Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist by Robert F Barsky

By Robert F Barsky

In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to debate hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A lifestyles ofDissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky informed Barsky that he shouldfocus his cognizance in its place on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris,who was once, Chomsky modestly insisted, extra attention-grabbing than Chomsky himself.Intrigued, Barsky started to learn Harris (1909--1992) and found thestory of a tremendous determine in American highbrow lifestyles ''sitting in acorner in the course of the room'' -- partof the most important twentieth-century conversations approximately language, expertise, labor,politics, and Zionism. The intersecting worlds of Harris's intellectualand political actions have been populated through such figures as Louis Brandeis,Albert Einstein, Franz Boas, Nathan Glazer, and Chomsky. Barskydescribes Harris's paintings in language reviews, andhis pioneering rules approximately discourse research, structural linguistics, andinformation illustration. He additionally discusses Harris's half within the pre-1948Zionist circulate -- ;when many Jews at the Leftenvisioned a socialist Palestine that may be a haven not just for persecutedJews but additionally for disenfranchised Arabs and somebody looking a sanctuary againstoppression -- ;and recounts Harris's debates at the topic withBrandeis, Einstein, and a wide staff of scholars concerned with a Zionistorganization referred to as Avukah. And Barsky describes Harris's perspectives oncapitalism, worker-owner kin, and employee self-management, the legacy ofwhich are available in a few of his scholars' writings, particularly these ofSeymour Melman. Barsky indicates how Harris, as mentor, instructor, and colleague,powerfully prompted figures who got here to dominate the 20 th century'spolitical dialogue -- ;thinkers as diverse as Noam Chomsky and NathanGlazer.

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Extra info for Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

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T]he idea of creating a sovereign Jewish state, in Palestine or anywhere else, was virtually unimaginable within the framework of traditional normative Judaism. For the few Jews who lived in Palestine, as for virtually all Jews before the modern era, only the end of history as manifested in the coming of the Messiah could bring about the termination of “exile” and its attendant sufferings, the redemption of the Jews, and their restoration to the land which God had promised to their ancestors but from which they had—also by divine decree—been uprooted.

She left when she married Tzvee but maintained her devotion to the idea of Hashomer Hatzair, an organization she recalled with great fondness in my own discussions with her and Tzvee. 21 Their views on education were progressive, and they had difficulties in finding educational establishment approval for their nonstandard interpretations. Enya and Shoshanna were extremely close to one another, as is characteristic of the Harris family as a whole. They attended Penn at the same time, they both won the same scholarship, and then both of them taught English in high school.

Soon thereafter, Meyer Rabban remembered learning that she wanted to leave the Harris house, and Zellig couldn’t understand why. Zellig’s mother turned to him and said “You’re an idiot! You don’t understand why she left? ” Zellig and Bruria eventually married, and Bruria’s remarkable career led her to become a professor at the Weizmann Institute, but after about a decade she chose instead to teach high school. She is best known, however, as Albert Einstein’s principle assistant; she worked with him on the mathematics of his theories, an interesting twist in this story given the attraction that Harris had to Einstein’s achievements.

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