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Noam Chomsky (Critical Lives) [Kindle Edition]

Wolfgang B. Sperlich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Noam Chomsky has become the acknowledged supreme anti-authoritarian figure of our age. A prolific writer, researcher and critical thinker, he has shaped contemporary linguistics, philosophy and liberal thought like no other. Volumes on Chomsky abound, yet an approachable and up-to-date introduction to the man and his life has until now been lacking, due perhaps to the sometimes dense and technical nature of Chomsky's writing, and also the sheer volume of his work. "Noam Chomsky" presents just such an introduction. With extensive biographical background notes, photographs, and illustrations, Wolfgang B. Sperlich introduces the reader to Chomsky's major innovations in linguistics and politics, illuminating the work within its historical context. Chomsky's formative years and his main intellectual influences, especially in the field of language studies; and his gradual separation from the mainstream American intellectual community are described. The work also traces the latest developments in Chomskyan linguistics and how they relate to wider issues of cognition, neuro-science, biology and evolution. Chomsky's career as a political activist is charted: from a 16-year-old university student against the background of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the 1950s and '60s and his pacifist-anarchist lectures and writings; the 1970s and '80s and his development of increasingly radical anarcho-syndicalist thought; the late 1980s and '90s and his seminal treatise on mass-media Manufacturing Consent; and, to the present where he has become an increasingly ferocious critic of American politics and the American political system. Those interested in Chomsky's contributions to linguistics will find in Noam Chomsky a challenging but non-technical introduction; those interested in Chomsky's politics will receive a common-sense lesson in political analysis; and, those interested in Chomsky's life will discover a rich and sympathetic portrait of a man who, despite a forbidding reputation, is actually very human indeed.

Editorial Reviews


"Sperlich's account of this remarkable life places Chomsky the man beside Chomsky the public figure in an introduction to one of the major thinkers of our time."
(The Press (Christchurch New Zealand) 2006-07-01)

About the Author

Wolfgang B. Sperlich is a linguist, education consultant, activist, and writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. He has written widely on Oceanic linguistics and education development in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1398 KB
  • Print Length: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Reaktion Books (June 16, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0056HO936
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,083 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and insightful in true literati style September 1, 2006
"High thoughts must have high language." -- Aristophanes

Few of us have time to read an entire encyclopedia, and if anyone's life could fill one, it's Chomsky's.

It must have been a huge undertaking to write an introductory book on such a complex figure. Chomsky is primarily a linguist, but it is his controversial philosophical and political views that make him a household name. The trouble is, although so many of us know he is important, few of us know just why. This book comes to the rescue, unveiling the events that made the man whilst delving into his psyche.

To dumb down the subject would hardly be appropriate for anyone interested in Chomsky. Readers will thus be pleased to find the author freely expresses himself in true literati style. The academic rigour provokes much insightful discussion, and yet the subject is kept highly accessibile: there are interesting explanations on linguistics, and we learn about major figures in Chomsky's life, such as Orwell and Russell.

A linear account of his life is followed by a look at his contributions to linguistics and philosophy, and his consequent influence on politics and his relationship with the media -- all in a comprehensive 160 pages
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy Effort October 9, 2006
Decent profile of America's chief foreign policy critic, his life and career. It's a slim volume, part of a series called Critical Lives profiling important cultural figures of the past century. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature are the 40 pages on Chomsky the linguist and philosopher. This is the lesser known phase of his intellectual career, but the one that did much to establish his credibility as a policy critic. Author Sperlich strives manfully to give us a taste of Chomsky's contributions to linguistics, but it's pretty heavy weather for the uninitiated. Yet, no profile would be complete without some inclusion.

On the other hand, we get a good idea of Chomsky's formative years and how they bear on his intellectual evolution. It is Chomsky the activist where that evolution largely plays out and it's rather surprising how consistently true to his roots in socialist anachism he has remained over the years. This fidelity also helps explain his distance from the Marxist left and how the anti-imperial undercurrent of his studies has managed over the years to escape the taint of "communist inspired".

Still and all, I wish the text included more on Chomsky's relations with our corporate and media establishment. For although he's well-known among intellectual and activist circles, the broader public (who stands to gain the most) remains largely ignorant of both his name and perspective. Yet daily, the networks parade the same dreary foreign policy spokespeople before the nation, with the same dreary cliches about our role in the world, and the country drifts ever further from the reality. On the other hand, except for Hugo Chavez as his unofficial press agent, the MIT professor never appears as a counterweight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather decent introduction to Professor Chomsky June 11, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book does an overview of Chomsky's life and various episodes in his younger life that impacted his later work. He does the general main points that are examined in talks, interviews, or documentaries with a few more details. The book discusses Chomsky's basic beliefs involved in the field of linguistics and how he came to those conclusions, and how Chomsky has developed them since. The author follows this by detailing a few main ideas Chomsky has involving political philosophy, such as anarchism, and historical deconstruction such as his world involving US power and the role of the media in a democratic society.
The book is a quick read, not much to it, but a good break. It should take no longer than a day to read, has a few pictures in it, and has some good quotes of Chomsky that are not well known.
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