This is the Intro to Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century”
I just found it to be a compelling observation.
The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieth century, in particular is the Jewish Century. Modernization is about everyone becoming urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible. It is about learning how to cultivate people and symbols, not fields and herds. It is about pursuing wealth for the sake of learning, learning for the sake of wealth, and both wealth and learning for their own sake. It is about transforming peasants and princes into merchants and priests, replacing inherited privilege with acquired prestige, and dismantling social estates for the benefit of individuals, nuclear families, and book-reading tribes (nations). Modernization, in other words is about everyone becoming Jewish.
Some peasants and princes have done better than others, but no one is better at being Jewish than the Jews themselves. In the age of capital, they are the most creative entrepreneurs; in the age of alienation, they are the most experienced exiles; and in the age of expertise, they are the most proficient professionals. Some of the oldest Jewish specialties-commerce, law, medicine, textual interpretation, and cultural medication-have become the most fundamental (and the most Jewish) of all modern pursuits. It is by being exemplary ancients that the Jews have become model moderns.
The principal religion of the Modern Age is nationalism, a faith that represents the new society as the old community and allows newly urbanized princes and peasants to feel at home abroad. Every state must be a tribe; every tribe must have a state. Every land is promised, every language Adamic, every capital Jerusalem, and every people chosen (and ancient). The Age of Nationalism, in other words, is about every nation becoming Jewish.
In nineteenth-century Europe (the birthplace of the Age of Nationalism), the greatest exception was Jews themselves. The most successful of all modern tribes, they were also the most vulnerable. The greatest beneficiaries of the Age of Capitalism, they would become the greatest victims of the Age of Nationalism. More desperate than any other European nation for state protection, they were the least likely to receive it because no European nation-state could possibly claim to be the embodiment of the Jewish nation. Most European nation-states, in other words, contained citizens who combined spectacular success with irredeemable tribal foreignness. The Jewish age was also the Age of anti-Semitism.