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Essential Chomsky Paperback – Feb 12 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (Feb. 12 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595581898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595581891
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #110,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"I would like to invite you, very respectfully, to those who have not read this book, to read it."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Noam Chomsky s "Hegemony or Survival"
"Noam Chomsky is one of the most significant challengers of unjust power and delusions; he goes against every assumption about American altruism and humanitarianism."
Edward Said
"A rebel without a pause."
Bono
"Chomsky ranks with Marx, Shakespeare, and the Bible as one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities and is the only writer among them still alive."
"The Guardian""

About the Author

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at MIT and the author of many influential books on linguistics, including " Aspects of the Theory of Syntax "and "The Minimalist Program", both published by the MIT Press.


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Format: Paperback
"The Essential Chomsky" is a collection of 25 pieces of writing from Noam Chomsky from the first piece, a critical review of "Verbal Behavior" by B. F. Skinner published in 1959 in the journal "Language" to Chomsky's afterword from "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" from 2006. Chomsky is best known in two areas, one being his career as a linguist, and the other for his outspoken liberal views in which he holds the United States and the West to the same standard which others hold the rest of the world, and there are examples of both contained in this collection edited by Anthony Arnove, who has also written on current affairs.

Arnove makes a good choice in starting with Chomsky's review of "Verbal Behavior"; because Chomsky's skillful dissecting of Skinner's work clearly demonstrates the way Chomsky's mind works as well as the thoroughness with which he examines every subject. It also is a good choice because one avoids any political bias when reading it. With his political pieces, of course such emotional attachments to one's position exist, and so it would be much more difficult to set a baseline with one of those pieces.

When looking at the political pieces, Chomsky uses the same logic and thorough examination tactics that he used in his review, and that he also brings to the other writings on linguistics, with varying levels of effectiveness.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9af10d38) out of 5 stars 23 reviews
229 of 235 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aee1798) out of 5 stars Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest living Intellectuals. March 28 2008
By D. Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book provides a good overview of Chomsky's work. It covers both his political and linguistics work and captures his highly intellectual insights into many areas. It is, in my opinion, a good introduction to the great man and ideal for someone looking to get acquainted with his work. I would also argue that if you were to buy just one Chomsky book this one should be it as it covers the whole scope of his work. However if you are interested only in Chomsky's political work then I suppose the best introduction to that is `Understanding Power'. The two books compliment each other well though.

To give you a better idea of what the book covers I have listed the contents.
Contents are as follows:

1. A Review of B.F. Skinner's `Verbal Behaviour'
2. Preface to `Aspects of the Theory of Syntax
3. Methodological Preliminaries
4. The Responsibility of Intellectuals
5. On Resistance
6. Language and Freedom
7. Notes On Anarchism
8. The Rule of Force in International Affairs
9. Watergate: A Skeptical View
10. The Remaking Of History
11. Foreign Policy and the Intelligentsia
12. The United States and East Timor
13. The Origins of the "Special Relationship"
14. Planning for Global Hegemony
15. The View Beyond: Prospects for the Study of Mind
16. Containing the Enemy
17. Introduction to `The Minimalist Program'
18. New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind
19. Intentional Ignorance and Its Uses
20. A World Without War
21. Reflections on 9-11
22. Language and the Brain
23. United States - Israel - Palestine
24. Imperial Grand Strategy
25. Afterword to Failed States

I would also personally recommend in addition to this book (in order of most highly recommended): 'Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky', 'Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance','Failed States' and 'Manufacturing Consent'.
70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aee17ec) out of 5 stars The Essential Chomsky March 9 2008
By Walt Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like the scare crow in the Wizard of Oz I wish I had a brain. At least a better one and certainly one like Chomsky's would delight me. So I have admired this man for years trying to keep up with with his exhaustive commentaries of what is really happening in politics around us. As a result of this long time appreciation of Chomsky's mind along with the realization he volunteers as an interpreter for the majority of us who just can't figure out all the complex ins and outs of political strategies in America, I treated myself to his new book The Essentials of Chomsky. In my opinion it is packed with wonderful chapters that share his insight with us.

I also love that he is an expert in linguistics and has several of his articles from this field that accompany his many articles based on political analysis. There are three chapters that have captured my interest in particular: The Responsibility of Intellectuals, Language and Freedom, and The Remaking of History. Just from these alone I feel I got my value in purchasing this book.

I find that when I really set my mind to his writings they aren't so hard to comprehend as I imagine and usually I feel rewarded from the ideas and facts I come away with from my read.

I envy anyone who can absorb the 25 chapters from this entire book. But for me I'll be relatively happy reading slowly those chapters that most capture my interest.
64 of 74 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aee1ac8) out of 5 stars Provokes both thought and action April 28 2008
By Dr. Lee D. Carlson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Spanning several decades, this collection of articles is a fair representation of the opinions of someone who is responsible for instigating a lot of research into language theory as well as provoking many into political debate and action. A writer, researcher, political activist, or teacher does not have to always be right in order for them to be judged as effective, and Noam Chomsky is right about issues just as often as he is wrong. He is best when he is encouraging his readers to be skeptical, and given the history of governments one can only approach their analysis from the standpoint of extreme skepticism. No utterance, document (official or unofficial) or decree coming from any government in the world should be believed without in-depth analysis and painstaking research. Time constraints often put a damper on the level of analysis that is required; with the immediate consequence that one must withhold judgment on sometimes very important matters. This makes authors such as Chomsky valuable, in that they summarize events and histories that enable those interested to make better use of their time.

Chomsky can be very loose with facts, as can been seen by perusing some of the articles in this book. For example, when discussing the (illegal and immoral) invasion of East Timor by Indonesia, he states that the United States supplied 90 percent of arms used, but he does not give a reference for this assertion. And in the same article, he refers to an "outstanding Australian specialist" on East Timor describing Fretlin, the political party at the time of the invasion, as "populist Catholic". Chomsky often quotes individuals that he deems as expert in a subject, but he never gives objective criteria for what constitutes an expert. Readers who are not intimidated by authority demand evidence be given for assertions, and it matters not to what degree the person who makes these assertions is held in esteem.

But the greatest contribution that Chomsky has made, and one that is detailed in the article on the responsibility of intellectuals, is that he eloquently speaks out for the joining of actions and words. Too often intellectuals, from both the "right" and the "left", approach critical analysis from the comfort and serenity of the academic armchair. Chomsky encourages active involvement, and understands that a large degree of stoicism and perseverance may be required if one is to make changes in social hierarchies, or even perhaps to dissolve these hierarchies entirely. For this reason Chomsky is not a conservative, for he is not afraid to bring about change in very short periods of time. But he is also not afraid to take on liberals such as John F. Kennedy, who he clearly deplores as is evident by reading some of the articles in this book. No public or governmental figure or nation state is sacred for Chomsky.

Given his current age, Chomsky may be leaving us soon. Some will perhaps rejoice, but even those who strongly disagree with him will certainly miss him, for he gave them incentive to better formulate their own positions and make them distinctive from his. One cannot have a better testament to one's existence than the encouragement of critical thinking.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aee19c0) out of 5 stars Clear thinking makes clearer message Nov. 24 2009
By Antoine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When you read Chomsky you discover the world as it is. He takes aways bias views and show us what happened, why it happened and why we should care. His critics always try to undermine his persona, but always fail at undermining his arguments. Anyone interested in truths and logic should enjoy his books.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aee4018) out of 5 stars An Overview Of A Great Career Oct. 15 2010
By Dave_42 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Essential Chomsky" is a collection of 25 pieces of writing from Noam Chomsky from the first piece, a critical review of "Verbal Behavior" by B. F. Skinner published in 1959 in the journal "Language" to Chomsky's afterword from "Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" from 2006. Chomsky is best known in two areas, one being his career as a linguist, and the other for his outspoken liberal views in which he holds the United States and the West to the same standard which others hold the rest of the world, and there are examples of both contained in this collection edited by Anthony Arnove, who has also written on current affairs.

Arnove makes a good choice in starting with Chomsky's review of "Verbal Behavior"; because Chomsky's skillful dissecting of Skinner's work clearly demonstrates the way Chomsky's mind works as well as the thoroughness with which he examines every subject. It also is a good choice because one avoids any political bias when reading it. With his political pieces, of course such emotional attachments to one's position exist, and so it would be much more difficult to set a baseline with one of those pieces.

When looking at the political pieces, Chomsky uses the same logic and thorough examination tactics that he used in his review, and that he also brings to the other writings on linguistics, with varying levels of effectiveness. For example, his brief look at the war crimes committed by the Allies in World War II fails to work for me in some of key areas: he seems to ignore the fact that there are issues with almost all tactics used in war, and the inherent immorality of war; he fails to deal with the reality that
Germany and Japan were both trying to develop nuclear weapons and so there was a need to end the war before they were successful; he fails to deal with the reality that Japan was teaching their "civilians" to fight against the invaders, which then calls into question whether or not they would be considered "civilians" or "enemy combatants".

That being said, I believe he is right to discuss these issues, because tactics like firebombing, and using nuclear weapons should never go unquestioned, and while one may be able to justify some events, other events may be questionable. Dresden in particular is one event which has caused great debate over the years, and undoubtedly still will for some time to come.

Chomsky's more thorough look at Vietnam and events since then is far more devastating to the perception of the U.S. and the West than the discussion of World War II. Chomsky meticulously looks at the statements made by our leaders as to why we were involved in these conflicts, and systematically eliminates those which can be shown to be false, leaving behind a rather unappealing reality of what has motivated the U.S. government over the years. Of course, one has to read these sections carefully as well, but here Chomsky offers alternative behaviors which may have had a significant impact on the situation in the world today.

The linguistic sections are also quite good, but many of them are fairly advanced and in some cases require re-reading to fully comprehend the discussion. "Language and the Brain", for example, is a wonderful look at what is perhaps the most amazing function of the brain, i.e. the capacity to take a grammar and to utilize it unlimited ways to communicate with others. Even if you don't like Chomsky's very liberal views on politics, it is articles like this that make reading this book worthwhile.

Whether you are interested in his works on Linguistics, or those of a political nature, Chomsky is fairly consistent in providing a dispassionate discussion of the subject. Of course, his political views might irritate or even infuriate the reader at times, but he never relies on personal attacks or other cheap tactics and instead he stays focused on the subject under discussion. I have always enjoyed reading Chomsky, because he often challenges my views, and forces me to rethink my positions to make sure they have a solid rational foundation and are not built on emotion or personal biases.

This is a very good book, but of course as it provides a little bit on a large variety of subjects, it doesn't have the depth on any particular subject. Still, it does give the reader an indication of where to go for more with regards to the pieces provided, and then also includes a good bibliography of Chomsky's works.


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