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History of Political Economy 34.1 (2002) 261-272

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Reply to Hamowy's Note on Hayek and Anti-Semitism

Melvin W. Reder

In his concluding paragraph, Ronald Hamowy states that “Professor Reder's comments on Hayek are an insult both to Hayek and to those many Jews, like myself, who worked closely with and under him and should be dismissed as the somewhat jaundiced views of a writer intent on finding malevolence where none exists.” This statement reflects a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of my paper. Hamowy neglects, here and throughout his note, the fact that my discussion was concerned with the ambivalent anti-Semitism of Hayek, Keynes, and Schumpeter. That Hayek may have exhibited great benevolence toward his Jewish students and some other Jews is not in dispute. A similar statement would apply to both Keynes and Schumpeter.

Indeed, a major point of my paper is that, varying with time and place, hostility toward Jews in general could accompany great benevolence toward certain Jews in particular: this is what I mean by ambivalent anti-Semitism. It was not, and is not, suggested that the perceived benevolence toward individual Jews was feigned or insincere. Benevolence is one facet of a complex reaction common to many individuals (gentiles) of one social position to those (Jews) sharing another. But frequently there has been another facet to this reaction: hostility. It is the changing relation of these two facets that is my primary concern. [End Page 261]

Missing this point, Hamowy has focused upon another: he denies that Hayek was in any way anti-Semitic. The first section of this rejoinder deals with this contention. The second section explores the relation of Hayek's anti-Semitism to that of Keynes and other upper-class English intellectuals.


The burden of Hamowy's argument rests on two points: the content of what Hayek has said and the definition of anti-Semitism. While Hamowy's definition of anti-Semitism is generally sufficient for the purposes of this discussion, I would suggest another (see section 2 below). But in any case, his definition is quite adequate for the case of Hayek. This definition is “the belief that Jews are in some way morally or socially inferior and/or that treating them as such either individually or collectively, as through the state, is legitimate.”

Recently the small stock of reports on Hayek's beliefs about Jews has been enriched by the publication of his first biography, by Alan Ebenstein (2001). Because the date of this publication was close to the date of publication of my article (or may have been even slightly later), I was unable to incorporate its material in my discussion of Hayek. Let me make amends.

For ease of exposition I shall commence with note 21 on page 390. (In a moment I will deal with the text to which this note is attached.)

Hayek once responded to an interview question “about people you dislike or can't deal with”: “I don't have many strong dislikes. I admit that as a teacher—I have no racial prejudices in general—but there were certain types, and conspicuous among them the Near Eastern populations, which I still dislike because they are fundamentally dishonest . . . . It was a type which, in my childhood in Austria, was described as Levantine, typical of people of the eastern Mediterranean. But I encountered it later, and I have a profound dislike for the typical Indian students at the London School of Economics, which I admit are all one type—Bengali moneylender sons. They are to me a detestable type, I admit, but not with any racial feeling. I have found a little of the same amongst the Egyptians.”

Hayek could be obtuse and insensitive of anti-Semitism. He wrote in a piece after World War II: “It is scarcely easier to justify the [End Page 262] prevention of a person from fiddling [playing in the Vienna Symphony] because he was a Nazi than the prevention because he is a Jew.”

Let me comment separately on each of...


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