The end of building: Zionism and the politics of the concrete

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The article reflects on the place of building (both as an activity and as an object) in modern, organic nationalism. In particular, it studies the role of building in the movement that epitomizes the Promethean aspect of modernityZionism. In this Jewish national movement metaphors ofbuilding are used very often to connote belonging on three different levels: in the material world produced by human beings, in a historically meaningful and humanized space, and in a community of constructors that willfully reshapes both space and matter. But by conceptualizing their collective project as a building, and by envisioning themselves as builders, many Zionists espoused a problematic understanding of democratic politics: the practical skills required by builders do not foster the critical thought, independence, and moral judgment required of the citizen, and the nonverbal solidarity among builders is essentially different from the solidarity required by a plurality of citizens. In other words, the ethos of builders that was essential for establishing a commonwealth from scratch is fundamentally at odds with the ethos required from an ongoing, democratic polity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-626
Number of pages28
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


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