- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: The New Press; First Edition, 9th printing edition (February 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781565847033
- ISBN-13: 978-1565847033
- ASIN: 1565847032
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 150 customer reviews
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Understanding Power: The Indispensible Chomsky Paperback – February 1, 2002
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Understanding Power is a wide-ranging collection of transcribed and previously unpublished discussions and seminars (from 1989 to 1999) with sociopolitical analyst Noam Chomsky.
The chapters, each covering discrete sessions with Chomsky, arrive in a question-and-answer format that at times becomes delightfully contentious. Chomsky holds forth on such disparate topics as American third-party politics, the stifling of true dissent, the illusion of a muscular media, heavy-handed American imperialism (from Southeast Asia to Mexico), a dysfunctional and self-destructing United States political left, the gilding of the Kennedy and Carter administrations, and the impotent state of labor unions.
The relatively accessibility of Understanding Power is a welcome balance to Chomsky's often formidable scholarly writings. This is a book best taken in doses: a sort of bedside reader. --H. O'Billovitch
From Publishers Weekly
For the past several decades, Noam Chomsky has become more famous for his trenchant critiques of U.S. foreign policy than for his groundbreaking linguistic theories. In this collection of material from his lectures and teach-ins, public defenders Mitchell and Schoeffel put his challenging, controversial opinions on display. The discussions a format that allows Chomsky to present his views in a conversational, accessible style confirm his wide-ranging engagement with world affairs. Whether the topic is Cambodia (he all but holds the United States responsible for the mass deaths under the Khmer Rouge) or the Middle East (where he sees the peace process as analogous to South Africa's creation of apartheid), he consistently blasts the United States for what he sees as its guiding principle of maintaining its own power while claiming to fight for freedom and democracy. Chomsky, who has published more than 30 books but is best known for his contribution to Manufacturing Consent, a critique of the way public opinion is formed, often excoriates the press for what he sees as a willingness to reflect the views of the "elites" rather than challenge them. But while he maintains a gloomy view of U.S. policies, he preserves a surprising optimism about Americans, arguing that the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements have made citizens more critical of the mass media. Some readers will appreciate the views articulated here and others will be infuriated; but for anyone with an opinion of Chomsky would be wise not to ignore this collection, which provides a useful and wide-ranging introduction to his analysis of power and media in the West.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Chomsky shares his views across a multitude of topics, and most of his views are backed up in the footnotes, which makes for compelling truth.
Some of the interesting themes include American foreign and domestic policy, the propaganda system, function of schools,third world governance and fraud of modern economics.
It's nearly impossible to summarize all of Chomsky's insights in the book but one thing has been consistent - his brutal, no nonsense, honesty. One of the quotes that gives you the gist of it:
"According to a study by O.E.C.D. about a half of a trillion dollar of drug money gets laundered internationally every year - more than half of it through American banks. How many bankers are in jail? None. But if a black kid gets caught with a joint, he goes to jail."
This book is certainly not for the faint of hearted, but it's a much needed wake up call.
"The 'masters of mankind,' as [Adam Smith] called them, will do what they can to in order to follow the 'vile maxim': 'all for ourselves and nothing for anyone else.'" The entire book is really an expurgation of this thesis. Of course, this is nothing new in history, but as we see in the book, the interconnectedness of the world and the unprecedented levels of inequity and abuse are ripping civilization apart.
Every year, an American president presents a rosy State of the Nation address. With well-documented facts, Chomsky paints a starkly different picture: society is crashing, and, in the 11th hour, it's up to the people to wake up and take collective action before it's too late.
The power elite and their indoctrinated minions will predictably not like most of what is being said. But NC clearly did not become a PhD on the faculty of MIT by saying stupid things. He is a genius at being able to state his case in simple terms so that the layman can understand the fundamentals. It’s not “fancy”; it just plain correct.
The relationship of language, propaganda, and the art of omission of inconvenient facts is discussed quite a lot parenthetically but is developed in much more detail. (That is in fact NCs formal qualification He needs no “qualifications” however to state his educated opinion.) Those topics are developed in more detail in other writings by NC.
The perceived roles of owners, investors, speculators, the (USA) government, the military, unions, and various other “classes” of workers are explored and described in great detail and with incite and clarity. And the relationship of the USA to the rest of the world is also made quite explicitly; although not in a very complimentary manner.
This perspective was a revelation to this reader and one which can be used to place events and actions into a context which is not the standard “party line”.