Mr. Daisey and The Jungle: Intersections and Juxtapositions

Earlier in February I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  I collect old books and had recently bought myself a first edition copy from 1906.

The Jungle is an expose of the appalling conditions in the Chicago meat packing industry in the opening decade of the last century. Told through the eyes of the proud patriarch of an immigrant family from Lithuania, it was a classic of its time and an enduring classic of CSR literature.

Thank goodness we have safeguards in place now and are beyond that. Or are we?

Partway through reading the book, I found myself in the gym listening to Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory – podcast #454 from my favorite radio show This American Life.    Told through the eyes of a stand-up comedian-come-journalist, Mike Daisey visits Shenzhen in China to learn more about the factory in which his iPhone was manufactured.

A little over 100 years later the similarity between the opening of The Jungle and the opening of Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory was striking. For me, the juxtaposition of reading the former in a 106 year old first edition of the book, and listening to the latter on my iPod was also striking.

If you have a chance, listen to the podcast.  Perhaps read one of these summaries of The Jungle, the full text or even buy a first edition copy for yourself.  There is a signed copy here on Abebooks for $11,500 but much more reasonably priced copies also available!

I plan to write a little more about the similarities and differences in the coming days, but would also love to hear what you think.

Post script  March 20 2012 – On March 16 th 2012, the day after I posted this blog, This American Life retracted the Mr Daisey show due to the number of fabrications in the story. I have commented on the implications of the retraction here

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