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The world of the paperback the University of Chicago invites you to join us for this series of 15 minute programs dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and the review of significant paper bound books each weekly program will bring to the microphone a different author authority or educator with his particular viewpoint towards the topic for discussion. The book selected for today's discussion our kibbutz venture in Utopia and the children of the kibbutz. Our guest is the author of these works Melford East Birol professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago. Here is your discussion host from the University of Chicago Robert C. Albrecht was just part of what is a complaint. The important characteristic of the keyboards is a way of life in which all means of production as well as most of the consumption goods are owned by the group and theoretically for the benefit and welfare of the entire group. One of the important features of the keyboards in addition to its collective property
and the reason we want there is a system of collective education where children are reared collectively and come in all dormitories rather than by their parents in private households. Why were these established in the modern state of Israel. Well they were established of course before the state of Israel was declared. The first people it was established in 1909 in a wasteland near the Sea of Galilee and the kibbutz that we studied was founded in 1920 but it was the second key but started in Israel about 11 years then elapsing between the first and the second. They were started for a variety of reasons one of the reasons for the keyboards was to leave Europe for what the Jews called the Diaspora communities outside of Israel and to settle in a homeland of their own. But this would account only for the immigration to Palestine as was called at that time not for the people itself. Secondly they were interested in establishing
a just a way of life and a just way of life to them meant a socialist way of life. The feeling which they had at that time was that capitalist civilisation was an exploitative civilisation and an opposition to exploitation they wanted to establish a community in which all would be equal. And I think the second ingredient then was this notion of egalitarianism and which by implication means the absence of exploitation of one group by another. A third and the last there are others but I think the third last important ingredient was the notion of labor the dignity of labor the labor as a means for self realisation and the notion that one becomes truly human by through work especially through work in the soil. So you've got the natural man there's like there's a peculiar and only romantic notion but a primitive mystic notion here.
The man who works in the soil the primitive man is the natural man and we who have lived in cities detached from nature and from the from the natural sources of our being will return to the earth work in it and thereby achieve dignity as human beings and I should add from their point of view dignity as Jews because Jews of course for centuries in Europe have been divorced from the law and had been primarily urban people. I think these are the three ideological ingredients is a religious quality predominant necessarily in these communities. There are a number of federations that he would seem there is one religious that aeration which is the smallest of them all. And it is religiously informed and importantly in its charter. If you were to go to one of these you will see young Jews with beards with skull caps who observe. The various time we can get local laws they have synagogues through public prayers three times a day and so forth. But
this federation includes probably under a number of people it seems probably under 10. There are three other federations. One is not religious in the Federation itself as is neutral with respect to religion and some individuals are and some are not religious. Using that term around the conventional sense there is a second Federation which tends to be somewhat more positive towards religion but there is an absence of organized religious institutions even in that federation. According to the Federation which are key but I was a member this federation is anti-religious. It views clericalism as part of the exploitative system of capitalism so that it has a political opposition to religion and it also views the supernatural quality of religion as antithetical to its basic scientific worldview and so that it has
an intellectual opposition to religion as well in short the members of the people that we studied are anti-religious the children are raised without religion though they study traditional Jewish literature such as the Bible they are taught that the Bible is an important literary and historical document but that the worldview implicit in this book has a worldview which represents a primitive stage in human development which we have now outgrown your primary purpose. As an anthropologist was to study what aspect of these communities well our interests I say are because my wife was with me and participated in the research. Our interest was in the consequence of this educational system which we call collective education. The consequences of the system for the personality development of the children who are in it and I think you can understand when anthropologist would be interested in this because from a cross-cultural
perspective if we look at societies around the world this is the most fairly unique. Children are not reared by their parents. They do not live in the homes of their parents. They live in a calm you know dormitories and are reared by a nursery teachers and teachers. And since the system is so different from our own we were interested in the extent to which the personality of children reared in the system would be similar to what we assume they would be different from the typical Western personality if you like. You know I came to this from a kind of a psychoanalytic or Friday and point of view and such notions as the importance of the authority structure in the family which personality theory and particularly cycle of the theory makes so much about authority structure in the family the relationship between father and mother. And the child's perception of that relationship and its influence on him and a whole host of problems
of this kind which we find in almost any society that anthropologists have studied because however different these families are they do have these patterns similar to our own. But this is entirely different of course and that's what we were primarily concerned with. One of the the two books that resulted from this long stay in Israel one is the subtitled adventure in Utopia. The other one is focuses on the problem you just describing with the education of the children. It is the people it's really a form of utopian community does it stand up well against other experiments of the same kind. I'm not asking I think whether they have achieved utopia but whether they're their experiment is similar to other experiments. You know that's I think it is similar in some dissimilar from others the keyboard some suddenly did not like the title because to them utopia connotes a society which cannot be envisaged or at least cannot be achieved might be envisaged in the imagination. And they believe of
course and in this sense they are quite right they have achieved a viable society. And in that sense if we take their definition of Utopia this title is a misnomer. I was using the word utopia rather in a slightly different way by utopia I meant. The implementation of a society which begins in the first place in the imagination of an individual or a group of individuals a type of society which in fact does not exist and which people who adhered to this idea attempt to implement and they have attempted and indeed have achieved to a considerable extent in implementing this idea. Now this society is similar to other kinds of utopian societies that we know of in the 19th and even 20th century America such as the united community in New York the Shaker community in East Brook Farm and so forth. It is
somewhat different from all of these However in the degree to which it has insisted upon comprehensive cooperation comprehensive come you know living. And I think in that sense somewhat extreme relative to these others. One of the things which seems to have marked many of the utopian experiments particularly ones of failed or lack of change. On the other hand one that has marked many of the successful communities has been continual change in adaptation which of these two alternatives has been the feature of the key but I think the people it falls in between these two stools some of the people seem have changed notably in some of even the more basic features of their original charter for example. One of the important features of the original key but any key buts was the notion of self labor as the key would seem became larger it became obvious that they needed more manpower. Nevertheless many of them
resisted hiring labor and the work was done by at it by working on the Sabbath during holidays and so forth and also by recruiting children from the schools. After 1948 when the state of Israel was declared there was an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe and from the Middle East the people who had no jobs and there was considerable pressure from the government for to have the key would seem higher these workers and many of the key would seem did so claiming that this was their national task. They keep books which we studied and all the key would seem and that federation refused to do so saying that the importance of egalitarianism and the importance of their opposition to exploitation was an overriding consideration. And therefore despite the pressure from the government they refused to hire outside labor. They have consistently refused to do so to this day but many people seem have done so. This is one kind of change that others have introduced. I think there's
been two other dramatic changes given the original charter of the key but some of the key would seem to have for example have taken children out of these comical dormitories for the first five or six years during which period they are raised by their parents only after that are they put back into the dormitories of the kibbutz we studied and it's Federation has refused to do that. A feeling of these five or six years are the crucial years in terms of certain kinds of personality theory they're quite right. A third and I will I think important change and I will stop here. Is the opposition to mechanization and particularly to any kind of industrialization. The notion that work on the soil physical manual labor agricultural labor is the true mark of human dignity. Now some of the key would seem at a relatively early stage introduced industry into the keyboards and there are some who become quite prosperous there is a plywood factory for example and they keep boats near the Sea of Galilee that now engages in international trade of supply
would have been that successful. One of the misconceptions which many people may have about the it would seem and this whole state of Israel is the number of the proportion of the population that lives now or has ever lived in the can it seems as if most of the people. No it is a very small proportion. There are about 200000 members of all the key would seem divided into six or seven federations and the population of the state of Israel now is about two million. So that is a very small percentage indeed. But the influence of the keyboard's is much disproportionate to its numbers. The former prime minister David Ben-Gurion is a member of Akiba it's a member of many of the present Cabinet members are members of key would seem and in general the influence not only in the political but in the cultural sphere as well as much out of proportion to its actual numbers.
World of the Paperback
"Kibbutz" and "Children of the Kibbutz"
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features Melford E. Spiro discussing his books "Kibbutz" and "Children of the Kibbutz."
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This series is dedicated to the discussion of literary topics and of the publication of significant paperbound books.
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Talk Show
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Guest: Spiro, Melford E.
Host: Albrecht, Robert C.
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-23-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:24
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Chicago: “World of the Paperback; "Kibbutz" and "Children of the Kibbutz",” 1966-07-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
MLA: “World of the Paperback; "Kibbutz" and "Children of the Kibbutz".” 1966-07-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <>.
APA: World of the Paperback; "Kibbutz" and "Children of the Kibbutz". Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from