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Full text from The Last Ditch,
Whole No. 19, December 19, 1997.


A self-chosen people?



Jews have been amazingly successful at survival. Living among hostile majorities, they have retained their ethnic identity and distinctive culture for millennia. And in many societies they have commanded considerable wealth and power. In contemporary Western society, the role of Jews in society is a non-topic in Establishment circles, considered too dangerous for open discussion. What Kevin MacDonald attempts in A People That Shall Dwell Alone is nothing less than a scientific understanding of Judaism.

MacDonald is a young professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, with a background in evolutionary biology. In previous studies he has looked at wolf behavior, child development, and monogamy, all through the lens of evolutionary biology. Using a similar approach in analyzing Judaism, MacDonald amasses considerable historical evidence (drawn almost entirely from Jewish sources) to support his thesis that Judaism is a group evolutionary strategy. Although mainstream Darwinism traditionally has focused on the process of natural selection at the level of the gene or the individual organism, some of its proponents in recent years have considered natural selection at the group level. MacDonald sees the human mind as especially able to create and enforce group strategies through the development of various laws and ideologies. Different human groups can adopt different strategies to achieve evolutionary success.

The central element of the Jewish evolutionary strategy has been the perpetuation of ethnic purity, according to MacDonald. Throughout history Jews have stressed endogamy — marriage within their group — and have staunchly resisted genetic assimilation with surrounding peoples. As recorded in the Old Testament, the policy of the ancient Hebrews was "to commit genocide rather than permitting intermarriage with the conquered peoples." (p. 39) To prevent group intermarriage in later periods, Jews have sought to separate themselves from others. Separation has been enforced by a panoply of cultural practices: religious beliefs, language and mannerisms, physical appearance, customs, occupations, and physically separated areas of residence. As a result, geographically separated Jewish populations today are more closely related to each other than to neighboring Gentiles. [1]

According to MacDonald, the Jews developed the monotheist concept to further separatism. Monotheism served to prevent the worship of foreign gods, which most polytheistic people were wont to practice — and religious syncretism historically has facilitated ethnic assimilation. Moreover, in contrast to the gods of the Greeks and Romans, who were concerned with cosmology and the workings of nature, "Israelite theology is intimately bound up with Israelite history." (p. 45) "The Israelite god represents the racially pure Israelite gene pool" (p. 47); the nature of that god is a "mark of separateness and is closely linked with an abhorrence of exogamy and with aggression against foreigners." (p. 44) MacDonald concludes that, from an evolutionary perspective, the "Jewish sense of moral and religious idealism" is "a mask for a self-interested evolutionary strategy aimed at promoting the interests of a kinship group that maintains its genetic integrity during a diaspora." (p. 64)

Integral to their separatism has been the Jewish proclivity toward group altruism — the willingness to put group goals above individual interests — and a concomitant hostility to outsiders. Moreover, throughout history Jews have competed intensely with other groups for resources and have attained great success, often at others' expense. Jews have filled specialized niches in the economy of the broader society, serving as middlemen for Gentile primary production and in positions requiring high degrees of education and intelligence.

MacDonald maintains that the Jewish evolutionary strategy was freely adopted as opposed to having been either genetically or environmentally determined. It was especially not a defensive response to Diaspora anti-Semitism, since Jewish solidarity long predated the Diaspora. MacDonald calls the Jewish evolutionary strategy an "experiment in living" (p. 7) which was developed while Jews were quasi-nomadic sojourners in the second millennium B. C. and which was continued during the Diaspora because of its success.

Notwithstanding his references to Judaism as a freely chosen strategy, MacDonald allows for significant deterministic components. He holds to the view that Jews and their ancestors were biologically predisposed to group solidarity. In the untold centuries before Christ, MacDonald maintains, strong group allegiance was more likely to originate and serve as a vital element for survival in the densely populated Middle East, where there were many competing groups, than in what was then sparsely populated Europe. Moreover, Judaism, once established, provided eugenic reinforcement effects. The biological interrelatedness of Jews stemming from endogamous marriages heightened group altruism and group loyalty — scientific studies have shown that humans, like animals, sacrifice the most for those closely related to themselves. Judaism's strong social controls also drove away individuals who were unable to accept such a collectivistic environment, thereby restricting the gene pool.

The Jewish gene pool was skewed not only toward group conformity but also toward high intelligence, a factor that has contributed to Jewish competitive success vis-à-vis other groups. Jewish law, MacDonald shows, became basic to maintaining group solidarity, and it was transmitted through education. Apart from community-wide elementary education, Judaism emphasized the operation of legal scholars who mastered Rabbinic dicta. Since the Talmud and other Rabbinic commentaries are dense and convoluted works, mastery required a high level of intellectual ability. (Talmudic study and debate served the function of forming a Jewish elite, but it was not, MacDonald points out, of value in terms of content. It did not involve a search for truth about the outside world, like the philosophical endeavors of the ancient Greeks, but dealt with arbitrary, often minuscule, points of neither philosophical interest nor practical application. In essence, Talmudic study consisted of "intellectual disputation for its own sake." [p. 171]).

Through the process of natural selection, the writer says, the emphasis on an educated elite ineluctably led to an overall increase in the intelligence of the group — IQ tests show Jews to be highly intelligent in all areas outside of mechanical skills. Religious scholars were highly favored by the Jewish community: they were able to marry early, having their choice of the daughters of wealthy Jewish families, and they were showered with considerable wealth. Consequently, they had more surviving children than poorer Jews. [2] In addition, Judaism's emphasis on education meant that less-intelligent Jews were ostracized. That allowed them fewer breeding opportunities. Moreover, such unintelligent Jews also left the community more readily, thereby removing themselves from the Jewish gene pool.

The fact that Jews have survived ethnically intact for thousands of years shows that their evolutionary strategy was well-designed. The key to Jewish success, MacDonald maintains, has been their collectivistic nature, which has enabled them to outperform groups whose members have been individualistic. Although Jewish strategy has shown some flexibility over time, its very success has caused it to remain fundamentally the same. MacDonald claims that Jews have flourished when the groups with whom they competed were the most individualistic; and that when Gentiles have developed a strong allegiance to their group — as in Europe of the High Middle Ages, Islam since the Middle Ages, and Nazi Germany — Jews have been stymied.


MacDonald's assumption of the strategic superiority of collectivism over individualism rings hollow in individualist-libertarian ears. Despite surface appearances, however, MacDonald's thesis does not necessarily contradict individualist libertarianism. His use of the terms individualism and collectivism is somewhat misleading, since it has nothing to do with the enforcement power of the state. [3] Group solidarity is referred to as collectivism; lack of group cohesion is labeled individualism. Cohesion has been maintained among Jews without state enforcement. Statist and even totalitarian Gentile polities have not necessarily harmed Jewish interests: in fact, Jews have sometimes thrived in such regimes, e. g. , early Bolshevik Russia and the American welfare state, attaining disproportionate representation and power in the regimes' political institutions. [4] In those cases, however, statist regimes existed in the absence of any strong ethnic loyalty among Gentiles. What has counteracted Jewish power has been not government control per se but rather group solidarity, which can exist even in the absence of state power. (The antebellum South would exemplify the persistence of group, in this case racial, cohesion without recourse to an elaborate statist apparatus.)

MacDonald's discussion of resource competition with Gentiles also deserves comment; some aspects of it have been dealt with by other scholars. For example, Nathaniel Weyl portrays Jews as a "creative elite" whose superior intellectual talents have benefited others as well as themselves. [5] In free-market economies, that should be the case. However, for most of history, economies have been largely unfree, thus making one group's gain another group's loss. (That is MacDonald's basic view.)

MacDonald says the downside of the Jewish evolutionary strategy, with its intense resource competitiveness, lies in its provocation of anti-Semitism. He points out that Jewish reliance on the power of the state especially has led to anti-Semitic reactions. Jews acted as intermediaries in traditional societies, serving the ruler, while "behaving in a purely instrumental manner, including exploitation, toward the rest of the population." (p. 112) MacDonald writes that "the prototypical Jewish role as an instrument of government oppression has been that of the tax farmer." (p. 114) Gentile rulers were quite willing to rely on the superior service of Jews to exploit their subjects: "Elites are unlikely to identify with the interests of the society as a whole, and they are relatively eager to agree to arrangements that are personally beneficial." (p. 113)

By presenting anti-Semitism as the Gentile response to Jewish solidarity and its concomitant intense resource competitiveness, MacDonald makes Gentile hostility appear rational and almost inevitable. Anti-Semitism, as MacDonald points out, has existed in almost all societies where Jews have dwelt. Its pervasive nature undercuts the conventional view that it is an irrational hatred peculiar to Christianity — a view poignantly expressed in the film on anti-Semitism at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. [6]

In his depiction of Judaism as an evolutionary strategy for group success, MacDonald is explicitly denying that it is a universalistic religion like Christianity and Islam. Diaspora Jews have claimed universalist status for Judaism in order to make it palatable in the Gentile world. MacDonald notes that although Diaspora Judaism has allowed for converts and intermarriage (the trappings of universalism, at the theoretical level), it has minimized them in practice with numerous barriers. In short, Judaism is a national/ethnic religion, in contrast to the universalism of Christianity and Islam. Despite a dramatic decline in Orthodox Jewish religious worship in the modern world, Jews still maintain a high degree of allegiance to their group, perhaps underscoring MacDonald's contention that Jewish religion has been a "mask" for an evolutionary strategy. Zionism, MacDonald asserts, is the most recent ideological manifestation of the Jewish ethnocentric impulse. Today, "support for Israel, rather than any particular religious beliefs, has become the litmus test of being a Jew." (p. 101)

As is quite apparent from MacDonald's depiction, the ethnocentric ideology of Judaism is the polar opposite of the progressive universalist ideologies — communism, socialism, statist liberalism. The great irony, which MacDonald discusses at length in a yet-to-be-published sequel, is that Jews have been the most vociferous champions of those universalist ideologies and staunch opponents of any form of ethnic nationalism for other groups. [7] From the perspective of modern liberalism, for example, ethnic and racial groups are expected to assimilate, integrate, and essentially abandon their own group identities. It is the rare liberal Jew, of course, who applies that universalistic standard to attack Jewish positions, especially Zionism. The apparent contradiction becomes understandable when Judaism is perceived as an evolutionary strategy. For by weakening the solidarity of other groups, Jews enhance the relative strength of their own unified group, which can more easily prevail in a deracinated society. And it is quite apparent that Jews have improved their position with the triumph of universalist ideologies — although in the case of Soviet Communism their success was short-lived.


A qualification is in order regarding MacDonald's emphasis on self-interest as a motive for Jewish action. As noted by the Jewish paleoconservative scholar Paul Gottfried, Jewish hatred of Gentiles has sometimes tended to overshadow considerations of self-interest. It would seem that many Jews are unwilling to abandon views stemming from past centuries — most significantly, animosity toward Christianity — even when such views no longer accord with reality. Thus, many American Jews rail against the Christian Right, which nowadays is effusively pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist. Furthermore, many Jews supported communism as the enemy of the Christian West even after communism had become anti-Semitic in Eastern Europe and anti-Zionist. Today, Jews support liberal and leftist anti-Christian social policies even though their realization would undermine the very society conducive to Jewish success. Neoconservative Jews seem to have realized the danger of those anachronistic animosities and seek to pursue programs directly in line with current Jewish group interests. However, most Jews still identify with the liberal Left, except on issues directly affecting Israel.

MacDonald's contention that the Jewish evolutionary success was consciously planned is also questionable. Without denying conscious elements, one can also argue that certain aspects of Jewish culture enhanced evolutionary success without being intended for that purpose. For example, it is difficult to believe that mediæval Jews deliberately intended the long-term eugenic improvement of their people by rewarding intelligent scholars or prohibiting intermarriage. (On the other hand, as MacDonald points out, they did believe in the importance of heredity.) Any increase in group intelligence would more likely be a byproduct of other cultural goals.

Similarly, it is hard to accept MacDonald's contention that the Jews designed the concept of a single God in order to promote separatism. It would seem that the monotheist concept serves many other purposes, and this reviewer believes that the One God actually exists. In sum, although MacDonald's idea of a conscious evolutionary strategy can account for many aspects of Judaism, I do not see it as an all-encompassing explanation.

Finally, it seems that MacDonald sometimes conflates two dissimilar concepts of success: success in Darwinian terms — survival (reproductive success) — and success according to conventional thinking — wealth and power. Although Jews historically have succeeded according to both definitions, the concepts are not identical. As MacDonald illustrates, for many centuries, when neighboring groups lived near the starvation level, Jewish wealth did allow for reproductive success. However, as he also notes, Jews were the first group to adopt a low-fertility strategy suitable to economic success in the modern industrial world. And because of their very economic success and concomitant political power, Jews have become accepted at the highest levels of Western society. As a result, Jews today face assimilation and possible extinction as a group. [8]

In contrast, primitive peoples around the world have survived for countless generations virtually unchanged owing to their very primitiveness and poverty. The population of black Africans today is increasing exponentially, despite the fact that they live in dire poverty. In Darwinian terms, the reproductive strategy of black Africans may be regarded as superior to that of Jews (at least at this time).

Whatever its limitations, MacDonald's extremely ambitious work provides much food for thought. Moreover, MacDonald has done far more than produce an intellectual tour de force. Since he moves deep into non-P.C. territory, MacDonald must be credited with displaying a great deal of courage in a less-and-less-free society. Let's hope that much more can be heard from him.

Posted September 19, 2003

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