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Noam Chomsky: Critical Lives Paperback – May 1, 2006
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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
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.Read more ›
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.