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Chomsky as a Multi Dimensional Personality and Multifaceted Writer

Chomsky as a Multi Dimensional Personality and Multifaceted Writer

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Published by: AbdulRehman on Mar 18, 2010
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CHOMSKY AS A MULTI DIMENSIONAL PERSONALITY AND MULTIFACETED WRITER 
No writer in the second half of the 20
th
century has done as much to document andexposes the crime of US imperialism as Noam Chomsky. A linguist who has taught for the40 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and who has made much advancesin the understanding of human language, Chomsky has collected since the early 1960s anunequalled body of detailed investigations of US foreign policy, its impact on domesticpolitics, and the apologetics of intellectuals who defend the crimes committed in the nameof ‘human rights’ and ‘support for democracy’.Chomsky has produced a singular body of political criticism through his number ofbooks. His book, ‘American powers and New Mandarins’ is the first published collection ofhis political essays. He has dedicated it to the brave young men who refuse to serve in acriminal war. It contains essays that still stand out for their insight and biting criticismthree decades later. Chomsky wrote in his first collection, setting himself apart from thevast majority of the war’s critics who saw it as a ‘tragic mistake’, rather than as an exampleof American imperialism.Since 1969 Chomsky has produced a series of books on US foreign policy in Asia,Latin America and Middle East. Chomsky’s well documented Fateful Triangle remains anindispensable study of the history of Israeli state terrorism and the extensive USgovernment support for ‘an Israeli Sparta as strategic asset’. In this book he has stronglydismantled the official Zionist version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its outspoken supportfor Palestinian self determination still stand out.Chomsky has also made an important contribution to the international effort toraise awareness of the struggle for freedom of east Timor from Indonesia. He has beenmuch devoted to bring attention to the events of US support of state terrorism in LatinAmerica, Israeli aggression in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon, and the role ofestablishment media in keeping such unpleasant details well hidden.Recently Chomsky has taken an active stance against the Gulf War and the 1993-95Oslo Accords. Chomsky’s writings on the Oslo document are in the best tradition of hiswork, outlining the exact scope of the Palestinian defeat and the PLO’s responsibility forbetraying the struggle for Palestinian liberation. In this context, New York Times hasrightly argued that in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought,Noam Chomsky is the most important intellectual alive today.Chomsky has developed a damning political critique of contemporary capitalismand has done much materially to support numerous organizations involved in the effortsfor social change.To understand Noam Chomsky’s ideas, we have to look in part at his personal andintellectual history and the political roots of his anarchism.Chomsky grew up during the Depression and the rise of the fascist threatinternationally. He recalls that people sold rags at out-door. He points out the violent
 
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police strikebreaking, and the other Depression scenes. In 1930s it was very clear that theNazis were a very ominous and dangerous force that was like the dark cloud overeverything throughout his whole childhood. Chomsky grew up around working classpeople, ideas and organizations, and had a sense of class solidarity and struggle at his earlyage.At a very young age Chomsky understood that the Communist Party under Stalinwas intervening decisively against the interests of the Spanish working class and had actedto crush the workers’ revolution that had been initiated in the midst of the Spanish CivilWar (1936-39). Chomsky’s first political article on the fall of Barcelona to the fascists waswritten when he was only ten years old. Chomsky saw Stalinism as a natural outgrowth ofthe theory and practice of Lenin, Trotsky, and the Bolshevik Party the view that Chomskystill holds today.In a critical advance over the dominant understanding of linguistics, Chomskychallenged the behaviorist orthodoxy of B F Skinner, whose views on language hedismantled in an important 1959 critique.In the 1950s the social sciences were dominated by behaviorism, the school ofthought popularized by John Watson and B F Skinner….. Behavior was explained by a fewlaws of stimulus-response learning that could be studied with rats pressing bars and dogssalivating to tones. But Chomsky called attention to two fundamental facts aboutlanguage. First, virtually every sentence that a person utters or understands is a brand-newcombination of words, appearing for the first time in the history of the universe. Thereforea language cannot be a resource of responses; the brain must contain a recipe or programthat can build an unlimited set of sentences out of a finite list of words…The secondfundamental fact is that children develop these complex grammars rapidly and withoutformal instruction and grow up to give consistent interpretations to novel sentenceconstructions that they have never encountered before. Therefore, he argued, childrenmust innately be equipped with a plan common to the grammars of all languages, aUniversal Grammar.That is, as Chomsky has written recently, ‘there is a component of the human minddedicated to language the language faculty’. According to Chomsky, the ‘language faculty’includes a generative system that can produce an infinite array of sentences from finitemeans. Children do not learn language by imitation, but develop the creative capacity touse language from their infancy at a tremendously fast pace, as the stimulus of theirenvironment ‘sets’ the parameters of their language. Chomsky argues, therefore, thatstandard divisions between languages, reflect nothing more than superficial or politicaldistinctions within a single Universal and highly complex human language.From the early circulation of his linguistic reflections among specialists, Chomsky’sviews caused considerable controversy and became the subject of intense debates inlinguistics, as well as philosophy and the social sciences.Chomsky began to make a wider political mark when he started writing long,detailed essays denouncing the war and the role of mainstream intellectuals whosupported it for the New York Review of Books and then for left journals such asLiberation, Ramparts, New Politics, and Socialist Revolution. The essays brilliantly

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