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Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change Kindle Edition
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"The elder statesman of a resurgent left offers clear-eyed assessments of the US, past and present, and its role in the world. From meditations on human nature to strategic advice for the Trump era, Chomsky remains the thinker who shaped a generation, a beacon of hope in the darkest of times." ―Sarah Jaffe, Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
This book of interviews with Noam Chomsky is a must read in these troubling times. Divided into three parts, it begins with Chomsky’s razor sharp analysis of neoliberalism, imperialism, the EU, the role of religion in politics, and class polarization. In the second, it focuses on the Trump presidency and lays out the long history of US foreign policy, as well as other topics such as health care, global warming and education policy. Finally, it looks at various alternatives—anarchism, communism and socialism. This is an excellent collection of interviews that highlights Chomsky’s encyclopedic knowledge of the key issues of our day and his unwavering criticism of the regime of the global 1%." —Deepa Kumar, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.
“In this brilliant series of recent and wide-ranging interviews, Noam Chomsky combines an astounding breadth of knowledge, great depth of insight, clarity in explaining his ideas, and a relentless commitment to social and economic justice. The full package is simply exhilarating, especially in our current dismal era of Donald Trump. Optimism over Despair is a book to devour.”—Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Co-Director, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
“…Chomsky argues that the choice between optimism and despair is really no choice at all. I have a great admiration for Chomsky’s combination of consistent critical moral perspective and sharp eye for the details of world politics…”—Heikki Patomäki, professor of world politics at the University of Helsinki, and a civic and political activist
"For all those of us who have always dreamed of spending a day with Noam Chomsky and getting his answers to all our questions and concerns about the (sorry) state of the world, here's the next best thing: a collection of interviews with our greatest living intellectual on capitalism, empire, and social change, fielded by C. J. Polychroniou of Truthout. Especially valuable in helping us navigate the dreadful challenges of the Trumpian era."—Michael Klare, Professor of Peace & World Security Studies, Hampshire College and Defense Correspondent, The Nation
“This fascinating series of interviews convincingly covers an astonishing range of fundamental and urgent issues of societal concern, demonstrating anew that Noam Chomsky is the world’s most humane, philosophically sophisticated, and knowledgeable public intellectual. I cannot imagine a better primer for anyone seeking a better, safer, fairer future.” —Richard Falk, Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University--This text refers to the paperback edition.
About the Author
C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism's politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout's Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.
- ASIN : B06XPC9MFW
- Publisher : Haymarket Books (July 3, 2017)
- Publication date : July 3, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 1441 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 225 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #265,187 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The analysis provided by Chomsky in the book includes the following:
Chomsky discusses ISIS. He also focuses on the recent spate of terror attacks in France. He quotes Akbar Ahmed as saying that terrorism has a breeding ground among Muslims in France because of the community’s meager access to educational and employment opportunities along with the contempt radiated toward them by white French society. He quotes Scott Atran as noting that Muslims make up 7 to 8 percent of France’s population but constitute 60 to 70 percent of its prison population. He quotes Akbar as arguing that ISIS may claim responsibility for some attacks which they actually are not involved in but wish to take responsibility for because they think it enhances their prestige. The terrorist attack on Nice, France, was perpetrated by a man of North African heritage and claimed responsibility for by ISIS. However, according to Akbar, the perpetrator was not a pious Muslim at all—he ate pork, did drugs and booze, had a criminal record, didn’t regularly attend mosque or fast, etc.
ISIS is part of the trend of what Chomsky quotes Patrick Cockburn as calling the “Wahhabization” of Sunni Islam. Chomsky notes that US allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have taken the lead over the decades in funding the madrassas, mosques and other organizations throughout the world that have spurred the creation of groups like Al Qaeda. In Syria, US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar have taken the lead in supporting Ahrar Al Sham and the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra. Chomsky notes that the US has seemingly not been entirely without its own direct support for Al Nusra either.
Another US ally, Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tyranny, has also encouraged Islamic extremism in Syria, supporting Al Nusra and similar groups. Chomsky observes that the Erdogan regime also appears to have at times tolerated the passage of jihadis through Turkey to join ISIS in Syria. After the ISIS attack on Istanbul, Erdogan denounced Chomsky as an ally of terrorists because Chomsky had signed a petition attacking Erdogan’s massive human rights violations against Turkey’s Kurds. In this book, Chomsky recalls his response in the Turkish media, which noted Erdogan’s assistance to Islamic extremists in Syria, including ISIS, and that such assistance has been used to battle Syria’s Kurds, perhaps the strongest bulwark against extremist jihadis in Syria. Erdogan’s atrocities against Kurds are nothing new of course; Chomsky mentions in the book as he frequently has elsewhere that in the 1990’s the Turkish military massacred tens of thousands of Kurds, destroyed hundreds of thousands of villages and created a massive refugee crisis. Bill Clinton provided massive military aid so Turkey could commit these atrocities. Chomsky notes the courage of activists in Turkey opposing their government’s atrocities and has done what he can to help them over the years.
Erdogan is still an ally of the west, Chomsky notes, though there has been tension in the relationship. Erdogan seems to perhaps be getting too big for his britches, with his seeming vision of a neo-Ottoman Turkish influence in the Middle East. He made an agreement with Europe that Turkey would contain the flight of miserable Syrian refugees through its territory from reaching Europe. Chomsky observes that this is similar to the Obama administration using Mexico to try to contain the flight of Central American refugees into the United States.
On domestic affairs, Chomsky has much to say on recent politics. In 2016, Trump and Bernie Sanders were symptoms of mass revolt against the stagnant wages and declining living standards many Americans have experienced since the 1970’s under neoliberal economic policies. Trump’s policies, Chomsky observes, are harmful to the well-being of ordinary Americans, including those duped into voting for him. On the other hand Chomsky views Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign favorably. He describes Sanders as an honest New Dealer but one who probably couldn’t do much if he were elected president. Absent mass movements for change, the Republicans in congress would block his policies, Chomsky says. I wish at this point Chomsky would have also mentioned that the bulk of congressional Democrats probably wouldn’t be too eager to support Sanders’s policies either, at least absent mass popular pressure on them.
Chomsky also refers to health care a bunch of times in the book. He notes that the United States spends much more on health care than other advanced industrial nations but gets poorer outcomes. The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba. Obamacare has given some amelioration to the situation but the big problems caused by our privatized health care system remain. Chomsky notes that polling showed that a public option had major public support but Obama dropped it and also instituted a provision barring the government from negotiating drug prices downward for Medicare. The latter provision was opposed by 85 percent of Americans. Single payer has always had strong support in the polls as well though it has been impossible to get it passed because of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries influence on the political process. Chomsky quotes Dr. Steffie Woolhandler as arguing that the elimination of the massive administrative costs inherent in our privatized health care system—but not in the systems of other advanced industrial countries—could provide the funds for a truly universal health care system in this country.
Israel-Palestine is a topic also discussed. He mentions that Theodore Meron, legal advisor to Israel’s foreign ministry in the 1960’s, advised the Israeli government after the 1967 war that civilian settlements in the occupied territories were illegal. Meron also advised what would become standard Israeli strategy to try to minimize the appearance of settlement illegality: build military outposts first and then quietly transform them into civilian settlements. He mentions the episode of December 2016 when Republicans and the Netanyahu government launched a campaign of comical outrage over Obama’s decision to abstain on UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Chomsky states that Obama provided huge support to Israel, particularly during its murderous 2014 campaign against Gaza. Chomsky also mentions the alliance of both the family of Jared Kushner and David Friedman (Trump’s ambassador to Israel) with the far right religious wackos in the West Bank settlement of Beth El.
Other topics discussed or referred to include how the US has provoked Russia by expanding NATO toward Russia’s borders; why it should be not that difficult to have free college in this country; Obama’s drone war as the greatest terrorist campaign of our age; the environmental crisis in light of Trump’s election win; some stuff about linguistics; the “American Dream”; Chomsky’s negative views on the Bolsheviks; and some brief comments regarding what he thinks about Chinese and Cuban communism. In one chapter, Chomsky discusses the US intervention in the Italian election of 1948 and its subsequent covert spending of tens of millions of dollars to influence Italian politics into the 1970’s. This discussion of US intervention in Italy is an attempt to provide a little historical background in light of the hysteria about Russia supposedly intervening to get Trump elected. He also discusses a little about US efforts during the first years of the Cold War (late
1940’s) to break progressive workers movements in Europe, under cover of fighting communism.
This book is not a scholarly work but a book of interviews. The footnotes are very limited in number. But Chomsky in this book is stimulating like he always is. I would certainly encourage people to read all of his political books that they can, particularly the scholarly works.
I recommend it to anyone who is compelled to understand capitalism, empire & social change - in crisp, concise terms.
I chose this rating because I learned so much without feeling like I was wading through sludge.
Top reviews from other countries
Wish I’d bought kindle version
Good stuff from Chomsky as per!