Movies, capitalism and anti-semitism

Larry Ribstein —  3 November 2010

Jean-Luc Godard’s getting an honorary Oscar which, as the NYT reports, presents a problem.  Godard is “an avowed anti-Zionist and advocate for Palestinian rights,” and made a documentary which included alternating images of Golda Meir and Adolf Hitler.  Most notably for present purposes, he told Le Matin in 1985:

“What I find interesting in the cinema is that, from the beginning, there is the idea of debt,” he is quoted as saying. “The real producer is, all the same, the image of the Central European Jew.”

This association between Jews and capitalism is as old as, and even older than, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, as discussed in detail in Jerry Z. Muller’s The Mind and the Market.

And as my readers know, I’ve discussed in some detail, e.g. here, filmmakers’ resentment of capitalists.

The NYT notes that there’s so far no protest against the Godard award to rival that against a similar award to Elia Kazan.  Kazan’s sin was cooperating in HUAC’s investigation of Communism in Hollywood.  

Hollywood may be uncomfortable with Godard’s anti-Semitism, but at least it doesn’t have to deal here with the sin of pro-capitalism.

Update:  A reader recommends Muller’s more recent book, Capitalism and the Jews.

Larry Ribstein

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Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law