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Chomsky & Globalisation (Postmodern Encounters) Paperback – February 26, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jeremy Fox used to be a language teacher at UEA in Norwich. He now writes about current affairs and the ways in which global capitalism uses the media to keep us well behaved.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Noam Chomsky is well placed to represent a left-wing view of globalisation and the new world order. He is well known, a prolific writer of books, articles and letters, and makes many speeches, so information about his views is easy to find. In his research work, he is known as the ‘Einstein of modern linguistics’, and almost universally admired by his colleagues for his contribution to their work. But as a commentator on political and social affairs, he arouses mixed feelings. Many socialists admire him warmly and would agree with much of what he says and writes. But some middle-of-the-road Americans find it hard to accept the unremitting severity of his attacks on American government policy, especially foreign policy. The irritation felt by some is expressed in this quotation from the prestigious ‘New York Times’:

‘Arguably the most important intellectual alive, how can he write such nonsense about international affairs and foreign policy?’

Another, similar viewpoint is expressed by a reader of the ‘Los Angeles Times’ who wrote in 1988 that:

‘Noam Chomsky is a voice in the wilderness, but nobody listens.’ ...

From our point of view, however, the qualities that are most useful in a commentator on globalisation are more likely to include readability, expertise and common sense than unquestioning acceptance of US government policy.

For over 30 years, Chomsky has been denouncing US foreign policy, complaining noisily about the way the USA has treated so many Third World countries. To take a typical example, he lectured at the American University in Cairo in 1993 about the Cold War period, during which US operations included ‘the overthrow of the conservative parliamentary regime in Iran in 1953, restoring the Shah and his brutal rule; the destruction of Guatemala’s ten year democratic interlude’, which placed in power ‘a collection of mass murderers who would have won nods of approval from Himmler and Goering’, with atrocities reaching their highest level in the 1980s, ‘always with the backing or participation of the United States and its client states’; and ‘the establishment of a Latin-American style terror state in South Vietnam’.

Chomsky is not alone in such attacks on US foreign policy. For example, Garry Wills noted the American tendency to dethrone elected leaders in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and substitute others that they have felt to be more suitable:

‘Over time, American leadership substituted for that of Muhammad Mossadeq in Iran, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala, Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam, Rafael Trujillo in The Dominican Republic, Salvador Allende in Chile, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Maurice Bishop in Grenada, and Manuel Noriega in Panama.’

The idea of the US as a ‘bully’ was reflected in the leading article in a British newspaper in March 1999. Referring to a trade dispute with the European Community about Caribbean bananas, the Independent newspaper recommended resisting the retaliatory tariffs imposed by the US on cashmere pullovers and possibly Concorde landing rights, commenting:

‘The behaviour of the United States is bullying, unconvincing, and illegal, and quite extraordinary for a nation which espouses the values of free trade and the rule of law.’

In actual fact, as Chomsky often makes clear, America does not believe in free trade for itself at all, but only for non-Western countries. Free trade is imposed on the poor countries by the leaders of the world, whose industries and commerce have long been amply protected. …

Chomsky is a dissident, but a scholarly one. An example is his work on global politics, ‘World Orders, Old and New’. This book of 342 pages contains something like 850 references to other books, articles, newspapers etc. Furthermore, if a mistake ever does slip into any of his publications, he makes sure it is corrected in later versions. Thus James McGilvray writes:

‘he constantly updates his discussion of issues and areas; his work on Israel is an example.’

The work on the Middle East to which McGilvray is referring includes the original edition of Chomsky’s ‘Fateful Triangle’ – ‘The United States, Israel and The Palestinians’. This first came out in 1983, but was republished in an updated edition in 1999. (The later edition included 92 extra pages, plus notes, in three new chapters.) And of course Chomsky is well aware that, if his work were ever slipshod, he would soon be exposed by his detractors. In fact, he seems to see himself as a sort of guardian of truth and provider of accurate information. Indeed, Chomsky has specifically written:

‘What I’m trying to do is simply provide the service to popular dissident movements and scattered individuals that any person who has the resources, the privilege, the training, etc. should perform, nothing beyond that.’

Some may be tempted to idolise Chomsky, who is clearly a remarkable person. There is a nice vignette by Norman Mailer, dating back to 1967:

‘Later in the year, his cell mate during one night in jail, Norman Mailer, who had heard that Chomsky, “though barely thirty, was considered a genius at MIT for his new contribution to linguistics”, would portray him as “a slim sharp-featured man with an ascetic expression, and an air of gentle but absolute moral integrity”.’

And Carlos Otero, editor of Chomsky’s ‘Language and Politics’, speaks of him in relation to the prophetic traditions of both the Enlightenment and recent Jewish writings. On a more everyday level, he is known to be kind to those who ask him for help, and normally answers inquiries with a minimum of delay, often within a few hours. …

Whether he is writing about linguistics or commenting on global economics or American attacks on the Third World, his views are simply expressed, yet often startlingly original. He claims that

‘I’m really not interested in persuading people, I don’t want to and I try to make this point obvious. What I’d like to do is to help people persuade themselves.’


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Product Details

  • Series: Postmodern Encounters
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books (February 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184046237X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840462371
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.3 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 27, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very short book which can be read in one or two sittings, so it's more like a booklet. And even the available space isn't used very efficiently because there's too much repetition and discussion of tangential topics. As a result, it's more of a primer rather than a genuine introduction. If you know close to nothing about Chomsky, it should be eye opening, but people with some prior familiarity are likely to find it too limited even for review purposes. Nevertheless, Fox is faithful to Chomsky, and I think that Chomsky is mostly on target.

As Adam Smith himself cautioned, elites leverage their influence to rig the capitalist system so that they gain wealth at the expense of everyone else. This process works as a vicious cycle which continues to widen inequalities. This "conqueror takes the spoils" mentality is diametrically opposed to the ultimately win-win outcomes Smith envisioned for capitalism, but elites convince themselves that they're entitled to their "masters of the universe" status because of their supposed talents, hard work, character, saavy, lineage, good luck, good overall intentions (end justifies the means), etc.

Elites accomplish their looting by taking speculative risks at the public's expense (as we've just tragically seen on a huge scale), drawing unjustifiably huge salaries as executives in publicly-traded corporations, extracting money from financial markets without producing anything of value (ie, making money on money), engaging in monopolistic business practices, arranging government subsidies to particular sectors (especially "defense"), avoiding taxes, keeping worker wages down, imposing unfair trade provisions, extracting resources from poor countries, etc.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most renowned social critics as well the world's greatest linguist. He is also a prolific author, but his books are not easy to read. They are scholarly and dense. Jeremy Fox, on the other hand, writes beautifully plain English and expresses difficult ideas with a clarity that is almost as amazing as Chomsky's erudition.
"Chomsky and Globalisation" is a 65-page summary by Jeremy Fox of Noam Chomsky's views on globalisation. Chomsky believes that neo-liberals from the WTO, IMF and American transnational corporations are sucking the wealth out of Third World countries, while falsely claiming that they are simply encouraging "free trade." Jeremy Fox's translation of these complicated ideas into ordinary language makes them completely straightforward without distorting Chomsky's views at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By zz top on March 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic little book. "Free Trade is not trade at all. Chomsky vs the TNC's Transnational corporations .

"Keep the monopolies. Keep the billionaires.Lower wages. That's good for US corporations."

Globalization has turned the whole world into the 3rd world.

"The question of the "Control of truth by the corporate is a major theme of Chomsky.
The Role of Information technology (IT), in globalization and speculative trade. The impact of IT

Chomsky points out globalization has not reversed 25 years of decline and most of the profits go to elite groups and thr TNC's.

30% of the world unemployed.
IMF and World Bank ushered in "new imperial age". The visible New World Order.

IMF and world bank " effectively constitute the core of a 'de facto world government of a 'new imperial age'.

Points out Adam Smith 's philosophy has been misunderstood. Neo Liberalism is yet another tool in the service of the very rich.

This book is a small but very useful overview of Chomsky.
Globalization has completely failed and is nothing but a tool of the elite this book proves this.

see also The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order
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By TX 512 on June 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The book "Chomsky and Globalisation" dives headfirst into the subject and Chomsky's view on its relationship with worldwide inequalities. It can be read in an hour or two and covers ideas such as the global market and how it is rigged for the wealthy, the glorification of capitalism, imperialism, and the restructuring of debt.
When asked to define globalization Chomsky has often quoted Canadian writer Gerald Helleiner who summed it up as so,
"The poor complain; they always do,
But that's just idle chatter.
Our system brings rewards to all,
At least to all who matter."
Although concise and well written, I found parts of the book sailing over my head. If you have a thick background in Macroeconomic theory then all the acronyms and jargon will read much easier; I on the other hand found myself reading paragraphs twice in order to get a basic understanding about what Chomsky meant. Despite the fog here and there I did eventually make it through, and although I'm not sure it wasn't anything I didn't already know, at least in a general sense, the book did come across as factual, specific, and quite disturbing.
There was one paragraph in the book which I found particularly alarming because I had noticed it independently in my own classroom work, i.e. Macro and Micro-Economic theory. "On matters of foreign policy, Chomsky often refers to the high level of indoctrination in his country, which makes most people - accept the government line. The reason for this, he explains, is that the educated masses are subjected to a constant flow of propaganda. It is largely directed at them because they are more important, so they have to be more closely controlled. Furthermore, `The educated masses become the instruments of propaganda.
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