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Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent Hardcover – March 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0262024181 ISBN-10: 0262024187 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Series: Noam Chomsky (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; First edition (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262024187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262024181
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,604,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) is best known for his important contributions to linguistics, cognitive psychology, and contemporary politics. This new biography examines Chomsky's intellectual development both as a student of logic and language and as a philosophical anarchist. Barsky (comparative literature, Univ. of Western Ontario) is particularly concerned with situating Chomsky as an independent political actor, describing his distinctive interventions in debates over Vietnam, the responsibilities of intellectuals, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and U.S. foreign policy. He carefully distinguishes Chomsky's left-libertarian views from those of conventional liberals and Marxists and ardently defends Chomsky against his critics in politics as well as linguistics. Barsky has prepared a lucid and well-organized introduction to the life and work of one of the century's most famous dissident intellectuals. Recommended for academic libraries.?Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

One can hardly complain that Chomsky doesn't write enough to give readers a sense of who he is and where he is coming from. As Barsky, a University of Western Ontario English professor who has corresponded with Chomsky since 1991, observes in his introduction, his subject "has published over seventy books and over a thousand articles . . . [in] linguistics, politics, cognitive sciences, and philosophy." But Chomsky hates biography and deplores personality cults; Barsky justifies his work by urging that "Chomsky's . . . political ideas cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of the organizations, movements, groups and individuals with whom he has had contact, either through study or discussion." His study thus focuses on two milieus: the world in which Chomsky was formed (his home and childhood, education, and professional breakthroughs) and the milieu he helped create (analyzing interactions of intellectuals, the university, and the state, and changes in intellectuals' roles in the twentieth century). An accessible overview; an appropriate acquisition where Chomsky's works circulate. Mary Carroll

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Barsky's achievement is respectable for at least one reason: he got some personal information out of Chomsky. I've been reading Chomsky for a while now and have always been impressed by his guarding of his personal life. David Barsamian, who has interviewed him probably more than anyone has - for sure more than anyone I know has - comes close once in a while. Usually it touches on how he feels about something; never anything to do with the stuff to keep biographers buzzing. As for the rest of Barsky's book I have to say that I was hardly moved by it. I appreciated the organization, and Barsky's quite obvious understanding of the issues that have arisen during Chomsky's "Life of Dissent". But I must refer to my disappointment at the immediate realization that this could hardly reflect the kind of life Chomsky has had. Hence, a 200 plus page book is not a biography. Maybe Barsky promised it was not a biography; I can't remember. To me, however, it doesn't matter. I'm always looking for good stuff by and about Chomsky. Sometimes I find really stimulating material; sometimes I find variations of views that I've seen already; sometimes I find worthless psychobabble. Barsky's book provided some new material (the strain the Faurisson affair on Chomsky was coming close to revelatory, as biographies do) but mostly it covered as much as it could about 40 plus years of intense public activity in the US (of all places) and public scrutiny in the same amount of space allotted for a court judge's decision on where domestic pets can and cannot defecate, and why. Barsky's book is excellent commentary on some significant events in Chomsky's life - in precis form - but comes up short of adequately depicting a life of dissent, especially Noam Chomsky's.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
For those who only know Chomsky for his revolutionary work in the field of linguistics and are not aware that he is also an untiring critic of media propaganda and government malfeasance this book is for you. In this enlightening biography of one of America's leading dissidents, Barsky beautifully illustrates Chomsky's dedication in his tireless fight against the forces of injustice and hate--at great personal risk to both his career and life. The ideal that Chomsky follows is not new, however, but based in the long tradition of social activism that finds its birth in the philosophy of Socrates, put to use by countless individuals from Thoreau, Ghandi and Martin Luther King, through their adherence to the fundamental idea of intellectual independence and a healthy skepticism of the dictates of power and authority.
In a society so full of apologists for militarism, who substitute mindless justification for military operations in place of a critical, reasoned view of world events, Chomsky stands out for his courageous opposition to totalitarianism, wherever it is found. Apparently, this hiding place is alittle to close for some. Regardless of his critics, Chomsky is destined to go down in history as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century--an exemplary example of what an intellectual should be.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is the most recent of several books I've read by or about Noam Chomsky, and I'm still waiting for an objective, critical analysis of the man and his thinking. Though quite enjoyable and full of interesting details (like cover photos of obscure political magazines that Chomsky read as a child), Barsky's biography comes clearly from the pen of someone enamored of Chomsky's ideas and work. The last paragraph of the book sounds embarrasingly like the voiceover from a low-budget propaganda film. Chomsky fans will enjoy the book, but anyone wanting a more balanced approach will still have to wait for the "definitive biography", which to my knowledge remains unwritten.
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