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In his pre­vi­ous arti­cles, Michael Livni showed that the roots of the cri­sis in the kib­butz move­ment lay in loss of pur­pose reflected in the wan­ing of ide­ol­ogy.  He sur­veyed the fac­tors in Israel and within the kib­butz move­ment that caused “ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia.”  The third kib­butz gen­er­a­tion, the gen­er­a­tion that came to matu­rity before and after the Six Day War, the Jacob gen­er­a­tion, was/is no longer  capa­ble (or moti­vated) to con­front these ques­tions  This arti­cle focuses on the neg­a­tive impact of devel­op­ments in the West­ern world on Israel.  Cen­tral to these devel­op­ments is the influ­ence of   post-modernity on Israel in gen­eral and the kib­butz in particular.

In dis­cussing the impact of post-modernity on Israel and the kib­butz we have to limit our­selves to the polit­i­cal and social aspects of this phe­nom­e­non.  In gen­eral, post-modernity in Israel expresses itself as the process of “Amer­i­can­iza­tion.”  This really means that Israel has become “like all the Nations”   In so doing, Israel has negated the cul­tural Zion­ist ratio­nale for the estab­lish­ment of a Jew­ish state. As we have seen, the essence of that ratio­nale was the Achad Ha’amist view that a Jew­ish National Home in the his­toric home­land  of the Jew­ish peo­ple was nec­es­sary to ensure the con­tin­ued cre­ative sur­vival of Jew­ish civ­i­liza­tion  in the mod­ern age.
But what do we mean by “post-modernity” – in par­tic­u­lar as it relates to Zion­ism and the kibbutz?

In two books, Zion­ism in a Post-Modernistic Era (1997) and New Gor­don­ian Essays (2005), the Israeli philoso­pher, Eliezer Schweid  sum­ma­rized the mean­ing of post-modernity for Israeli soci­ety.  (The books are in Hebrew))

Moder­nity is a prod­uct of the enlight­en­ment.  Moder­nity assumes that humans, as ratio­nal beings, have the capa­bil­ity of deter­min­ing what is desir­able and can for­mu­late an action pro­gram  to fur­ther wanted ends.   Move­ments are a phe­nom­e­non of moder­nity. The strate­gic aims of a move­ment are deter­mined by its ide­o­log­i­cal vision.  Tac­tics, not vision,  are dic­tated by an analy­sis of reality.

Zion­ism was (is) is a mod­ern move­ment – whether in its polit­i­cal or cul­tural man­i­fes­ta­tion.   The polit­i­cal Zion­ist move­ment strove to achieve a state for the Jews.  Dif­fer­ent streams of cul­tural Zion­ism, the kib­butz among them, sought to real­ize dif­fer­ent visions of what the social and cul­tural char­ac­ter of the state should be.   The kib­butz was an inte­gral part of the mod­ern Zion­ist move­ment both in its polit­i­cal and cul­tural manifestation.

The post-modern rejects ide­ol­ogy.  It uti­lizes social sci­ences and pub­lic opin­ion sur­veys to ascer­tain what is real­is­tic and this deter­mines both its aims and its tac­tics.   Schweid pointed out that the post-modern con­sumer soci­ety is based on the assump­tion that indi­vid­ual needs are to be nur­tured and sat­is­fied.  The ulti­mate aim is a homo­ge­neous global mass of indi­vid­u­als served by trans-national cor­po­ra­tions. The United States, where the trans-nationals were spawned became the source and arbiter of this global con­sumer cul­ture by virtue of being the only real vic­tor in World War Two.

Per­force, Zion­ism can never be post-modern.  Herzl’s “If you will it – it is no fairy tale” is absolutely mod­ern and not post-modern.    The strug­gle of Eliezer Ben Yehuda to revive the Hebrew lan­guage – was absolutely mod­ern; not post-modern.  The goal of the Zion­ist Labor move­ment to build com­mu­ni­ties based on the equal worth of all (the kib­butzim) as a focal value for an ideal soci­ety was mod­ern and not post-modern.

In his book, This Peo­ple Israel (1955), Leo Baeck , “ the Rabbi of There­sien­stadt”  paid trib­ute to Moses Hess, the har­bin­ger of Socialist-Zionism :
“He viewed the present from the future…he did not want to deter­mine the future from the present.”

There can be no more suc­cinct jux­ta­po­si­tion of moder­nity with post-modernity.

The lat­ter part of the 1970’s wit­nessed the tri­umph of post-modernism in West­ern soci­ety as embod­ied in the socio-economic phi­los­o­phy of neo-liberalism. It was the age of Rea­gan and Thatcher.   Neo-liberalism was ulti­mately based on the assump­tion that there are no lim­its to growth, no lim­its to Gross National Prod­uct.  The ever-expanding GNP would be the surest guar­an­tee of “life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness” for the max­i­mum num­ber in society.

The tide of neo-liberalism engulfed Israel.  The Likud also under­stood that dis­man­tling the wel­fare state and its (in many cases atro­phied) insti­tu­tions would also defin­i­tively remove the power base of Labor.

This hap­pened at the very time when the kib­butz move­ment, suf­fer­ing from “ ide­o­log­i­cal ane­mia”  described in our pre­vi­ous arti­cles,  had lost its abil­ity to con­tend ide­o­log­i­cally with new real­i­ties.  An addi­tional fac­tor in the inabil­ity of the kib­butz to relate to new real­ity was its
lead­er­ship  – the sub­ject of the next arti­cle in this series.