Thursday, September 29, 2011

Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln

The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln
Translated by Marvin Lowenthal

Glückel of Hameln (also spelled Gluckel or Glikl of Hamelin; also known as Glikl bas Judah Leib) (1646, Hamburg – September 19, 1724, Metz) was a Jewish businesswoman and diarist, whose account of life provides scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early eighteenth century Jewish ghetto. It was a time of transition from the authority and autonomy of the Medieval kehilla, toward a more modern ethos in which membership in the community was voluntary and Jewish identity far more personal and existential; a time historian Jacob Katz has defined as 'tradition and crisis',in his 1961 book by that name. Written in Yiddish, her diaries were originally intended for her descendants. The first part is actually a living will urging them to live ethical lives. It was only much later that historians discovered the diaries and began to appreciate her account of life at that time.

Glückel grew up in the city of Hamburg. When she was twelve years old, her parents betrothed her to Hayyim of Hamelin, whom she married 1660. After the marriage, the couple lived in his parents’ home in Hamelin. A year after their marriage, the couple moved in with Glückel’s parents in Hamburg, where Hayyim became an affluent businessman. Already involved in his business during his lifetime, when he died in 1689, she took over the business, conducting trade with markets as far as Amsterdam, Leipzig, Berlin, Vienna, Metz and Paris.

In 1700 she remarried, to a banker from Metz in Lorraine, and relocated there. Two years later, her husband Cerf Levy failed financially, losing not only his own fortune but hers as well. He died in 1712, leaving her a widow for a second time. [Liptzin, 1972, 14]

In her diaries, begun after her first husband's death in 1689, she describes key events in both Jewish and world history, such as the messianic fervor surrounding Sabbatai Zevi or the impact of the Swedish wars waged by King Charles XII. At the same time, she also describes day-to-day life among the Jewish inhabitants of the Rhine valley. Other scholars point to the fact that they constitute an early document in Yiddish, predating the rise of modern Yiddish literature, while still others note that they were written by a woman, a rarity for Jewish texts from that period.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"The Business Case for Managing People Right"

"The Business Case for Managing People Right"
from The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First
by Jeffrey Pfeffer

The lure of new and profitable markets has lead many companies to formulate strategies to capture these markets. This focus on strategy often leads to downsizing and the shedding of old businesses in favor of a "lean" economic model that stresses outsourcing. The strategy that leads to downsizing has its short-term rewards--a fatter bottom line and happy shareholders.
Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that much of this downsizing is nothing more than a throwback to 100-year-old employment practices. Instead of cutting costs as a means to increase profits, companies should focus more on building revenue by relying on solid people-management skills. Through dozens of examples, Pfeffer demonstrates that successful companies worry more about people and the competence in their organizations than they do about having the right strategy. Pfeffer contends that the strategy part is relatively easy--it's the day-to-day execution that's hard. Companies that understand the relationship between people and profits are the ones that usually win in the long run.

Immodest Acts

Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy
by Judith C. Brown

The discovery of the fascinating and richly documented story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God, by Judith C. Brown was an event of major historical importance. Not only is the story revealed in Immodest Acts that of the rise and fall of a powerful woman in a church community and a record of the life of a religious visionary, it is also the earliest documentation of lesbianism in modern Western history.
Born of well-to-do parents, Benedetta Carlini entered the convent at the age of nine. At twenty-three, she began to have visions of both a religious and erotic nature. Benedetta was elected abbess due largely to these visions, but later aroused suspicions by claiming to have had supernatural contacts with Christ. During the course of an investigation, church authorities not only found that she had faked her visions and stigmata, but uncovered evidence of a lesbian affair with another nun, Bartolomeo. The story of the relationship between the two nuns and of Benedetta's fall from an abbess to an outcast is revealed in surprisingly candid archival documents and retold here with a fine sense of drama.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foreign to Familiar

Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures
by Sarah A. Lanier

If the world were roughly divided into "hot climate" and "cold climate" cultures, what could one half of humankind learn from the other? Lanier---the daughter of missionaries and an experienced world traveler---writes insightfully on topics including relationship vs. task orientation; direct vs. indirect communication; individualism vs. group identity; and different concepts of hospitality.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fabrication of Louis XIV

The Fabrication of Louis XIV
by Peter Burke

Louis XIV was a man like any other, but the money and attention lavished on his public image by the French government transformed him into a godlike figure. In this engrossing book, an internationally respected historian gives an account of contemporary representations of Louis XIV and shows how the making of the royal image illuminates the relationship between art and power. Images of Louis XIV included hundreds of oil paintings and engravings, three hundred-odd medals struck to commemorate the major events of the reign, sculptures and bronzes, as well as plays, ballets (in which the king himself sometimes appeared on stage), operas, odes, sermons, official newspapers and histories, fireworks, fountains and tapestries. Drawing on an analysis of these representations as well as on surviving documentary sources, Peter Burke shows the conscious attempt to 'invent' the image of the king and reveals how the supervision of the royal image was entrusted to a committee, the so-called 'small academy'. This book is not only a fascinating chronological study of the mechanics of the image-making of a king over the course of a seventy-year reign but is also an investigation into the genre of cultural construction. Burke discusses the element of propaganda implicit in image-making, the manipulation of seventeenth-century media of communication, the channels of communication (oral, visual and textual) and their codes (literary and artistic), and the intended audience and its response. He concludes by comparing and contrasting Louis's public image with that of other rulers ranging from Augustus to contemporary American presidents.

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan

What to eat, what not to eat, and how to think about health: a manifesto for our times

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists-all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." These "edible foodlike substances" are often packaged with labels bearing health claims that are typically false or misleading. Indeed, real food is fast disappearing from the marketplace, to be replaced by "nutrients," and plain old eating by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Michael Pollan's sensible and decidedly counterintuitive advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food."

Writing In Defense of Food, and affirming the joy of eating, Pollan suggests that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we'll benefit ourselves, our communities, and the environment at large. Taking a clear-eyed look at what science does and does not know about the links between diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about the question of what to eat that is informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach.

In Defense of Food reminds us that, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, the solutions to the current omnivore's dilemma can be found all around us.

In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families-and regions-historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Michael Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-century France

Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-century France: State Power and Provincial Aristocracy in Languedoc
by William Beik

Why was Louis XIV successful in pacifying the same aristocrats who had been troublesome for Richelieu and Mazarin? What role did absolutism play in reinforcing or changing the traditional social system in seventeenth-century France? This analysis of the provincial reality of absolutism argues that the answers to these questions lie in the relationship between the regional aristocracy and the crown. Starting with a critical examination of current approaches to state and society by institutional, social "Annales," and Marxist historians, the author calls for a new class analysis based on the findings of all these schools.

William Beik is professor emeritus at Emory University, and he is currently working on a synthesis entitled The Social and Cultural History of Early Modern France. Beik’s objectives in Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century France were to explore the practice of absolutism using Languedoc as an example, while examining the role of individual elites within a comprehensive governmental system. The author chose Languedoc because he wanted a province “which was far enough away from Paris to have an independent existence and which offered good sources on the activities of all the major authorities,” and he found that Languedoc adequately fit these needs. Beik argued that historians should opt for a “change of emphasis in discussions of absolutism,” and that researchers of absolutist political systems should not overemphasize their modernity. Louis XIII and Louis XIV, argued the author, should be seen as monarchs who reinforced traditional social structures as a means of heightening their power as opposed to progressive rulers with forward-looking policies.

Corporate Information Strategy and Management

Corporate Information Strategy and Management: Text and Cases
by Lynda Applegate, Robert Austin, Deborah Soule

Corporate Information Strategy and Management: Text and Cases 8/e by Applegate, Austin, and Soule is written for students and managers who desire an overview of contemporary information systems technology management. This new edition examines how information technology (IT) enables organizations to conduct business in radically different and more effective ways. The author’s objective is to provide readers with a better understanding of the influence of twenty-first century technologies on business decisions. The 8th edition discusses today’s challenges from the point of view of the executives who are grappling with them. This text is comprised of an extensive collection of Harvard Business cases devoted to Information Technology.