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+1 vote
I need  to know is chomsky an anarchisty thinker or critic ?
by (160 points)
Noam Chomsky is the best sort of anarchist, IMO.

He's a thinker.
chomsky often in the past self-identified as anarcho-syndicalist. i think maybe he gave that up more recently, but i am not really sure.

he has also spoken/written of "one world government", so he kind of disqualifies himself as anarchist with that.

that said, reading chomsky and zinn (among others) earlier in life, definitely helped inform some of my critique. chomsky with regards to u.s. foreign policy, and zinn with regards to u.s. history as it is typically taught in schools and echoed in other institutions. they both attacked other topics as well (chomsky being first and foremost a linguist), but those are the areas where i think they packed the most punch.

i like to say (regarding anyone's perspective): take what you like, and leave the rest.

Some like to put this Chomsky fellow on a pedestal. He writes on US foreign Policy and that's it. Chomsky writes about US foreign policiy and that's about it (Redundant), Chomsky writing his opinions on anarchism are absent and disapearing, Reading his compilation "Anarchism" or whatever it is called, is a giggle when they realize maybe 11 pages out of the 100+ are dedicated to anarchism and Chomsky sounds even more silly than Bruce Springseej

if you would like to understand why anarchists tend not to like noam chomsky, you should read bob blacks essay "chomsky on the nod", it's a really good one, even though it's an extremely long critique.

I have written noam chomsky an email regarding an article he wrote that appeared on alter-net which called compulsory education a "great achievement" or something like that, which i think is total bs since schools are geared towards making children conform to authority. He talked about how the school system "empowered many people" through teaching things like science ect., which i think is a pretty simplistic, shallow way to look at the whole manner, and when i talked about the submissiveness that the school system teaches people, he said this:

"It’s not problematic to let children understand that if you want to learn history or biology or…, it’s not enough to walk into the NY Public Library and sample what’s there.  Rather, that’s elementary morality."

but i don't understand how using force to educate children in areas of thought they show curiousity in is somehow "elementary morality"...that combined with the fact that noam chomsky has gone out of his way to praise Hugo Chavez to me is enough to indicate he has an essentially authoritarian left position.

2 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer
Noam Chomsky most often self-identifies as a libertarian socialist (which is, generally speaking, a code-word for some sort of left-anarchist), and has at other times identified himself as an anarchist. He has written (some) on anarchism, although, in all honesty, most of his writing focuses on statecraft and foreign affairs (a realm anarchists have very little direct influence on), and while his general perspective is critical of the state and state power (and most certainly of capitalism), most of his conclusions involve relying on reform (voting, protestation and appeals to rights) to an extent that many anarchists don't consider his thinking particularly anarchic. I believe he has, at times advocated for syndicalist methods of organization, but i can't cite when or where for you off the top of my head. My general take on Chomsky’s brand of anarchism is that he advocates a gradual withering away of the state, which sounds somewhat like some other lineages of thought you might be familiar with. That said, I’ve read a lot of his work and seen him speak, and I don’t think it is totally irrelevant, just not particularly anarchist.

Chomsky has also been criticized in the field of linguistics by some anarchists, though I don’t know enough about linguistics to really speak to this very well. I believe it boils down to a rather essentialist view of humans and a reliance on the idea of human nature.

On the other hand, Chomsky has often spoken against current anarchist tendencies such as more confrontational tactics and anti-civ. While these are not the be-all, end all of anarchy, he has shown precious little support for actual anarchist endeavors in the time I’ve been paying attention, unless we count publishing books and cd’s on AK Press (an anarchist publishing house that has, at times, operated in the world of anarchist publishing the way Barnes and Noble operates in the world of book sellers). This at the same time he has been relatively uncritical (and even blatantly supportive) of authoritarian lefitst Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Is he an “anarchist thinker or critic”? He is definitely a critic of anarchists, and he definitely does identify as an anarchist, but those things alone (for the reasons I laid out above) don’t necessarily make his thinking particularly “anarchist.”
by (22.1k points)
edited by
In addition, here is a longer more detialed piece by John Zerzan that is critical of Chomsky:

and here is one looking at his support of Hugo Chavez (may he soon be dead):
i think that Zerzan is a little dishonest in using computers and language to write his articles if he is a primitivist. Zerzan should communicate himself maybe with drawings on cave walls. I say this since in this article he has come againts language
wow, iconoclast, wow................
Iconoclast: That is a relatively common criticism leveled at anti-civ folks, but it really doesn't hold much water. By this same logic, all anarchists should reject anything created and maintained by the state - roads, hospitals, sidewalks, running water, pretty much everything. After all, anarchists are critical of the state and it's authority and power, right?

There is a point at which one weighs their options and then chooses the most effective way of meeting their objectives. Zerzan (if I can presume to speak for him, which I am in this case) has a goal of spreading anarcho-primitivist thought in the hope of encouraging rejection of and moves away from industrial civilization. To do so with purely primitive means makes no sense at all.

Much as I appreciate a lot of his work, there are plenty of criticisms of jz and his writing that are worth exploring. This is really not one of them.
It depends if you mean classic libertarian. It is a socialist ideology. If it is only libertarian capitalism I think he would strongly oppose it.

I own an autographed copy of Chomsky on Anarchism.
personman this is a terrible answer. i suggest you make it a comment, or flesh it out a lot more. or both. you owning an autographed copy of a book doesn't explain anything about your reasoning, nor do you cite anything from chomsky to back up your claims. and chomsky having written a book on anarchism doesn't mean he is an anarchist. and in fact he has said that he is not (i hear from other people, since i don't care if he calls himself one or not).
in fact, that's an anti-anti-civ argument that i totally despise, it seems that people will make an argument that if you oppose the practices of a certain type of industry or technology, then you have the burden to never ever use it because that somehow makes you morally hypocritical if you do. To fallow that line of logic means that anarchists would have to completely isolate themselves in a way that's more stringent than repressive amish life. The whole "one person one vote", "you vote with your money" logic doesn't apply because it's pretty obvious what little control over the system individuals have.

In fact, when people make comments like "well if you care about the environment, then stop using electricity!" i can only interpret it as being another way of telling people just not to talk about anything that's disturbing or uncomfortable
Chomsky has stated on at least one occasion that he is not a libertarian. He's an anarcho-syndicalist. He doesn't like libertarianism:
–2 votes
Chomsky is an anarcho-syndicalist. He is NOT a libertarian, nor does he like libertarianism, because libertarianism allows tyranny by private power:
by (90 points)
edited by
anarchism - including specifically anarcho syndicalism, which chomsky has claimed - was sometimes historically referred to as "libertarian socialism". if i remember correctly, chomsky clearly differentiated between the "libertarianism" that more recently arose in the u.s. - ala the libertarian(tm) party, a hyper-free-market perspective often associated with the right - and the libertarian socialism that was historically associated with left anarchism.
"Let me just say I don’t really regard myself as an anarchist thinker. I’m a derivative fellow traveler [of anarchism], let’s say."
- Noam Chomsky, Interview With Peter Jay (1976)

It's conceivable his self understanding has changed over the years, but I take this as that while he has been inspired by similar materials as have many of us, he doesn't consider himself to actually be an Anarchist.