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Review of Eliyahu Stern's Jewish Materialism: The Intellectual Revolution of the 1870s In The American Historical Review, 124/4, October, 2019, 1549-1550.
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  Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy as they producedtheir landmark novels of the 1860s and 1870s. Shereviews the most notorious cases of heavy-handed in-tervention by Katkov: his excision of a chapter in Dos-toevsky ’ s  The Devils  where the central character con-fesses child abuse, and his refusal to publish part 8 of   Anna Karenina , where Tolstoy disparages the cause of the Russian volunteers going off to support the Serbsagainst the Ottomans. But more important for under-standing the genesis of these works are the ways inwhich their authors took account of Katkov as theywrote, and even as they designed their novels. Themost suggestible author was Turgenev, who picked aBulgarian as the protagonist of his  “ anti-nihilist  ”  novel On the Eve , almost certainly responding to the promi-nence of the Eastern Question on the pages of the  Rus- sian Herald   in the late 1850s. Turgenev was alsohappy to portray the limitations and delusions of radi-calism in  Fathers and Sons , though his treatment of hisyoung  “ nihilist  ”  protagonist did not entirely lack sym- pathy. Later, when the pressure of disapprobation fromthe left became too great for this highly strung writer,Turgenev would  fi nd it expedient to blame Katkov ’ sinterventions for any hostility toward radicalism that the novel evinced.Dostoevsky was also suggestible, but also volatileand unpredictable. He had a bitter public polemic withKatkov in the early 1860s, but, in the face of acute  fi -nancial dif  fi culties, offered  Crime and Punishment   tothe  Russian Herald   a few years later. This novel hadan anti-nihilist premise dear to Katkov ’ s heart but de-rived from it unprecedented moral and psychologicalcomplexity. The basic design of   The Devils  was soanti-nihilist that contemporaries suspected it was prac-tically written to Katkov ’ s order. Yet the novel spunout of editorial control to the extent that Katkov had toinsist on removing a chapter that Dostoevsky regardedas crucial.The third major writer in Katkov ’ s stable was alsothe hardest to deal with. Tolstoy was  fi ercely indepen-dent (not to say contrarian), and Katkov had no moresuccess than anyone else in making him toe a line. If anything, in fact, Tolstoy seems to have delighted incrossing the line. As Fusso shows,  Anna Karenina may be seen as one long provocation of the editor whohad paid top rates to acquire the novel: Tolstoy dispar-ages all Katkov ’ s favorite causes  —  modernization, rail-ways, Englishness, classical education, not to mentionhis in fl ammatory treatment of Russian nationalism andthe brother Slavs in the Balkans.The overall conclusion Fusso seems to draw is that the notorious editor got as good as he gave. Perhapsthe harshest blow he received was his exclusion fromthe Pushkin celebrations of June 1880  —  where Dosto-evsky received ecstatic plaudits for presenting a notionof Pushkin ’ s status that Katkov had outlined fortyyears earlier. Fusso shows convincingly that Katkov ismuch more than a footnote in the history of Russian lit-erature. Her book could, in fact, say more about Kat-kov ’ s editorial role beyond his famous suppression of material he found unacceptable. She makes the intrigu-ing suggestion that his interventions may actually haveimproved  Crime and Punishment   by trimming over-wrought passages. To reach a full assessment, wewould need a more general discussion of the role of theeditor in Russian literature, both in the 1860s  –  1870sand later: Katkov may have done more than any other editor to draw attention to himself, but perhaps the cult of Russia ’ s great writers has served to obscure the ex-tent to which literary publishing was a collaborativeventure.S TEPHEN  L OVELL  King  ’   s College London E LIYAHU  S TERN .  Jewish Materialism: The Intellectual  Revolution of the 1870s.  New Haven, Conn.: YaleUniversity Press, 2018. Pp. xvi, 296. Cloth $45.00.The major claim of Eliyahu Stern ’ s  Jewish Material-ism: The Intellectual Revolution of the 1870s  is that there was an intellectual revolution among Jews in theRussian Empire in the late 1860s and 1870s, the effect of which was the victory of   “ materialism. ”  By materi-alism Stern means something other than an anti-spiritual viewpoint exclusively. At times he speaksabout Jews as a nation, the Jewish body, or the Jewishneed for a livelihood. Materialism here re fl ects a syn-cretic blending of ideas. During the 1870s, atheism,science, radicalism, and nationalism reached the Jew-ish intelligentsia in Russia, but the single factor joiningthem together was an antireligious viewpoint.Since the de fi nition of materialism is all over themap, the way to get into the book is through the exam- ples. Stern writes,  “ In this book I investigate the rela-tionship of materialism to religion, ethnicity, and na-tionalism through the lens of roughly twenty- fi ve menand women in the 1860s and 1870s . . . Nearly all theJewish materialists were born in the 1840s and 1850sinto highly traditional families residing in the north-western provinces of Russia ”  (27). These individualsinclude Moses Leib Lilienblum, Pavel Axelrod, Abra-ham Uri Kovner, Judah Leib Levin, Peretz Smo-lenskin, Morris Winchevsky, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, andSalomon Shachne Simchowitz.The book is composed of   fi ve main chapters, thoughit can be read as addressing three speci fi c topics. First,Stern discusses the con fl ict of the early maskilim IsaacBaer Levinsohn and Samuel Joseph Fuenn with reli-gious authorities, then he moves to religion and sci-ence, discussing Joseph Sossnitz, Ḥ ayyim Selig Slo-nimski, and Tsvi Hirsch Rabinowitz. The  fi nal chapter deals with Smolenskin, Aaron Shemuel Lieberman,Axelrod, Lilienblum, and Ben-Yehuda. Because the book is organized less as a uni fi ed argument and more  Europe: Early Modern and Modern  1549 A MERICAN  H ISTORICAL  R  EVIEW  O CTOBER   2019 D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  om h  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   ah r  /   ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /  1 2 4  /  4  /  1  5 4  9  /   5  5  8 1 1 7  3  b  y T  ul   an e Uni  v  er  s i   t   y M e d i   c  al  L i   b r  ar  y  u s  er  on1  5  O c  t   o b  er 2  0 1  9   as collection of insights, a discussion of one chapter isenough to get an impression.Smolenskin is known as one of the fathers of Jewishnationalism and as a spokesman of proto-Zionism.Stern, however, digs deeper and  fi nds that Smolenskinused his printing press in Vienna to publish Lieber-man ’ s radical paper,  Truth.  Stern suggests that the mo-tive wasn ’ t only money. Smolenskin sympathized withthe radicals and their program of economic change. Inaddition, his Zionism was peculiar and different fromthe tradition to which he is conventionally linked. For example, Smolenskin envisioned a  “ spiritual national-ism ”  ( “ Geist, ”  as he called it) that involved the intellec-tual renewal of the Jewish people (149), which led himinto a collision with Ben-Yehuda and Lilienblum, bothof whom conceived of Zionism in practical ways as alarge community of immigrants in Palestine with aneconomy, educational system, etc.This is really interesting because Stern shows that Smolenskin has not been properly characterized in thehistoriography of Jewish nationalism (148). Proto-Zionists were not hostile to Judaism as a body of ideas,although they raged against religious authorities. Si-multaneously they expressed an affection for radicals(something that would be inconceivable twenty yearslater).Stern is right to reframe discussions of the periodaway from John Klier  ’ s binary opposition, maskilimversus Russian-Jewish intellectuals  —  the latter differedfrom the former by virtue of integration in Russian cul-ture. An examination of Jewishattitudes toward  “ mate-rialism ”  (working conditions, integration, nationalaspirations) offers a good alternative, but one needs tonote that, despite the use of the term  “ materialism, ” Stern ’ s book belongs entirely to the genre of intellec-tual history. Therefore, it resembles the studies of such predecessors as Alexander Vucinich,  Darwin in Rus- sian Thought   (1988), Andrzej Walicki,  A History of   Russian Thought from the Enlightenment to Marxism (1979), and Eli Lederhendler,  The Road to Modern Jewish Politics: Political Tradition and Political Re-construction in the Jewish Community of Tsarist Rus- sia  (1989). Like these authors, Stern is sensitive to theimportance of N. G. Chernyshevsky, and that  ’ s to hiscredit, but one misses the struggle for rights as well asan examination of Jewish economic life, which was soimportant.Did this period represent an  “ intellectual revolution ” and, if it did, what kind of revolution was it? A trans-formation occurred, and a large religious community,Jews in Eastern Europe, fell apart. The idea of a revo-lution perhaps refers to the rapid transformation of Jews from a religious community into a mass of indi-viduals in various measures secularized and engagedin a path to modernity. However, should we reallycredit the Jewish intelligentsia for these changes? Inthe Russian context the intelligentsia played a leader-ship role in promoting liberation; was it the same for the Jews?Proto-Zionism, and probably materialism in general,was a marginal phenomenon, and educated Jews in the1870s were few and far between. In fact, the intellec-tuals lamented their lack of in fl uence, their marginali-ty, and their powerlessness in the Jewish community.Who led this  “ revolutionary ”  transformation of Rus-sian Jewry if not the educated thinkers? If asked, Iwould put my money on impersonal forces, hostility toreligious habits, desperate material need, as well as the pull of an empire that seemed to offer, even if only po-tentially, a road to equality, to Western culture and sci-ence, and to integration into Russian society.Although the generation of maskilim that Stern de-scribed may not have been responsible for the great so-cial revolution in Jewish life, still they were interesting fi gures. Revolutionaries, such as Lieberman and Axel-rod, continued to obsess about Judaism and were eveninspired by it. Lilienblum and Smolenskin also appre-ciated Jewish rituals, and scientists, like Sossnitz, triedto use science to prove God ’ s existence. The categoriesof believer and atheist or revolutionary and idealist were jumbled together and lacked borders. This insight re fl ects Stern ’ s correct appraisal that Eastern EuropeanJewish thought in the 1870s was srcinal, inimitable,and profound.Whether you think this volume succeeds or not willdepend on your expectations. Some readers want monographs to provide reliable information and dis- passionate argumentation; others are eager for innova-tion and daring. Because this is a daring book, it is go-ing to attract criticism, but also praise. Scholars of Jew-ish history and religion and Russian history are thetarget audience.B RIAN  H OROWITZ Tulane University I LYA  G ERASIMOV .  Plebeian Modernity: Social Practi-ces, Illegality, and the Urban Poor in Russia, 1906   –  1916  . (Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe.)Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press,2018. Pp. ix, 275. Cloth $70.00.Writing history  “ from below ”  has been a major effort of social historians over the past   fi fty years. In Ameri-can historiography of Russia, this effort produced thein fl uential revisionist trend. Revisionist studies fo-cused on the lives of ordinary people and subaltern so-cial groups, as an alternative to the old  “ totalitarianschool, ”  which denied the so-called  “ dark  ”  Russianmasses any role in in fl uencing history. The title of IlyaGerasimov ’ s book   Plebeian Modernity: Social Practi-ces, Illegality, and the Urban Poor in Russia, 1906   –  1916   clearly suggests history  “ from below. ”  Gerasi-mov explores imperial Russia ’ s urban subaltern popu-lation, which he calls the urban  “  plebeian ”  majority, 1550  Reviews of Books A MERICAN  H ISTORICAL  R  EVIEW  O CTOBER   2019 D ownl   o a d  e d f  r  om h  t   t   p s :  /   /   a c  a d  emi   c . o u p. c  om /   ah r  /   ar  t  i   c l   e- a b  s  t  r  a c  t   /  1 2 4  /  4  /  1  5 4  9  /   5  5  8 1 1 7  3  b  y T  ul   an e Uni  v  er  s i   t   y M e d i   c  al  L i   b r  ar  y  u s  er  on1  5  O c  t   o b  er 2  0 1  9 
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