Tom MacWright

I read The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Noam Chomsky on


I bought this little hardcover edition of Noam Chomsky’s famous essay at the local Howard Zinn Book Fair. Had been meaning to read it for a while, though I’ve sometimes found his writing to be dense and unenjoyable - I had attempted Manufacturing Consent and I liked the discussion but it relied on a deep understanding of Latin American politics that I lacked then and still don’t have.

So I was happy to find that this new edition has an update that discusses recent politics, including the assassination of bin Laden as an example. It was a relief to have some foothold and to be able to work backwards from there, as well as to discuss some better-known Latin American events, like the ouster of Allende in favor of Pinochet, and some American history, like the Native American genocide.

The point that stuck with me the most is that dissidents are viewed differently from the contexts of their own country and from other countries. It’s popular and acceptable, for instance, for Americans to root for activists and revolutionaries in Iran or India, but activist Americans - whose main pursuit is change in America - are viewed with skepticism and disapproval.

I also note that the publisher of this book - The New Press - is a nonprofit and seems to be publishing high quality, worthwhile volumes. The physical and design manifestation of the book is excellent.