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Andre Gunder Frank
Samir Amin - Miguel A. Bernal - Theotonio Dos Santos - Barry K. Gills - Róbinson Rojas - Jeff Sommers - Arno Tausch
|From Project for the First People's Century
To the Memory of Andre Gunder Frank,
February 24, 1929 - April 23, 2005
Now that "Andrés", as his Latin American friends called him, left this world on the day before the night of the Passover 5765, let me express this short tribute here, not a scientific one but a personal one. This great humanist and citizen of the world, and one of the greatest political economist of our times, to be mentioned in future jointly with people like Rosa Luxemburg, represented the very best of secular Judaism that our days have known. It is about this, if you want, ecumenical liberation theology connection in the life of Gunder that I want to talk here. He, the son of a Jewish mother whom he loved and whose memory he so deeply cherished to the very end of his life, says in his own auto-biographical essay:
"I was born in Berlin in 1929 and at the age of 4 I left there with my parents, who went to Switzerland as political exiles when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. I would return to the place of my birth 40 years later, but by then as a political exile myself and my family from the military coup in Chile in 1973. In the meantime and indeed also since then, my usual stay in any one place around this world lasted one to a couple of years or less. After I arrived in Switzerland, I spent the next 8 years there, but going from each of its three principal language regions to another. I began school in the Italian one for about a year, after I had already spent a previous year in some pre-school boarding institution in the French speaking region, and before I would remain all of 5 years in any one place, but alas confined in a Swiss boarding school in the German speaking region, if any reader knows what THAT means. In 1941, during the second year of World War II in Europe and in my 12th year of age, I left Europe and went to the United States, where I remained until the age of 31, when in 1961 I began my further Oddissey around the world. The only exceptions to my usual 1-2 year stays in one place were 4 years in the same college in the United States and 5 years each in Chile from 1968 to 1973 and then at from 1978 to 1983 in England - until from 1983 to 1993 I lived in Amsterdam for twice my previous 5 year maximum. [By the time he was 20, my elder son had lived in 10 different countries, and some more than once, and now says that he has moved 43 times during his 37 years]."
Fate had it that my meetings with André Gunder Frank had so to speak nearly always an in-built "liturgical" calendar that perhaps should remind us of the spiritual ecumenical nature of his life and work, dedicated to the poor around the globe. On the Christian day of Ascension 1974, Gunder was supposed to talk at an ecumenical solidarity Seminar at Salzburg University together with many other dependency theory researchers, which I organized for the Catholic Student Congregation and the Austrian Latin America Institute (somehow it turned out that he could not enter Austria for the seminar because he, the great scholar, had forgotten his passport in Starnberg). We met in his house in Amsterdam during an European Development Research Conference, to be sure, in 1989, where I also had the pleasure to come to know his late wife and co-author Martha Fuentes-Frank, and his two sons.
At that time, Gunder was really relaxed an happy, enjoying the real world character of that world city.
On the Jom Kippur 5765, i.e. Sep 25, 2004, I met Gunder again during a seminar in memory of another great political economist, Franco Modigliani. His wife Alison and Gunder invited me over for lunch at their house in Luxemburg.
That was about the last time that we could talk together; a long talk that was all about his life, his fight with cancer, his loving memories of his family in Berlin and his doctoral dissertation with Gale Johnson at the University of Chicago. I realized how far away, but also how near he was to the "Chicago school" from which so many of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics came from, a Prize which he would have so much deserved as well. His doctoral dissertation on Soviet agriculture still within the movement towards the measurement of "total factor productivity", was his first masterpiece, and over 1000 publications should follow, that shook the very foundations of international political economy. Others will write their tributes about his scientific work and his contribution to world systems theory. Here, however, let us recall the humanist and activist for human rights and for oppressed people around the globe, and above all the humble human being that he was, all his international fame notwithstanding.
Only relatively late on, at the University of East Anglia, he received a European academic chair, and it is rather symbolic for the shape of European Universities that his most harmonious time of academic teaching and research in a University framework here in Europe only took place at the University of Amsterdam, where so many of the Francos of Sepharadic origin, just like the far ancestors of his father, found their refuge after Jews from Spain were exiled in 1492. Having worked from age 15 onwards, he found out to his great surprise that his social security contributions around the globe often could not be added together, because in times of globalization there is not as yet a globalized social security. All this, paradoxically enough, forced him to work and work and work, his age notwithstanding. Gunder agreed by the way that the creation of a global social security system is one of the most important tasks for social policy and social science today.
It is rather symbolic that of lately, tiny little Luxembourg, where he lived during the last days of his life, fully embraced his scientific and intellectual potential and made him an Associate at the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies.
So, not 24 hours away from the Passover of this year, Gunder was called to Eternity. Others will come and write the necessary learned essays about his contributions to scientific theory. Here, however, is the place to remember Gunder the human being and the secular Jew, whose life was a reflection of the words of Prophet Isaiah who said in verse 58:
1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
So a final shalom to you, Gunder, and a shalom to your memory.