The Turn to Tradition in the Study of Jewish Politics

Julie E. Cooper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This article traces the political, intellectual, and disciplinary motivations behind the establishment of the field of Jewish political thought, and pursues implications of the field's establishment for the dynamics of Jewish political debate. Jewish political thought is decisively marked by the experience of statelessness. Thus, to establish the possibility of a Jewish political tradition, scholars have had to abandon or relax the received view that sovereignty is the defining horizon for politics. Although the pervasiveness of politics is the field's animating conviction, scholars have yet to mount a sufficiently forceful challenge to sovereignty's conceptual and political priority. This review surveys the reasons why scholars have been reluctant to pursue alternative, diasporic conceptions of the political, focusing on their notions of what constitutes a tradition. The article contends that developing a more ambitious conception of the Jewish political tradition is a prerequisite for encouraging political debate about sovereignty's importance for Jewish political agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-87
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Political Science
StatePublished - 11 May 2016


  • Diaspora
  • Hebraism
  • Jewish political thought
  • Sovereignty
  • Zionism


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