some truth to this idea. If I walk around London and see Sikhs in turbans, Muslims in burqas and hijabs and people of all different racial phenotypes, then even the elaborate apparel of Hasidic Jews might not jump out at me as overly strange. 

As for those Jews the only evidence of whose ethnicity is, say, a skullcap or an especially large nose, I am likely to see them as just another white person, no more exotic than, say, an Italian-American. 

Thus, today, most people see Jews as white and hence fail to notice their overrepresentation in media, politics, government and big business, and, when leftist campaigners protest that the Oscars are so white, the average man in the street is perhaps to be forgiven for not enquiring too far into the precise ethnic background of all these white Hollywood executives and movie producers.

However, I’m not entirely convinced that mass immigration is indeed ‘good for the Jews’. 

For one thing, many such immigrants, especially in Europe, tend to be Muslim, and Muslims have their own ‘beef’ with the Jews regarding the conquest, expulsion and subsequent persecution of their coreligionists in Palestine.[27]

Thus, while stories periodically trend in the media regarding an increase in anti-Semitic hate-crimes in Europe, what is almost invariably missed out of these news stories is that those responsible for these anti-Semitic hate crimes in Europe are almost invariably Muslim youths (see The Retreat of Reason, reviewed here: p107-11).[28]

In addition, some blacks, like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, also stand accused of anti-Semitism

In fact, however, Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism is, in one sense, overblown. His religion holds that all white people, Jew and Gentile alike, are a race of white devils invented by an evil black scientist called Yakub (the most preposterous part of which theory is arguably the idea of a black scientist inventing something that useful).  

His comments about Jews are thus no more disparaging than his beliefs about whites in general. The particular outrage that his anti-Jewish comments have garnered reflect only the greater ‘victim-status’ accorded Jews in the contemporary West as compared to other whites, despite their hugely disproportionate wealth and political power

In contrast, anti-white rhetoric is all but ubiquitous on the political left, and indeed throughout American society as a whole, and hardly unique to Farrakhan. It therefore passes almost entirely without comment. 

Yet this points to another problem for American Jews as a direct result of both increasing ethnic diversity and increasing anti-white animosity – namely that, if increasing ethnic diversity does indeed mean that Jews come to be seen as no different from other whites, then the animosity of many non-whites towards whites, an animosity often nurtured by leftist Jewish intellectuals, is, unlike the destroying angel of Exodus, unlikely to distinguish Jew from Gentile. 

Yet, given their history, Jews, more than other whites, should be all too aware of the dangers in becoming a wealthy but resented minority, as whites in America are poised to become by the middle of the current century⁠, thanks to the immigration policy that Jews were, in Macdonald’s own telling, instrumental in moulding. 

In short, if I began this section of my review with a quote from a Jewish comedienne regarding blacks, it behoves to conclude with a quote from a black comedian, concerning Jews. Chris Rock, discussing the alleged anti-Semitism of Farrakhan in one of his stand-up routines, explains: 

Black people don’t hate Jews. Black people hate white people. We don’t got time to dice white people into little groups.” 


[1] Macdonald, however, never mentions the meme concept in PTSDA, perhaps on account of an antipathy to Richard Dawkins, whom he blames for prejudicing evolutionists against the idea groups have any important role to play in evolution (A People That Shall Dwell Alone: pviii). He does, however, mention the meme concept on one occasion in ‘Culture of Critique’, where he acknowledges:

The Jewish intellectual and cultural movements reviewed here may be viewed as memes designed designed to facilitate the continued existence of Judaism as an group evolutionary strategy” (p237).

However, Macdonald cautions:

Their adaptedness for gentiles who adopt them is highly questionable, however, and indeed, it is unlikely that any gentile who believes that, for example, anti-Semitism is necessarily a sign of a pathological personality is behaving adaptively” (p237).

[2] Curiously, Macdonald even refers to these secular thinkers and political activists as still continuing to practise what he calls “Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy”, a phrase he uses repeatedly throughout this book, even though the vast majority of the thinkers he discusses are secular in orientation. This suggests that, for Macdonald, the word “Judaism” has a rather different, and broader, meaning than it does for most other people, referring not merely to a religion, but rather to a group evolutionary strategy that is, as he purports to show in PTSDA, encapsulated in this religion, but also somehow broader than the religion itself, and capable of being practised by, say, secular psychoanalysts, Marxists and anthropologists just as much as by, say, devout orthodox Jews. This is a rather odd idea, and certainly a very odd definition of ‘Judaism’, that Macdonald never gets around to explaining.

[3] Indeed, Macdonald goes even further, provocatively arguing that the ultimate progenitor of Nazi race theory is not to be found among such infamously anti-Semitic proto-Nazi notables as Wagner, Chamberlain or Gobineau, let alone Eckart, Rosenberg or Hitler himself, but rather the celebrated, and ethnically Jewish, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Despite being, at least nominally, a Christian convert and marrying a Gentile, Disraeli, according to Macdonald, not only considered the Jews a superior race vis a vis white Gentiles, but also attributed this superiority to their alleged “racial purity” (Separation and Its Discontents: p181).
Thus, he quotes Disraeli as observing:

The other degraded races wear out and disappear; the Jew remains, as determined, as expert, as persevering, as full of resource and resolution as ever… All of which proves that it is in vain for man to attempt to battle the inexorable law of nature, which has decreed that a superior race shall never be destroyed or absorbed by an inferior” (Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography: quoted in Separation and Its Discontents: p181).

Indeed, Macdonald reports, Disraeli considered Jews as being responsible for “virtually all the advances of civilization”, and, evincing black Israelite levels of delusion, apparently even considered Mozart to be Jewish. Thus, Macdonald quotes LJ Rather as concluding:

Disraeli rather than Gobineau—still less Chamberlain—is entitled to be called the father of nineteenth-century racist ideology” (Reading Wagner: quoted in Separation and Its Discontents: p180).

[4] The studies cited by Macdonald for this claim are: Marciano 1981; Schwartz 1978

[5] Of course, in making this claim, I am being at least semi-facetious. Jews are not be overrepresented among most white nationalist groups because most such groups are also highly anti-Semitic and hence Jews would not be welcome there. On the other hand, Jews would be welcome among more mainstream civic nationalist and anti-immigration groups, not least because they would lend such groups a defence against the charge of being anti-Semitic or ‘Nazis’. However, they do not appear to be especially well represented among these groups, or, at the very least, not as overrepresented among these groups as they are on the political left

[6] On the contrary, other plausible explanations as for why Jew and Gentile alike were drawn to the intellectual movements discussed readily present themselves. For example, wishful thinking may have motivated the Marxist belief in the coming of a communist utopia. Simply a sense of belonging, and of intellectual superiority, may also be a motivating factor in joining such movements as psychoanalysis and Marxism. Indeed, many disparate cults and religions have posited all kinds of odd religious beliefs (arguably odder even than those of Freud), such as reincarnation, miracles etc., without their being any discernible strategic advantage for the overwhelming majority of adherents, indeed sometimes at considerable cost to themselves (e.g. religiously imposed celibacy). 

[7] These are also the movements with which I suspect Macdonald himself is most familiar. As an evolutionary psychologist, he is naturally familiar with Boasian anthropology and the the standard social science model, to which evolutionary psychology stands largely in opposition. Also, he has a longstanding interest in Freudian psychoanalysis, having earlier written a critique of psychoanalysis as a cult in Skeptic magazine (Macdonald 1996), and also, ten years earlier, a not entirely unsympathetic assessment of Freud’s theories in the light of sociobiological theory (Macdonald 1986), both of which articles critique Freudianism without recourse to anti-Semitism or any talk of ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategies’. Also, the title of his previous book on ‘the Jewish question’, namely ‘Separation and Its Discontents’, is obviously drawn from the title of one of Freud’s own books, namely ‘Civilization and its Discontents’

[8] In contrast, in Britain, for example, there was an independent, indigenous socialist tradition, which developed quite independent of any external Jewish influence. In Britian, while Jews would certainly have been overrepresented among leftist radicals during the twentieth century, I suspect that it would not have been to anything like the same degree, not necessarily because of any lesser per capita involvement of Jews, but rather because of:

    1. The relatively lower numbers of Jews resident in the UK as a proportion of the overall population during this time frame; and
  1. The greater per capita involvement of Gentiles in leftist and radical socialist movements.

Meanwhile, in Scandinavian countries, so-called Nordic social democracy surely developed without any significant Jewish influence, or at least any direct influence, if only because so few Jews were resident in these countries. In short, socialism and radical leftism cannot be credited to (or blamed on) Jews alone.
Ethnic Jews were also vastly overrepresented in the Soviet regime the USSR, at least during the first few decades of Soviet rule. Thus, one Jewish Israeli publication reports that, despite only ever representing a tiny proportion of the overall Soviet Russian population:

In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin” (Plocker 2006).

Historian Robert Gellately seems to give a balanced picture when he reports of the Jewish role in the October revolution and Soviet regime:

Their participation in the Bolshevik Revolution in absolute terms was not great, but five of the twelve members at the Bolshevik Central Committee meeting on October 23 1917 were Jews. The Politburo that led the revolution had seven members, three of whom were Jews. During the stormy years of 1918-21, Jews generally made up one-quarter of the Central Committee and were active in other institutions as well including the Cheka” (Lenin, Stalin & Hitler: p67-8).

In short, the myth of ‘Judeo-bolshevism’ was indeed a myth, but the role of the Jews in both the Communist revolution and regime was indeed vastly disproportional to their numbers, given that Jews only ever constituted a tiny percentage of the Russian population at any given time. Regarding Macdonald’s own take on the involvement of Jews in the Soviet regime, and especially in Soviet repression in Eastern Europe, see Macdonald 2005.

[9] Analogously, leftist critics of neoliberal economics, sociobiological theory and evolutionary psychology sometimes claim that these theories were devised within a liberal-capitalist milieu, ultimately in order to justify the capitalist system. However, even assuming this were true, it is not directly relevant to the question of whether the theories in question are true, or at least provide a productive model of how the real world operates. Thus, biologist John Maynard Smith wrote of how:

There is a recent fashion in the history of science to throw away the baby and keep the bathwater to ignore the science, but to describe in sordid detail the political tactics of the scientists” (The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today: px).

[10] I am aware that all these writers and researchers are Jewish either because they have mentioned their ethnicity in their own writings, or it has been mentioned by other authors whom I regard as reliable. I have not, for example, merely relied on their having Jewish-sounding names. This is actually a very inaccurate way of determining ancestry, because, not only have many Jewish people anglicized their names, but also most surnames that Americans and British people think of as characteristically Jewish are actually German in origin, and only relatively more or less common among Jews than among German gentiles. Only a few surnames (e.g. Levin, Cohen) are exclusively Jewish in origin, and even these indicate, of course, only male-line ancestry.

[11] For whatever reason, Eysenck spent most of his life denying and concealing his own Jewish ancestry, practising what Macdonald calls crypsis. Interestingly, he also favourably reviewed the first installment of Macdonald’s so-called ‘Culture of Critique trilogy’, A People That Shall Dwell alone (which I myself have reviewed here) in the psychology journal, Personality & Individual Differences, describing it asa potentially very important contribution to the literature on eugenics, and on reproductive strategy”. Another prominent Jewish champion of hereditarian theories of racial difference was the leading libertarian economist Murray Rothbard

[12] On his blog, Macdonald has repeatedly disparaged Pinker as occupying “the Stephen Jay Gould Chair for Politically Correct Popularization of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard”. This may be a witty (and perhaps anti-Semitic) putdown. It is also, however, grossly unfair. Pinker has not only championed IQ testing, behavioural genetics and sociobiology, but even the idea of innate differences between races in psychological traits such as intelligence (see What is Your Dangerous Idea: p13-5; Pinker 2006). 

[13] Admittedly, the first four of these very much form a clique, very much associated with one another, having jointly authored books and articles together and frequently citing one another’s work. This may be why they were the first five names to occur to me. It might also explain their common ethnicity, as it seems that, according to a study cited by Macdonald, Jewish scholars are more likely to collaborate with and cite fellow Jews (Greenwald & Schuh 1994). On the other hand, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins is not associated with this group, and prior to looking up his biographical details for the purpose of writing this paragraph, I was not aware he was of Jewish ancestry. Perhaps the next best-known critic of sociobiology (or at least the next one I could name offhand) is philosopher Phillip Kitcher, who, despite his German-sounding surname, is not, to my knowledge, of Jewish ancestry.

[14] Admittedly, a fair few of the worst offenders among them have been both French and Jewish (e.g. Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Derrida). 

[15] This explains why, despite its supposed association with the so-called ‘far-right, anti-Semitism and leftism typically go together. Thus, on the one hand, Marxists believe that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else. On the other hand, anti-Semites believe that society is controlled by a conspiracy of wealthy Jewish capitalists who control the mass media and exploit and oppress everyone else.
Thus, as a famous aphorism has it: Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools.
Thus, since the contemporary left in America is endlessly obsessed with the supposed ‘overrepresentation’ of white males in positions of power and influence, it ought presumably also to be concerned about the even greater per capita overrepresentation of Jews in those exact same positions of power and influence, as were the Nazis.
In short, National Socialism is indeed a form of socialism – the clue’s is in the name. 

[16] Indeed, today, anti-Semitism is arguably more common on the left, as the left has increasingly made common cause with Palestinians and indeed with Muslims more generally. Yet, in America, Jews still vote overwhelmingly for the leftist Democratic Party, even though Republicans now tend to be even more vociferously pro-Israel than the Democratics. In the UK, on the other hand, Jews are now more likely to vote for Conservative candidates than for Labour. However, I recall reading that, even in the UK, after controlling for socioeconomic status and income, Jews are still more likely to vote for leftist parties than are non-Jews of equivalent socioeconomic status and income-level.

[17] In contrast, as emphasized by Macdonald, other theorists sought to reclaim Freudianism on behalf of the left, notably the infamous (and influential) Frankfurt School, to whom Macdonald devotes a chapter in ‘Culture of Critique’. Thus, the chief innovation of the Frankfurt School was to combine Freudian psychoanalysis with Marxist social and economic theory, which, as I recall, Rod Liddle memorably described as the most brilliant theoretical synthesis since someone decided to combine the theory that the sun revolved around the earth with the theory that the earth is flat

[18] Thus, whereas various passages in the Old Testament envisage and provide for divorce and remarriage, in contrast Jesus’s teaching on this matter, as reported in the New Testament Gospels, is very strict in forbidding both divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:3-9; Matthew 5:32). Moreover, precisely because these teachings go against what was common practice amongst Jews at the time of Jesus’s ministry, they are regarded as satisfying the criterion of dissimilarity and hence as historically reliable teachings of the historical Jesus

[19] Thus, despite including in-depth discussion of the supposed ethnic motivations of many ethnically Jewish Marxist thinkers in his chapter on ‘Jews and the Left’, Macdonald passes over Marx himself in less than a page at the very beginning of this chapter, where he concedes: 

Marxism, at least as envisaged by Marx himself, is the very antithesis of Judaism… [and] Marx himself, though born of two ethnically Jewish parents, has been viewed by many as an anti-Semite” (p50). 

While also conceding that “Marx viewed Judaism as an abstract principal of human greed that would end in the communist society of the future”, he also claims, citing a secondary source, that: 

He envisaged that Judaism, freed from the principal of greed, would continue to exist in the transformed society of the future (Katz 1986, 113)” (p50). 

On his Occidental Observer website, Macdonald has also published a piece by the surely pseudonymousFerdinand Bardamu’ arguing that, despite appearances to the contrary, Marx was indeed pursuing a ‘Jewish group evolutionary strategy’ in his political activism (Bardamu 2020). The attempt is, in my view, singularly unpersuasive. 

[20] Marx was also highly racist by modern standards. Indeed, Marx even delightfully combined his racism with anti-Semitism in a letter to his patron and collaborator Friedrich Engels, where he describes fellow Jewish socialist (and friend), Ferdinand Lassalle, as “the Jewish nigger” and theorizes: 

It is now quite plain to me—as the shape of his head and the way his hair grows also testify—that he is descended from the negroes who accompanied Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or paternal grandmother interbred with a nigger)… The fellow’s importunity is also niggerlike.

[21] A complete list of prominent Jews who have iconoclastically challenged cherished and venerated Jewish institutions, beliefs and traditions is beyond the scope of this review. However, such a list would surely include, among others, such figures as Gilad Atzmon, Shlomo Sand and Otto Weininger. Israel Shahak is another Jewish intellectual frequently accused by his detractors of anti-Semitism, and certainly his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion is critical of aspects of Judaism and Talmudic teachings. Likewise, in Israel, the so-called New Historians, themselves overwhelmingly Jewish in ethnicity, were responsible for challenging many of the founding myths of Israel. Also perhaps meriting honourable (or, for some, dishonourable) mention in this context are Murray Rothbard, also Jewish, who extolled the work of Harry Elmer Barnes, himself widely considered an anti-Semite and early pioneer of ‘holocaust denial’; and Paul Gottfreid, the paleoconservative Jewish intellectual credited with coining the term ‘alt right’.

[22] In fact, even many Marranos seem to have ultimately lost their Jewish identity, especially those who migrated to the New World, who retained, at most, faint remnants of their former faith in certain cultural traditions the significance of which was gradually lost even to themselves. 

[23] Thus, Macdonald writes:

Given the very large differences between Jews and gentiles in intelligence and tendencies towards intelligence and highinvestment parenting… Jews suffer to a lesser extent than gentiles from the erosion of cultural supports for high-investment parenting. Given that differences between Jews and gentiles are genitically mediated, Jews would not be as dependent on the preservation of cultural supports for high-investment parenting parenting as would be the case among gentiles… Facilitation of the pursuit of sexual gratification, low investment parenting, and elimination of social controls on sexual behavior may therefore be expected to affect Jews and gentiles differently with the result that the competitive difference between Jews and gentiles… would be exacerbated” (p148-9). 

[24] Whereas his former chapters focussed on intellectual movements, which, though they almost invariably had a large political dimension, were nevertheless at least one remove away from the determination of actual government policy, this chapter focuses on political activism directly concerned with reforming government policy.

[25] Macdonald also charges Jewish activists with hypocrisy for opposing ethnically-based restrictions on immigration to the USA, while also supporting the overtly racialist immigration policy of Israel, which provides a so-called right of return for ethnic Jews who have never previously set foot in Israel, while denying a literal right of return to Palestinian refugees driven from their homeland in the mid-twentieth century.
In response, Cofnas (2018) notes that Macdonald has not cited that any Jews who actually take both these positions. He has only shown that American Jews favour mass non-white immigration to America, whereas Israeli Jews, a separate population, are opposed to non-Jewish immigration in Israel.
However, this only raises the question as to why it is that those Jews resident in America support mass immigration, whereas those resident in Israel support border control and maintaining a Jewish majority. Self-selection may explain part of the difference, as more ethnocentric Jews may prefer to be resident in Israel. However, given the scale of the disparity, and the extent of intermigration and even dual citizenship, it is highly doubtful that this can explain all of it.
As an example, Cofnas (2018) argues that American liberals such as Alan Dershowitz actually support the campaign for Israel to admit the (non-white) Beta Israel of Ethiopia into Israel.
However, the Beta Israel in total only number around 150,000. Therefore, even if all were permitted to emigrate to Israel (which is still yet to occur), they would represent less than 2% of Israel’s total population. Clearly, allowing a few thousand token ‘black Jews’ to immigrate to Israel is hardly comparable to advocating that people of all ethnicities (and all religions) be permitted to immigrate to Western jurisdictions.
Moreover, the Beta Israel, and even the Falash Mula, are still Jewish in a religious, if not a racial sense. Yet, attempts by white western countries other than Israel to restrict immigration on either racial or religious lines are universally condemned, including by Dershowitz, who condemned Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration as incompatible with “the best values of what America should be like. Dershowitz is therefore indeed guilty of hypocrisy and double-standards when it comes the immigration issue.
Similarly, American TV presenter and political commentator Tucker Carlson recently revealed the hypocrisy of perhaps the most powerful Jewish advocacy group in the USA, the ADL, who had condemned Carlson for crimes against political correctness for opposing replacement-level immigration in the USA, while at the same time, and on the same website, themselves arguing, in a post since blocked from public access, that:

It is unrealistic and unacceptable to expect the State of Israel to voluntarily subvert its own sovereign existence and nationalist identity and become a vulnerable minority within what was once its own territory. 

Yet this is precisely what the ADL is insisting white Americans do by insisting that any opposition to replacement level immigration to America is evidence of ‘white supremacism’.
Macdonald may then, as Cofnas complains, not have actually named any Jewish individuals who are hypocritical with respect to immigration policy in America and Israel; however, Carlson has identified a major Jewish organization that is indeed hypocritical with respect to this issue.
I might add here that, unlike Macdonald, I do not think this type of hypocrisy is either unique to, or indeed especially prevalent or magnified among, Jewish people. On the contrary, hypocrisy is I suspect, like ethnocentrism, a universal human phenomenon.
In short, people are much better at being tolerant, moderate and conciliatory in respect of what they perceive as other people’s quarrels. Yet, when they perceive themselves, or their people, as having a direct ethnic or genetic stake in an issue at hand, they tend to be altogether less tolerant and conciliatory.

[26] Macdonald himself puts it this way: 

Ethnic and religious pluralism also serves external Jewish interests because Jews become just one of many ethnic groups. This results in the diffusion of political and cultural influence among the various ethnic and religious groups, and it becomes difficult or impossible to develop unified, cohesive groups of gentiles united in their opposition to Judaism. Historically, major anti-Semitic movements have tended to erupt in societies that have been, apart from the Jews, religiously or ethnically homogeneous (see SAID). Conversely, one reason for the relative lack of anti-Semitism in the United States compared to Europe was that ‘Jews did not stand out as a solitary group of [religious] non-conformists’” (p242). 

In addition, Macdonald contends that a further advantage of increased levels of ethnic diversity within the host society is that: 

Pluralism serves both internal (within-group) and external (between-group) Jewish interests. Pluralism serves internal Jewish interests because it legitimates the internal Jewish interest in rationalizing and openly advocating an interest in overt rather than semi-cryptic Jewish group commitment and nonassimilation” (p241).

In other words, multi-culturalism allows Jews to both abandon the (supposed) pretence of assimilation and overtly advocate for their own ethnic interests, because, in a multi-ethnic society, other groups will inevitably be doing likewise.
However, Jews may also have had other reasons for supporting open borders. After all, Jews are a sojourning diaspora people, who have often migrated from one host society to another, not least to escape periodic pogroms and persecutions. Thus, they had an obvious motive for supporting open borders, namely so that their own coreligionists would be able to migrate to America should the need arise.
One might also argue that, as a people who often had to migrate to escape persecution, they were naturally sympathetic to refugees of other ethnicities, or indeed other immigrants travelling to new pastures in search of a better life, as their own ancestors have so often done in the past, though Macdonald would no doubt dismiss this interpretation as naïve. 

[27] In my view, a better explanation for why so many western countries have opened up their borders to replacement levels of racially, culturally and religiously alien and unassmilable minorities, is the economic one. Indeed, here, a Marxist perspective may be of value, since the economically-dominant capitalist class benefits from the cheap labour that Third World migrants provide, as do wealthy consumers who can afford to purchase a disproportionate share the cheap products and services that such cheap labour provides and produces. In contrast, it is the indigenous poor and working-class, of all ethnicities, who bear a disproportionate share of the costs associated with such migration, including both depressed wages and ethnically-divided, crime-ridden and distrustful communities (see Liddle 2006).

[28] Ironically then, given the substantial numbers of Arab Muslims resident in France, for example, many of the people responsible for so-called ‘anti-Semitic hate crimes’ are themselves ‘Semitic’, and indeed have a rather stronger case for being ‘Semitic’ in a racial sense than do most of their Jewish victims. 


Bardamu (2020) Karl Marx: Founding Father of the Jewish Left? Occidental Quarterly, 4 January.
Cofnas (2018) Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy. Human Nature, 29:134–156. 
Greenwald & Schuh (1994) An Ethnic Bias in Scientific Citations. European Journal of Social Psychology, 24(6), 623–639.
Liddle (2006) The Politics of Pleasantville, Spectator, 21 January
Macdonald (1986) Civilization and Its Discontents Revisited: Freud as an Evolutionary Biologist. Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 9, 213-220. 
Macdonald (1996) Freud’s Follies: Psychoanalysis as religion, cult, and political movement. Skeptic, 4(3), 94-99.
Macdonald (2005) Stalin’s Willing Executioners The Impact of Orthography Jews As a Hostile Elite in the USSR. Occidental Observer, 5(3): 65-100.
Marciano (1981) Families and CultsMarriage and Family Review, 4(3-4): 101-117. 
Pinker (2006) Groups and Genes. New Republic, 26 June. 
Plocker (2006) Stalin’s Jews, Yedioth Ahronoth (ynetnews.com), 21 December.
Whisker (1984) Karl Marx: Anti-Semite. Journal of Historical Review, 5(1): 69-76.
Schwartz (1978) Cults and the vulnerability of Jewish YouthJewish Education, 46(2): 23-42.
Veblen (1919) The Intellectual Pre-Eminence of Jews in Modern Europe. Political Science Quarterly 34(1). 

‘Chosen People’?: A Memetic Theory of Judaism

Kevin MacDonald, A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy, With Diaspora Peoples. Writers Club Press 2002.

Every people claims to be unique and in some sense, of course, the claim is true. But some people are more unique than others.” 

Pierre van den Berghe, The Ethnic Phenomenon (reviewed here).

Ethnocentrism is an innate and pan-human facet of human nature. Every ethnic group therefore regards itself as special and unique (see The Ethnic Phenomenon: which I have reviewed here).  

Viewed in this light, the Jewish claim to be special and unique (i.e. to be God’s chosen people) is, of itself, not so special and unique. 

However, of all the ethnic groups in the world that claim to be special, Jews perhaps have the best claim to actually being justified in their self-assessment. 

The impact of the Jewish people on world history is vastly disproportionate to their numbers. The two largest world religions, Christianity and Islam, both derive ultimately, in large part, from Judaism, and Jews are vastly overrepresented public intellectuals, Nobel Prize winning scientists, celebrities, millionaire media moguls and multibillionaires

Yet, the most remarkable achievement of Jews is arguably their very survival as a people, despite conquestbanishment, persecution, successive pogroms, the holocaust and almost two thousand years of diaspora, not to mention to the recent trend towards secularization.[1] 

Thus, Kevin Macdonald, in his book ‘A People That Shall Dwell Alone’ (henceforth, ‘PTSDA’), argues: 

From an evolutionary perspective, the uniqueness of… Jews lies in their being the only people to successfully remain intact and resist normal assimilative processes after living for very long periods as a minority in other societies” (p86). 

He therefore concludes: 

They [Jews] are the only group that has successfully maintained genetic and cultural segregation while living in the midst of other peoples over an extremely long period of time… ‘the most tenacious people in history’” (p76). 

Off the top of my head, I can think of only two other groups who might plausibly assert a competing claim to this mantle: 

  1. Upper-caste Hindus, whose ancestors supposedly subjugated India several millennia ago, but who supposedly created the caste system precisely so as to preserve their racial and ethnic integrity; and 
  2. The Romani people (aka Gypsies or Roma), who have lived in Europe for at least several hundred years but have maintained their separate identity and way of life, resisting assimilation into the mainstream. 

Indeed, regarding the former, one might even argue that this complete genetic and cultural segregation applies, not only to upper-caste Hindus, but to all Indian castes, since each is, at least in theory, expected to marry endogamously

Moreover, this applies, not just to the four hierarchically-organized varna, plus the untouchable dalits, but also, again at least in theory, to each of the literally thousands of separate Jāti within each varna scattered across the subcontinent.

As a consequence, castes remain genetically distinguishable even today, with upper-caste Indians having greater genetic affinities with European populations, presumably a reflection of the Iranian, Indo-European origins of the Aryan invaders who settled and subdued the subcontinent, and are thought to have established the caste system (Bamshad et al 2001).

Indeed, to some extent, different castes are even distinguishable phenotypically, with upper-caste Indians having relatively lighter complexions (Jazwal 1979; Mishra 2017). Thus, Varna, the Hindi word for caste, originally derives from the Sanskrit word for ‘colour, possibly being a reference to the lighter complexions of the Aryan invaders.[2]

In this light, it is perhaps no surprise that the second group listed above, namely the Romani (or ‘Gypsies’), themselves also trace their ancestry ultimately to the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, the Romani insistence on maintaining remaining strict separation from the disdained ‘Gadjo’ outgroup, an aspect of their concern for ritual purity and cleanliness, is itself likely an inheritance from the Indian caste system

However, curiously, Macdonald characterizes “the caste system of India” as:

An example of a fairly open group evolutionary strategy… In India wealthy powerful males were able to mate with many lower-status concubines” (p31).[3]

In contrast, Macdonald claims, for Jews, all sexual contact with Gentiles was proscribed (p54-62). 

However, other biblical passages seemingly envisage the forced concubinage of foreign women (e.g. Deuteronomy 20:14Numbers 31:18). 

Macdonald acknowledges this, but argues that “although captured women can become wives, they have fewer rights than other wives”, citing the ease with which the divorce of foreign women captured as spoil is permitted under Deuteronomy 21:14 (p57). 

Similarly, with regard to the admonition in Numbers 31:18 “keep alive for yourselves” Midianite virgins, Macdonald concludes, given the prohibition on actually marrying Midianites which is contained in the very same biblical Book (Numbers 25:6), that the offspring of such sexual unions would be illegitimate: 

The captured women will be slaves and/or concubines for the Israelite males [and] their children would presumably have lower status than the offspring of regular marriages” (p57-8).[4]

However, much the same was true of lower-caste women used as concubines by upper-caste men under the Indian caste system

Thus, in India, the offspring of lower-caste concubines inherit the caste status of their mothers, irrespective of their paternal lineage. Therefore, at least in theory, the practice of concubinage would have no impact on the genetic composition, and ‘racial purity’, of the highest caste-group, namely the Brahmins. 

In short, the concubinage envisaged in the Bible seems directly analogous to that practiced by upper-caste Indians under the caste system

Cultural Group Selection 

In ‘A People That Shall Dwell Alone’ (PTSDA), Kevin Macdonald explains Jewish survival and success through a theory of cultural group selection, whereby he conceptualizes Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy that functions to promote the survival and prospering of Jews throughout the diaspora. 

Macdonald is not here referring to group selection in the strict biological sense. Instead, Macdonald seems to have in mind, not biological, but cultural evolution.  

Thus, although he never uses the term, perhaps on account of an animosity towards Richard Dawkins, the originator of the term, whom he credits with indoctrinating evolutionists against the view that groups have any important role to play in evolution (pviii), we might characterise his theory of Judaism as a memetic theory, in accordance with Richard Dawkins’ concept of memes as units of cultural evolution (see The Selfish Gene: which I have reviewed here). 

PTSDA is, then, a work, not of evolutionary psychology, but of memetics

Dawkins famously described religions as Viruses of the Mind that travel between and infect human hosts just like biological viruses (Dawkins 1993). 

On this view, the success of a religion in surviving and spreading depends partly on its ‘infectiousness’. This, in turn, depends on the behaviours (or ‘symptoms’) that the infection produces in those whom it afflicts. 

Thus, proponents of Darwinian medicine contend that pathogens (e.g. viruses) produce symptoms like coughing, sneezing and diarrhoea precisely because such symptoms enable the pathogen to infect new hosts via contact with the bodily fluids expelled, as part of the pathogen’s own evolutionary strategy to reproduce and spread. 

Indeed, some pathogens even affect the brains and behaviours of their host, in such a way as to facilitate their own spread at the expense of that of their hosts. For example, rabies causes dogs and other animals to become aggressive and bite, which, of course, helps the virus spread to a new host, namely the individual who has been bitten.[5]

Similarly, successful religions also promote behaviours that facilitate their spread. 

Thus, Christians are admonished by scripture to save souls and preach the gospel among heathens; while Muslims are, in addition to this, admonished to wage holy war against infidels.[6]

These behaviours promote the spread of Christianity and Islam just as surely as coughing, sneezing and diarrhoea facilitate the spread of flu or the common cold. 

In short, a religion that commands its adherents to be fruitful and multiply, indoctrinate infants in the faith from earliest infancy, persecute apostates and actively convert nonbelievers will likely enjoy greater longevity than would a religion that commanded its adherents to be celibate hermits and taught that proselytism and having children are both mortal sins.[7]

Christianity and Islam are examples of the former type of religion and, no doubt partly for this reason, have spread around the world from inauspicious beginnings to become the two largest world religions. 

In contrast, religions which forbid proselytism and reproduction are few and far between, probably precisely because, even when they are founded, they do not survive long, let alone spread far beyond their originators. 

Macdonald quotes biologist Richard Alexander as citing the Shakers, an eighteenth-century Christian sect practising strict celibacy, as an example of this latter type of religion – i.e. a religion which, because of its tenets, in particular strict celibacy, has today largely died out (p8). 

In fact, however, a small rump group of Shakers, the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, does survive in North America to this day, perhaps because, although celibate, they did apparently proselytize.[8]

In contrast, any religion which renounced both reproduction and proselytism would surely never have spread beyond its original founder or founders and hence never even come to the attention of historians, or theorists of religion like Alexender and Macdonald, in the first place. 

Judaism: A ‘Closed Strategy’ 

Judaism has also survived – indeed rather longer than has either Christianity or Islam. However, its numbers have not grown to the same degree. 

This is perhaps because, unlike Christianity and Islam, it adopted what Macdonald calls a ‘closed strategy’. 

In other words, whereas the Shakers renounced reproduction but practised proselytism, Jews did the exact opposite. 

Thus, the Israelites are repeatedly admonished by scripture to be fruitful and multiply (p51-4), marry within the faith (p54-62) and indoctrinate their offspring as believers from earliest infancy (p326-335). 

However, Jews do not actively seek converts. Likewise, they were forbidden to intermarry with Gentiles (e.g. Deuteronomy 7:3;), and punished for so doing (e.g. 1 Kings 11:1-13). 

It is sometimes claimed that Judaism was once a proselyting religion. However, Macdonald dismisses this as “apologetics”, designed to deflect the charge that, in contrast to the universalism of Hellenism (and later of Christianity), Judaism was a parochial, particularist or even a racist religion (p92). 

Indeed, Macdonald even hints that the decision to admit converts at all reflected a desire to forestall and counter precisely this charge. 

Macdonald therefore characterizes the Jewish strategy as: 

Allow converts and intermarriage at a formal theoretical level, but minimise them in practice” (p97). 

Thus, Rabbinic attitudes towards proselytes fluctuated, at least in Macdonald’s telling, from ambivalent to overtly hostile. Prospective converts to Judaism are traditionally turned away by a rabbi three times before being accepted, required to devote considerable effort to religious study, and, if male, undergo the brutal and barbaric practice of circumcision

However, Jews were not, even in Macdonald’s telling, entirely averse to conversion. On the contrary, according to Macdonald, the Israelites did forcibly convert conquered groups, notably the Galileans and Nethinim, the latter, Macdonald argues, representing the descendants of non-Israelite conquered peoples who were forcibly converted to Judaism. 

However, both these groups were, Macdonald claims, relegated to low status within the Jewish community, and subject to discrimination (p11). 

Indeed, this was, according to Macdonald, true of converts in general, who, even when they were admitted, faced systematic discrimination (p91-113). 

In particular, they were genetically quarantined from the core Jewish population, through restrictive marriage prohibitions, designed to maintain the “racial purity” of the core Jewish population, especially the priestly ‘kohanim’ line descended from Aaron

These restrictions remained in force for many generations, until all evidence of their alien origins had disappeared – an especially long time given the Jewish practice of maintaining genealogies (p119-127). 

Racial Purity” 

Macdonald repeatedly refers to Judaism as designed to conserve the “racial purity” of the group, this very phrase, or variants on it, being used by Macdonald on over twenty different pages.[9]

Thus, for example, it was, Macdonald claims, perceived racial impurity, rather than theological differences, that explained the rift with the Samaritans (p59).[10]

Racial Purity” is, of course, a phrase today more often associated with Nazis than with Jews. However, this apparently paradoxical link between the Jews and their principal persecutors during the twentieth century is, according to Macdonald, no accident. 

Thus, a major theme of Macdonald’s follow-up book, Separation and Its Discontents, is that: 

Powerful group strategies tend to beget opposing group strategies that in many ways provide a mirror image of the group which they combat” (Separation and Its Discontents: pxxxvii). 

Thus, Macdonald claims: 

There is an eerie sense in which National Socialist ideology was a mirror-image of traditional Jewish ideology. As in the case of Judaism, there is a strong emphasis on racial purity and on the primacy of group ethnic interests rather than individual interests. Like the Jews, the National Socialists were greatly concerned with eugenics” (Separation and Its Discontents: p194). 

On other words, Macdonald seems to arguing that Judaism provided, if not the conscious model for Nazism, then at least its ultimate catalyst. Nazism was, on this view, ultimately a defensive, or at least reactive, strategy.

Indeed, Macdonald goes further, arguing that the ultimate source of Nazi race theory was not WagnerChamberlain or Gobineau, let alone EckartRosenberg or Hitler himself, but rather ethnically Sephardic British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, who, despite being a Christian convert and having married a Gentile, nevertheless considered the Jews a superior race, something he apparently attributed to their supposed racial purity. Thus, Macdonald quotes historian LJ Rather as claiming:

“Disraeli rather than Gobineau—still less Chamberlain—is entitled to be called the father of nineteenth-century racist ideology” (Reading Wagner: quoted in Separation and Its Discontents: p180).

Jewish Genetics 

So, if the Jewish group evolutionary strategy is indeed focussed on maintaining the ethnic integrity and “racial purity” of the Jewish people, how successful has it been in achieving this end? 

Recent population genetic studies provide a new way to answer this very question. 

As a diaspora community with ostensible origins in the Middle East, but having lived for many generations alongside host populations with whom they were, at least in theory, forbidden to intermarry, save under certain strict conditions, the study of the population genetics of the Jews is of obvious interest to both geneticists and historians, not to mention many laypeople, Jewish and gentile alike.  

Add to this the fact that many leading geneticists are themselves of Jewish ancestry, and it is hardly a surprise that the study of the genetics of contemporary Jewish populations has become something of a cottage industry within population genetics in recent years.[11]

Unfortunately, however, Kevin Macdonald’s ‘A People That Shall Dwell Alone’ was first published in 1994, some years before any of this recent research had been published.[12]

Therefore, in attempting to assess the success of the Jewish population in reproductively isolating themselves from the host populations amongside whom they have lived, Macdonald is forced to rely on studies measuring, not genes themselves, but rather of their indirect phenotypic expression, for example studies of blood-group distributions and fingerprint patterns (p34-40). 

Nevertheless, recent genetic studies broadly corroborate Macdonald’s conclusions, regarding: 

  1. The genetic distinctness of Jews; 
  2. Their Middle Eastern origins; and 
  3. The genetic affinities among widely dispersed Jewish populations – including the Ashkenazi JewsSephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and perhaps even possibly the Lemba of Southern Africa (but not the Beta Israel of Ethiopia).[13]

However, this is true only with one major proviso – namely, the Ashkenazim, who today constitute the vast majority of world Jewry, trace a substantial part of their ancestry to Southern Europe (Atzmon et al 2010).[14]

Interestingly, comparison of the mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome ancestry of Ashkenazim, passed down the male and female lines respectively, suggests that most of this ancestry ultimately derives from Jewish men marrying (or at least mating with) with Gentile women, and their offspring being incorporated into the Jewish population (Costa et al 2013). 

This is perhaps ironic given that, according to traditional rabbinic law, Jewish identity is, at least in theory, traced down the female line

Economic Success 

Macdonald identifies various elements of the Jewish group evolutionary strategy that have enabled Jews to repeatedly economically outcompete gentile host populations. These include: 

  1. High levels of collectivism and ethnocentrism
  2. Emphasis on education and high-investment parenting (e.g. the stereotypical Jewish mother); 
  3. High levels of intelligence


Macdonald characterizes Judaism as “hyper-collectivist”, in accordance with the distinction between collectivist and individualist cultures formulated by Harry Triandis in Individualism and Collectivism (p353). 

Collectivist refers to a tendency for a person to regard their group membership, and ethnic identity, as an important part of their identity and to elevate the interests of the group above those of the individual, sometimes to the level of willing self-sacrifice. 

Macdonald regards this tendency towards collectivism and indeed to ethnocentrism as at least partly genetic in origin, although accentuated by rearing practices in which Jews are encouraged to identify with the in-group (p54-62). 

Partly, he claims, this genetic predisposition to collectivism is an inheritance from the Middle East, the region from which Jews trace (some of) their ancestry. In the Middle East, Macdonald claims, all groups are relatively collectivist and ethnocentric, at least compared to Europeans. 

This seems plausible given the tribal structure, and endemic tribal and ethnic conflict throughout much of the Middle East. 

Actually, it would be more accurate to say, not that Middle Eastern populations are especially collectivist or ethnocentric, but rather that Europeans are unusually individualist, since, viewed in global perspective, it is clearly we Europeans who are the WEIRD’ ones in this respect.[15]

One might imagine that, at least for the Ashkenazim (and perhaps Sephardi Jews too), both living among Europeans and to some extent acculturating to their norms, not to mention, as we have seen, incorporating a significant proportion of their genes from interbreeding with Europeans, might have accentuated, moderated or diluted these ethnocentric and collectivist impulses, at least as compared to those Middle Eastern populations who remained resident in the Middle East. 

However, Macdonald makes no such concession. On the contrary, he argues that, far from Jews being less collectivist and ethnocentric than other Middle Eastern populations, that Jews actually remain especially collectivist, even as when compared to other Middle Eastern groups. Moreover, he claims that this tendency long predates, though has not been noticeably moderated since, the exile.[16]

Thus, even in ancient times, Macdonald observes:

Jews alone of all the subject peoples in the Roman Empire engaged in prolonged, even suicidal wars against the government in order to attain national sovereignty… [and] only… Jews, of all subject peoples were exempt from having to sacrifice to the Empire’s Gods, and… were… allowed its own courts and… ex officio government” (p356-8).[17]

This tendency towards ethnocentrism was augmented through strict prescriptive endogamy (i.e. marrying within the group), which increases the level of relatedness between group members, and hence facilitates cooperation and trust (p54-62).

In addition to endogamy, a further factor is a preference for consanguineous marriage (i.e. incestuous marriage), which again increases relatedness within the group, and hence further facilitates cooperation and trust – but also, over time, threatens to divide the group into separate, inbred, endogamous lineages, with loyalty only to themselves. 

This is, again, like endogamy, a common feature of marriage throughout the Middle East. However, whereas Muslims, Arabs and other Middle Eastern groups typically favour cross-cousin marriage, the Jews, Macdonald reports, extolled, in particular, uncle-niece marriage, a practice probably even more distasteful to contemporary western sensibilities given the generational difference and hence likely the age-disparity. They were therefore, he reports, sometimes exempted from Christian laws prohibiting such unions (p118-9).[18]

As evidence of Jewish clannishness, Macdonald cites what he calls the ‘double-standards’ that are imposed by Judaic law. 

The most famous example relates to usury. Whereas Christians were forbidden outright to lend money at interest, Jews interpreted the same biblical passages as forbidding only the lending of money at interest to other Jews.[19]

Yet, ironically, this double-standard actually benefited its ostensible victims, since it gave Jews an incentive to lend money to Gentiles in the first place, and the resulting availability of capital for investment was probably a major factor in the economic growth of the West and its rise to world dominance.[20]

Other prohibitions, however, evinced greater economic understanding. Thus, Macdonald reports, Jews were not permitted to encroach upon the monopolies of other Jews, or undercut Jews, but only if the customers were Gentile – if the customer-base was Jewish, then competition was to be free so as to drive down prices and thereby benefit consumers (p227-230). 

Macdonald acknowledges that the more egregious examples of this ‘dual morality’ (e.g. “while the rape of an engaged Israelite virgin was punishable by death, there was no punishment at all for the rape of a non-Jewish woman”: p228) were tempered from the medieval period onward. 

However, this was done, he insists, only “to prevent ‘hillul hashem’ (disgracing the Jewish religion)” (p229). 

In other words, Macdonald seems to be saying that even the abolition of such practices was done in the interests of Jews themselves, in order to forestall, or avoid inciting, anti-Semitism, should such laws became widely known among gentile audiences. 

This, though, means that his theory comes close to being unfalsifiable

Thus, if an aspect of Judaism involves favouring Jews at the expense of non-Jews, then this, of course, supports Macdonald’s contention that Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy centred on maximizing the success and prospering of Jews and of Judaism. 

But if, on the other hand, an aspect of Jewish teaching actually involves tolerance for or even altruism towards Gentiles, then this also, according to Macdonald, supports his theory, because it is, in his view, a mere public relations exercise aimed at deceiving gentile audiences into viewing Jews and Judaism in a benign, non-threatening light.  

On this interpretation, it is difficult to see just what kind of evidence would falsify or be incompatible with Macdonald’s theory.[21]

Thus, Macdonald’s theory comes close to being a conspiracy theory. 

Indeed, if one were to go through the whole of Macdonald’s so-called ‘Culture of Critique trilogy’ replacing the words “Jewish group evolutionary strategy” with the words “Jewish conspiracy”, it would read much like traditional anti-Semitic literature. 

Collectivism and Capitalism 

Ironically, the Jewish tendency towards collectivism gave them a particular economic advantage in quintessentially individualist Western capitalist economies. 

Thus, in terms of game theory, a society otherwise composed entirely of atomized individualists, with no strong preference for one trading partner over another, is obviously vulnerable to invasion by a collectivist group with strong in-group bias, who, through preferentially favouring one another, would, all else being equal, outcompete the individualists and gradually come to dominate the economy. 

Thus, Macdonald writes: 

Jewish economic activity has historically been characterized by high levels of within-group economic cooperation and patronage. Jewish elites overwhelmingly tended to employ other Jews in their enterprises” (p220). 

Indeed, even in pre-capitalist times, Macdonald notes: 

The importance of highly placed courtiers in the general fortunes of the entire Jewish community” (p220). 

Moreover, both kinship ties which crossed international boundaries, and a common language (Yiddish), meant that Jews had business links and lines of credit that crossed international boundaries, giving Jews an advantage in an already increasingly globalized economy. 

Middleman Minorities? 

One concept central to understanding the economic, social and political position of Jews in host societies is that of the middleman minority group

Yet Jews are by no means the only ethnic group to have occupied this social and economic niche.  

Indeed, although Jews are often regarded as the quintessential exemplar of a middleman minority, this is arguably a western-centric perspective. Other ethnicities occupying an analogous economic niche in their host societies include the Lebanese in West AfricaSouth Asians in East Africa, and the overseas Chinese in much of Southeast Asia

As economist Thomas Sowell, an economist and long-term student of ethnic relations in cross-cultural perspective, observes in his essay Are Jews Generic?’

Although the overseas Chinese have long been known as ‘the Jews of Southeast Asia’, perhaps Jews might be more aptly called the overseas Chinese of Europe” (Black Rednecks and White Liberals: p129) 

Thus, the overseas Chinese dominate the economies of South-East Asia to a far greater extent than the Jews have ever dominated the economy of any western economy save in the imaginings of the most paranoid of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, and also, again like Jews in Europe, have been the subject of ongoing resentment combined with periodic persecution (see Amy Chua’s World on Fire).[22]

Yet Jews acted, not only as economic middlemen (e.g. bankers, moneylender, peddlers, wholesalers), but also as, if you like, ‘political middlemen’ – i.e. intermediaries between rulers and their subjects. 

Thus, for Macdonald, the quintessential Jewish role in host cultures was one that combined both these roles, namely as tax farmers

The prototypical Jewish role as an instrument of governmental oppression has been that of the tax farmer” (p175). 

Tax-farmers were private agents responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of a ruler, who, in return for this service, received a cut of the monies received as payment and recompense. He therefore had a direct incentive to extract the maximum taxes possible so as to maximise his own profits. 

According to Macdonald, Jews’ status as strictly endogamous aliens perfectly preadapted them for this role: 

Precisely because their interests, as a genetically segregated group, were maximally divergent from those of the exploited population… [they would have] no family or kinship ties (and thus no loyalty) to the people who were being ruled” (p172). 

They could therefore be entrusted to extract maximum revenue with all necessary ruthlessness. 

He even discovers a biblical precursor to this role, namely Joseph from the Book of Genesis, claiming: 

The archetype of the well placed courtier who helps other Jews, while oppressing the local population, is Joseph in the biblical account of the sojourn in Egypt” (p175).  

Thus, in the famous bible story, Joseph, by building up stockpiles of grain and selling it back to the Egyptians during famine, ultimately reduced the latter to servitude (p175; Genesis 47:13-21).[23]

Thus, while the masses usually resented Jews, ruling elites often acted as patrons and protectors. 

However, protection could only go so far, and Jews also served another vital function for elites, namely to act as a convenient scapegoat in times of revolt and rebellion. 

Thus, Pierre van den Berghe observes, since middleman minorities groups “deal more directly and frequently with the masses than the upper class” and are ethnically alien, they, not the ruling-elite itself, “become primary targets of hostility by the native masses… and are blamed for the system of domination they did nothing to create” (The Ethnic Phenomenon: reviewed here: p145). 

Thus, Macdonald quotes Hubert Blalock in Toward a New Theory of Minority group Relations as observing: 

The price the [middleman] minority pays for protection in times of minimal stress is to be placed on the front lines of battle in any showdown between the elite and the peasant groups” (quoted: p173).

Jews’ IQs?

Another factor contributing to Jewish economic success is their high intelligence.  

I have discussed the topic of Jewish intelligence in a previous post

The subject of Jewish IQs, unlike other postulated race differences in intelligence, recently became a semi-respectable, if politically incorrect, topic of polite, and not so polite, conversation, with the publication of a paper, championed by Steven Pinker, proposing that Ashkenazi Jews in particular have evolved high intelligence, and that this intelligence is mediated in part through the same genetic mutations that result in higher rates of certain genetic diseases among Ashkenazim, such as Tay Sachs, through a form of heterozygote advantage (Cochran et al 2005). 

Interestingly, Macdonald has a claim to having anticipated Cochran et al’s theory in PTSDA, where he writes: 

Eldridge (1970; see also Eldridge & Koerber 1977) suggests that a gene causing primary torsion dystonia, which occurs at high levels among Ashkenazi Jews, may have a heterozygote advantage because of beneficial effects on intelligence. Further supporting the importance of selective processes, eight of the 11 genetic diseases found predominantly among Ashkenazi Jews involve the central nervous system, and three are closely related in their biochemical effects (see Goodman 1979, 463) (p36).[24]

Despite his reputation as an anti-Semite, Macdonald’s estimate for the average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is actually even higher than that of Cochran et al and indeed most other researchers on the topic.[25]

Thus, he estimates the average Ashkenazi IQ at a whole standard deviation above the white gentile mean – i.e. 15 IQ points, or the roughly same as the difference between white and black Americans in the United States

However, despite the famous g factor (i.e. the correlation between scores for all different types of intelligence – verbal, spatial, mathematical etc.), Macdonald reports a massive difference in the verbal and performance IQs of Jews, with Ashkenazi jews scoring only about the same as the white European average for spatio-visual ability, but almost two standard deviations higher in verbal intelligence (p290).[26]

This, then, may explain the relative paucity of famous Jewish engineers or even architects as compared to Jewish overrepresentation in other spheres of achievment. It might also explain why, as MacDonald puts it:

This, together with the fact that Jewish entrepreneurs and financiers sometimes lent their financial and business skills to promote, market and profit from the innovations of Gentile engineers, lent superficial credence to the anti-Semitic charge that “Jews were not innovators, but only appropriated the innovations of others” (p291).[27]


If a component of the Jewish group evolutionary strategy, and Jewish economic success, is their high level of intelligence, how exactly did they obtain and maintain this high level of intelligence? Macdonald attributes the higher average IQ of Jews primarily to what he terms “eugenics” (p275-88). 

As evidence he cites various Rabbinic quotations regarding the desirability of marrying the daughter of a scholar, or marrying one’s daughter to a scholar, some of which seem to recognize, sometimes implicitly, sometimes almost explicitly, the heritability of intellectual ability (e.g. p275; p278; p281). 

This accords with what Steven Pinker rather disparagingly terms the Jewish ‘folk theory’ of Jewish intellectual ability, namely:

The weirdest example of sexual selection in the living world: that for generations in the shtetl, the brightest yeshiva boy was betrothed to the daughter of the richest man, thereby favoring the genes, if such genes there are, for Talmudic pilpul” (Pinker 2006).

In addition, Macdonald also observes that wealthy Jews generally had more surviving offspring than poor Jews and infers that this would produce an increase in intelligence levels, because wealth is correlated with intelligence. 

However, this pattern surely existed among all ethnic groups prior to the demographic transition and development of effective contraception and the welfare state, which disrupted the usual association between wealth and fertility. 

Thus, even in the absence of polygyny, the rich had higher numbers of surviving offspring, if only because only they could afford to feed and care for so many offspring. 

However, among Jews, wealth may have been especially correlated with intelligence, because most were concentrated in occupations requiring greater intellectual ability (e.g. moneylending rather than farm labouring).[28]

Poor Jews, meanwhile, were often the victims of substantial discrimination, sometimes including restrictions on their ability to marry, which, he infers, may have motivated the latter to abandon Judaism. Thus, their genes were lost from the Jewish gene pool. 

However, he provides no hard data showing that it was indeed relatively less well-off Jews who did indeed abandon Judaism in greater numbers. 

Moreover, in an earlier chapter on the alleged ‘clannishness’ of Jews, he discusses Jewish charity directed towards less well-off Jews, which may have represented an incentive for poor Jews to remain within the fold (p234-241). 

More plausible is Macdonald’s claim that Jews low in the personality trait known to psychometricians as conscientiousness may have been more prone to defect from the fold, because they lacked the self-discipline to comply with the incredible ritual demands that Judaism imposes on its adherents (p312-9). 

Religious Scholarship 

Whereas Jewish religious scholars were apparently much favoured as husbands, celibacy was imposed on many Christian religious scholars. As Francis Galton first surmised, this may have had a dysgenic effect on intelligence among Christians. 

Of course, today, religious scholarship is not regarded as an especially intellectually demanding field, nor arguably even an academically respectable one. Indeed, Richard Dawkins is even said to have disparaged theology as “not a real subject at all”. 

Moreover, there is a well-established inverse correlation between religiosity and IQ (Zuckerman et al 2013). 

My own view is that theology is indeed a real subject, just a rather silly and unimportant one rather like, as Dawkins has put it elsewhere, the hypothetically postulated field of ‘fairyology’ (i.e. the serious academic study of the nature of fairies). 

However, just because a subject-matter is silly and unimportant does not necessarily mean that it is intellectually undemanding. These are two different matters. 

Moreover, in the past, theology may have been the only form of scholarship it was safe for intellectually-minded Jews, Christians or even closet atheists to undertake. 

After all, anyone taking it upon himself to investigate more substantial matters, such as whether the Earth orbited the Sun or vice versa, was in danger of being burnt at the stake if he reached the wrong conclusion – i.e. the right conclusion.[29]

Untestable Panglossianism? 

Macdonald tends to view every aspect of Judaism as perfectly designed to ensure the survival and prospering of the Jewish people. Often, however, this is questionable. 

For example, Macdonald describes the special status accorded the Tribe of Levi, and the priestly Aaronite (Kohanim) line, as “from an evolutionary perspective… a masterstroke because it resulted in the creation of hereditary groups whose interests were bound up with the fate of the entire group” (p385).  

Thus, he contends: 

The presence of the priesthood among the Babylonian exiles and its absence among the Syrian exiles [i.e. the fabled lost tribes] from the Northern Kingdom may explain why the latter eventually… assimilated and the former did not” (p394).

However, one could just as plausibly argue that this arrangement, especially the hereditary right of the Levite priestly caste to payment from the other tribes, would produce resentment in other tribes and hence division. 

Again, this suggests that MacDonald’s theory is unfalsifiable.

Conscious Design or Random Mutation? 

In biological evolution, adaptions emerge without conscious design, through random mutation and selection.  

A similar process of selection may have occurred among rival religions: Some, like the Shakers, die out; others, like Christianity, Judaism and Islam, survive and spread. 

However, religions are also consciously created by their founders – i.e. by figures such as Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, Ron Hubbard, Jesus and Saul of Tarsus. 

Thus, although Macdonald is an atheist and evolutionist, with respect to Judaism he seems to be something of a creationist. 

Thus, he writes that, although Moses, like Lycurgus of Sparta, may have been mythical, the systems developed in their respective names “have all the appearance of being human contrivances” (p395). 

Thus, Macdonald seems also to envisage that the teachings of Judaism were indeed consciously designed with the survival and prospering of the Jews in mind. 

Indeed, there were likely, he suggests, multiple authors. Thus, Macdonald argues that: 

The Israelite system has been so successful in its persistence precisely because crucial aspects of the strategy were continually changed… to meet current contingencies” (p396).[30]

Thus, Jewish writings authored in Exile (e.g the Talmud) extol very different traits than the martial values celebrated in the Books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, authored when the Jews were, if not independent, at least still resident in Palestine; while the twentieth-century establishment of the state of Israel presaged, once again, Macdonald reports, “a return to military values” (p318). 

Yet, in proposing that the Jewish evolutionary strategy was consciously designed by its formulators, Macdonald credits the authors of the Biblical texts with remarkable judgement and foresight. 

It also casts them in the role of a sort of metaphoric premodern Elders of Zion

This suggests, once again, that Macdonald’s thesis comes close to a conspiracy theory. 

Indeed, as I have already noted, if one were to go through Macdonald’s work replacing the words “Jewish group evolutionary strategy” with the words “Jewish conspiracy” then it would read much like traditional anti-Semitic conspiracy literature.[31]

Cultural or Biological Evolution? 

Since Judaism represents what Macdonald terms a ‘closed’ group strategy, it has as its effect, not only of ensuring the survival of Judaism as a religion, but also the survival of the Jewish people and their genes. 

Sometimes, this makes Macdonald’s theory read more like a theory of biological evolution than of cultural evolution or memetics. For example, he repeatedly talks of the Jewish group strategy as being designed to conserve “Jewish genes” and, as we have seen, preserve the racial purity of the group. 

This could cause confusion. Indeed, I suspect Macdonald has even managed to confuse himself. 

Thus, in his opening chapter, Macdonald emphasizes that: 

Strategizing groups can range from complete genetic segregation from the surrounding population to complete panmixia (random mating). Strategizing groups maintain a group identity separate from the population as a whole but there is no theoretical necessity that the group be genetically segregated form the rest of the population” (p15). 

Thus, Macdonald insists: 

At a theoretical level… a group strategy does not require a genetic barrier between the strategizing group and the rest of the population. Group evolutionary strategies may be viewed as ranging from completely genetically closed… to genetically open” (p15; see also p27). 

However, in a later chapter, Macdonald seems to contradict himself, writing: 

In order to qualify as an evolutionary strategy, genetic segregation must be actively maintained by the strategizing group” (p85). 

This suggests that ‘open strategies’ like ChristianityIslam, and Shakerism cannot qualify as ‘group evolutionary strategies’ and hence reduces the applicability, and hence, in my view, the usefulness, of the concept. 

Towards a ‘Culture of Critique’? 

Most problematically, this confusion carries over into The Culture of Critique (reviewed here), Macdonald’s more (in)famous sequel to the present work, where Macdonald envisages even secular intellectuals of Jewish ethnicity, including Marxists, Freudian psychoanalysts and Boasian cultural anthropologists, as somehow continuing to pursue a Jewish group evolutionary strategy even though they have long previously abandoned the religion in whose teachings this group evolutionary strategy is ostensibly contained. 

Yet, if the Jewish group evolutionary strategy is encoded, not in Jewish genes, but rather in the teachings of Judaism, how then can secular Jews, some of whom have abandoned the religion of their forebears, and others, raised in secular households, never been exposed to it in the first place, somehow continue to pursue this group evolutionary strategy. 

The Culture of Critique, then, seems to be fundamentally theoretically flawed from the onset (see my reviewhere). 

In contrast, ‘A People That Shall Dwell Alone’ represents a tenable and, in some respects, persuasive theory in explaining the survival and success of the Jewish people over the centuries, and it is regrettable that its reputation has been tarnished and overshadowed somewhat by Macdonald’s more recent writings, reputation and political activism. 


A final issue must also be addressed – namely, is Macdonald’s ‘A People that Shall Dwell Alone’ an anti-Semitic work? Certainly, in the light of Macdonald’s subsequent writing on the Jews, and political activism, it has been retrospectively characterized as such. 

Indeed, even at the time he authored the book, Macdonald was sensitive to the charge, insisting on the opening page of his Preface that, in his opinion: 

I believe that there is no sense in which this book may be considered anti-Semitic” (xcvii). 

In contrast, in the sequel, Separation and Its Discontents, Macdonald does not deny the charge of anti-Semitism, but rather predicts that this charge will indeed be levelled at his work, and indeed concludes that it is entirely compatible with his theory of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy that it would be .

The charge that this is an anti-Semitic book is… expectable and completely in keeping with the thesis of this essay” (Separation and Its Discontents: pxxxvi). 

Most recently, in the Preface to the First Paperback Edition of the The Culture of Critique (reviewed here), the last work in Macdonald’s trilogy, the most (in)famous and, in my view, also the least persuasive, Macdonald comes very close to admitting the charge of anti-Semitism, writing: 

Whatever my motivations and biases, I would like to suppose that my work on Judaism at least meets the criteria of good social science, even if I have come to the point of seeing my subjects in a less than flattering light” (Culture of Critique: plxxix). 

Yet, here, Macdonald is surely right. 

The key question is not whether Macdonald himself is anti-Semitic, nor even whether his books are themselves anti-Semitic (whatever that means), or are liable to provoke antisemitism in others. Rather, it is whether his theory is true – or, rather, provides a useful and productive model of the real world. 

Moreover, it bears emphasizing that any evolutionary theory is necessarily cynical. 

All organisms evolve to promote their own survival, often if not always at the expense of competitors. Likewise, superorganisms, including ‘cultural group strategies’, also evolve to promote their own survival, often at the expense of other groups and other individuals. 

Indeed, as Macdonald shows in Separation and Its Discontents, this is no less true of anti-Semitic movements, such as medieval Christianity or National Socialism, than it is of Judaism itself (p1-2). 

Interestingly, in an even more recent speech/essay, Macdonald returns again to denying the charge of anti-Semitism, instead professing: 

I greatly admire Jews as a group that has pursued its interests over thousands of years, while retaining its ethnic coherence and intensity of group commitment (Macdonald 2004).[32] 

Moreover, as suggested by the title of this speech (Can the Jewish Model help the West Survive?), he even suggests that Judaism, as a successful ‘closed’ group strategy, might even provide a useful model for the contemporary West. 

In other words, for the West, and white westerners in particular, to survive amidst globalization, mass immigration, declining birth-rates, below replacement-level fertility and gradual demographic displacement even in our own indigenous homelands, perhaps white Americans, and white Europeans, must, in imitation of Judaism, develop a new, and rather less ‘open’, group evolutionary strategy of our own. 


[1] Indeed, ironically, even the very first definite textual and archaeological reference to the Jews is a reference to their ostensible destruction, namely the Merneptah Stele, dated to the Second Millennium BCE, which reads, in part, Israel is laid waste and his seed is no more. Yet some four thousand years later, the Jewish people survive and thrive, still practising a continuation of the same religion, while Egypt itself has long been relegated to a global backwater. As Twain is apocryphally quoted as observing in response to his own obituary, reports of Israel’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

[2] In fact, although the word varna is undoubtedly cognate with the Sanskrit word for ‘colour, recent attempts have been made to deny a connection with skin colour. Thus, the latest version of the Encyclopædia Britannica entry for ‘varna’ argues that the idea that:

Class distinctions were originally based on differences in degree of skin pigmentation between an alleged group of lighter-skinned invaders called ‘Aryans’ and the darker indigenous people of ancient India… has been discredited since the mid-20th century.”  

Instead, the authors of this entry argue: 

The notion of “colour” was most likely a device of classification.” 

In support of this interpretation, it is notable that, in discussing Georges Dumézil’s Trifunctional hypothesis with respect to the original proto-Indo-Europeans, from which the four varna system of India likely developed, David W Anthony writes: 

The most famous definition of the basic divisions within Indo-European society was the tripartite scheme of Georges Dumézil, who suggested there was a fundamental three-part division between the ritual specialist or priest, the warrior and the ordinary herder/cultivator. Colors may have been associated with these three roles: white for the priest, red for the warrrior and black or blue for the herder/cultivator” (The Horse, the Wheel and Language: p92). 

Similarly, leading Indo-Europeanist JP Mallory observes:

Indo-Iranian, Hittite, Celtic and Latin ritual all assign white to priests and red to the warrior. The third function would appear to have been marked by a darker colour such as black or blue” (In Search of the Indo-Europeans: p133).

Likewise, Mallory also observes that “both ancient India and Iran expressed the concept of caste with the word for colour” (In Search of the Indo-Europeans: p133).
These commonalities suggest that the association of caste with colour predated the conquest of the Indian subcontinent by Indo-Europeans and therefore cannot have been a reference to the lighter complexion of the Indo-European conquerors as compared to the subjugated indigenous Dravidian peoples.
On the other hand, however, given the increasing genetic support for Aryan invasion theory in the populating of the subcontinent, and continued caste differences in complexion and skin colour, the idea that the term ‘varna’ was at least in part a reference to differences in skin colour cannot be ruled out.
Moreover, it is notable that, although ostensibly based on clothing not skin tone, even in the colour schemes outlined by Anthony and Mallory in the passages quoted above, it is the relatively higher caste groups that are associated with lighter colours (e.g. priests with white) and the lower status groups (e.g. herders/commoners) with darker colours (e.g. black or blue).
Part of the reason for the persistent denial of an association with skin colour seems to be political correctness, since the idea of an Aryan conquest, and an association with lighter complexion, is associated both with notions of racial supremacy and also with caste snobbery. In fact, however, it was presumably the earlier indigenous pre-Aryan Dravidian populations who were responsible for founding one of the world’s earliest civilizations, so there is no reason to think of the Aryan invaders as in any way racially superior. On the contrary, like later waves of nomadic horse warriors who originated in the Euasian Steppe but, with their mastery of the horse, subjugated more advanced civilizations (e.g. the Mongols and Huns), the proto-Indo-Europeans may have been militarily formidable but otherwise culturally-backward barbarians.

[3] This claim, namely that the Indian caste system represents a “fairly open” group evolutionary strategy, seems to me to be contrary to all the historical, and the genetic, evidence. For example, even Gregory Clark’s recent The Son Also Rises, which uses surname analysis to determine rates of social mobility, finds that, until very recently, India had exceptionally, indeed uniquely, low rates of social mobility as compared to anywhere else in the world.

[4] Since Jewish identity is traditionally passed down the female line, the offspring of non-Jewish concubines and Jewish males would not qualify as Jewish, unless either the mother, or the offspring him or herself, had formally converted. However, this idea first finds scriptural authority in the Mishnah, compiled in the Tannaitic period, i.e. the first couple of centuries of the Common Era. It therefore appears to be an innovation of Rabbinic Judaism, and hence of little if any relevance to the interpretation of the passages quoted by Macdonald from the Book of Numbers and of Dueteronomy, which, as part of the Pentateuch (i.e. the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) were composed many centuries earlier. Indeed, some evidence suggests that originally Jewish identity was passed down the male line, and that this was only later altered in the early Tannaitic era.

[5] There are more dramatic examples of behavioural manipulation of hosts by pathogens. For example, one parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, when it infects a mouse, reduces the mouse’s aversion to cat urine, which is theorized to increase the risk of its being eaten by a cat, hence facilitating the reproductive life-cycle of the pathogen at the expense of that of its host. Similarly, the fungus, ophiocordyceps unilateralis turns ants into so-called ‘zombie ants’, who willingly leave the safety of their nests, and climb and lock themselves onto a leaf, in order to facilitate the life cycle of their parasite at the expense of their own. Similarly, dicrocoelium dendriticum (aka the lancet liver fluke) causes the ants whom it infects to climb to the tip of a blade of grass during daylight hours, increasing the chance they will be eaten by cattle or other grazing animals, again facilitating the next stage of the parasite’s life-history.

[6] For example, the Islamic promise that martyrs will receive 72 virgins in paradise seems perfectly designed to encourage young, unmarried males, excluded from reproduction in the polygynous mating milieu of Islam, where there are inevitably not enough fertile females to go around, to risk their lives or even commit suicide attacks in the name of holy war. Such an afterlife is vastly more appealing to young males than the Christian conception of heaven, or even the ancient Norse conception of Valhalla

[7] For example, the requirement of the Catholic Church, since relaxed, whereby, for a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic to be permitted, the parties had to agree to raise any offspring as Catholic, and also that the Catholic partner continue to attempt to convert the non-Catholic, obviously had high memetic fitness and likely contributed to the changing demographic fortunes of Catholics and Protestants in Ireland

[8] A celibate group which replenishes its numbers through accepting newcomers is therefore capable of surviving. Perhaps the various (ostensibly) celibate holy orders of the Christian Church, and other religions, can be conceptualized in a similar way, though they, of course, exist only as part of, and with the support of, the wider Christian religious community as a whole. 

[9] E.g. p50; p55; p60; p78; p82; p98; p107; p117; 118, p119; p120; p122; p127; p158; p163; p120; p121; 122; p227; p360; p362; p363; p366; p403; p404. This is easily discoverable by using the ‘search inside’ feature on either amazon or google books. 

[10] On this view, the Samaritans supposedly represented the remnants of the Northern Kingdom who, being of lower social status, had not been exiled by the Assyrians, but rather remained in Samaria, but had supposedly intermarried with non-Jews. In addition to any concern for racial purity, there seem seems also to have been an element of class snobbery involved in the split, since those remnants of the Northern Kingdom who were not expelled were mostly of a lower social class.

[11] For example, several books aimed at a popular readership have been published on the topic, including Jon Entine’s Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People (2008), David Goldstein’s Jacob’s Legacy: A Genetic View of Jewish History (2008) and Harry’s Ostrer’s Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People (2012).

[12] Admittedly, in the ‘Diaspora Peoples: Preface to the Paperback Edition’, included in more recent editions of PTSDA, Macdonald does discuss a few of the early genetic studies (pxiv-iv). Unfortunately, however, these all seem to involve Y chromosome ancestry (i.e. male-line ancestry). Subsequent studies which also sample mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down the female line, have shown that most European input into the Ashkenazi gene-pool has come from Jewish men mating with Gentile women (Costa et al 2013). Therefore, Macdonald’s review of studies of Y chromosome ancestry in this preface causes him to overestimate the segregation of the Jewish gene-pool in diaspora. There have also now been studies of Jewish autosomal DNA (i.e. neither Y chromosome nor mitochondrial DNA, but rather genes from the remainder of the genome besides the sex chromosomes), which reflects both male- and female-line ancestry.

[13] In A Troublesome Inheritance, science journalist Nicholas Wade reports:

As to European Jews, or Ashkenazim, genetics show that there has been a 5% to 8% admixture with Europeans since the founding of the Ashkenazi population in about 900 AD, which is equivalent to 0.05% per generation” (A Troublesome Inheritance: p200). 

As evidence for this claim, Wade cites a study entitled ‘A genome-wide genetic signature of Jewish ancestry perfectly separates individuals with and without full Jewish ancestry in a large random sample of European Americans’ (Need et al 2009). Wade also estimates:

The rate of admixture with host populations has probably been similar among the other two main Jewish populations” (A Troublesome Inheritance: p200). 

[14] Population genetics studies also suggest that Sephardi Jews (i.e. those who inhabited the Iberian Peninsula prior to their expulsion in the late fifteenth century) also have substantial European admixture. Only the Mizrahi Jews, who remained in the Middle East and with whom Sephardi are sometimes conflated, may perhaps be of wholly Middle Eastern ancestry, since they lived among, and hence intermarried, only with other Middle Eastern populations. 

[15] Thus, for example, East Asian populations also seem to be highly collectivist in orientation. For example, a famous Japanese saying has it that ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’ and it seems difficult to imagine Europeans volunteering, or even agreeing, to become kamikaze pilots. The issue of European individualism, which Macdonald traces much further back in human history than would most historians, is a principal theme of Macdonald’s most recent book Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition.

[16] Interestingly, in the Preface to the Paperback Edition of The Culture of Critique (reviewed here), a sequel to the work currently under review, Macdonald cites evidence of a difference in stranger anxiety as between infants from North Germany and those from Israel, including both Kibbutz-raised and city-dwelling infants (The Culture of Critique (paperback): pxxxii). This finding is consistent with a greater level of group-mindedness and ethnocentrism. The source cited by Macdonald for this claim in the associated endnote is the edited book, Growing Points of Attachment Theory and Research (pp233–275).

[17] However, interestingly, the suicidal wars against their Roman overlords were pursued most tenaciously by the Galileans. Yet the Galileans were, at least according to Macdonald, themselves only recent converts to Judaism, and still of lower status than other Jews. This is, of course, contrary to Macdonald’s theory that Jews are especially ethnocentric and collectivist. It also suggests that suicidal wars against the Romans were a manifestation of the phenomena sometimes referred to as the zeal of the convert.

[18] Macdonald reports that Jews also practised polygyny, both in Biblical times (p53-54; e.g. Exodus 21:10), and indeed into relatively modern times, the practice remaining common especially among Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews (p373). Polygyny is, of course, another marriage pattern less frequent in the West than the Middle East, and which is today frowned upon, and unlawful, in all western cultures.

[19] Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20. The Jewish interpretation actually seems more reasonable given the wording of the passages. Indeed, according to anaesthesiologist-anthropologist John Hartung, many Old Testament Biblical injunctions that are today interpreted as universalist both by Christians and by many Jews, such as to love one’s neighbour and thou shalt not kill, and indeed many of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament as well, are properly to be interpreted, in their proper historical context, as applying only to fellow Jews (Hartung 1995).

[20] Macdonald, in contrast, sees Jewish usury, at least in ancient times, as exploitative. Thus, he observes:

“[F]ew individuals could expect to profit by taking a loan at the interest rates common in the medieval period. Interest rates in northern France were 65 percent and compounded until 1206, when the rate was fixed at 43 percent and compounding was made illegal… [But] both compounding and rates higher than the legal limit continued after attempts to abolish these practices. The great majority of loans were not for investment in businesses, but for living expences in a society that hovered near the subsistence level” (p406-7).

Although he acknowledges that moneylending, in making capital available for investment, is now an essential economic service, he emphasizes the exorbitant interest rates charged by Jewish moneylenders in the medieval period (in Separation and its Discontents: p46-7).
However, Jewish moneylenders were only able to charge such exorbitant rates because of a lack of competition (i.e. because Christians were forbidden to lend money at interest). The ultimate fault therefore lies with the prohibition on Christians charging interest on loans, not the Jewish moneylenders who took advantage of this exclusive market niche. Perhaps high interest rates were partly a product of price-fixing by Jewish monopolist cartels. However, if so, this was only because Christians were not permitted to compete with Jews as moneylenders, thereby undercutting them and hence driving down interest rates through increased competition.
Moreover, the high interest rates Jewish moneylenders charged probably also reflected the fact that the authorities had a habit of periodically declaring all debts void and expelling Jews from their territory without reimbursing them. The high interest rates charged therefore at least partly reflected the level of risk.
At any rate, even lending money at these seemingly exorbitant rates provided a service to the public. If it did not, then no one would ever have chosen to borrow money even on these terms. After all, if this was the only way in which monies were available to borrow, then it was better than nothing, if an urgent demand for capital demanded it.

[21] Interestingly, in its unfalsifiability, Macdonald’s theory mirrors Marxist sociology. Thus, for Marxist sociologists, if, for example, the law seemingly favours the capitalist class at the expense of workers, then this, of course, only confirms the Marxist in his belief that the capitalist legal system is biased in favour of the former. But if, on the other hand, laws are passed that, say, protect workers’ rights at the expense of their employers, then this is interpreted by the Marxist as a ‘sop to the workers’ – a forlorn effort on the part of the bourgeois capitalist government to appease the proletariat and thereby forestall, or at least postpone, the inevitable overthrow of capitalism – and hence proof of the inevitable coming of communism. Thus, Marxist social theory is as unfalsifiable as Marxist historicism.
In this light, the title of John Derbyshire’s piece on Macdonald in The American Conservative – namely The Marx of the Anti-Semities – is, I feel, rather insightful (thought Derbyshire himself, it must be noted, disclaimed this title, saying it had been forced on him by an editor).

[22] Macdonald argues that Jews differ from other middleman minorities, which usually attempt to maintain a low-profile, by their aggressiveness. Thus, Macdonald refers to the aggressiveness of the Jews, compared to the relative political passivity of the Overseas Chinese (Macdonald 2005).
For example, Amy Chua begins her book World on Fire by discussing the murder of her aunt, who was part of the Philippines’ wealthy Chinese business community, and the indifference of the police, and even of her own family, regarding the murder. Thus, she writes:

Hundreds of Chinese in the Philippines are kidnapped every year, almost invariably by ethnic Filipinos. Many victims, often children, are brutally murdered, even after ransom is paid. Other Chinese, like my aunt, are killed without a kidnapping, usually in connection with a robbery… The policemen in the Philippines, all poor ethnic Filipinos themselves, are notoriously unmotivated in these cases” (World on Fire: p2-3).

Even her own family, Chua reports, had a “matter of fact, almost indifferent attitude”, she reports, passively accepting that the murderer, though known, was unlikely ever to be apprehended (p2). 
It is impossible to imagine Jews in the West today reacting similarly. On the contrary, Jewish groups would surely be outraged and publicly protesting if Jews were being disproportionately targeted in racially motivated killings. Thus, for example, the powerful American Anti-Defamation League was formed in an attempt to protect wealthy Jewish convicted rapist and child murderer Leo Frank
On the other hand, however, I suspect, in previous centuries, attitudes among Jews in the West may have been similar to those in the Philippines. Perhaps the turning point for western Jewry in this respect was the Dreyfuss affair.
In stark contrast to Jews in the west, Macdonald reports:

The overseas Chinese in Indonesia have a reputation of being relatively uninterested in politics despite the fact that political trends have often had major effects on their business” (pliv).

Thus, the overseas Chinese strategy to avoid incurring enmity of the part of the host society among whom they live seems to involve maintaining a low-profile, keeping their heads down and concentrating on making money rather than making waves. Thus, Macdonald explains: 

Unlike the Jews, overseas Chinese have adopted a low profile political posture and have generally stayed out of local politics. Whereas Jews in the United States and elsewhere tend to have economic, political and cultural influence far out of proportion to their numbers, the Chinese are similar only in their economic influence.” (plxxxix). 

This is what sociologist-turned-sociobiologist Pierre van den Berghe, in his book The Ethnic Phenomenon (reviewed here and here) calls “weak money syndrome” (The Ethnic Phenomenon: p153). Thus, van den Berghe observes:

“[Middleman minorities] basically survive by keeping a low profile, by remaining as inconspicuous as possible, by being unostentatious about wealth, by staying out of politics (at least overtly) and by adopting a conciliatory, nonaggressive strange” (The Ethnic Phenomenon: p144).

The ironic result is that  “the more economically secure a [Middleman Minority group] becomes, the more precarious its position grows”, since their economic wealth produces an increase both their visibility and the resentment towards them that this provokes (The Ethnic Phenomenon: p144).
But Jews are seemingly almost as overrepresented among politicians and leading political activists as they are among businesspeople, though, as a rule, they tend to play down, sometimes even hide, their ethnicity.
Also, unlike Jews, Macdonald reports, the overseas Chinese “have not been concentrated in media ownership or in the construction of culture” (Macdonald 2005: 67). Neither, he reports, do we hear of: 

Chinese cultural movements, disseminated in the major universities and media outlets that subject the traditional culture of Southeast Asians and anti-Chinese sentiment to radical critique” (pxc)

However, to be fair, we don’t hear much about Jewish cultural movements that subject traditional western culture to radical critique either – unless of course, we happen to be readers of Macdonald’s own writings, especially The Culture of Critique (which I have reviewed here).
Macdonald himself attributes these differences partly to the fact that “The [overseas] Chinese [in Southeast Asia] are a very recent group evolutionary strategy” and partly also to the fact that, although both groups have high IQs, East Asians have a very different, almost opposite intelligence profile to Ashkenazi Jews (pxc).
Thus, whereas Jews, as discussed above and in a previous post, score very high in verbal ability, but not especially highly spatio-visual ability, East Asians score higher in spatio-visual and mathematical ability than in verbal ability.

[23] Though the Biblical passage in question actually describes this course of events as benefitting all concerned, including the subjects who were reduced to bondage, Macdonald regards this interpretation as disingenuous (p175). This is not unreasonable. It is rarely if ever to anyone’s advantage to be reduced to bondage and slavery

[24] Macdonald also notes in an accompanying endnote:

Motulsky (1977a) suggests that the higher incidence of myopia in Ashkenazi Jewish populations could be the result of selection for higher verbal intelligence. Myopia and intelligence have been linked in other populations, and Jews tend to have higher intelligence and higher rates of myopia

However, the celebrated (and ethnically-Jewish) geographer, anthropologist, physiologist, ornithologist and all-round polymath (and anti-racist) Jared Diamond has an even earlier claim to anticipating Cochran et al’s theory in a paper published in the jounral Nature in 1994 (see Sailer 1999). 

[25] E.g. Richard Lynn’s The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement.

[26] Interestingly, despite the g factor, Macdonald suggests that, if overall IQ (or g), is controlled for, then there is actually an inverse correlation between, on the one hand, verbal, and, on the other hand, spatio-visual, intelligence, suggesting that there is a degree of trade-off between the two, perhaps whereby the more brain tissue is devoted to one form of ability, the less remains to be devoted to the other. Thus, Macdonald writes:

Visuo-spatial abilities and verbal abilities are actually negatively correlated in populations that are homogeneous for Spearman’s g, and… there are neurological trade-offs such that the more the cortex is devoted to one set of abilities, the less it can be devoted to the other” (p292; see Lynn 1987).

[27] Interestingly, and no doubt controversially, in an associated endnote, Macdonald credits Nazi-era German geneticist and eugenicist Fritz Lenz, in his account of Nordic and Jewish abilities, as tentatively recognizing this difference in verbal versus spatio-visual ability. According to Macdonald, Lenz explains this difference in terms of what contemporary racial theorists would call cold winters theory. Thus, Macdonald writes: 

Lenz gives major weight to the selective pressures of the Ice Age on northern peoples. The intellectual abilities of these peoples are proposed to be due to a great need to master the natural environment, resulting in selection for traits related to mechanical ability, structural design, and inventiveness. Lens’s description of Jewish intellectual abilities conforms essentially to what is termed here verbal intelligence, and he notes that such abilities are important for social influence and would be expected in a people who evolved in large groups” (p341-2).

[28] Interestingly, contrary to popular opinion, Jews did not work as moneylenders primarily because they were forbidden from owning land and hence working as farmers. It is true that they were sometimes forbidden from owning land. However, in other times and places, they were actually encouraged by the gentile authorities to own land and take up farming to facilitate assimilation. However, Jews generally resisted such entreaties. This was because the financial rewards offered by moneylending was actually greater than that available in other careers. However, non-Jews did not typically work as moneylenders, because to do so required literacy, and the vast majority of non-Jews were not literate, and the exorbitant costs of education actually more than offset the financial benefit associated with careers such as moneylending that required literacy. However, since Jews were required by religious law to be literate anyway, they naturally took advantage of this ability to earn more money in careers such as moneylending (Landsburg 2003). 

[29] The Jews were no more tolerant than the Christian Church in this respect, as the excommunication of Spinoza demonstrates. Neither were protestants more tolerant than Catholics. Indeed, at least according to Bertrand Russell, both Luther and Calvin actually condemned Copernicus before the Catholic Church, and may have thereby indirectly provoked the Catholic Church into persecuting Galileo, since the latter were in danger of being seen as ‘soft on Heliocentrism’ as compared to their protestant rivals. As Bertrand Russell observed in his History of Western Philosophy:

Protestant clergy were at least as bigoted as Catholic ecclesiastics. Nevertheless there soon came to be much more liberty of speculation in Protestant than in Catholic countries, because in Protestant countries the clergy had less power… for schism led to national Churches, and national Churches were not strong enough to control the lay government” (History of Western Philosophy).

Thus, if the Church of England did not persecute Darwin as the Roman Church did Galileo, it was, Russell argues, only because they lacked the power to do so.

[30] Indeed, in practice, all successful religions have multiple designers, as they gradually evolve and change over time. Thus, Christianity, as we know it today, was probably at least as much the creation of Saul of Tarsus as it was of Jesus, while later figures such as Aquinas, Luther and Calvin also played key roles in shaping contemporary Christian beliefs and dogmas. Obviously, Christianity also draws on pre-Christian writings and religious ideas, most obviously those in the Old Testament.

[31] As Jeffrey C. Blutinger observes in a recent article on Macdonald’s work, A New Protocols: Kevin MacDonald’s Reconceptualization of Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory, Macdonald’s concept of Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy enables him to resurrect all the essential elements of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory with actually positing any actual conspiracy or conspiring.

[32] As I have mentioned in a previous post, anti-Semitism has a curious tendency to slide over into its ostensible opposite namely philo-Semitism. Both anti-Semites and philo-Semites tend to view Jews as uniquely separate from, and different to, all other peoples, and both also tend to notice the hughly disproportionate overrepresentation of Jews among different groups – philo-Semites, for example, pointing to the overrepresentation of Jews among Nobel prize winning scientists; anti-Semites more often pointing to their overrepresentation in media ownership and among leftists.
As Robert, a character from Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform observes:

“All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiority. If you read anti-Semitic literature, you’re struck by the fact that the Jew is considered to be more intelligent, more cunning, that he is credited with having singular financial talents – and, moreover, greater communal solidarity. Result: six million dead” (Platform: p113) 

Indeed, even Hiter occassionally seemed to cross the line into philo-Semiticism, the latter writing in Mein Kampf

“The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew. In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self- preservation developed more strongly than in the so-called ‘chosen’. Of this, the mere fact of the survival of this race may be considered the best proof” (Mein Kampf, Manheim translation).

However, the precise connotations of this passage may depend on the translation. Thus, other translators translate the passage that Manheim translates as The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew instead as The Jew offers the most striking contrast to the Aryan”, which alternative translation has rather different, and less flattering, connotations, given that Hitler famously extols ‘the Aryan’ as the master race.
Nevertheless, if Hitler was loathe to openly admit Jewish intellectual superioriry, Nazi propaganda and ideology certainly came to close to inadvertantly implying Jewish superiority.
Thus, for example, Weimar-era Nazi propaganda often dwelt on, and indeed exaggerated, the extent of Jewish overrepresentation in big business and the professions, arguing that Jews had come to dominate Weimar-era Germany.
Yet if Jews, only ever a tiny proportion of the population of Weimar-era Germany, had indeed come to dominate the far greater number of ethnic Germans in whose midst they lived, then this not only seemed to indicate that the Jews were anything but inferior to those Germans, but also that the Germans were hardly the master race of Hitler’s own imagining. Nazi propaganda, then, came close to self-contradiction.


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