Research Unit Politics

Protestant Canon and Jewish Experience in Horace M. Kallen's Concept of Cultural Pluralism

This research project explores the concept of cultural pluralism developed by Horace M. Kallen (1882–1974), one of the preeminent American Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century. It views this conception as a thought process on a range of levels imbued with religious content, which was nourished by both the historical Jewish experience and American Protestant traditions. In contrast to the notion of Americanization, understood in the early twentieth century principally as assimilation, Kallen juxtaposed the concept of the implementation of the »American Idea« in the cultivation of difference. In the 1950s Kallen described the extension of this principle into all spheres of life as civil religion, into which he integrated a sacred canon. Yet this American belief not only served to underpin cultural pluralism grounded in religious philosophy. Religious imagery within literary texts also contributed to the genesis of Kallen's theory of pluralism. The research project will show how and why Kallen, in different time periods of Jewish experience in the United States, made reference to American Protestant traditions, and how in the process he was able in significant measure to draw in addition on German Jewish figures of thought.

The project was part of the research cluster »1918 – Chiffre für Umbruch und Aufbruch«, coordinated by the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig and funded by the Saxon State Ministry for Science and the Arts.

This project was financed by the Saxon State government out of the State budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.