Noam Chomsky

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Noam Chomsky
Image:Noam chomsky.jpg
Born December 7 1928
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is the Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, often considered the most significant contribution to the field of theoretical linguistics of the 20th century. He also helped spark the cognitive revolution in psychology through his review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, which challenged the behaviorist approach to the study of mind and language dominant in the 1950s. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has also affected the philosophy of language and mind (see Harman, Fodor). He is also credited with the establishment of the so-called Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power.

Along with his linguistics work, Chomsky is also widely known for his political activism, and for his criticism of the foreign policy of the United States and other governments. Chomsky describes himself as a libertarian socialist, a sympathizer of anarcho-syndicalism, and is often considered to be a key intellectual figure within the left wing of American politics.

According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, between 1980 and 1992 Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any living scholar, and the eighth most cited source overall.



Image:Chomsky small child (fair-use).jpg Image:Chomsky young with parents (fair-use).jpg Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Hebrew scholar William Chomsky, who was from a town in Ukraine later wiped out by the Nazis. His mother, Elsie Chomsky née Simonofsky, came from what is now called Belarus, but unlike her husband she grew up in America and normally spoke "ordinary New York English". Their first language was Yiddish, but Chomsky says it was "taboo" in his family to speak it. He describes his family as living in a sort of "Jewish ghetto", split into a "Yiddish side" and "Hebrew side", with his family aligning with the latter and bringing him up "immersed in Hebrew culture and literature."

At the age of eight or nine, Chomsky spent every Friday night reading Hebrew literature. [1] Later in life he would teach Hebrew classes. In spite of this, and of all the linguistic work carried out during his career, Chomsky claims "the only language I speak and write proficiently is English."

Chomsky remembers the first article he wrote was at the age of ten about the threat of the spread of fascism, following the fall of Barcelona. From the age of twelve or thirteen he identified more fully with anarchist politics.

Starting in 1945, he studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, learning from philosopher C. West Churchman and linguist Zellig Harris. Harris' political views were instrumental in shaping those of Chomsky.

In 1949, Chomsky married linguist Carol Schatz. They have two daughters, Aviva (1957) and Diane (1960), and a son, Harry (1967).

Chomsky received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. He conducted much of his doctoral research during four years at Harvard University as a Harvard Junior Fellow. In his doctoral thesis, he began to develop some of his linguistic ideas, elaborating on them in his 1957 book Syntactic Structures, perhaps his best-known work in the field of linguistics.

Chomsky joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics (now the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.) From 1966 to 1976 he held the Ferrari P. Ward Professorship of Modern Languages and Linguistics. In 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor. Chomsky has been teaching at MIT continuously for the last 50 years.

It was during this time that Chomsky became more publicly engaged in politics: he became one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War with the publication of his essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" [2] in The New York Review of Books in 1967. Since that time, Chomsky has become well known for his political views, speaking on politics all over the world, and writing numerous books. His far-reaching criticism of US foreign policy and the legitimacy of US power has made him a controversial figure. He has a devoted following among the left, but he has also come under increasing criticism from liberals as well as from the right, particularly because of his response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Chomsky's name

Avram (אברם) is a Hebrew name meaning "high father" (English: "Abram", Arabic: "Ibrahim" إبراهيم) taken from the biblical forefather figure (see Genesis 12:1) later known as Avraham meaning "father of many" (English: "Abraham") (see Genesis 17:5). Noam (נועם) is a Hebrew name which means "pleasantness" (male version of the female No'omi — English: "Naomi" or "Noemi"). Chomsky is the Russian name Хомский. The original pronunciation is IPA: /avram noam 'xomskij/. This is normally Anglicized to IPA: /'ævɹæm 'nəʊm 'tʃɒmpski/ (Image:Loudspeaker.png listen), or IPA: /'ævɻæm 'noʊm 'tʃampski/ in an American accent, which is how Chomsky himself pronounces it (Image:Loudspeaker.png listen).

The eponymous adjective Chomskyan has come to be used to refer to his ideas, a term Chomsky has disparaged as making "no sense" and belonging "to the history of organized religion." The term is generally used in reference to his linguistic, rather than political, ideas.

Contributions to linguistics

Syntactic Structures was a distillation of his book Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory (1955, 75) in which he introduces transformational grammars. The theory takes utterances (sequences of words) to have a syntax which can be (largely) characterised by a formal grammar; in particular, a Context-free grammar extended with transformational rules. Children are hypothesised to have an innate knowledge of the basic grammatical structure common to all human languages (i.e. they assume that any language which they encounter is of a certain restricted kind). This innate knowledge is often referred to as universal grammar. It is argued that modelling knowledge of language using a formal grammar accounts for the "productivity" of language: with a limited set of grammar rules and a finite set of terms, humans are able to produce an infinite number of sentences, including sentences no one has previously said.

The Principles and Parameters approach (P&P) — developed in his Pisa 1979 Lectures, later published as Lectures on Government and Binding (LGB) — make strong claims regarding universal grammar: that the grammatical principles underlying languages are innate and fixed, and the differences among the world's languages can be characterized in terms of parameter settings in the brain (such as the pro-drop parameter, which indicates whether an explicit subject is always required, as in English, or can be optionally dropped, as in Spanish), which are often likened to switches. (Hence the term principles and parameters, often given to this approach.) In this view, a child learning a language need only acquire the necessary lexical items (words, grammatical morphemes, and idioms), and determine the appropriate parameter settings, which can be done based on a few key examples.

Proponents of this view argue that the pace at which children learn languages is inexplicably rapid, unless children have an innate ability to learn languages. The similar steps followed by children all across the world when learning languages, and the fact that children make certain characteristic errors as they learn their first language, whereas other seemingly logical kinds of errors never occur (and, according to Chomsky, should be attested if a purely general, rather than language-specific, learning mechanism were being employed), are also pointed to as motivation for innateness.

More recently, in his Minimalist Program (1995), while retaining the core concept of "principles and parameters" , Chomsky attempts a major overhaul of the linguistic machinery involved in the LGB model, stripping it from all but the barest necessary elements, while advocating a general approach to the architecture of the human language faculty that emphasises principles of economy and optimal design , reverting to a derivational approach to generation, in contrast with the largely representational approach of classic P&P.

Chomsky's ideas have had a strong influence on researchers investigating the acquisition of language in children, though some researchers who work in this area today do not support Chomsky's theories, often advocating emergentist or connectionist theories reducing language to an instance of general processing mechanisms in the brain.

Generative grammar

The Chomskyan approach towards syntax, often termed generative grammar, though quite popular, has been challenged by many, especially those working outside the United States. Chomskyan syntactic analyses are often highly abstract, and are based heavily on careful investigation of the border between grammatical and ungrammatical constructs in a language. (Compare this to the so-called pathological cases that play a similarly important role in mathematics.) Such grammaticality judgments can only be made accurately by a native speaker, however, and thus for pragmatic reasons such linguists often focus on their own native languages or languages in which they are fluent, usually English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Japanese or one of the Chinese languages. However, as Chomsky has said:

The first application of the approach was to Modern Hebrew, a fairly detailed effort in 1949–50. The second was to the native American language Hidatsa (the first full-scale generative grammar), mid-50s. The third was to Turkish, our first Ph.D. dissertation, early 60s. After that research on a wide variety of languages took off. MIT in fact became the international center of work on Australian Aboriginal languages within a generative framework [...] thanks to the work of Ken Hale, who also initiated some of the most far-reaching work on Native American languages, also within our program; in fact the first program that brought native speakers to the university to become trained professional linguists, so that they could do work on their own languages, in far greater depth than had ever been done before. That has continued. Since that time, particularly since the 1980s, it constitutes the vast bulk of work on the widest typological variety of languages.

Sometimes generative grammar analyses break down when applied to languages which have not previously been studied, and many changes in generative grammar have occurred due to an increase in the number of languages analyzed. However, the claims made about linguistic universals have become stronger rather than weaker over time; for example, Richard Kayne's suggestion in the 1990s that all languages have an underlying Subject-Verb-Object word order would have seemed implausible in the 1960s. One of the prime motivations behind an alternative approach, the functional-typological approach or linguistic typology (often associated with Joseph Greenberg), is to base hypotheses of linguistic universals on the study of as wide a variety of the world's languages as possible, to classify the variation seen, and to form theories based on the results of this classification. The Chomskyan approach is too in-depth and reliant on native speaker knowledge to follow this method, though it has over time been applied to a broad range of languages.

Chomsky hierarchy

Chomsky is famous for investigating various kinds of formal languages and whether or not they might be capable of capturing key properties of human language. His Chomsky hierarchy partitions formal grammars into classes, or groups, with increasing expressive power, i.e., each successive class can generate a broader set of formal languages than the one before. Interestingly, Chomsky argues that modelling some aspects of human language requires a more complex formal grammar (as measured by the Chomsky hierarchy) than modeling others. For example, while a regular language is powerful enough to model English morphology, it is not powerful enough to model English syntax. In addition to being relevant in linguistics, the Chomsky hierarchy has also become important in computer science (especially in compiler construction and automata theory)...

His best-known work in phonology is The Sound Pattern of English, written with Morris Halle. This work is considered outdated (though it has recently been reprinted), and Chomsky does not publish on phonology anymore.

Contributions to psychology

Chomsky's work in linguistics has had major implications for psychology and its fundamental direction in the 20th century. His theory of a universal grammar was seen by many as a direct challenge to the established behaviorist theories of the time and had major consequences for understanding how language is learned by children and what, exactly, is the ability to interpret language. Many of the more basic principles of this theory (though not necessarily the stronger claims made by the principles and parameters approach described above) are now generally accepted in some circles.

In 1959, Chomsky published a long-circulated critique of B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior, a book in which Skinner offered a speculative explanation of language in behavioral terms. "Verbal behavior" he defined as learned behavior which has its characteristic consequences being delivered through the learned behavior of others; this makes for a broad view of communicative behaviors much larger than that usually addressed by linguists. Skinner's approach differed considerably from most traditional views of language in that focused on the circumstances in which language was used; for example, asking for water was functionally a different response than labeling something as water, responding to someone asking for water, etc. These functionally different kinds of responses, which required in turn separate explanations, sharply contrasted with traditional notions of language and Chomsky's psycholinguistic approach, which focused on the mental representations of words and assumed a word, once learned, would appear in all functions. Chomsky's attack in his 1959 review, however, while touching some on different verbal functions, focused largely on attacking the conceptual basis of Skinner's approach, namely behavioral psychology. The essence of Chomsky's arguments in this paper is that the application of behavioral principles from animal research is meaningless when applied to human beings outside the laboratory, and that to understand complex behavior, one must first assume there are unobservable entities in the brain which are ultimately responsible; both of these assumptions run counter to Skinner's radical behaviorism. It should be noted that Chomsky's 1959 review has been severely criticized, the most famous (but far from only) criticism being that of Kenneth MacCorquodale's 1970 paper On Chomsky’s Review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior (Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, volume 13, pages 83-99). This and similar reviews have noted important facts not generally acknowledged outside of behavioral psychology, such as that Chomsky did not understand either behavioral psychology in general or how Skinner's radical behaviorism differed from other varieties, often making embarrassing errors. Because of these serious problems, the paper failed to actually demonstrate what it has often being cited as doing. As such, those most influenced by Chomsky's paper probably either already substantially agreed with Chomsky or never actually read it.

It has been alleged that Chomsky's critique of Skinner's methodology and basic assumptions paved the way for the "cognitive revolution," the shift in American psychology between the 1950s through the 1970s from being primarily behavioral to being primarily cognitive. In his 1966 Cartesian Linguistics and subsequent works, Chomsky laid out an explanation of human language faculties that has become the model for investigation in some areas of psychology. Much of the present conception of how the mind works draws directly from ideas that found their first persuasive author of modern times in Chomsky.

There are three key ideas. First is that the mind is "cognitive," or that the mind actually contains mental states, beliefs, doubts, and so on. The former view had denied even this, arguing that there were only logical relationships like "If you ask me if I want X, I will say yes." By contrast, Chomsky argued that the common way of understanding the mind, as having things like beliefs and even unconscious mental states, had to be right. Second, he argued that large parts of what the adult mind can do are "innate." While no child is born automatically able to speak a language, all are born with a powerful language-learning ability which allows them to soak up several languages very quickly in their early years. Subsequent psychologists have extended this thesis far beyond language; it is often suggested that it was once believed that the infant was a "blank slate" at birth in contrast to this view; however, even among behaviorists, this was never the case.

Finally, Chomsky made the concept of "modularity" a critical feature of the mind's cognitive architecture. The mind is composed of an array of interacting, specialized subsystems with limited flows of inter-communication. This model contrasts sharply with the old idea that any piece of information in the mind could be accessed by any other cognitive process (optical illusions, for example, cannot be "turned off" even when they are known to be illusions).

Opinion on criticism of science culture

Chomsky strongly disagrees with poststructuralist and postmodern criticisms of science:

I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of; those condemned here as "science," "rationality," "logic," and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me "transcend" these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I'm afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, "my eyes glaze over" when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count. True, there are lots of other things I don't understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference. In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed.

Chomsky notes that critiques of "white male science" are much like the anti-Semitic and politically motivated attacks against "Jewish physics" used by the Nazis to denigrate research done by Jewish scientists during the Deutsche Physik movement:

In fact, the entire idea of "white male science" reminds me, I'm afraid, of "Jewish physics." Perhaps it is another inadequacy of mine, but when I read a scientific paper, I can't tell whether the author is white or is male. The same is true of discussion of work in class, the office, or somewhere else. I rather doubt that the non-white, non-male students, friends, and colleagues with whom I work would be much impressed with the doctrine that their thinking and understanding differ from "white male science" because of their "culture or gender and race." I suspect that "surprise" would not be quite the proper word for their reaction. [3]

Chomsky's influence in other fields

Chomskyan models have been used as a theoretical basis in several other fields. The Chomsky hierarchy is often taught in fundamental computer science courses as it confers insight into the various types of formal languages. This hierarchy can also be discussed in mathematical terms [4], and has generated interest among mathematicians, particularly combinatorialists. A number of arguments in evolutionary psychology are derived from his research results.

The 1984 Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine and Physiology, Niels K. Jerne, used Chomsky's generative model to explain the human immune system, equating "components of a generative grammar ... with various features of protein structures". The title of Jerne's Stockholm Nobel lecture was "The Generative Grammar of the Immune System."

Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who according to some researchers learned 125 signs in ASL, was named after Noam Chomsky.

Political views

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Related article: Criticism of Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky is one of the best known figures of radical American politics. He defines himself as being in the tradition of anarchism, a political philosophy he summarizes as challenging all forms of hierarchy and attempting to eliminate them if they are unjustified. He especially identifies with the labor-oriented anarcho-syndicalist current of anarchism. Unlike many anarchists, Chomsky does not totally object to electoral politics; his stance on U.S. elections is that citizens should vote for their local Democrat where this will keep the Republicans out, and support more radical candidates such as the Greens in areas where there is no risk of letting the Republicans win (he officially endorsed Green candidate Paul Lachelier). He has described himself as a "fellow traveller" to the anarchist tradition as opposed to a pure anarchist to explain why he is sometimes willing to engage with the state.

Chomsky has also stated that he considers himself to be a conservative (Chomsky's Politics, pp. 188) of the Classical liberal variety. He has further defined himself as a Zionist; although, he notes that his definition of Zionism is considered by most to be anti-Zionism these days, the result of what he perceives to have been a shift (since the 1940s) in the meaning of Zionism (Chomsky Reader).

Overall, Chomsky is not fond of traditional political titles and categories and prefers to let his views speak for themselves. His main modes of actions include writing magazine articles and books and making speaking engagements. Chomsky is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies.

He recently "won" an "election" to select the 11 people that would head up a global government. Surprisingly to some, Chomsky came in 4th place, behind the Dalai Lama (3rd), Bill Clinton (2nd), and Nelson Mandela, who was elected "president". Chomsky is considered "one of the most influential left-wing critics of American foreign policy" by the Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers [5].

Chomsky on terrorism

In response to U.S. declarations of a War on Terrorism in 1981 and 2001, Chomsky has argued that the major sources of international terrorism are the world's major powers, led by the United States. He uses a definition of terrorism from a U.S. Army manual, which describes it as, "the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological." Thus he posits that terrorism is an objective description of certain actions, whether the agents are state or non-state. In relation to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan he stated:

"Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism." (9-11, p. 76)

On the efficiency of terrorism:

"One is the fact that terrorism works. It doesn't fail. It works. Violence usually works. That's world history. Secondly, it's a very serious analytic error to say, as is commonly done, that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Like other means of violence, it's primarily a weapon of the strong, overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror doesn't count as terror. Now that's close to universal. I can't think of a historical exception, even the worst mass murderers view the world that way. So take the Nazis. They weren't carrying out terror in occupied Europe. They were protecting the local population from the terrorisms of the partisans. And like other resistance movements, there was terrorism. The Nazis were carrying out counter terror."

As regards support for or condemnation of terrorism, Chomsky opines that terrorism (and violence/authority in general) are generally bad and can only be justified in those cases where it is clear that greater terrorism (or violence, or abuse of authority) is thus avoided. In a debate on the legitimacy of political violence in 1967, Chomsky argued that the "terror" of the Vietnam National Liberation Front was not justified, but that terror could in theory be justified under certain circumstances:

"I don't accept the view that we can just condemn the NLF terror, period, because it was so horrible. I think we really have to ask questions of comparative costs, ugly as that may sound. And if we are going to take a moral position on this--and I think we should--we have to ask both what the consequences were of using terror and not using terror. If it were true that the consequences of not using terror would be that the peasantry in Vietnam would continue to live in the state of the peasantry of the Philippines, then I think the use of terror would be justified. But, as I said before, I don't think it was the use of terror that led to the successes that were achieved." [6]

Chomsky believes that acts he considers terrorism carried out by the U.S. government do not pass this test, and condemnation of U.S. policy is one of the main thrusts of his writings.

Criticism of United States government

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Chomsky has been a consistent and outspoken critic of the United States government, and criticism of the foreign policy of the United States has formed the basis of much of Chomsky's political writing. Chomsky gives two reasons for this. First, he believes that his work can have more impact when directed at his own government, and second, the United States is the world's sole remaining superpower and so, Chomsky believes, it acts in the same offensive ways as all superpowers. However, Chomsky will sometimes criticize other governments such as that of the Soviet Union in passing.

One of the key things superpowers do, Chomsky argues, is try to organize the world around themselves using military and economic means. Thus, he proposes that the U.S. government involved itself in the Vietnam War and the larger Indochina conflict because the socialist aspirations of North Vietnam, the Pathet Lao, and the Khmer Rouge ran contrary to U.S. economic interests. He has also criticized U.S. policy with regards to Central and South American countries and military support of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Chomsky has repeatedly emphasized his theory that much of the United States' foreign policy is based on the "threat of a good example" (which he says is another name for the domino theory). The "threat of a good example" is that a country could successfully develop outside the U.S. sphere of influence, thus presenting a model for other countries, including countries in which the United States has strong economic interests. This, Chomsky says, has prompted the United States to repeatedly intervene to quell "independent development, regardless of ideology" in regions of the world where it has no inherent economic or safety interests. In one of his most well-known works, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Chomsky uses this particular theory as an explanation for the United States' interventions in Guatemala, Laos, Nicaragua, and Grenada.

Chomsky believes the U.S. government's Cold War policies were not entirely shaped by anti-Soviet paranoia, but rather toward preserving the United States' ideological and economic dominance in the world. As he wrote in Uncle Sam: "What the U.S. wants is 'stability,' meaning security for the upper classes and large foreign enterprises."

While he is almost uniformly critical of the United States government's foreign policy, Chomsky expresses his admiration for the freedom of expression enjoyed by U.S. citizens in a number of interviews and books. According to Chomsky, other Western democracies such as France and Canada are less liberal in their defense of controversial speech than the US. However, he does not credit the American government for these freedoms but rather mass movements in the United States that fought for them. He is also sharply critical of any government suppression of free speech.

Views on globalization

Image:Noam Chomsky WSF - 2003.jpg Chomsky made early efforts to critically analyze globalization. He summarized the process with the phrase "old wine, new bottles," maintaining that the motive of the élites is the same as always: they seek to isolate the general population from important decision-making processes, the difference being that the centers of power are now transnational corporations and supranational banks. Chomsky argues that transnational corporate power is "developing its own governing institutions" reflective of their global reach. [7]

According to Chomsky, a primary ploy has been the co-optation of the global economic institutions established at the end of World War II, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, have increasingly adhered to the "Washington Consensus", which requires developing countries to adhere to limits on spending and make structural adjustments that often involve cutbacks in social and welfare programs. IMF aid and loans are normally contingent upon such reforms. Chomsky claims that the construction of global institutions and agreements such as the World Trade Organization, GATT, NAFTA, and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment constitute new ways of securing élite privileges while undermining democracy. [8]

Chomsky believes that these austerity and neoliberal measures ensure that poorer countries merely fulfill a service role by providing cheap labour, raw materials, and investment opportunities for the first world. Additionally, this means that corporations can threaten to relocate to poorer countries, and Chomsky sees this as a powerful weapon to keep workers in richer countries in line.

Chomsky takes issue with the terms used in discourse on globalization, beginning with the term "globalization" itself, which he maintains refers to a corporate-sponsored economic integration rather than being a general term for things becoming international. He dislikes the term anti-globalization being used to describe what he regards as a movement for globalization of social and environmental justice. Chomsky understands what is popularly called "Free trade" as a "mixture of liberalization and protection designed by the principal architects of policy in the service of their interests, which happen to be whatever they are in any particular period." [9]

In his writings Chomsky has drawn attention to globalization resistance movements. He described Zapatista defiance of NAFTA in his essay "The Zapatista Uprising." He also criticized the Multinational Agreement on Investment, and reported on the activist efforts that led to its defeat. Chomsky's voice was an important part of the critics who provided the theoretical backbone for the disparate groups who united for the demonstrations against The World Trade Organization in Seattle in November of 1999. [10]

Views on socialism

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Chomsky is deeply opposed to what he calls the "corporate state capitalism" practiced by the United States and its allies. He supports many of Mikhail Bakunin's anarchist (or libertarian socialist) ideas, requiring economic freedom in addition to the "control of production by the workers themselves, not owners and managers who rule them and control all decisions." He refers to this as "real socialism", and describes Soviet-style socialism as similar in terms of "totalitarian controls" to U.S.-style capitalism, saying that each is a system based in types and levels of control, rather than in organization or efficiency. In defense of this thesis, Chomsky sometimes points out that Frederick Winslow Taylor's philosophy of scientific management was the organizational basis for the Soviet Union's massive industrialization movement as well as the American corporate model.

Chomsky has illuminated Bakunin's comments on the totalitarian state as predictions for the brutal Soviet police state that would come. He echoes Bakunin's statement that "...If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Czar himself," which expands upon the idea that the tyrannical Soviet state was simply a natural growth from the Bolshevik ideology of state control. He has also termed Soviet communism as "fake socialism," and said that contrary to what many in America claim, the collapse of the Soviet Union should be regarded as "a small victory for socialism," not capitalism.

In his 1973 book For Reasons of State, Chomsky argues that instead of a capitalist system in which people are "wage slaves" or an authoritarian system in which decisions are made by a centralized committee, a society could function with no paid labor. He argues that a nation's populace should be free to pursue jobs of their choosing. People will be free to do as they like, and the work they voluntarily choose will be both "rewarding in itself" and "socially useful". Society would be run under a system of peaceful anarchism, with no state or government institutions. Work that was fundamentally distasteful to all, if any existed, would be distributed equally among everyone.

Though highly critical of the Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s, Chomsky was more positive in his assessment of Communist movements in Asia, praising what he considered to be grassroots aspects of both Chinese and Vietnamese communism, such as in his 1968 essay, "Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship,", where he claimed there were "certain similar features" with the Spanish anarchist movement of the 1930s (which he greatly admires), while at the same time cautioning that "the scale of the Chinese Revolution is so great and reports in depth are so fragmentary that it would no doubt be foolhardy to attempt a general evaluation." In December 1967, while participating in a forum in New York, he said that in China "one finds many things that are really quite admirable", and that "China is an important example of a new society in which very interesting and positive things happened at the local level, in which a good deal of the collectivization and communization was really based on mass participation and took place after a level of understanding had been reached in the peasantry that led to this next step." [11] Similarly, he said of Vietnam: "Although there appears to be a high degree of democratic participation at the village and regional levels, […] still major planning is highly centralized in the hands of the state authorities." [12]

In later years, however, Chomsky expressed stronger criticisms of the Chinese Communist state. In a 2000 essay, "Millennial Visions and Selective Vision," [13] Chomsky referred to China's "totalitarian regime" and described the starvation of 25–40 million people during the 19581961 famines caused by the Great Leap Forward as a "terrible atrocity." He has drawn an analogy between the Chinese famine and deaths resulting from malnutrition in India, claiming that "democratic capitalism" is directly responsible for the latter. [14]

Mass media analysis

Image:Chomsky surrounded by study material.jpg Another focus of Chomsky's political work has been an analysis of mainstream mass media (especially in the United States), which he accuses of maintaining constraints on dialogue so as to promote the interests of corporations and the government.

Edward S. Herman and Chomsky's book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media explores this topic in depth, presenting their "propaganda model" of the news media with several detailed case studies in support of it. According to this propaganda model, more democratic societies like the U.S. use subtle, non-violent means of control, unlike totalitarian systems, where physical force can readily be used to coerce the general population. In an often-quoted remark, Chomsky states that "propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state." (Media Control)

The model attempts to explain such a systemic bias in terms of structural economic causes rather than a conspiracy of people. It argues the bias derives from five "filters" that all published news must pass through which combine to systematically distort news coverage.

  1. The first filter, ownership, notes that most major media outlets are owned by large corporations.
  2. The second, funding, notes that the outlets derive the majority of their funding from advertising, not readers. Thus, since they are profit-oriented businesses selling a product — readers and audiences — to other businesses (advertisers), the model would expect them to publish news which would reflect the desires and values of those businesses.
  3. In addition, the news media are dependent on government institutions and major businesses with strong biases as sources (the third filter) for much of their information.
  4. Flak, the fourth filter, refers to the various pressure groups which go after the media for supposed bias and so on when they go out of line.
  5. Norms, the fifth filter, refer to the common conceptions shared by those in the profession of journalism. (Note: in the original text, published in 1988, the fifth filter was "anticommunism". However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, it has been broadened to allow for shifts in public opinion.)

The model therefore attempts to describe how the media form a decentralized and non-conspiratorial but nonetheless very powerful propaganda system, that is able to mobilize an "élite" consensus, frame public debate within "élite" perspectives and at the same time give the appearance of democratic consent.

Chomsky and Herman test their model empirically by picking "paired examples" — pairs of events that were objectively similar except in relation to certain interests. For example, they attempt to show that in cases where an "official enemy" does something (like murder a religious official), the press investigates thoroughly and devotes a great amount of coverage to the matter, but when the domestic government or an ally does the same thing (or worse), the press downplays the story. They also test their model against the case that is often held up as the best example of a free and aggressively independent press, the media coverage of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. Even in this case, they argue that the press was behaving subserviently to "élite" interests.

Critics of Chomsky and Herman's mass media analysis, including author and historian Victor Davis Hanson of the conservative Hoover Institution severely disagree with Chomsky and Herman's theories. They see the idea of "Manufacturing Consent" as nothing more than a recycling of the Marxist idea of "false consciousness", (as in Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man), where the masses have been so manipulated that they have neither the perspective or intellect to see beyond the propaganda and require superior intellects like Chomsky's to point out to them the real truth. Arch Puddington of the Hoover Institution also claims he sees virtually no empirical evidence in media coverage, specifically regarding the mass media's treatment of Cambodia and East Timor, to back the claims made in Manufacturing Consent.

Stephen J. Morris, a critic of Chomsky's position on Cambodia, evaluates Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model by reviewing their analysis of media coverage during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Chomsky and Herman argue that the "flood of rage and anger directed against the Khmer Rouge" peaking in early 1977, was a concrete example of their "propaganda model" in action. They argued that the media was singling out Cambodia, an enemy of the United States, while under-reporting human rights abuses by American allies such as South Korea and Chile. A study performed by Jamie Frederic Metzl (Responses to Human Rights Abuses in Cambodia, 1975–80) analyzes major media reporting on Cambodia and concludes that media coverage on Cambodia was more intense when there were events with an international angle, but had largely disappeared by 1977. Metzl also contradicts Chomsky and Herman by claiming that of all the articles published regarding Cambodia, less than one in twenty dealt with the political violence being perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.

Chomsky and the Middle East

Chomsky "grew the Jewish-Zionist cultural tradition" (Peck, p. 11). His father was one of the foremost scholars of the Hebrew language and taught at a religious school. Chomsky has also had a long fascination with and involvement in left-wing Zionist politics. As he described:

"I was deeply interested in...Zionist affairs and activities — or what was then called 'Zionist,' though the same ideas and concerns are now called 'anti-Zionist.' I was interested in socialist, binationalist options for Palestine, and in the kibbutzim and the whole cooperative labor system that had developed in the Jewish settlement there (the Yishuv)...The vague ideas I had at the time [1947] were to go to Palestine, perhaps to a kibbutz, to try to become involved in efforts at Arab-Jewish cooperation within a socialist framework, opposed to the deeply antidemocratic concept of a Jewish state (a position that was considered well within the mainstream of Zionism)." (Peck, p. 7)

He is highly critical of the policies of Israel towards the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. His book The Fateful Triangle is considered one of the premier texts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among those who oppose Israel's policies in regard to the Palestinians as well as American support for the state of Israel. He has also accused Israel of "guiding state terrorism" for selling weapons to apartheid South Africa and Latin American countries that he characterizes as U.S. puppet states, e.g. Guatemala in the 1980s, as well as U.S.-backed paramilitaries (or, according to Chomsky, terrorists) such as the Nicaraguan Contras. (What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Chapter 2.4) Chomsky characterizes Israel as a "mercenary state", "an Israeli Sparta", and a militarized dependency within a U.S. system of hegemony. He has also fiercely criticized sectors of the American Jewish community for their role in obtaining U.S. support, stating that "they should more properly be called 'supporters of the moral degeneration and ultimate destruction of Israel'" (Fateful Triangle, p.4). He says of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL):

"The leading official monitor of anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, interprets anti-Semitism as unwillingness to conform to its requirements with regard to support for Israeli authorities.... The logic is straightforward: Anti-Semitism is opposition to the interests of Israel (as the ADL sees them).
"The ADL has virtually abandoned its earlier role as a civil rights organization, becoming 'one of the main pillars' of Israeli propaganda in the U.S., as the Israeli press casually describes it, engaged in surveillance, blacklisting, compilation of FBI-style files circulated to adherents for the purpose of defamation, angry public responses to criticism of Israeli actions, and so on. These efforts, buttressed by insinuations of anti-Semitism or direct accusations, are intended to deflect or undermine opposition to Israeli policies, including Israel's refusal, with U.S. support, to move towards a general political settlement." [15]

See also: Middle East Politics, a speech given at Columbia University in 1999

Criticism of intellectual communities

Chomsky has at times been outspokenly critical of scholars and other public intellectuals; while his views sometimes place him at odds with individuals on particular points, he has also denounced communities for what he sees as systemic failings. Chomsky sees two broad problems with academic intellectuals generally:

  1. They largely function as a distinct class in many respects and so distinguish themselves by using language inaccessible to people outside the academy and is in fact more or less deliberately exclusionary to the end of class distinction and hierarchy within the academic class. In Chomsky's view there is little reason to believe that academics are more inclined to engage in profound thought than other members of society and that the designation "intellectual" obscures the truth of the intellectual division of labour: "These are funny words actually, I mean being an 'intellectual' has almost nothing to do with working with your mind; these are two different things. My suspicion is that plenty of people in the crafts, auto mechanics and so on, probably do as much or more intellectual work as people in the universities. There are plenty of areas in academia where what's called 'scholarly' work is just clerical work, and I don't think clerical work's more challenging than fixing an automobile engine—in fact, I think the opposite... So if by 'intellectual' you mean people who are using their minds, then it's all over society." (Understanding Power, p. 96)
  2. The corollary of this argument is that the perquisites enjoyed by intellectuals make them more ideologised and obedient than the rest of society: "If by 'intellectual' you mean people who are a special class who are in the business of imposing thoughts, and framing ideas for people in power, and telling everyone what they should believe, and so on, well, yeah, that's different. These people are called 'intellectuals'—but they're really more a kind of secular priesthood, whose task is to uphold the doctrinal truths of the society. And the population should be anti-intellectual in that respect, I think that's a healthy reaction." (ibid, p. 96; this statement continues the previous quotation)

Chomsky is elsewhere asked what "theoretical" tools he feels can be produced to provide a strong intellectual basis for challenging hegemonic power, and he replies: "'if there is a body of theory, well tested and verified, that applies to the conduct of foreign affairs or the resolution of domestic or international conflict, its existence has been kept a well-guarded secret,'" despite much 'pseudo-scientific posturing.'" Chomsky's general preference is, therefore, to use plain language in speaking with a non-elite audience:

But the right reaction [Chomsky is answering to an objection that 'plain language is not enough when the frame of reference is not available to the listener'] is not to resort to obscure and needlessly complex verbiage and posturing about non-existent 'theories.' Rather, it is to ask the listener to question the frame of reference that he/she is accepting, and to suggest alternatives that might be considered, all in plain language. I've never found that a problem when I speak to people lacking much or sometimes any formal education, though it's true that it tends to become harder as you move up the educational ladder, so that indoctrination is much deeper, and the self-selection for obedience that is a good part of elite education has taken its toll. [16]

The inference here appears to be that "complex verbiage" conceals ideological commitments that would, in a revolutionary socialist context, be referred to as counter-revolutionary or reactionary.

Chomsky therefore rejects much "theoretical" work as "pseudo-science" according to the definition already given:

What has changed in the interim, to my knowledge, is a huge explosion of self- and mutual-admiration among those who propound what they call 'theory' and 'philosophy,' but little that I can detect beyond 'pseudo-scientific posturing.' That little is, as I wrote, sometimes quite interesting, but lacks consequences for the real world problems that occupy my time and energies (Rawls's important work is the case I mentioned, in response to specific inquiry). (ibid)

Chomsky further elaborates a sort of smell test:

There are lots of things I don't understand -- say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. (ibid)

It is largely in reply to the latter comments that intellectuals claiming to be politicised reproach Chomsky for denying himself the use of "theoretical" tools they view as indispensable. Slavoj Žižek may be taken as exemplary for the following remark:

With all my admiration for Noam Chomsky, I partially disagree with him. It's an underlying premise of his work that you don't have to do any theory - just tell all the facts to the people. The way ideology works today is much more mysterious - not more complex, one can always say this, things are always more complex, it means nothing just to say this. People just do not want to know too much. There's an active refusal to know. If you ask average citizens with enough of their own worries, they'd say, "Don't even tell me this. We pay taxes so the government can do all the dirty things that I don't want to know about."

Žižek, who should be noted not to agree with many of the intellectuals cited below, can be taken at least to account for Chomsky as just described: Chomsky may be able to talk about politics and ideology to large audiences outside of academia (Chomsky's reputation as a radical may be founded on this degree of democratic commitment as much as anything else), but Žižek asks whether Chomsky's disinterest in the particular complexities of theoretical ideolology critique can justified, either in reference to his audience or to the dominant powers in politics, society, or economics (in this sense Chomsky's democratic radicalism would be circumscribed by the limits he sets on "theoretical" discussion). It is left to the reader to determine whether Chomsky is justified in arguing: "To put it differently, show that the principles of the 'theory' or 'philosophy' that we are told to study and apply lead by valid argument to conclusions that we and others had not already reached on other (and better) grounds; these 'others' include people lacking formal education, who typically seem to have no problem reaching these conclusions through mutual interactions that avoid the 'theoretical' obscurities entirely, or often on their own." (Chomsky, op. cit.)

Chomsky has further specified these arguments in terms of the roles assumed by intellectuals in France and the United States.

Intellectuals in America

Chomsky's extensive criticisms of a new type of post-WW2 intellectual he saw arising in the United States were the focus of his book American Power and the New Mandarins. There he described what he saw as the betrayal of the duties of an intellectual to challenge received opinion. The "new Mandarins", who he saw as responsible in part for the Vietnam War, had turned the United States into an imperial power; he wrote that their ideology demonstrated

the mentality of the colonial civil servant, persuaded of the benevolence of the mother country and the correctness of its vision of world order, and convinced that he understands the true interests of the backward peoples whose welfare he is to administer.

Intellectuals in France

Chomsky has declared a limited interest in commenting on the Parisian intellectual community; the following disclaimer may be taken as indicative: "I wouldn't say this if I hadn't been explicitly asked for my opinion — and if asked to back it up, I'm going to respond that I don't think it merits the time to do so." (ibid) Chomsky's disinterest arises from what he sees as a combination of difficult language and limited intellectual or "real world" value, especially in Parisian academe: "Sometimes it gets kind of comical, say in post-modern discourse. Especially around Paris, it has become a comic strip, I mean it's all gibberish ... they try to decode it and see what is the actual meaning behind it, things that you could explain to an eight-year old child. There's nothing there." (Chomsky on Anarchism, pg. 216). This is exacerbated, in his view, by the attention paid to academics by the French press: "in France if you're part of the intellectual elite and you cough, there's a front-page story in Le Monde. That's one of the reasons why French intellectual culture is so farcical — it's like Hollywood." (Understanding Power, pg. 96).

Chomsky is particularly sharp in giving his opinion on the major figures of post-structuralism: "try asking somebody to explain to you the latest essay of Derrida or somebody in terms that you can understand. They can't do it." (Chomsky on Anarchism, pg. 217); "...when I read, you know, Derrida, or Lacan, or Althusser, or any of these — I just don't understand it. It's like words passing in front of my eyes: I can't follow the arguments, I don't see the arguments," (Understanding Power, pg. 231). Chomsky has not presented "in depth" critiques of specific philosophers of this genre, however, and has disclaimed interest in undertaking such a study:

There are more important things to do, in my opinion, than to inquire into the traits of elite intellectuals engaged in various careerist and other pursuits in their narrow and (to me, at least) pretty uninteresting circles. That's a broad brush, and I stress again that it is unfair to make such comments without proving them: but I've been asked, and have answered the only specific point that I find raised. When asked about my general opinion, I can only give it, or if something more specific is posed, address that. I'm not going to undertake an essay on topics that don't interest me. (ibid)

Finally, it is important to note that Chomsky is not uniformly dismissive of French intellectuals. In particular, Chomsky made a 1971 appearance on Dutch television with Michel Foucault, the full text of which can be found in Foucault and his Interlocutors, Arnold Davidson (ed.), 1997 (ISBN 0226137147). Of Foucault, Chomsky wrote that

with enough effort, one can extract from his writings some interesting insights and observations, peeling away the framework of obfuscation that is required for respectability in the strange world of intellectuals, which takes on extreme forms in the weird culture of postwar Paris. Foucault is unusual among Paris intellectuals in that at least something is left when one peels this away. (quoted in Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent)

Chomsky's influence as a political activist

Opposition to the Vietnam War

Image:Chomsky linking arms Vietnam demo (fair-use).jpg Chomsky became one of the most prominent opponents of the Vietnam War in February 1967, with the publication of his essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" [17] in the New York Review of Books.

Allen J. Matusow, "The Vietnam War, the Liberals, and the Overthrow of LBJ" (1984) [18]:

"By 1967 the radicals were obsessed by the war and frustrated by their impotence to affect its course. The government was unmoved by protest, the people were uninformed and apathetic, and American technology was tearing Vietnam apart. What, then, was their responsibility? Noam Chomsky explored this problem in February 1967 in the New York Review. By virtue of their training and leisure, intellectuals had a greater responsibility than ordinary citizens for the actions of the state, Chomsky said. It was their special responsibility "to speak the truth and expose lies." ... [Chomsky] concluded by quoting an essay written twenty years before by Dwight Macdonald, an essay that implied that in time of crisis exposing lies might not be enough. "Only those who are willing to resist authority themselves when it conflicts too intolerably with their personal moral code," Macdonald had written, "only they have the right to condemn." Chomsky's article was immediately recognized as an important intellectual event. Along with the radical students, radical intellectuals were moving "from protest to resistance."

A contemporary reaction from Raziel Abielson, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at New York University [19]:

"...Chomsky's morally impassioned and powerfully argued denunciation of American aggression in Vietnam and throughout the world is the most moving political document I have read since the death of Leon Trotsky. It is inspiring to see a brilliant scientist risk his prestige, his access to lucrative government grants, and his reputation for Olympian objectivity by taking a clearcut, no-holds-barred, adversary position on the burning moral-political issue of the day...."

Chomsky also participated in "resistance" activities, which he described in subsequent essays and letters published in the New York Review of Books: withholding half of his income tax [20], taking part in the 1967 march on the Pentagon, and spending a night in jail. [21] In the spring of 1972, Chomsky testified on the origins of the war before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by J. William Fulbright.

Alleged marginalization in the mainstream media

Despite Chomsky's prominence during the Vietnam War, by the end of the war Chomsky and his supporters claimed that he was becoming increasingly marginalized by the mainstream media in the U.S. Chomsky's supporters, who regard him as a dissident, often criticize this alleged marginalization [22] [23], arguing that he is kept out of the public spotlight because his comments are too unsettling for corporate broadcasters to dare advertise.

His supporters have also argued that Chomsky is widely caricatured and discredited by elites who wish to sideline or undermine him. For example, Milan Rai has suggested that the controversy over Chomsky's 1979 comments on the Khmer Rouge was manufactured as part of a propaganda campaign to discredit Chomsky.

Despite the criticisms, interviews with Chomsky or his writings have still occasionally appeared in popular media outlets in the United States such as CNN, Time Magazine, Foreign Policy and others. Critics of Chomsky have argued his mainstream media coverage is adequate, and not unusual considering the fact that academics in general often receive low priority in the American media.

Over the years Chomsky has gained some supporters in prominent American publications. In 1979, Paul Robinson wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today." This quote has since become one of Chomsky's most well-known titles, and is frequently used by fans to describe the professor. However, in his article Robinson did go on to describe Chomsky's political writings as "maddeningly simple-minded."

A 1995 Boston Globe profile by Anthony Flint, "Divided Legacy", described Chomsky's increasing marginalization [24]:

"The New York Review of Books was one soapbox for Chomsky — but only until 1972 or so. Chomsky says that's because the magazine's editorial policy abruptly shifted to the right around then. But he couldn't seem to find a home with other publications, either. He went from huddling with newspaper editors and bouncing ideas off them to being virtually banned. The New Republic wouldn't have him, in part because of his unrelenting criticism of Israel. The Nation? Occasionally. But for the most part, mainstream outlets shunned him. Today, his articles on social and political developments are confined to lesser-known journals such as the magazine Z.

More dismissively, Paul Berman wrote in Terror and Liberalism (2003): "In the United States, the principal newspapers and magazines have tended to ignore Chomsky's political writings for many years now, because of his reputation as a crank." [25]

When CNN presenter Jeff Greenfield was asked why Chomsky was never on his show, he explained that Chomsky might "be of the leading intellectuals who can't talk on television. […] If you['ve] got a 22-minute show, and a guy takes five minutes to warm up, […] he's out." Greenfield described this need to "say things between two commercials" as the media's requirement for "concision". Chomsky has elaborated on this, saying that "the beauty of [concision] is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts", and that if the media were better propagandists they would let dissidents on more because the time restraint would stop them properly explaining their radical views and they "would sound like they were from Neptune". For this reason, Chomsky rejects many offers to appear on TV, preferring the written medium.

Since Chomsky's 9-11 became a bestseller in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Chomsky has attracted more attention from the mainstream American media. For example, The New York Times published an article in May 2002 describing the popularity of 9-11 [26]. In January 2004, the Times published a review of Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival by Samantha Power [27], and in February, the Times published an op-ed by Chomsky himself, criticizing the Israeli West Bank Barrier for taking Palestinian land [28].

Worldwide audience

Image:Noam Chomsky Chennai India November2001.jpg

Despite Chomsky's alleged marginalization in the mainstream US media, Chomsky is one of the most globally famous figures of the left, especially among academics and university students, and frequently travels across the United States, Europe, and the Third World. He has a very large following of supporters worldwide as well as a dense speaking schedule, drawing large crowds wherever he goes. He is often booked up to two years in advance. He was one of the main speakers at the 2002 World Social Forum. He is interviewed at length in alternative media [29] Many of his books are bestsellers, including 9-11. [30]

The 1992 film Manufacturing Consent, shown widely on college campuses and broadcast on PBS, gave Chomsky a younger audience. In a 1995 article in REVelation, Alex Burns described the film as a "double edged sword--it brought Chomsky's work to a wider audience and made it accessible, yet it has also been used by younger activists to idolise him, creating a 'cult of personality.'" [31]

Chomsky's popularity has become a cultural phenomenon. Bono of U2 alled Chomsky a "rebel without a pause, the Elvis of academia." Rage Against The Machine took copies of his books on tour with the band. Pearl Jam ran a small pirate radio on one of their tours, playing Chomsky talks mixed along with their music. R.E.M. asked Chomsky to go on tour with them and open their concerts with a lecture (he declined). Chomsky lectures have been featured on the B-sides of records from Chumbawamba and other groups. [32] Many anti-globalization and anti-war activists regard Chomsky as an inspiration.

Chomsky is widely read outside the US. 9-11 was published in 26 countries and translated into 23 foreign languages [33]; it was a bestseller in at least five countries, including Canada and Japan [34]. Chomsky's views are often given coverage on public broadcasting networks around the world- a fact supporters say is in marked contrast to his rare appearances in the US media. In the UK, for example, he appears frequently on the BBC. [35]


Due to the controversial nature of his writings and beliefs, Chomsky has aquired many critics. For more information see Criticisms of Noam Chomsky.

Academic Achievements, Awards and Honors

According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, between 1980 and 1992 Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any living scholar, and the eighth most cited source overall.

In the spring of 1969 he delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford University; in January 1970 he delivered the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University; in 1972, the Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi, in 1977, the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, in 1997, The Davie Memorial Lecture on Academic Freedom in Cape Town, among many others.

Noam Chomsky has received honorary degrees from University of London, University of Chicago, Loyola University of Chicago, Swarthmore College, Delhi University, Bard College, University of Massachusetts, University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Amherst College, Cambridge University, University of Buenos Aires, McGill University, Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, University of Western Ontario, University of Toronto, Harvard University, University of Calcutta, and Universidad Nacional De Colombia. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science. In addition, he is a member of other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences, the Helmholtz Medal, the Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award, the Ben Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science, and others. He is twice winner of The Orwell Award, granted by The National Council of Teachers of English for "Distinguished Contributions to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language." [36]

Chomsky was voted the leading living public intellectual in The 2005 Global Intellectuals Poll conducted by the British magazine Prospect. He reacted coolly, saying "I don't pay a lot of attention to [polls]." [37]



See a full bibliography on Chomsky's MIT homepage [38].

  • Chomsky (1955). Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory.
  • Chomsky, Noam, Morris Halle, and Fred Lukoff (1956). "On accent and juncture in English." In For Roman Jakobson. The Hague: Mouton
  • Chomsky (1957). Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton. Reprint. Berlin and New York (1985).
  • Chomsky (1964). Current Issues in Linguistic Theory.
  • Chomsky (1965). Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
  • Chomsky (1965). Cartesian Linguistics. New York: Harper and Row. Reprint. Cartesian Linguistics. A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986.
  • Chomsky (1966). Topics in the Theory of Generative Grammar.
  • Chomsky, Noam, and Morris Halle (1968). The Sound Pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Chomsky (1968). Language and Mind.
  • Chomsky (1972). Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar.
  • Chomsky (1975). The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory.
  • Chomsky (1975). Reflections on Language.
  • Chomsky (1977). Essays on Form and Interpretation.
  • Chomsky (1979). Morphophonemics of Modern Hebrew.
  • Chomsky (1980). Rules and Representations.
  • Chomsky (1981). Lectures on Government and Binding: The Pisa Lectures. Holland: Foris Publications. Reprint. 7th Edition. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1993.
  • Chomsky (1982). Some Concepts and Consequences of the Theory of Government and Binding.
  • Chomsky (1982). Language and the Study of Mind.
  • Chomsky (1982). Noam Chomsky on The Generative Enterprise, A discussion with Riny Hyybregts and Henk van Riemsdijk.
  • Chomsky (1984). Modular Approaches to the Study of the Mind.
  • Chomsky (1986). Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin, and Use.
  • Chomsky (1986). Barriers. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph Thirteen. Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press.
  • Chomsky (1993). Language and Thought.
  • Chomsky, Noam (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Chomsky (1998). On Language.
  • Chomsky (2000). New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind.
  • Chomsky (2000). The Architecture of Language (Mukherji, et al, eds.).
  • Chomsky (2001). On Nature and Language (Adriana Belletti and Luigi Rizzi, ed.).

Political works

Some of the books are available for viewing online [39].

  • Chomsky (1969). Perspectives on Vietnam [microform].
  • Chomsky (1969). American Power and the New Mandarins. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1970). At War with Asia. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1971). Problems of Knowledge and Freedom: The Russell Lectures. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1973). For Reasons of State. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky & Herman, Edward (1973). CENSORED FULL TEXT Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda. Andover, MA: Warner Modular. Module no. 57.
  • Chomsky (1974). Peace in the Middle East: Reflections on Justice and Nationhood. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1978). Human Rights' and American Foreign Policy
  • Chomsky (1978). Intellectuals and the State
  • Chomsky (1979). Language and Responsibility. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky & Herman, Edward (1979). Political Economy of Human Rights (two volumes). Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0896080900 and ISBN 0896081001
  • Otero, C.P. (Ed.) (1981, 2003). Radical Priorities. Montréal: Black Rose; Stirling, Scotland: AK Press.
  • Chomsky (1982). Towards a New Cold War: Essays on the Current Crisis and How We Got There. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1983, 1999). The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0896086011
  • Chomsky (1985). Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace. Boston: South End Press.
  • Chomsky (1986). Pirates and Emperors: International Terrorism and the Real World. New York: Claremont Research and Publications.
  • Chomsky (1987). On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures. Boston: South End Press.
  • Peck, James (Ed.) (1987). Chomsky Reader ISBN 0394751736
  • Chomsky (1988). The Culture of Terrorism. Boston: South End Press.
  • Chomsky & Herman, Edward (1988, 2002). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon.
  • Chomsky (1989). Necessary Illusions. Boston: South End Press.
  • Chomsky (1989). Language and Politics. Montréal: Black Rose.
  • Chomsky (1991). Terrorizing the Neighborhood: American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era. Stirling, Scotland: AK Press.
  • Chomsky (1992). Deterring Democracy. New York: Hill and Wang.
  • Chomsky (1992). Chronicles of Dissent. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
  • Chomsky (1992). What Uncle Sam Really Wants. Berkeley: Odonian Press.
  • Chomsky (1993). Year 501: The Conquest Continues. Boston: South End Press.
  • Chomsky (1993). Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and U.S. Political Culture. Boston: South End Press.
  • Chomsky (1993). Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
  • Chomsky (1993). The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many. Berkeley: Odonian Press.
  • Chomsky (1994). Keeping the Rabble in Line. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press.
  • Chomsky (1994). World Orders Old and New. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Chomsky (1996). Class Warfare. Pluto Press.
  • Chomsky (1999). The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo .
  • Chomsky (1999). Profit Over People. Seven Stories Press.
  • Chomsky (2000). A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West.
  • Chomsky (2000). Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs. Cambridge: South End Press.
  • Chomsky (2001). 9-11. Seven Stories Press.
  • Mitchell, Peter & Schoeffel, John (Ed.) (2002). Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky.
  • Chomsky (2003). Middle East Illusions.
  • Chomsky (2003). Hegemony or Survival. Metropolitan Books. (Part of the American Empire Project.)
  • Chomsky (2005). Chomsky On Anarchism. AK Press. ISBN 1904859208
  • Chomsky (2005). Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World. Metropolitan Books. (Part of the American Empire Project.) ISBN 080507967X

About Chomsky

  • Rai, Milan (1995). Chomsky's Politics
  • Barsky, Robert (1997). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, MIT Press
  • Horowitz, David, et al. (2004). The Anti-Chomsky Reader


Political contemporaries

See also

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ast:Noam Chomsky bg:Ноам Чомски be:Ноам Чомскі bn:নোম চম্‌স্কি cs:Noam Chomsky da:Noam Chomsky de:Noam Chomsky et:Noam Chomsky el:Νόαμ Τσόμσκι es:Noam Chomsky eo:Noam CHOMSKY fr:Noam Chomsky gl:Noam Chomsky ko:노엄 촘스키 io:Noam Chomsky ia:Noam Chomsky is:Noam Chomsky it:Noam Chomsky he:נועם חומסקי la:Noam Chomsky lv:Noams Homskis lt:Noam Chomsky nl:Noam Chomsky ja:ノーム・チョムスキー no:Noam Chomsky pl:Noam Chomsky pt:Noam Chomsky ru:Чомски, Аврам Ноам sk:Noam Avram Chomsky sl:Noam Chomsky sr:Ноам Чомски fi:Noam Chomsky sv:Noam Chomsky th:โนม ชัมสกี tr:Noam Chomsky uk:Хомський, Ноам zh:诺姆·乔姆斯基

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