Published on Mar 27, 2015
In practice Chomsky has tended to emphasize the philosophical tendency of anarchism to criticize all forms of illegitimate authority. He has been reticent about theorizing an anarchist society in detail, although he has outlined its likely value systems and institutional framework in broad terms. According to Chomsky, the variety of anarchism which he favors is
“… a kind of voluntary socialism, that is, as libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndicalist or communist anarchist, in the tradition of, say, Bakunin and Kropotkin and others. They had in mind a highly organized form of society, but a society that was organized on the basis of organic units, organic communities. And generally, they meant by that the workplace and the neighborhood, and from those two basic units there could derive through federal arrangements a highly integrated kind of social organization which might be national or even international in scope. And these decisions could be made over a substantial range, but by delegates who are always part of the organic community from which they come, to which they return, and in which, in fact, they live.”
On the question of the government of political and economic institutions, Chomsky has consistently emphasized the importance of grassroots democratic forms. Accordingly current Anglo-American institutions of representative democracy “would be criticized by an anarchist of this school on two grounds. First of all because there is a monopoly of power centralized in the state, and secondly – and critically – because the representative democracy is limited to the political sphere and in no serious way encroaches on the economic sphere.”
Despite his marginalization in the mainstream US media, Chomsky is one of the most globally famous figures of the left, especially among academics and university students, and frequently travels across the United States, Europe, and the Third World. He has a very large following of supporters worldwide as well as a dense speaking schedule, drawing large crowds wherever he goes. He is often booked up to two years in advance. He was one of the main speakers at the 2002 World Social Forum. He is interviewed at length in alternative media. Many of his books are bestsellers, including 9-11.
The 1992 film Manufacturing Consent, was shown widely on college campuses and broadcast on PBS. It is the highest-grossing Canadian-made documentary film in history. Chomsky’s popularity has become a cultural phenomenon. Bono of U2 called Chomsky a “rebel without a pause, the Elvis of academia”. Rage Against the Machine took copies of his books on tour with the band. Pearl Jam ran a small pirate radio on one of their tours, playing Chomsky talks mixed along with their music. R.E.M. asked Chomsky to go on tour with them and open their concerts with a lecture (he declined). Radiohead has recommended Chomsky’s works on their various websites and Thom Yorke in particular is an admirer.
Chomsky lectures have been featured on the B-sides of records from Chumbawamba and other groups. Many anti-globalization and anti-war activists regard Chomsky as an inspiration.
Chomsky is widely read outside the US. 9-11 was published in 26 countries and translated into 23 languages; it was a bestseller in at least five countries, including Canada and Japan. Chomsky’s views are often given coverage on public broadcasting networks around the world—in marked contrast to his rare appearances in the US media. In the UK, for example, he appears periodically on the BBC.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was known to be an admirer of Chomsky’s books. He held up Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2006.
Image By Kelly Maeshiro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/b…)], via Wikimedia Commons
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