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On Anarchism Paperback – November 5, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Noam Chomsky:
"Chomsky is a global phenomenon."
—Samantha Power, The New York Times Book Review

"Chomsky’s fierce talent proves once more that human beings are not condemned to become commodities."
—Eduardo Galeano

"Not to have read [Chomsky] is to court genuine ignorance."
The Nation

About the Author

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and the author of numerous books, including Towards A New Cold War, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate, On Language, and Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship (all available from The New Press). He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. Nathan Schneider is the author of Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse and God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet. He also edits the online publications Waging Nonviolence and Killing the Buddha. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1st edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595589104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595589101
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unless your interest in this book is purely academic analysis of political systems, I assume you have some leanings in its direction. If so, you know that anarchy has a bad rep; I've seen it equated with 'chaos' in crossword puzzles. Chomsky acknowledges this early on and refutes it; he takes us back to the original goals of anarchy, devoid of people who riot and throw bricks through windows, the goals of individual freedom, economic equality and democracy built from the ground up.
The book consists of five chapters; each taken from a previously published work. Although copyright 2013, the earliest chapter is from 1969, the latest @2002.
The first is an essay entitled 'Notes on Anarchism' and is just that; a wide variety of thoughts, with quotes from others, as to just what true anarchism is, and is not. The second chapter, excerpts from Understanding Power, is worth the price of the book. A question and answer session (Chomsky giving the answers) seemingly in a group setting with various people raising the essential questions of anarchism (tension of collectivism vs. individual freedom etc.) Chomsky gives a magnificent tour-de-force performance in replies. He also mentions the anarchy/chaos situation.
The third chapter is one of very heavy reading. Stating that the Spanish Revolution, 1936-37, is of great historical significance, Chomsky not only reviews the history of the 'people's revolution' which was crushed by those in power, but, citing numerous historians, questions whether or not their views coincided with reality as to what was happening. If you're not familiar with the named historians or their works, this is a tough read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Chomsky's exploration of the roots and continued vitality of anarchism as a socio-economic and political theory and strategy is important reading for anyone wanting to dig beneath the sketchy surface of the word "anarchy" to get at the root of its meaning and see its practical applications for today. It is not "Molotov cocktails" and "chaos," as so commonly assumed, but a belief system that is typically highly organized around the search for local solutions to local problems by independent and autonomous actors responsible to and for themselves, without arbitrary authority imposed from above and without. The presumption that all impositions of authority by one person or group over another are invalid unless and until they are justified by necessity and tempered by restraint is a presumption that we should all embrace, particularly in today's increasingly authoritarian world. Once again, Chomsky steps up as one of the leading public intellectuals of our time and tells some uncomfortable but simple truths.

This book is a collection of excerpts from past articles, talks, etc., rather than a single coherent exploration of anarchy in theory and practice. The reader should not expect a text book on the subject, but rather a history lesson and an exhortation to the "anarcho-curious" to embrace the notion that we are each entitled to dominion over our own lives, and to enlighten those who blindly submit to unjustified and unjustifiable impositions of power and authority.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This similarly titled book, from 2013 ("A" cover in colors; New Press), overlaps a lot with the AK Press "Chomsky On Anarchism." A spirited introduction by Nathan Schneider (see my reviews of his fine 2013 Occupy study "Thank You Anarchy") places this in context of events that in Schneider's view widened anarchism's range so many curious or hostile were confronted for a time with its presence downtown. As his book had advised, Schneider here suggests churches as examples of successful mutual aid independent of the state, and how the left might overcome its tendency to reject such models as part of a "functional resistance movement." He reaches out to the libertarian capitalists who briefly tried to find common ground with OWS activists and anarchists, and he encourages the "anarcho-curious" who found that movement intriguing to contemplate more efforts to expand their impact. Chomsky himself sums anarchism up: "people have the right to be free, and if there are constraints on that freedom, then you've got to justify them." (33) He wants no more wage slavery, but work as willed.

As Schneider notes (and many of Chomsky's critics on the left, who find this inconsistent), Chomsky pragmatically or strategically accepts working within the system so as to prevent right-wing restrictions or for public safety (he uses an example of a rabid raccoon resisting humane traps so he and his neighbors agreed to call authorities to deal with it after local attempts had failed), "because by doing so you can help move to a situation where you can then challenge these structures.
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