With this study, Vanderbilt professor Barsky follows up Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, his first expository volume on the octogenarian MIT linguist-cum-political writer. It focuses on how Chomsky's political writings-often published in small venues and in reaction to developing events-get disseminated and used throughout the world. The result is an indirect approach to a compelling subject, namely, what areChomsky's politics, and what broader lessons can be drawn from them? Barsky begins by defining what he calls "the Chomsky effect," whereby Chomsky's ideas get distorted and argued about in degraded form, whether by bolsterers or naysayers, resulting not only in bad arguments, but in undeserved infamy for Chomsky. He tracks the effect through the academy, the radical left, legal studies, literature and media, and along the way provides very lucid commentary on, and summation of, Chomsky's ideas. That said, Barsky, like Chomsky himself, refuses to distill Chomsky's thoughts to sound bites as he sifts through all the claims and counterclaims. That may prove frustrating for some readers, but it is fully in the spirit of Chomsky's own work. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Towerby Robert F. Barsky
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Noam Chomsky as political gadfly, groundbreaking scholar, and intellectual guru: key issues in Chomsky’s career and the sometimes contentious reception to his ideas.
Barsky (English, comparative literature, & French & Jewish studies, Vanderbilt Univ.; Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent) has written an evenhanded view of Chomsky's writings and thoughts. He works in the Chomsky tradition of radical politics and considers Chomsky a major figure in political thought and linguistic analysis. The key for Barsky in understanding his subject is to place him in the anarchist tradition. Chomsky considers himself a rationalist with roots in the French and Scottish Enlightenments, as distinct from postmodernity. Barsky fully explores the controversial nature of Chomsky's writings (the Robert Faurisson and Pol Pot discussions), the figures whose philosophies have influenced him (e.g., Wilhelm von Humboldt, Rudolph Rocker, and John Dewey), and his views and ideas on law, education, contemporary thought, literature, and computer science. He also covers Chomsky's own influence on popular culture, his humor, and his commitment to inspire people to think independently. Chomsky is an important figure in trying to evolve public thinking on justice, liberty, and national safety. His ideas are controversial, his writings powerful, and his thoughts essential to the national discussion. Recommended for political science collections.
"This book should be read by anyone interested in the existing or potential role for public intellectuals in American societyand in politics,particularly." Richard C. Collins Virginia Quarterly Review
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Robert F. Barsky is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, French, and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press, 1997).
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