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Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence (Abraham Lincoln Lecture) Paperback – July 28, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: Abraham Lincoln Lecture
  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (July 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803270690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803270695
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,407,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Psychoanalyst-turned-medical historian Gilman builds on his previous work (The Jew's Body) about historical images of Jews to offer new insights into the vexed question of Jewish "superior" intelligence. Gilman examines a vast array of 19th- and 20th-century materials, from the writings of Francis Galton and Sigmund Freud to the works of playwright Georg Buchner and composer Alban Berg to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List and Robert Redford's Quiz Show. Whether or not Jews are, in fact, smarter is never an issue; how the image of Jews as smarter has served the psychological and social needs and interests of Jews and Gentiles alike, is. Gilman is consequently less concerned with the validity of race-based intelligence theories than the burdens such claims (made by both Jews and Gentiles) have imposed upon Jews themselves. The average Jew may be smarter than the average Gentile, so the argument runs, but it is an intelligence without creativity?an effeminate, crafty type of intellect with no inherent link to virtue. Unfortunately, Gilman's contention, cast in a relatively graceless prose, is hurt rather than helped by its scholastic tone, as points are repeated needlessly in order to emphasize the image's tenacity. Less breadth and more narrative would have transformed this otherwise worthwhile exploration into an invaluable work of cultural criticism.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Gilman (Franz Kafka: The Jewish Patient, 1995, etc.; Liberal Arts/Univ. of Chicago), who has previously written about physical stereotypes of Jews, turns his attention to the seemingly positive stereotyping of Jews as highly intelligent. Gilman has pondered many aspects of the ways in which the Jew is marked as the Other in Western culture. His latest effort grew out of his reaction to the success of The Bell Curve, with its revival of what had once seemed discredited arguments about race and intelligence. He asserts that the unstated agenda of Bell Curve authors Murray and Herrnstein was the conflation of ``intelligence'' and ``virtue,'' an implicit linkage of low intelligence and criminality. That argument, Gilman says, has received a great deal of scrutiny, but the equally implicit converse, that Jews are at the other end of the ``bell curve,'' has been more or less ignored. However, as Gilman carefully demonstrates, the notion of the superior intelligence of Jews is also the product of social constructions, shaped by the various political and racial agendas of the combatants. Social Darwinists at the turn of the century downgraded the Jews even as they acknowledged Jewish intellect, counterposing intelligence to supposed physical feebleness; the scientific racism of various fin- de-siŠcle advocates of eugenics often was accompanied by a distinction between ``intelligence'' and ``craftiness,'' a difference that was usually posited to the detriment of the Jews. In the book's last two chapters, Gilman discusses Berg's opera Wozzeck and such films and novels as The Last Tycoon, Schindler's List, and Quiz Show to illuminate how notions of Jewish intelligence are inscribed in both high and popular culture as the marker of Jewish difference. As usual, Gilman's insights are dazzling, his arguments rigorous and densely worked out. However, this volume is surprisingly dry, given the loaded subject matter, and will be of interest primarily to specialists. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Nydorf on December 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Most attacks on racism concentrate on rebutting the silly idea that some human groups are intellectually inferior. Gilman uses another strategy, he attacks one necessary implication of this idea, the idea that some groups are such as Jews are intellectually superior. It is true that, on the average Jews tend to do relatively well in school. This is because they tend to work hard at their studies. The tradition of hard academic effort comes to them from the culture in which they are raised. Jews are taught by elders that intellectual achievement comes from hard work rather than inborn talent. One of the greatest Jewish scholars (the Vilner Goen) was asked how someone could become a genius ('goen') like him. He replied in Yiddish "Vil nor un ir vet zayn a goen" ("Just want it badly enough and you'll be a genius") He meant that his accomplishments came from his strong will to study.

Unfortunately, some people do not grasp this and imagine that Jewish scholarly achievements come from greater innate ability. They then use this false idea to support the idea that there are innate intellectual differences between different human groups. I always thought that the reason for this mistake was that believers in innate Jewish superiority are ignorant of the power of culture and imagine that all group differences must be genetically based but Gilman demonstrates that the reasons are more complex. People tend to stereotype mentally strong people as physically weak. People who hate Jews think of them as physically weak and so conclude that they must be mentally strong.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
interesting book. it discusses how the myth that jews are smart, has developed. It does'nt answer the question 'are jews smarter?' and actually, in a very academic unbiased research, it concludes that such a question can't be answered.
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For people who are interested in resolving the question whether there is some truth behind the image of the "smart Jew", this book is NOT to be recommended. One would expect that Gilman sets out to test the hypothesis "Are Jews (on average) more intelligent than gentiles?" on the basis of the available evidence. And this is certainly a testable hypothesis. However, as the book's subtitle suggests, Gilman's review is not intended as such a test. On the contrary, from the beginning, Gilman starts out with the conviction that the idea of a Jewish superiority in intelligence is absurd and solely motivated by racist thinking. Correspondingly, he treats all the reviewed studies alike, as though there were no differences in their quality, be it conceptually or empirically. Instead of evaluating the particular merits and pitfalls of each single study one by one, Gilman presents us a hopeless mix of reported science and morals. He paints a picture of a scientific enterprise which is hopelessly lost in its preconceptions and which from the outset was bound to fail, because (as Gilman just knows) there ARE no differences to be found.
Several times, Gilman responds to scientific arguments with non-scientific, moralistic ones. For example, after introducing the work of Raphael Patai (The Jewish Mind, 1977) and Kevin MacDonald (A people that shall dwell alone. Judaism as a group evolutionary strategy, 1994), he accuses these authors of being tactless in using the term "selection" as likely process which has shaped Jewish IQ, because it reminds Gilman of the "selection" in the Nazi concentration camps during the holocaust.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cuong Huy To on March 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is like a note written by the author, to help him digest the other studies (that he collected and list on pages 207-237).

There's virtually no paragraph that is bold enough to state what Gilman tries to say. All the sections, pages, paragraphs and words are flat and pale.

There is no table and no picture.

The only added value of this book, is the list of other studies, that Gilman thinks worth to read about Jewish Intelligence.
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5 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There's little I can add to the German reviewer's excellent summation of this huffy puffy tract, except that nearly every sentence on the audiotape edition should be read with the proper gasping inhalation. (As in, "How dare you! ")
I also want to balance the number of stars the poor Deutscher mistakenly awarded it!
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