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Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power Paperback – March 28, 2017
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"A primer in Chomsky’s analysis of the faults of the American political and economic system. Taking as its backbone the idea that “a significant part of the American Dream is class mobility: You’re born poor, you work hard, you get rich,” Chomsky systematically documents the many ways the system is rigged from top to bottom to ensure that corporations always win." --Billmoyers.com
"Since Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, income inequality has not been novel material for a book. Nevertheless, the latest book from famed activist and linguist Chomsky (Who Rules the World?) seems fresher than almost any title on the subject in recent memory. The book, based on the documentary of the same name, is a compilation of interviews that the film’s directors conducted with Chomsky from 2011 to 2016. Chomsky observes the present-day United States with such lucid clarity that readers may feel they are viewing familiar terrain for the first time. He offers a “10 Principle” formula for how plutocratic interests operate (Principle No. 7 is “Engineer Elections”; Principle No. 3 is “Redesign the Economy”). Chomsky observes that much of what made the 1950s and ’60s the “Golden Age” of the U.S. economy was that, at the time, what was good for General Motors really was good for America: “When the U.S. was primarily a manufacturing center, it had to be concerned with its own consumers.” Chomsky also touches, fascinatingly, on subjects as diverse as “the psychology of nagging” (as employed by the advertising industry) and the disappearing sense of solidarity in our civic life. Chomsky and his collaborators have created a perceptive and revelatory examination of the forces driving America inequality." —Publishers Weekly
"Noam Chomsky in Requiem for the American Dream directs the fierce light of his intellect on the utopian ideology of neoliberalism, the absurd idea that markets should dictate all aspects of human society. He dissects the disastrous consequences of this ideology for our society, culture, and politics. He explains how corporations indoctrinated the public, academia, and the mass media to sign on for a project that has devastated the lives of working men and women and obliterated the common good. Every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is a lie. Its power to write its own laws and regulations, Chomsky points out, has ultimately created a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump." —Chris Hedges, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt
"While many books attempt to explain how we got to this political moment (some successfully), Noam Chomsky’s latest, Requiem for the American Dream, provides necessary historical context. Zooming in on ten ways that government and corporate interests have kept the American people down, Chomsky offers a compelling history that explains today’s economic and political landscape. At 157 pages, it’s a short, beautifully put together book." --Huffington Post
About the Author
Political philosopher, activist, and linguist NOAM CHOMSKY is beloved around the world for the strength of his personal commitment to the truth as he sees it and for the brilliance of his ideas. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 7, 1928, he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and received his PhD there in 1955. Chomsky has taught at MIT for fifty years and is currently Institute Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. His linguistics work is widely credited with having revolutionized the field, and his political writings have made important contributions for decades. In 2001, he published 9-11, which became his first international bestseller and was arguably the single most influential post–9-11 book. Chomsky is the author of many other best-selling political works, including Profit Over People, Media Control, Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Hopes and Prospects, Masters of Mankind, What Kind of Creatures Are We?, and Who Rules the World?
PETER HUTCHISON is an NYC-based filmmaker, educator, and activist. His documentary work includes What Would Jesus Buy? with producing partner Morgan Spurlock; Split: A Divided America; Beyond Activism: Four Decades of Social Justice; and Awake Zion: Rasta, Reggae & Judaism. KELLY NYKS is an award-winning writer/director of documentary films and has worked across Europe, Asia, and America. His prior films include The Age of Consequences, Disobedience, Disruption, Do the Math, Split: A Divided America, and Split: A Deeper Divide. Award-winning writer, director, and producer JARED P. SCOTT's other films include The Age of Consequences, Disruption, Do the Math, and The Artificial Leaf. His films have screened at Tribeca, Hot Docs, Sheffield, and IDFA, and have aired/streamed on Netflix, Starz, PBS, and Al Jazeera.
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Few contemporary American observers have a clearer-headed understanding of the issue and its causes than Noam Chomsky. Chomsky, born in 1928, is widely regarded as the father of modern linguistics and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He’s also well known—some might say notorious—as an activist and social commentator. He has written dozens of books on the technical aspects of his academic work, and even more on politics. But his latest, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, is not a book he wrote.
Instead, the book was distilled from a 2015 film of the same name, a documentary patched together using interviews filmed over four years with Chomsky. Unlike the books he has written, most of which are slow going and many (the texts on linguistics, impenetrable), Requiem consists entirely of transcriptions from the spoken word. The style is conversational and uses only a bare minimum of jargon. It’s a quick read, and an enlightening one.
As Chomsky notes, “Power has become so concentrated that not only are the banks ‘too big to fail,’ but as one economist put it, they are also ‘too big to jail.'” Given our experience over the past decade, it would be difficult to argue with that. And anyone who closely follows events in American society today would say the same about this observation by Chomsky: “the rich and powerful, they don’t want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run to the ‘nanny state’ as soon as they’re in trouble, and get bailed out by the taxpayer.” If the American people fully understood how much tax money is funneled to corporations as subsidies, and how much the tax code has been distorted to favor them and their shareholders, they would storm Washington DC by the millions.
In Requiem, Chomsky presents ten “principles” that together explain how the massive concentration of wealth in America today has come about. (His analysis applies to other wealthy countries as well, but it fits the U.S. best.) His argument is best summed up as what he calls a vicious circle: “Concentration of wealth yields concentration of power, particularly so as the cost of elections skyrockets, which forces the political parties even more deeply into the pockets of major corporations.”
The 10 principles underlying this reality, as Chomsky sees them, are:
Redesign the Economy
Shift the Burden
Run the Regulators
Keep the Rabble in Line
Marginalize the Population
I’ve never seen a more comprehensive or economical explanation of how wealth has come to be so concentrated in so few hands in the U.S. today. Most of these principles are self-evident at a glance. Only two may require explanation. Chomsky uses the word “solidarity” as a synonym for empathy, caring for others, or “concern for your fellow man,” to cite another archaic expression. His Principle #8, “Keep the Rabble in Line,” refers to the coordinated 45-year effort by Big Business and Right-Wing ideologues to destroy the labor movement.
The editors of Requiem—Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott—have interspersed short passages from other sources among the 10 Principles. The sources range over the centuries: from Aristotle and James Madison to Harry Truman and Martin Luther King Jr. These short excerpts from classic documents, speeches, press reports, and social commentaries add depth to the book’s presentation and enhance understanding of Chomsky’s message.
Chomsky’s views have often been regarded as extreme. Certainly, he is vilified by commentators and scholars on the Right. But if you read Requiem for the American Dream, I think you’ll find his reading of history is accurate, his logic is sound, and his view of America today is—sadly—right on target.
Included are excerpts of related writings supporting the topics from a variety of sources: Adam Smith, James Madison, Aristotle, Alan Greenspan, Citigroup document, Standard and Poors research, John Dewey, etc. The related material gives you a hint that what Chomsky is writing about is not far fetched but grounded in a rich history of ideas about how the world should work.
America has gone from being a manufacturing economy with small finance sector to being a finance economy with a small manufacturing base. One thing that has always boggled my mind is how people constantly vote against their own interests, especially on the right, but also on the left as well. Well Noam explains it very eloquently. The parties are dominated by special interest and business lobbies shape policy and our political talking points.
Which brings me to another point which he outlines very well. The current Republican party would not have been a party at all in 1971. They would be off either party’s charts in 1971. An extremists group that wouldn’t have even make a blip on the political radar. Nixon policies on the other hand, were far left of the modern Democrat.
Today we have a majority of Democrats that consider themselves centrists but would have been Republicans in 1971 by most policies. Call them Reagan Democrats or Rockefeller Republicans, but it’s resulted in policy paralysis for the working and poor and accelerated the wealth of the masters of society and business.
Noam keeps the paragraphs short, tries not to use too many 5 cent words, and assembled a lot of great observations and information in 10 short paragraphs. I have yet to watch the movie, but the book cut straight to the heart of the matter. He doesn’t pull any punches and he offers the straight scoop on wealth concentration, social imbalance and the impacts it has on our society.
The positive thing I take from the book is that this is a political problem, which means there is a political solution. The majority of Americans agree on a lot of principal matters that would result in a lot more prosperous healthy lives for the most of society. When things get this far out of balance, historically the public has pressured the governments and businesses to make concessions such as in the New Deal. It's up to us to organize and sustain grass roots pressure to shape policy.
We the people, can overcome the power of money but we need to act urgently and work together for grass roots change. Sustained pressure from a small but persistent and patient group of citizens. That’s what Noam emphasizes has resulted in the freedoms we have won in the past.