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The Price of Monotheism Paperback – October 29, 2009


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Frequently Bought Together

The Price of Monotheism + Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism + Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel, and the Rise of Monotheism (George L. Mosse Series)
Price for all three: $67.62

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press (October 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804761604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804761604
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #710,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"In The Price of Monotheism, Assmann answers his critics and thoroughly treats topics only alluded to in Moses the Egyptian, setting new intellectual standards for the study of religions of the ancient world and their contemporary sequels. His book should launch a sorely needed reflection on our relationship to our own religious, cultural, and spiritual inheritance." —Guy Stroumsa, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem


"The author makes a tightly reasoned argument.... Recommended."—L. A. Sinclair, Choice

About the Author

Jan Assmann is Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Heidelberg. A prize-winning scholar, he has published extensively on religious history and ancient Egypt. Stanford published his Religion and Cultural Memory in 2006.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By E. Rodin MD on December 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an English translation of Asmmann's Die Mosaische Unterscheidung oder Der Preis des Monotheismus." The German title which emphasizes the "Mosaic Distinction" is meaningful in the book's context but might be confusing for American readers and this is probably the reason why the translator, Robert Savage, used only the subtitle. The book is, in essence, a reply to critics of Assmann's previous one "Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism," which I have reviewed here in November 2001.
Since the book clarifies some of the points the author had made previously it may be useful to read it in conjunction with Moses the Egyptian because it provides the context for the criticisms which were addressed here. Inasmuch as the current book refrains from using extensive Greek quotations it will also be easier to understand by the general public. This is important because the book touches on issues that are of vital importance for the future of mankind.
With the "Mosaic distinction" Assmann created a parallel to that of Parmenides (6th century B.C.) who may be regarded as the father of logical thought in literature and science. To put it simply: instead of random thought, where everything has potentially equal validity, it created the either-or distinction of true and false. The classic example is: "that which is cannot not be; that which is not cannot be." This dictum of "tertium non datur," there is no middle, became the basis of logic, philosophy and science. Something is either true or it is false. While this enabled science to progress its inevitable corollary was that it put a restraint on thinking and was, therefore, exclusionary.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Martin on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many (if not most) people, upon reading Jan Assmann's earlier book, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism," took him to be advocating a return to pagan religiosity. Our author specifically denies that several times in this text. But what drew readers to his 'Moses' book is apparently not what drove our author to write it. This book before us was written to set the record straight. Our author is interested in memory, specifically cultural memory. And not only memories that everyone acknowledges, but also ones that are repressed, like the memory of the specific forms of religiosity that came before the rise of monotheism and continually reappear at the edges of our western society, culture and history. In this review I would like to concentrate on what he thought to be some of the consequences of this turn to monotheism from the earlier 'paganism' which preceded it.

First, being a 'mnemologist,' he is naturally interested in the transition from cult and ritual to text. Now, of course, he is not maintaining that our monotheists (our author calls them 'secondary' religions) do not have rituals; his point is that for them, ritual "is reduced to a supporting and supplementary role." Whereas for pagans (he refers to them as 'primary' or 'archaic' religions), "the text is embedded in ritual and subordinated to it". This turn from primary religion to these later 'book religions' was a pivotal moment in world history according to our author. "Writing and transcendence belong together on the side of secondary religions, just as ritual and immanence belong together on the side of primary religions.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on November 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Assmann has looked closely into the mirror of the ancient intangible with telling effect. Every student ... has something to learn from these pages, which will help cure us of intellectual myopia." Brian Fagan, The Los Angeles Times

Violent Legacy of Monotheism:
Some religion critics argue that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent. Nelson-Pallmeyer writes that "Judaism, Christianity and Islam will continue to contribute to the destruction of the world until and unless each challenges violence in 'sacred texts' and until each affirms nonviolent power of God." This subject has been explored by two Jewish scholars, Regina Schwartz in, "The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism," Susan Niditch's, "War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence."

An Appetizing Glimpse:
Just this week, the English edition of his 2004 initiating essay became available for American readers. His critical inquiry into the repercussion of monotheism has become more imperative than ever in a globalized community of the twenty first century. His novel concept of psychological mnemohistory, that he introduced and expounded in Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism, integrated ideas from his earlier two books.
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