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The Origin of the JewsThe Quest for Roots in a Rootless Age$
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Steven Weitzman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174600

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174600.001.0001

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Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation

The Jewish People as a Modern Invention

(p.245) Chapter Seven Disruptive Innovation
The Origin of the Jews

Steven Weitzman

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the theory advanced by the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand stating that the Jews were a product of invention, and thus were an artificial people. In his book The Invention of the Jewish People, first published in Hebrew in 2008, Sand proposes an alternative account that traces Jewish origins to more recent times. The chapter considers the arguments for and against Sand's controversial theory and the distinctive conception of origin on which it depends. It discusses some of The Invention of the Jewish People's shortcomings, including Sand's treatment of conversion in relation to what is known in biology and linguistics as “polygenesis,” and the idea that the nation was a modern invention, citing the Jews as a classic example of premodern nationalism. Finally, it explains why some scholars embrace the constructivist approach to account for the invention of the nation and others choose primordialism.

Keywords:   invention, Shlomo Sand, Jews, The Invention of the Jewish People, Jewish origins, conversion, nation, premodern nationalism, constructivist approach, primordialism

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