Thursday, April 25, 2013

Uris´ Exodus - Seymour Melman- Ha-Joon Chang

I´ve been reading the novel Exodus by Leon Uris in its Portuguese translation.  It is an amazing story and well-written.  The importance of the Jewish emigration and immigration is interesting to consider.  I once read much of Chaim Potok´s Wanderings, given to me by a frankly delightful Jewish girlfriend of mine, and have been reminded of it by Exodus.  However, Exodus is its own riveting experience.  Since I am now in a relatively provincial area in NE Brazil, instead of NYC, NY in the US, I´m a little starved for stimulation.  There´s an Amazon review below. 

       Also, I want to mention Melman´s book After Capitalism, which I encountered by accident in NYU´s library.  It starts interestingly from an insightful perspective, focuses around workplace democracy, and includes a discussion of Mondragon.  Simply a must read.

        Ha-Joon Chang has written what seems to be an amazing book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, that I wish I could get my hands on.  Nevertheless, it seems worth promoting.:

Exodus [Mass Market Paperback]
Leon Uris (Author)

While at work this morning, I was shown an original birth certificate issued in Israel in 1950. I actually felt something of a thrill of pride (even though I've never been there, and I've long since forgotten Hebrew letters). That's mostly due to my having finished "Exodus" last night.
"Exodus" isn't the kind of book you read for literary merit. The third word in the book is "plip-plopped", which isn't a word at all. If you're deconstructing page 1, you'll get annoyed the random shifts in the narrative voice. The book begins with a couple of plodding middle-American characters with silly names like "Kitty", and "Mark Parker".
However, Uris knows what he's doing. He's constructing an argument in favor of the state of Israel, laid out against 70 years' worth rampant European anti-Semitism. It's no coincidence that the first segment recounts the Holocaust (first, in the eyes of a girl who escaped to relative peace in Jew-friendly Denmark, and then in the eyes of an Auschwitz survivor), and then the second shows the seeds of modern Israel through a pair of mythic-quality Russian shtetl refugees who enter Palestine in the 1880s and begin transforming the soil. The balance of the book shows Palestine's struggles under the suffocating British mandate, and nascent Israel's miraculous victory over the various Arab states seeking to "push Israel into the sea". Played out over the epic history is a storyline involving the Ben Canaan family, Kitty the American nurse, her surrogate Israeli daughter Karen, and Karen's sullen, rebellious, Sal Mineo-type boyfriend Dov. The body count rises and the deaths become more personal, more tragic, as the story builds its way slowly to several shattering conclusions.
A lot has changed since 1948. Israel was then associated with the political left; not anymore. The plight of the Palestine Arabs who were induced out of their land by the warfaring Arab states, however, has not been resolved. Those refugees are still right there, crammed along the Israeli borders in the same makeshift cities. Pages 551-554 of the book present a summary of this unconscionable situation, and just about every word is still true, 50 years later. The joyously pro-Israel strains of "Exodus" will probably now draw more cynicism than solidarity, in this brave new world of the New York Times headlines and Saudi peace proposals. However, I wouldn't change a word.
Except "plip-plopped".

        In his description of Adolph Eichmann, Uris´s story describes the man as born in Palestine and fluent in Hebrew.  This was false.  Eichmann was German, and from a Lutheran background.  My guess is that some of his acquaintances had speculated about Eichmann in ironic fashion, probably proceeding from Hitler´s own Jewish background (and real name of Schicklgruber).

         Besides the fascinating story elements, I liked Uris´ clarification about kibutzim and mushavim.  Mushavim are more like co-operative communities and enterprises.

Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
Ha-Joon Chang (Author)

A rising young star in the field of economics attacks the free-trade orthodoxy of The World Is Flat head-on—a crisp, contrarian history of global capitalism.

One economist has called Ha-Joon Chang “the most exciting thinker our profession has turned out in the past fifteen years.” With Bad Samaritans, this provocative scholar bursts into the debate on globalization and economic justice. Using irreverent wit, an engagingly personal style, and a battery of examples, Chang blasts holes in the “World Is Flat” orthodoxy of Thomas Friedman and other liberal economists who argue that only unfettered capitalism and wide-open international trade can lift struggling nations out of poverty. On the contrary, Chang shows, today’s economic superpowers—from the U.S. to Britain to his native Korea—all attained prosperity by shameless protectionism and government intervention in industry. We have conveniently forgotten this fact, telling ourselves a fairy tale about the magic of free trade and—via our proxies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization—ramming policies that suit ourselves down the throat of the developing world.

Unlike typical economists who construct models of how the marketplace should work, Chang examines the past: what has actually happened. His pungently contrarian history demolishes one pillar after another of free-market mythology. We treat patents and copyrights as sacrosanct—but developed our own industries by studiously copying others’ technologies. We insist that centrally planned economies stifle growth—but many developing countries had higher GDP growth before they were pressured into deregulating their economies. Both justice and common sense, Chang argues, demand that we reevaluate the policies we force on nations that are struggling to follow in our footsteps.

After Capitalism: From Managerialism to Workplace Democracy [Hardcover]
Seymour Melman (Author)

After Capitalism is the apex of the life’s work of one of the most respected scholars of the American workplace. For nearly half a century, Seymour Melman has been an influential commentatoron capitalism, militarism and their discontents. In After Capitalism he explores a growing trend in capitalist systems worldwide: workplace democracy.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 inspired an unprecedented outburst of triumphalist rhetoric among proponents of unfettered capitalism. Free-marketeers believed that we were witnessing “the end of history,” and proclaimed that the market economy was here to stay, that all alternatives had been proven inferior. Melman, in dissent, tracks the increasing social and economic inequities and the resulting cries for workplace reform.

He points out the ominous parallels between the Soviet Union’s planned economy and the relentless onward march of American capitalism. Just as the Soviet planned economy venerated “the State” above all else, American capitalism views the health and eternal expansion of the free market as the ultimate goal: both propagate vast and harmful income gaps, both rely on and promote militarism—and neither leaves much room for consideration of workers’ well-being. Melman analyzes the adverse economic impact of these flaws and oversights, which have led to “grave production weaknesses in the U.S. economy,” and he suggests an alternative to current economic organization that holds out the promise of both greater fairness and equity and more soundly balanced production.

“Workplace democracy,” in which workers actively participate in the management of their workplace, is gaining ground in venues as diverse as Israeli kibbutzim and Basque factories. Melman explains how workplace democracy can, and why it should, be implemented in America. After Capitalism is the new century’s first essential book about labor: thoughtful, humane, at once commonsensical and revolutionary, Melman’s prescriptions can inspire changes in the way the world works.



  1. Hi, might be of interest. This relates to Seymour Melman's work.

    1. Sounds good. Melman talks about the military and command structure of capitalism, and recognized co-operativism including the Mondragon Co-op Corp. Thanks.