October 25, 2017
Listen to Noam Chomsky–The Public Intellectual of My Generation
Noam Chomsky first involved himself in active political protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in 1962, speaking on the subject at small gatherings in churches and homes. However, it was not until 1967 that he publicly entered the debate on United States foreign policy. In February he published a widely read essay in The New York Review of Books entitled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals“, in which he criticized the country’s involvement in the conflict; the essay was based on an earlier talk that he had given to Harvard’s Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. He expanded on his argument to produce his first political book, American Power and the New Mandarins, which was published in 1969 and soon established him at the forefront of American dissent. His other political books of the time included At War with Asia (1971), The Backroom Boys (1973), For Reasons of State (1973), and Peace in the Middle East? (1975), published by Pantheon Books. Coming to be associated with the American New Left movement, he nevertheless thought little of prominent New Left intellectuals Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, and preferred the company of activists to intellectuals. Although The New York Review of Books did publish contributions from Chomsky and other leftists from 1967 to 1973, when an editorial change put a stop to it, he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Along with his writings, Chomsky also became actively involved in left-wing activism. Refusing to pay half his taxes, he publicly supported students who refused the draft, and was arrested for being part of an anti-war teach-in outside the Pentagon. During this time, Chomsky, along with Mitchell Goodman, Denise Levertov, William Sloane Coffin, and Dwight Macdonald, also founded the anti-war collective RESIST. Although he questioned the objectives of the 1968 student protests, he gave many lectures to student activist groups; furthermore, he and his colleague Louis Kampf began running undergraduate courses on politics at MIT, independently of the conservative-dominated political science department. During this period, MIT’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam and, as Chomsky says, “a good deal of [nuclear] missile guidance technology was developed right on the MIT campus”. As Chomsky elaborates, “[MIT was] about 90% Pentagon funded at that time. And I personally was right in the middle of it. I was in a military lab … the Research Laboratory for Electronics.” By 1969, student activists were actively campaigning “to stop the war research” at MIT. Chomsky was sympathetic to the students but he also thought it best to keep such research on campus and he proposed that it should be restricted to what he called “systems of a purely defensive and deterrent character”. During this period, MIT had six of its anti-war student activists sentenced to prison terms. Chomsky says MIT’s students suffered things that “should not have happened”, though he has also described MIT as “the freest and the most honest and has the best relations between faculty and students than at any other … [with] quite a good record on civil liberties”. In 1970 he visited the Vietnamese city of Hanoi to give a lecture at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology; on this trip he also toured Laos to visit the refugee camps created by the war, and in 1973 he was among those leading a committee to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the War Resisters League.
In 1971 Chomsky gave the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lectures at the University of Cambridge, which were published as Problems of Knowledge and Freedom later that year. He also delivered the Whidden Lectures at McMaster University, the Huizinga Lecture at Leiden University in the Netherlands, the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University, and the Kant Lectures at Stanford University. In 1971 he partook in a televised debate with French philosopher Michel Foucault on Dutch television, entitled Human Nature: Justice versus Power. Although largely agreeing with Foucault’s ideas, he was critical of post-modernism and French philosophy generally, believing that post-modern leftist philosophers used obfuscating language which did little to aid the cause of the working-classes and lambasting France as having “a highly parochial and remarkably illiterate culture”. Chomsky also continued to publish prolifically in linguistics, publishing Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972), an enlarged edition of Language and Mind (1972), and Reflections on Language (1975). In 1974 he became a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.
- 90 Barsky 1997, pp. 162–163.
- 91 Lyons 1978, p. 5; Barsky 1997, pp. 127–129.
- 92 Lyons 1978, p. 5;
- 93 Barsky 1997, pp. 127–129; Sperlich 2006, pp. 80–81.
- 93 Barsky 1997, pp. 121–122, 131.
- 94 Barsky 1997, p. 121; Sperlich 2006, p. 78.
- Albert, Michael (2006). Remembering Tomorrow: From the politics of opposition to what we are for, Seven Stories Press, pp. 97–99; C. P. Otero (1988). Noam Chomsky: Language and politics, Black Rose, p. 247.
- White, G. D. (2000). Campus Inc.: Corporate power in the ivory tower. Prometheus Books, pp. 445–446.
- Stephen Shalom, “Review of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, by Robert F. Barsky”, New Politics, NS6(3), Issue 23. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
- Barsky 1997, pp. 121–122, 140-141; Albert 2006, p. 98; Knight 2016, p. 34.
- Albert 2006, pp. 107–108; Knight 2016, pp. 36–38, 249.
- Barsky 1997, p. 153; Sperlich 2006, pp. 24–25, 84–85.
- Barsky 1997, p. 124; Sperlich 2006, p. 80.
- Barsky 1997, pp. 123–124; Sperlich 2006, p. 22.
- Barsky 1997, p. 143.
- Lyons 1978, pp. xv–xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 120.
- Lyons 1978, pp. xv–xvi; Barsky 1997, p. 143.
- Barsky 1997, p. 156.
- source: wikipedia.com