Noam Chomsky

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Noam Avram Chomsky is an American linguist and political commentator. As a linguist, he revolutionized understanding of language acquisition and development. A committed humanist, his scathing, erudite attacks on American foreign policy are too numerous to list.

Steven Robert Allen writes that "It's often been said that Chomsky is to linguistics what Einstein is to physics. His 1957 treatise, Syntactic Structures, initiated the so-called Chomskyan Revolution; in that book, Chomsky proposed a new linguistic theory which defined language as an innate human faculty hard-wired into our brains. Consequently, in Chomsky's view, there is a kind of "universal grammar" underlying all languages."

further, "Linguistics aside, though, what lifted Chomsky to the level of cult figure is his political theorizing and relentless activism in defense of the victims of U.S. foreign policy. Politically, he embodies a rationalist, anti-authoritarian strand of leftist thought positioned in sharp contrast to Marxism and Leninism, which he calls libertarian socialism."

While his critics accuse him of conspiracy theory, Chomsky states that his arguments are "institutional analysis." "If I point out that General Motors tries to maximise profits and market share, that's not a conspiracy theory, it's an institutional analysis ... that's precisely the sense in which we [Herman and Chomsky] are talking about the media "

In dozens of books, he has meticulously documented the historical development and specific abuses that have led to the bastardized corporate-controlled democracy Americans currently endure. [1], [2]

In the book, Understanding Power (ISBN 1565847032), "a series of enlightening and wide-ranging discussions, Chomsky radically reinterprets the events of the past three decades... And as he elucidates the connection between America's imperialistic foreign policy and social inequalities at home, Chomsky also discerns the necessary steps to take toward social change. With an eye to political activism and the media's role in popular struggle, as well as U.S. foreign and domestic policy." [3]

In 2004, "The President of the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists Hans Janitschek presented Chomsky with the Award of Excellence at the UN Correspondents Association Club in New York." [1] Acceptance Talk

"Noam was one of the original members of RESIST when it was the first national organization founded to support resistance to the Vietnam War and soon after to support a wide range of other forms of activism." [2]


Related Books

Criticisms From the Left

According to Toni Solo: "On June 16th [2008] the Nicaraguan centre-right newspaper El Nuevo Diario published a letter [1] from various well known people calling for the Nicaraguan coalition government, led by the Sandinista FSLN, not to shut down political freedom and to hold a national dialogue to address the food crisis and the high cost of living in Nicaragua." Cosignatories of the letter included Noam Chomsky, Susan Meiselas, Ariel Dorfman, Salman Rushdie, Eduardo Galeano, Hermann Schulz, Juan Geiman, Brian Willson, Tom Hayden, Bianca Jagger, & Mario Benedetti. [25]

Writing in 1997 for International Socialism, Anthony Arnove notes:

"Though immensely thought provoking, Chomsky's densely textured political writings suffer from two weaknesses: the lack of a clear theoretical framework and a lack of concreteness about strategies for resistance. As Milan Rai remarks in a recent, highly sympathetic study of Chomsky's political ideas, 'It can sometimes seem as if Chomsky is doing little more than knitting together a mass of fascinating but unrelated insights and facts about US policy' and that ­ partly as a result ­ 'readers of Chomsky's political writings can be forgiven for feeling that the dominant message of his work is not that "there is a great deal that can be done.
"That is, despite his anti-capitalism, Chomsky offers little practical advice on how to struggle most effectively to bring about the kind of socialist society he would like to see. Though he argues that, whatever one chooses to do politically, it is only effective through organised and collective struggle, Chomsky sets himself apart from socialist organisation and the revolutionary Marxist tradition." [26]

In 2004, Cynthia Peters noted in Znet that:

"Our social change movements have benefited enormously from the work of Noam Chomsky. The incredible energy he brings to his speaking and writing means that millions have been exposed to his analysis of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. But he has one favorite rhetorical device that always makes me nervous. He'll suggest that something is obvious. Maybe he doesn't realize how much this puts people on the defensive. One can't help but wonder, "But what if it's not obvious to me?"" [27]

Writing in 2006, Jeffrey Blankfort critiqued Chomsky on his coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict, [28] [29] while Stephen Gowans has penned a number of blog articles that also critique Chomsky from the Left. [30] [31] More recently he has been critiqued by M. Shahid Alam. [32]

Also see Michael Barker "Noam Chomsky and the Power of Letters", Swans Commentary, December 15, 2008; Murray Bookchin, "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism", Anarchist Quarterly, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Spring 1993); and John Lloyd, "Blessed are the pure in heart", New Statesman, April 23, 2001; Takis Fotopoulos, "The pseudo-revolution in Libya and the Degenerate “Left”", The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY, Vol. 7, No. 1 (April 2011). Takis Fotopoulos, "Mass media, Culture and Democracy", DEMOCRACY & NATURE, vol.5, no.1 (March 1999).

Criticisms From the Right

Project MIND

According to his biographer, Robert F. Barsky, in the book The Chomsky Effect (MIT Press, 2007):

"[Recently he] has pursued this work through his participation in an interdisciplinary project at MIT, aimed at studying the processes that underwrite human cognitive abilities. This, like much else, follows directly from his earliest propositions about human nature and relates to education in the sense that understanding learning requires that we understand something about the workings of the human mind. As he stated in his discussion of the power of Bertrand Russell's approach, "the humanistic conception of education clearly involves some factual assumptions about the intrinsic nature of man, and, in particular, about the centrality to that intrinsic nature of a creative impulse. If these assumptions, when spelled out properly, prove to be incorrect, then these particular conclusions with regard to educational theory and practice will not have been demonstrated" ("Toward a humanistic conception of education" 205). On the basis of current work these assumptions seem to be true. But how is it possible to learn something about the "intrinsic nature" of the mind from a scientific perspective? This is the question that has guided Chomsky's linguistics research and underwrote efforts by a group research project in the late 1990s called MIND which he participated in at MIT with Wayne O'Neil, (Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), Robert C. Berwick, (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), Suzanne Flynn, (Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), Edward Gibson, (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences), Morris Halle, (Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), Alec Marantz, (Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), Shigeru Miyagawa, (Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), David Pesetsky, (Department of Linguistics and Philosophy), Steven Pinker, (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences) and Kenneth Wexler (Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences)." (pp.216-17)

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Chomsky: “Another Four Years Of The Same Policies Could Be Extremely Dangerous For The Country And The World”, Democracy Now!, February 5, 2004.
  2. RESIST's 40th Anniversary Celebration, RESIST, accessed April 16, 2010.
  3. Armenian Philosophical Academy Honors Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation, accessed December 10, 2008.
  4. Senior Scholars, Institute for Policy Studies, accessed August 19, 2007.
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  20. International Advisory Council, Toda Institute, accessed July 24, 2008.
  21. About, New Politics, accessed July 24, 2009.
  22. Editorial Board, Third World Quarterly, accessed September 3, 2009.
  23. Editorial Board, Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order, accessed September 28, 2009.
  24. About, Social Policy, accessed September 29, 2009.
  25. Toni Solo, At Work for John Negroponte?, The Fanonite, June 19, 2008.
  26. Anthony Arnove, "In Perspective: Noam Chomsky", International Socialism, March 1997.
  27. Cynthia Peters, "Peters 'Talking Back to Chomsky'", Znet, April 27, 2004.
  28. Jeffrey Blankfort, "Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict", Voltaire, September 20, 2006.
  29. Jeffrey Blankfort, "The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions", Left Curve, May 2003.
  30. Stephen Gowans, "My What Would Chomsky Do? penpals",, April 21, 2004.
  31. Stephen Gowans, "Noam Chomsky’s rogue’s gallery", What's Left, January 19, 2005.
  32. M. Shahid Alam, "Chomsky on Oil and the Israel Lobby", Dissident Voice, January 31, 2009.
  33. Christopher Hitchens, "A Rejoinder to Noam Chomsky", The Nation, October 4, 2001.

External links