Chad Goldberg

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2014/2015
discipline Sociology
Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research project

Modernity and the Jews in Social Theory


I propose to use the EURIAS Fellowship to complete a book that compares the portrayal, symbolism, and meaning of the Jews in French, German, and American social thought from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. This is typically regarded as the classical period of sociology, when the fundamental ideas of the discipline first took shape. The book is intended not only as a study of social theory but also as a comparative-historical study in the sociology of ideas. The working title of the book, which is under contract with University of Chicago Press, is Modernity and the Jews in Social Theory.


Taking as its point of departure Robert Nisbet’s classic thesis that European sociology arose in response to the collapse of the old regime under the impact of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, the book’s introduction shows how references to the Jews figured prominently in nineteenth-century discussions of both upheavals. Chapter 1 focuses on the perceived relationship of the Jews to the French Revolution within the French sociological tradition, particularly in the work of Emile Durkheim. Chapter 2 examines the perceived relationship of the Jews to modern industrial capitalism in the German tradition, focusing on the work of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Werner Sombart, and Georg Simmel. Chapter 3 turns to the Chicago School of American sociology, where the key metaphor of modernity was neither democracy nor industrial capitalism, but the city; it examines American portrayals of the modern Jew as a “marginal man” between two worlds—Old and New, traditional and modern—as this portrayal related to debates about urbanization, immigration, and national identity.


The book’s thesis is that in all three national traditions of social thought, interest in the Jews stemmed from their symbolic function as a touchstone for defining what it meant to be modern and what it meant to be French, German, or American. I plan to conclude with a chapter that highlights the relevance and implications of the study for the present, particularly in regard to how modernity and European and American identities are defined today.

The book’s scholarly contributions are twofold: it improves our understanding of classical social theory by throwing new light on an aspect of its historical context which has not been adequately explored, and it aims to advance our understanding of how recurring patterns in social thought—in this case, about Jews and Judaism—are reproduced. I believe this work will have strong interdisciplinary appeal: it engages scholarship in sociology, Jewish studies, and history, and it is also relevant for scholars in anthropology, cultural studies, and European and American studies. My hope is to provide insight and inspiration to other scholars interested in the origins of the social sciences, the representation of out-groups, and the uses to which those representations have been put.



Chad Alan Goldberg is Professor of Sociology and affiliated with the Center for German and European Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, and the George L. Mosse Program in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His areas of specialization include political sociology, comparative-historical sociology, and social theory. He is actually working to complete a book on modernity and the Jews in classical social theory.

Selected publications


‘The Two Marxes: From Jewish Domination to Supersession of the Jews’, forthcoming in Journal of Classical Sociology, vol. 16, no. 4, 2016.

‘The Jewish Question and the Civil Sphere’, in P. Kivisto & G. Sciortino (eds), Solidarity, Justice, and Incorporation: Thinking through The Civil Sphere, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015.


'Struggle and Solidarity: Civic Republican Elements in Pierre Bourdieu's Political Sociology', Theory and Society, vol. 42, no. 4, 2013, pp. 369-394.

'Robert Park's Marginal Man: The Career of a Concept in American Sociology', Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research, vol. 4, no. 2, 2012, pp. 199-217.

'T. H. Marshall Meets Pierre Bourdieu: Citizens and Paupers in the Development of the U.S. Welfare State', reprinted in P.S. Gorski (ed.),  Bourdieu and Historical Analysis, Duke University Press, Durham, 2013; originally published in Political Power and Social Theory, vol. 19, 2008, pp. 83-116.

'The Jews, the Revolution, and the Old Regime in French Antisemitism and Durkheim's Sociology', Sociological Theory, vol. 29, no. 4, 2011, pp. 248-71. 

'Haunted by the Specter of Communism: Collective Identity and Resource Mobilization in the Demise of the Workers Alliance of America', reprinted in C.E. Zirakzadeh (ed.), Social and Political Movements, vol. 3, Sage, London, 2011, pp. 163-204; originally published Theory and Society, vol. 32, 2003, pp. 725-773. 


Citizens and Paupers: Relief, Rights, and Race, from the Freedmen's Bureau to Workfare, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2008.



senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Urban Studies
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Anthropology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Psychology
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Cultural Studies