The Democratic Ideal and the Shoah

The Unthought in Political Modernity

By Shmuel Trigano
Translated by Gila Walker

Subjects: Jewish Studies, Jewish Philosophy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Religion And Politics
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Thought
Paperback : 9781438426303, 337 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9781438426297, 337 pages, May 2009

Table of contents

Introduction A Reversal in Perspective
Part 1 The Jew-of-the-Citizen
1. Naked Singularity in the Shoah
2. The Unthinkable Singularity
3. The All-Too-Thinkable Shoah
4. The Unthought Singularity
5. The “Universal” Narrative of Singularity
6. Democracy’s Jewish Question: Sartre and Arendt
Part 2 The Man-of-the-Citizen
7. The Enigma of the Democratic Man
8. The “Crime of Being Born”: The Obscenity of the Native Condition of Men
9. The Hidden Religion of Modernity
10. The Memory Controversy as a Decoy
Part 3 The Jew-of-the-Man: The Singular and the DemocraticUniversal
11. The Enigma of Jewish Singularity
12. The Enigma of the “People”
13. Toward a New Age in Democracy?

An original and revolutionary interpretation of the Jews’ destiny in modern politics.


Is the Shoah a unique event or just one of the many genocides that have occurred (and continue to occur) in modern history? In The Democratic Ideal and the Shoah, Shmuel Trigano begins with the hypothesis that the Shoah must be understood in both universal and singular terms: insofar as it addresses the meaning and value of modernity, it is solely because the singular experience of the Jews is at its center. Drawing on history, political philosophy, hermeneutics, and psychoanalysis, Trigano argues that the attitude of democracy towards the Jews is key to understanding the very nature of democracy and the democratic ideal, and he postulates that the anti-Semitism that has haunted modern times is the same spectre that has haunted democracy throughout history in the form of nationalism, totalitarianism, and now multiculturalism. Can democratic theory rid itself of the dilemma between universality and particularity, between collectivity and individuality? This is the ultimate question addressed by this book.

Shmuel Trigano is Professor of Sociology at the Université of Paris X Nanterre. He is the author of many books, including L'avenir des Juifs de France and Les Frontières d'Auschwitz: Les ravages du devoir de mémoire. This is the first of his works to be translated into English.


"…requires knowledge of both the Holocaust and political theory, but advanced students of both will find Trigano's approach enriching … Highly recommended." — CHOICE