Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics. and a major figure of analytic philosophy. His work has influenced fields such as computer science, mathematics, and psychology.
Ideologically identifying with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism, Chomsky is known for his critiques of U.S. foreign policy and contemporary capitalism and he has been described as a prominent cultural figure. His media criticism has included Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), co-written with Edward S. Herman, an analysis articulating the propaganda model theory for examining the media.
IASR (Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative from Romania) had the chance to be granted a short interview.
IASR: Prof. Chomsky, thank you for according us this interview. In countries such as Romania, there is a certain difficulty to be a leftist, or especially to hold a libertarian socialist point of view. Can you briefly describe what you think is libertarian socialism and how can we reproach the term socialism in such a country?
CHOMSKY: Libertarian socialism, as I understand it, is a child of the Enlightenment. Its primary goal is to replace social fetters with social bonds, in the words of Wilhelm von Humboldt, one of the founders of classical liberalism. In some respects libertarian socialism is the inheritor of classical liberalism, a matter discussed by Rudolf Rocker, one of the leading advocates of anarchosyndicalism, an array of similar notions. It is not a fixed doctrine, and there is room within it for considerable debate and disagreement, but there are some basic ideas: the dismantling of authoritarian and hierarchic structures unless they can demonstrate their legitimacy (which is rare) and establishment of a society based on free association, popular control of institutions and decision-making, federalist arrangements of broader scope, and similar conceptions over the entire range of human life and social existence.
CHOMSKY: I do not think this is a period of stagnation. On the contrary, there is a revival of such notions in many forms: the “horizontalism” of the Occupy movements and others like them, the substantial growth of cooperative movements and worker-owned enterprises, and much else.
IASR: There is a general worry within the radical left, that the Ocuppy movement is trying to be coopted by the liberal establishment. Is there any truth in this? And could Occupy eventually transcend and become a more revolutionary force?
CHOMSKY: We can take for granted that if a genuine popular movement develops that challenges power and privilege, it will face efforts to destroy or co-opt it, or both. That’s entirely predictable. Whether Occupy can resist these efforts, we can’t predict, and needn’t try. What’s important is to resist them. I don’t think that circumstances are ripe for a truly revolutionary movement in the industrial societies. One prerequisite would be broad recognition that issues of real concern cannot be addressed within the framework of existing institutions, and that is far from being the case.
IASR: Lastly, as a long time libertarian socialist, how can one hold to such independent views in a world based on partisanship?
CHOMSKY: If partisanship is disagreement, it can be a perfectly healthy phenomenon, the source of discovery, innovation, new insight, and more effective action. If it descends into rigid dogmatism, then it is a harmful force that should be overcome. But there are plenty of opportunities open for holding independent views, and acting on them.