יום שני, יוני 11, 2007
Why Jewish: The Left-Libertarian (or Green) Connection
So, here I am, binding my life to that of the Jewish people. All of the experiences I have related so far about getting in touch with the traditions and history preceded any synagogue attendance, any classes, and even any significant reading about Judaism, let alone thought of conversion. And all of my experience in what is now just over one year since I first entered our synagogue, all the study and preparation, have reinforced at the intellectual, as well as emotional, level, what a correct decision this is. The more I learned, the more it was clear that Judaism was the right fit for the sometimes-amorphous worldview that I already held.
First, Judaism combines a commitment to the individual’s education and betterment while at the same time maintaining a strong attachment to communal well-being and responsibility. In politics I have always had a liberal outlook. Yet at the same time, I have always been dissatisfied with classical liberalism and a modern secular society that too often glorifies individual material pursuits with minimal regard for their impact on the larger community. Over the past year, at the same time that I have finally gone from being non-religious to Jewish-identified, I have also gone from a nonpartisan left outlook to formal Green party affiliation.
The Green parties worldwide are what we political scientists, ever deft at naming things, call “left-libertarian.” Libertarian means freedom for the individual from restrictions imposed by hierarchies of human creation—principally the state. Left means the promotion of social justice and egalitarianism through seeking limits on the pursuit of private profit and uplifting the weak in society.
What is too often neglected by leftists and libertarians alike is that one without the other inevitably leads to oppression. Libertarianism without egalitarianism means the freedom to pursue private gain even when it entails losing sight of the communitarian maxim that “we are all in this together.” Egalitarianism without libertarianism means toleration of an oppressive state that interferes with private life and stifles the individual human’s ability to innovate.
I firmly believe that, whatever the partisan political affiliation of any individual Jew, Judaism is fundamentally a coherent set of left-libertarian principles—probably the most coherent combination of these values ever devised. As summarized in words attributed to Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself alone, what am I? If not now, when?" Our Jewish traditions have entailed a remarkable relative lack of hierarchy, especially in the liberal streams of Judaism that go back at least to the time of the Pharisees. The only real hierarchy is that between God and humanity, and even that is tempered by the mutual responsibility of the covenant. We are commanded to look after the poor and the stranger in our midst—left principles—yet we are encouraged to develop our individuality and to make our own choices—libertarian principles. These are fundamentals of left-libertarian thinking. This connection between left-libertarian, or green, politics and Judaism is one that I hope to develop over time in action within both Green and Jewish organizational contexts, and perhaps one day in my academic research as a professional political scientist. The connection may not be original, but it is underdeveloped and underappreciated.
(Other reasons to be posted in the near future!)
On the chance that you are in the USA, I thought that you may be interested in a left-libertarian community blog called "Freedom Democrats", which seeks to introduce left-libertarian ideas into the mainstream of American politics.
Cross-posting is welcome. If you write anything that you think would be of interest to Freedom Democrats, please don't hesitate to post there also.
The link in your comment actually does not work. It should be
rendez vous sur jewisheritage.fr
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