Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

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MIT Press, Apr 4, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 376 pages
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The intersecting worlds of Zellig Harris, Noam Chomsky's intellectual and political mentor.

In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he shouldfocus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris, who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself. Intrigued, Barsky began to research Harris (1909–1992) and discovered thestory of a major figure in American intellectual life "sitting in a corner in the middle of the room"—part of crucial twentieth-century conversations about language, technology, labor, politics, and Zionism. The intersecting worlds of Harris's intellectualand political activities were populated by such figures as Louis Brandeis, Albert Einstein, Franz Boas, Nathan Glazer, and Chomsky.

Barsky describes Harris's work in language studies, and his pioneering ideas about discourse analysis, structural linguistics, and information representation. He also discusses Harris's part in the pre-1948 Zionist movement—when many Jews on the Left envisioned a socialist Palestine that would be a haven not only for persecuted Jews but also for disenfranchised Arabs and anyone seeking a sanctuary against oppression—and recounts Harris's debates on the subject with Brandeis, Einstein, and a large group of students involved with a Zionist organization called Avukah. And Barsky describes Harris's views on capitalism, worker-owner relations, and worker self-management, the legacy ofwhich can be found in some of his students' writings, notably those of Seymour Melman. Barsky shows how Harris, as mentor, teacher, and colleague, powerfully influenced figures who came to dominate the twentieth century's political discussion—; thinkers as different as Noam Chomsky and Nathan Glazer.


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II The Language Work
III The Politics
Interview with Noam Chomsky May 2009
Bibliography of Zellig Harriss Work

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About the author (2011)

Inspired by the works and the milieus of Noam Chomsky, Robert Barsky works at the intersection of literature, law and language theory, where he explores, among other issues, the challenges faced by vulnerable peoples including refugees, homeless people and undocumented migrants. He is currently working on a book about the radical Zionist organization Avukah, and he is completing a project that reviews canonical works from the Great Tradition through the perspective of vulnerable migrants.He is the author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower, and Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism, all three published by the MIT Press.

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