Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More Chomsky

Here’s a recent interview from Guernica:

“Chomsky Half Full”

My favorite part:
Guernica: So what are you recommending?

Noam Chomsky: I think decisions should be made in an entirely different manner for entirely different ends. Should producing more goods and consuming more goods be the highest value in life? That’s not obvious, by any means.

Guernica: And what would be?

Noam Chomsky: Living decent lives, in an environment that provides for people’s essential needs, offers them opportunities to become creative, active, to work together in solidarity, [and lead] more happy, creative lives. That’s a more important goal, I think.
Simple and true. More generally, I enjoy how he conducts himself in an interview. He simply doesn’t allow it to be a one-way process in which the interviewer asks him questions and he responds. He asks for clarification. He requires context before he responds to quotations. He asks questions himself. Best of all, he turns the questions around on the interviewer – “but I think you might ask yourself why you are asking this question…” In short, he conducts interviews as a real political dialogue in a way that doesn’t allow the interviewer to stand apart. I like that.


  1. Best part:
    "Noam Chomsky: But he doesn’t like what I say, so he’ll scream and shout and slander. Why pay attention to him? Do you read Stalinist party acts?"

    Of course when anyone is interviewing him they invariably bring out the usual "if not neoliberalism, then you must be advocating protectionism" line. There's never enough time for him to really lay out a councilist/federated anarchist alternative in any way that they can connect with. Too bad, since, going by the material in the AKPress book, when given some time he gives a pretty compelling portrait...

  2. Thanks for that link, SC. I haven't read nearly enough Chomsky! The first was actually Syntactic Structures, which was assigned in a first-year university course I took in linguistics. His work in linguistics, and his demolition of behavioursm were certainly seminal, though flawed - I don't think he's ever really "got" evolution, and he's something of a mysterian with respect to cognition and consciousness. It wasn't until quite a lot later that I came across him as an anarchist (as SC knows but other commenters here may not, I'm an ex-anarchist, now a democratic socialist but with continuing anarchist sympathies) and critic of US foreign policy. It's hard to think of any modern parallel to his combination of scientific eminence and political courage, except perhaps Einstein.

    One thing reading the interview did was to prompt me finally to look up Chomsky's Distortions at Fourth Hand "notorious support for the Khmer Rouge". In fact, the article is about the coverage of Cambodia in the US press; with hindsight, you could say he was too sceptical of reports of the scale of Khmer Rouge atrocities, but the article says "We [Chomsky and Herman] do not pretend to know where the truth lies amidst these sharply conflicting assessments".

  3. "Thanks for that link, SC. I haven't read nearly enough Chomsky!"

    ditto. and my reading list (which is almost entirely your fault, too) is already so extensive, it makes me (and my bank account) weep. that was a good interview though :-)