From Publishers Weekly
The infuriating, indispensable dean of American dissidents returns with this new collection of interviews with long-time amanuensis Barsamian. In these wide-ranging conversations, linguist and philosopher Chomsky, author of Hegemony or Survival, applies his usual left-wing critique of U.S. foreign policy to recent developments in Iraq, but also revisits American infamies stretching back to the Kosovo conflict, the Vietnam War and even the Mexican War while weighing in on domestic issues like Social Security privatization, health insurance and the rise of the Religious Right. His caustic denunciations of American "war crimes" -comparisons to Nazi Germany are never far from hand-serve up plenty of red meat for his legions of fans on the disaffected left, but the discursive, unsystematic format is not the best introduction for readers unfamiliar with his nonconformist views. One wishes Chomsky would find a more challenging interlocutor than the always-reverent Barsamian to sharpen up his thinking. His estimate of the coherence and vigor of the American imperial project seems overwrought. His analysis of the role of oil politics in the Iraq war is murky. And his portrait of the media as a quasi-Orwellian "propaganda" system brainwashing the population on behalf of the ruling elite smacks of naïve populism. Still, it's hard to dismiss Chomsky's indictment of the damage done by U.S. policies abroad, his scornful dissection of the lies and hypocrisies of those who defend them, his insistence that wealth and class interests dominate American politics, or his uncompromising attack on the thoughtless presumption of America's right to impose its will by force on other countries. A sardonic, meticulous and always bracing critic of the powers that be, Chomsky remains a must-read for any thoughtful citizen.
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Chomsky occasionally takes flak from both fans and critics for preferring interviews, editorials, and speeches to academic prose in articulating his political analyses of current events. Probably the consequence of articulating arguments disquieting enough to precipitate ad hominem attacks, such shots will not end with this book, which consists of nine loosely thematic conversations on familiar Chomskian themes: hegemony, propaganda, activism, peace. Barsamian (Chomsky's most dedicated interviewer) lobs more than he probes, but his questions sometimes surprise with their directness: asking the "rebel without a pause" if he feels like Sisyphus, for example. Although sold as exploring topics never before discussed, Chomsky's comments on the 2004 presidential campaign, the dismantling of Social Security, and global warming perhaps predictably return to familiar insights. But several passages prove illuminating in other, perhaps less-intentional ways, exploring Chomsky's complicated relationship with elitism and eliciting some candid connections between his intellectual politics and his upbringing. With Chomsky as accessible and compelling as always, this book is also slated to be released as an audio CD. Brendan DriscollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved