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The Essential Chomsky

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  704 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
For the past forty years Noam Chomsky’s writings on politics and language have established him as a preeminent public intellectual and as one of the most original and wide-ranging political and social critics of our time. Among the seminal figures in linguistic theory over the past century, since the 1960s Chomsky has also secured a place as perhaps the leading dissident v ...more
Paperback, 515 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by The New Press (first published 2008)
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Dec 02, 2014 Praj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: px
“Language, in its essential properties and the manner of its use, provides the basic criterion for determining that another organism is a being with human mind and the human capacity for free thought and self-expression, and with the essential human need for freedom from the external constrains of repressive authority.”

A comprehensive jamboree of Chomsky’s political, social and psychological critiques under an intellectually challenging umbrella encompassing fundamentals of ‘language and freedo
Dec 02, 2010 Clif rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Noam Chomsky is known for two things - his studies in linguistics and his stand on the workings of political power, specifically that of the United States in world affairs, but also in domestic affairs.

This book is a collection of his writings in both capacities over the years, starting in 1959 and ending in 2006.

Whatever the topic, he writes well. I was pleasantly surprised to find I could follow all but one of the articles on language. He proposes that humans have a mental organ for language.
Riku Sayuj

Noam Chomsky—Infuriating and Necessary:

"Regardless of how one wrestles with Chomsky, one does always wrestle, leaving the bout much smarter and stronger."

I refuse to debate geo-politics with people who have not had this wrestle with Noam Chomsky.
-- Such a bout ends in an entirely different manner.

Yasiru (reviews will soon be removed and linked to blog)
"The general population doesn't know what's happening, and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know."

- Noam Chomsky

Perhaps governments are more competent than we might believe. Especially in the first world, governments do their utmost to maintain for the nation state they are responsible for a position of dominance and advantage that in turn allows its citizenry the comforts and securities that they enjoy. But where morally abhorrent actions are required to this end, part of the government's d
Sep 21, 2009 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
“The Essential Noam Chomsky” is a 413-page powerhouse of a book, a gripping, consciousness-raising tour of the landscape of the mind of Chomsky, Institute Professor of linguistics at MIT, whose most publicly well-known works expose the hegemonic thrust of United States foreign and domestic policy and all its attendant infrastructure of propaganda and unchallenged assumptions constructed by government and corporate officials, media personnel and so-called experts in academia.
To read this book is
Sep 06, 2011 Matty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting to read this immediately after The Pale King and its elevator conversation (section 19 perhaps?). Chomsky's vitriol at the government for our Vietnam involvement was almost surely appropriate, but did criticism like Chomsky's mark our society's abandonment of the greater good, as DFW's character suggests while trapped in the elevator? Did the disgust triggered by Vietnam lead us to concern ourselves only with the self? Was it the first step towards our behavioral takeover by cor ...more
I opted for this collection of Chomsky's writings over Understanding Power, also published by The New Press, for two reasons: firstly, because it is more recent, and secondly, because it includes some of Chomsky's writings on linguistics in addition to his political commentaries. I worried at first that this might have been a brash decision on my part, not having studied linguistics in any capacity and hoping to understand articles on the topic by a man considered by many to be the preeminent vo ...more
Oct 15, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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 whic ...more
Simon Wood
Jan 02, 2014 Simon Wood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

"The Essential Chomsky" is not the first anthology of Chomskys writings, but certainly is an excellent selection from his 40 odd years of writing primarily on American Foreign Policy. Included are his seminal early essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" which is a crucial piece of writing in which Chomsky essentially lays out the rational for his own political writings as well as implicitly chastising those who enjoy a privileged life in Academia and either turn their ba
Eve Dangerfield
Dec 22, 2015 Eve Dangerfield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As difficult to get through as these essays are they made me ask a lot of important questions about the world, western society and my own personal stake in both. I feel like the time and crippling concentration required was definitely worth it. I hope to revisit this work further down the road and perhaps see things a bit more clearly.
Robert Jerome
Feb 28, 2016 Robert Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best way to read Chomsky. He tends to put out the same book over and over again, so that reading a random selection of books results in a lot of redundancy. this volume goes back and forth between his international relations and linguistic writings in a chronological way. I suspect that the editor is interested in elucidating the common threads between the two lines of though, which Chomsky himself denies have any relationship. There does seem to be some parallel in the argument stru ...more
Jess Tait
Feb 15, 2013 Jess Tait rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am glad I read this as I feel I have developed real insight into world events that I didn't have before. It was hard at times, due to seething anger at US foreign policy with the turning of each page, but I'll definitely be reading more Chomsky.
Mar 11, 2016 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only read sections-
some were good, some too technically specific to apply to me--
I think it makes more sense to group his work into distinct themes, as opposed to just a general category of "essential"-- like, how is essential defined and why, who is it essential to, etc. I was (am) more interested in his political theory than his linguistic research and his critiques of other linguists, so I had to basically dance from chapter to chapter to get something out of this book. Also, it doesn't mak
Aug 25, 2015 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Chomsky with interest and cannot argue with the man. Most commentators would agree. Where I do not agree it is only on a small part throughout and anyway it is a love hate relationship.

Anyway I disagree on one point particularly. He mentions Bush and Reagan etc a lot. Reagan was an actor and both where pawns of something else but not I think Congress or even the corporate lobby as such. I read last week that half the US States allow medical marijuana, and some recreational, but in the UK
Aug 17, 2012 Sasha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always have a high regard for his position on sensitive subject matters like religion and socio-political issues but when I started tackling on this upset man's published collection of thoughts although without fail, he hits the nail on the head on highlighting the malfunctions of the society and the material was very articulate and well-thought, there was a struggle in his engaged command of writing with the reader. I found it a bore of a read and the material was not approachable. I vehement ...more
May 13, 2016 Anthoney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the geo political critique tends to get repetitive, still his insights and opinions are hard hitting and an eye opener. I gained a new perspective on world politics. Chomsky's factual arguments make them more believable, and save it from disregarding them as rants or some conspiracy theories. And he keeps on adding fuel to the fire with his sarcasm.

I was hoping to understand linguistics better, and what better teacher then one of it's greatest experts. Unfortunately, I could not compreh
Chauncey Bird
Aug 21, 2015 Chauncey Bird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Noam Chomsky's intelligence is difficult to comprehend, but his writing and message are clear, powerful, and persuasive. This is the first Chomsky I've read, and I would recommend it to anybody seeking an atmospheric look at some of Chomsky's biggest themes. This is a greatest hits compilation that any fan of Chomsky will enjoy.
Brian Mikołajczyk
An excellent primer on Noam Chomsky. This collection delves into his political philosophy, his foreign policy including great analysis of US involvement abroad throughout the last 50 years, and of course his linguistic work. Chomsky, a linguist, by profession is at the height of intellectual thought and discourse. Personally, I think his foreign policy was the most interesting aspect of this book. His political philosophy also touches on the rarely-discussed ideologies of syndicalism and anarcho ...more
Jordan Cullen
Jun 04, 2016 Jordan Cullen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-judged selection of essays, speeches and forewords by Chomsky that spans the entirety of his academic career, with decent balance given to his linguistic studies as well as his world-famous examinations of state terrorism.
Essay selection and presentation could've been improved by organizing by subject matter.

As for content, Chomsky has interesting ideas that are worth articulating; but, he could of used more academic rigor and simpler phrasing. (The latter point improves as he gets older.) However, in most cases, his writings could have been distilled to half their wording.

All this aside, hooray for intellectual snobbery!
I was wondering who, besides the late William F. Buckley, Jr.,would be able to hold my attention in well thought, nuanced, yet decisive essays. Taking the cue from Bill Hick's line "I'm like Noam Chomsky with dick jokes". Being a fan of the late Bill Hicks, I had to see if my local small town library in little redneck, reactionary Mchenry had Noam Chomsky books. Slow going, but meaty and well cited.
Shoaib Akhtar
Mar 17, 2016 Shoaib Akhtar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Features some of the best of Chomsky's works. Get it. Read it.
Zach Cohen
Dec 30, 2010 Zach Cohen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of some of Chomsky's most influential essays and articles, covering a wide range of topics from the role of intellectuals in the US, US foreign policy, Israel/Palestine, Anarchism, social movements, and a sampling of his linguistics work. Chomsky is one of the most profound and insightful social critics of our time, and this is a decent overview of his work.
Jan 24, 2016 Ant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting reading, but probably a bit dry if it's your first introduction to Chomsky. Some of the discussions assume a prior knowledge of the particular ideas or thoughts being responded to.
I...give up. It's not that it's so hard. It's that I was going mad from boredom, from the endless repetition. I feel like Noam Chomsky actually has one opinion, which he repeats 100s of times in different forms and contexts. I got so far, but I just had to stop. I can only hear the same thing so often before I start to get a headache.
Feb 14, 2013 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a noted linguist, the guy sure has some terrible sentences. But, to be fair, this is only true of his essays on language, which were probably written primarily for language scholars. The political essays are the some of the most amazing leftist critiques of US policy and big business ever committed to print.
Audrey Bee
Nov 22, 2014 Audrey Bee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book for understanding the worldview of a classic american intellectual.
Jon Pelletier
Apr 15, 2016 Jon Pelletier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
depressing, makes me want to trap souls in my paintings... although I know I shouldn't judge people and they are all doing the will of God, however I don't understand
Duncan O'neill
Pretty much unreadable. I gave up. His style is so ... convoluted, huge dense sentences with sub-clauses all over the place. He may have interesting things to say, but he's not a very good or clear writer. Compare this stuff with Orwell.
Joe Daniels
Jan 27, 2016 Joe Daniels rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal. Outstanding. You oughta read.
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Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, considered to be one of the most significant contributions to the field of linguistics made in the 20th century. H
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“The only debatable issue, it seems to me, is whether it is more ridiculous to turn to experts in social theory for general well-confirmed propositions, or to the specialists in the great religions and philosophical systems for insights into fundamental human values.” 9 likes
“To speak truth to power is not a particularly honorable vocation.” 2 likes
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