A Vigilant Society

Jewish Thought and the State in Medieval Spain

By Javier Roiz
Translated by Selma L. Margaretten

Subjects: Political Theory, Jewish Studies
Paperback : 9781438445625, 326 pages, January 2014
Hardcover : 9781438445632, 326 pages, March 2013

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1.Knowledge and Power
2. Moses Maimonides and the Politics of Dialectics
3. The Gothic World Comes to the South
4. Kabbalah and Political Power
5. The Zohar

6. Toward a Vigilant Society
7. Conclusions

Uncovers a fundamental change that took place in Western thinking, especially its departure from the Sephardic philosophy found in the Iberian Peninsula during the 13th century.


A Vigilant Society presents a provocative hypothesis that argues that Western society as we know it emerged from the soil of Jewish intellectual advances in the thirteenth century, especially those formulated on the Iberian Peninsula. A paradigmatic shift began to occur, one that abandoned the pre–Gothic Sephardic wisdom found in, for example, the writings of Maimonides in favor of what author Javier Roiz calls the "vigilant society." This model embraces a conception of politics that includes a radical privatization of an individual's interior life and—especially as adopted and adapted in later centuries by Roman Catholic and Calvinist thinkers—is marked by a style of politics that accepts the dominance of power and control as given. Vigilant society laid the foundation for the Western understanding of politics and its institutions and remains pervasive in today's world.

Javier Roiz is Professor of Political Science and Public Administration at Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. Selma L. Margaretten is Lecturer in Spanish Art History at Boston University's Madrid Language and Liberal Arts Program in Madrid, Spain.