13 Pages

Comparative Politics and the Jewish Political Experience

ByZvi Gitelman

This chapter examines the schematic form in which our understanding of political phenomena and of the Jewish people and their history might be enhanced by confronting the field of comparative politics with that tradition. The study of Jewish political ideas, institutions, and behavior could enrich the field of comparative politics and at the same time deepen our understanding of the history and nature of Judaism and the Jewish people. Such analysis has only begun, but its first fruits hold out the promise of a useful, intellectually rewarding enterprise. It is thus surprising that none of the major texts in comparative politics, or for that matter any of the outstanding monographs in the field, devotes attention to the Jewish political tradition. There is one rough way in which those experiences can be usefully divided. It probably makes sense to examine Jewish political experience separately for those periods when Jews enjoyed political sovereignty, or even autonomy, and those when they did not.