I Wanna Be Literated! #133

I Wanna Be Literated! #133

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Thursday, 03 November 2016
COLUMN

Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Nature and the Social Order 
by Noam Chomsky 

It’s hard not to sound like a broken record when talking about Noam Chomsky. What can we say that hasn’t been said countless times before? The man has had such an influence and his books are simply imperative reading for any human being. Powers and Prospects collects Chomsky’s lectures in Australia in the 1990s which were supposed to cover East-Timor. But we get so much more.

Unfortunately, the first two chapters have Chomsky either at his most philosophical or academic, and they’re a bit difficult to follow. These deal with human knowledge and linguistics. As far as I could understand, Chomsky makes the point that the human language is just a “poorly” designed software to communicate the language and images we create in our heads, topics discussed extensively in Stephen Pinker books (which are based on Chosmky’s work). After the first two chapters, the bulk is dedicated to topics all related to the crisis in East-Timor.

Like most of his books, this one is a tour de force as Chosmky discusses a wide range of subjects ranging from the responsibility of intellectuals and the double standards we apply to them depending on what position they take on their country, the meddling us the US in foreign countries’ affairs and trying to promote the right kind of Democracy (Nicaragua and Indonesia are just some examples), how US policy is the opposite of popular preference (and yes, that includes Clinton’s policies), the problems facing the middle east and Palestine, and a thorough discussion of the crisis in East-Timor and how it’s fueled by American greed and fear of communism. What Chomsky stresses throughout is that, especially in the case of East-Timor, the problem is easily solved as long as the population puts pressure on the US to withdraw. At least that’s what I could gather on a single reading, because Chomsky’s writing is so dense and detailed that we would benefit from repeated readings to uncover the layers of this onion.

Noam Chomky’s books are vital because they improve our understanding of the world around us. Powers and Prospects is no different.

Get your copy from Haymarket books.

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