Yuri Slezkine: The Jewish Century

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

Yuri Slezkine of UC Berkeley, author of The Jewish Century (reviewed in The Nation).

@7 min “I was unprincipled enough to put down Russian in all my official paperwork because, obviously, it made it much easier to get into college.” [ Slezkine is half Jewish; his father is Russian. See They take students like you there and I’m not Asian. ]

@29:30 The evolution of anti-semitism in the Soviet Union. From an overrepresentation of Jews in the early Soviet leadership, to (post-WWII and -Stalin) an era of quotas and overt discrimination, and an increasing identification of the Soviet state with Russian nationality.

From the introduction to The Jewish Century:

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 or 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 mediation-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. …

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.