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European Leo Baeck Lecture Series London, 2012

Jews and Justice: Baruch Spinoza

This season’s theme is Jews and Justice. The Lecture Series aims to explore their concepts of justice, the ways how they are related to the different political and cultural realms they lived in, as well as the potential juridical and political conflicts that arise from these concepts.

These events are organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London, the Jewish Museum, Frankfurt am Main and the Fritz Bauer Institut, Frankfurt am Main, in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London.

Venue: German Historical Institute London.

We would like to thank our sponsor Bank Sal. Oppenheimer jr.& Cie. (Switzerland) Ltd for their generous support of this lecture series.

2 February

Spinoza on Learning to Live Justly

Drawing on the work of his contemporary, Thomas Hobbes, Spinoza argues that law and the norms of justice around which it is organised are an entirely human creation. Communities make laws, and in doing so make justice. But how do they develop understandings of justice that do more than reflect the interests of the powerful, and provide standards for assessing and criticizing social arrangements? This lecture explores Spinoza’s account of the philosophical, theological and political processes through which communities learn to live justly.

Susan James is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College London. Her most recent book is Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatise is published by Oxford University Press in January 2012. Among her other works are Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth-Century Philosophy (1997) and The Political Writings of Margaret Cavendish (2003).

26 April

Fathers and sons: Heinrich and Karl’s contrasting conceptions of the French Revolution

In his lecture Gareth Stedman Jones will discuss the biography of Heinrich Marx, Karl Marx’s father. He will examine his relation with the French Revolution, Napoleon and the Prussian takeover of the Rhineland and then contrast his experience at the end with that of his son. He suggests that father and son represent a contrast between two different views of the French Revolution, that of 1789 (emancipation in a liberal sense) and 1792 (Rousseau, the Republic and the disappearance of all special routes).

Professor Gareth Stedman Jones joined Queen Mary, University of London in 2010; where he is Professor of the History of Ideas. He has been, since 1991, Director of the Centre for History and Economics, Cambridge. His publications include the books An End to Poverty? (2004); Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (2002); Religion and the Political Imagination, co-edited with Ira Katznelson (2010). He has in addition recently co-edited with Gregory Claeys the Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Political Thought (2011).

23 May

“Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. To this doorkeeper comes a man…”: Kafka, Narrative and the Law

References to the law pervade Kafka’s writings, but their meaning remains elusive. It is precisely because it is uncertain whether the law in Kafka’s work is to be understood in juridical, religious, literary, or more generally ontological terms that it has elicited numerous and often contradictory interpretations, which shed light on the relationship between these different realms. The lecture will explore how this indeterminacy and its effects have inspired concepts of justice in modernist thinkers from Scholem and Benjamin to Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben, as well as the relationship between law and narrative and its correlation with Jewish approaches to the interaction between Halacha and Aggadah.

Vivian Liska is Senior Professor of German literature and Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Her research focuses on modernist literature, German-Jewish literature and culture, and literary theory. She is the author of Die Nacht der Hymnen: Paul Celans Gedichte 1938-1944 (1993) and Die Dichterin und das schelmische Erhabene. Else Lasker-Schülers 'Die Nächte Tino von Bagdads' (1998). Her most recent book is Fremde Gemeinschaft. Deutsch-jüdische Literatur der Moderne (2011).

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13 June

Inside the Dual State: The Secret Life, Writings and Lawyering of Ernst Fraenkel in Nazi Germany

In 1941 the German Jewish lawyer Ernst Fraenkel published his classic account of Nazism, The Dual State: A Contribution to the Theory of Dictatorship. It is the only scholarly critique of Nazism written from within Nazi Germany. Fraenkel’s activities from 1933 through 1938 raise questions about the possibilities of scholarly inquiry under Nazi rule and more. While many Jewish lawyers lost their law licences, Fraenkel continued to represent clients in political trials until 1938. The talk will explore Fraenkel’s rare brew of practical activism and theoretical analysis, which tested the boundaries of anti-Nazi defiance.

Dr Douglas G. Morris is a legal historian and practicing criminal defense attorney with Federal Defenders of New York, Inc. He is author of Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany (2005). In 1998 he received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for serving "as pro bono counsel to a human being under a sentence of death."


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