Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change
a book by Noam Chomsky
(our site's book review)
This volume offers readers a concise and accessible introduction to the ideas of Noam Chomsky, described by the New York Times as “arguably the most important intellectual alive.”
In these recent, wide-ranging interviews, conducted for Truthout by C. J. Polychroniou, Chomsky discusses his views on the “war on terror” and the rise of neoliberalism, the refugee crisis and cracks in the European Union, prospects for a just peace in Israel/Palestine, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the dysfunctional U.S. electoral system, the grave danger posed to humanity by the climate crisis, and the hopes, prospects, and challenges of building a movement for radical change.
Science has gifted us with amazing ways to ruin the environment and amazing ways to kill each other—if these two continue, life will eventually degenerate to rats fighting in a toilet
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston. His work is widely credited with having revolutionized the field of modern linguistics. A member of the American Academy of Science, he has published widely in both linguistics and current affairs. His books include one of the most important books ever written: Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, and he also wrote Who Rules the World?, Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World, At War with Asia, Towards a New Cold War, Fateful Triangle: The U. S., Israel and the Palestinians, Necessary Illusions, Hegemony or Survival, Deterring Democracy, Failed States: The Abuse of Power, Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire and the Assault on Democracy and Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.
C. J. Polychroniou is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout's Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers, and popular news websites.
The War on Terror is really a war OF terror; kill one terrorist, create 10 more; the U.S. is the world's biggest terrorist factory
"This book of interviews with Noam Chomsky is a must read in these troubling times. Divided into three parts, it begins with Chomsky’s razor sharp analysis of neoliberalism, imperialism, the EU, the role of religion in politics, and class polarization. In the second, it focuses on the Trump presidency and lays out the long history of US foreign policy, as well as other topics such as health care, global warming and education policy. Finally, it looks at various alternatives—anarchism, communism and socialism. This is an excellent collection of interviews that highlights Chomsky’s encyclopedic knowledge of the key issues of our day and his unwavering criticism of the regime of the global 1%."—Deepa Kumar, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.
Trump: make American oligarchs even richer again is his real message, while Make America Great Again is his pretense
On Nov. 8, 2016, Donald Trump managed to pull the biggest upset in U.S. politics by tapping successfully into the anger of white voters and appealing to the lowest inclinations of people in a manner that would have probably impressed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels himself. . . . Noam Chomsky warned that the political climate in the U.S. was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. [We got one! Trump] calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.
Trump calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible
Chomsky's political philosophy is libertarian socialism/anarchism. Libertarian socialism moves further to bring in ideas about sympathy, solidarity, mutual aid, all of which have Enlightenment roots and conceptions of human nature.
"Despair is not an option, no matter how horrendously depressing the current world situation appears to be, as resistance to oppression and exploitation has never been a fruitless undertaking even in more dire times than our own."
Resist—if you love the U.S., resist and never ever give up
The resistance movement fighting Trump in the United States has already inspired forces determined to stand up to him and the future of resistance here appears more promising than in many other parts of the advanced industrialized world. However, the United States is in the habit of taking one step forward and three steps backward. But this does not mean we should give up hope, but only that we will have to work harder to create powerful grassroots organizing forces that can pose greater resistance to predatory capitalists and warmongers, while concomitantly developing and acualizing a coherent and realistic vision of radical change. See Not Merely ‘Anti-Trump,’ The Resistance Seeks To Re-normalize America, Carla Seaquist, Huffington Post.
Chomsky says that we can decide to be pessimistic, give up, and help ensure that the worst will happen, or we can decide to be optimistic, grasp the opportunities that surely exist and maybe help make the world a better place. If we are scared and put our heads in the sand, it ensures that those that are wrecking our democracy and our planet will win.
If we are scared and put our heads in the sand, it ensures that those that are wrecking our democracy and our planet will win
The overcoming of the defects of predatory capitalism were brighter in the past than they are today. How do we explain the frustrating setback for the realization of an alternative social order, i.e., one beyond capitalism and exploitation? In a word, neoliberalism: which means extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, unrestricted free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. Or in simpler terms, free-market worship. However, every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is, and was, a lie. To implement neoliberalist ideals, adherents utilized neoconservative ideals and methods, although some would argue that neoliberalism itself let to the abuses described below. Chomsky rightly despises both neoliberalism and neoconservativism—as do we.
The only thing neoliberalist policies have accomplished is making the rich richer, the nonrich poorer, the economy unstable, 20 trillion dollars of debt that can never be repaid (sorry, China and Japan), and millions of people dead or maimed worldwide just to stick more money in corporatocracy money bins. Great job, fellas!
Only 2 things are certain in life: death and taxes; if you don't pay taxes, Feds will take your money or house or both, and if you have nothing, you'll die in prison
But we are also none too fond of the liberals' utopia of government via social engineering and tax and spend strategies. Such utopias quickly deteriorate into government as parasite with useless programs full of perverse incentives and bloated budgets. The worst thing about this progressivism gone mad is that the idiots in charge all have a bizarre form of collective psychosis. They solipsistically convince themselves that nothing exists but INTENTIONS. No such thing as results is even in their vocabulary. Liberal dogooders know in their bones that if their intentions are good, their actions are good, and by extension they themselves are good.
The huge expenses of social engineering are fine with liberals, because even though they get few results to show for their programs and actions, their dogooder actions make them feel good about themselves, which is the unacknowledged point of the whole thing, after all! When conservatives point out that liberals' programs either do no good or do more harm than good or are just simply ways for liberals to keep busy doing good so they'll feel good inside, liberals change the subject or pretend not to hear—they cannot handle the truth. And yet dumping programs and pursuing neoliberalism and neoconservativism seems like a rotten idea as well, judging from results.
If only Progressivism was simply doing good for the people, like with FDR's programs which actually helped people in need without all the nonsense and hypocrisy. President Roosevelt (FDR) made possible the greatest period of social progress in U.S. history, under his beloved New Deal. It scared the rich, so since him they have taken cynical steps to keep people of genuine character and compassion out of the White House. But given what a mess U.S. politics has turned into, social engineering will never again be benign and by the people, for the people, and of the people. It is obvious to us all now that it is by the oligarchs, for the oligarchs, and of the oligarchs.
Note that this politician is directing the traffic to go where it is already going, and he is pathetically trying to look like he is leading them!
Unfortunately, even though the progressives’ valid goal of progress and improvement is hard to find fault with, they look toward politicians as the heroes who will enable such improvements and government programs as the entities that will effect the needed changes. They should reread the Tofflers and other of our better writers/thinkers. The great progressive changes in society are made by a civilizational evolutionary process in which politicians are mostly at the trailing edge running to keep up, not at the leading edge gesturing for us to follow.
The U.S. is in big trouble with huge debts and warmongeriing elites in charge leading us to hell in a handbasket. Who is to blame? Acceptance of neoliberalism's lies as truth, would be Chomsky's answer.
So it gets down to conservatives being right that social engineering liberals get crappy results and liberals being right that empire building neolibs and neocons get crappy results. So doesn't anyone have a better idea? There are a lot of ideas shown to be rotten and yet neither side is willing to admit they are leading our country down the garden path. Who will we blame? Acceptance of neoliberalism's lies as truth, would be Chomsky's probable answer.
We've been led down the garden path by both conservatives and liberals, failing to see that there's a sinkhole up ahead on this path—and it's miles deep
U.S. dropping a little democracy on some country in the form of bombs; maybe it's just us, but it sounds more like imperialism and exploitation than freedom and democracy!
The U.S.'s warmongering neocons believe that Might Makes Right, but their actions keep proving that Might Makes Stupid
Neoconservatives typically say they advocate the promotion of democracy, but to judge by deeds and results they mostly promote empire building using democracy rhetoric as the cover story. They also claim to be acting in America's national interest in international affairs, but to judge by deeds and results they mostly promote making profits for the U.S. corporarocracy. The neocons' empire building includes military force. Neocons are known for espousing disdain for communism and using it as a reason to attack, infiltrate, threaten, assassinate, torture, and kill. The propaganda they use is laced with anticommunism and democraty-loving buzzwords, but installing dictators by use of violence, their usual modus operandi, is anything but a democratic action and its results are the opposite of democratic. The ugliest aspect of their actions was the creation of torture camps to use on opponents of their imperialism to literally change their minds—brainwashing in procapitalist ideals.
See Democracy—an American Delusion, The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness.
Society is being dumbing down, sold a false reality of things via propaganda, and told what to think, not how to think; most citizens have been guzzling the Kool-Aid for decades
The result of this dumbing down is that the citizens are walking around with their heads up their butts, knowing nothing, learning nothing, thinking nothing
In Chomsky's view, the truth about political realities is systematically distorted or suppressed through elite corporate interests, who use corporate media, advertising, and think tanks to promote their own propaganda. His work seeks to reveal such manipulations and the truth that they obscure. See Media Sexploitation and Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
The mass media has a truth filter so that the stuff they broadcast is sanitized for U.S. ears
Chris Hedges, in reviewing Chomsky's masterpiece Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, said that "Noam Chomsky in Requiem for the American Dream directs the fierce light of his intellect on the utopian ideology of neoliberalism, the absurd idea that markets should dictate all aspects of human society. He dissects the disastrous consequences of this ideology for our society, culture, and politics. He explains how corporations indoctrinated the public, academia, and the mass media to sign on for a project that has devastated the lives of working men and women and obliterated the common good. Every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is a lie. Its power to write its own laws and regulations, Chomsky points out, has ultimately created a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump."
See Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need and Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics.
Chomsky says we have a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump
The corporatocracy has indoctrinated the public, academia, and the mass media to sign on to the 'benevolent neoliberalism' lie that has devastated the lives of citizens and obliterated the common good; we're all choking on lies
Prevailing systems are particular forms of state capitalism. In the past generation, these have been distorted by neoliberal doctrines into an assault on human dignity and even the basic needs of ordinary human life. More ominously, unless reversed, implementation of these doctrines will destroy the possibility of decent human existence. Chomsky says these can be reversed, and there is ample evidence of resistance to them, which must grow to a powerful force if there is to be hope for our species and the world that it largely rules.
There are two grim shadows that loom over everything that we consider: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war; Chomsky says the risk of nukes happening is underestimated
"There are two grim shadows that loom over everything that we consider: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war, the latter threat much underestimated, in my view. In the case of nuclear weapons, we at least know the answer: get rid of them, like smallpox, with adequate measures, which are technically feasible, to ensure that this curse does not arise again. In the case of environmental catastrophe, there still appears to be time to avert the worst consequences, but that will require measures well beyond those being undertaken now, and there are serious impediments to overcome, not least in the most powerful state in the world, the one power with a claim to be hegemonic."
There still appears to be time to avert the worst consequences of environmental catastrophe, but that will require measures well beyond those being undertaken now
Congress celebrated the Paris conference by cutting back Obama's limited (token?) efforts to avert disaster. The Republican majority (all climate change deniers) proudly announced funding cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency in order to rein in what the G.O.P. considers an unnecessary, job-killing regulatory agenda—or in plain English, one of the few brakes on our collective destruction.
The Republican majority (all climate change deniers) proudly announced funding cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency which will increase oligarchs' wealth
(Source: Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump And The Emergence Of New Right-Wing Movements, Marcus Rolle and Alexandra Boutri, Truthout)
"Professor Noam Chomsky is a fierce critic of US wars and foreign policy, and a brilliant analyst of the propaganda and psychological mechanisms through which the liberal-bureaucratic establishment achieves public consent and endorsement of the aggressive actions of the state. For this he is intensely admired in some quarters, and detested and reviled in others. Between the extremes of the uncritical campus adulation and the vicious ad hominem abuse to which he is sometimes subjected, there are genuine critiques to be made and refreshing doses of the unvarnished truth to be found in his voluminous output over the years." (Source: Who's Afraid of Noam Chomsky?, Richard Wall, LewRockwell.com)