How do you introduce Noam Chomsky? Perhaps you start here: In 1979, The New York Times called him “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.” More than 40 years later, Chomsky, at 92, is still putting his dent in the world — writing books, giving interviews, changing minds.
There are different sides to Chomsky. He’s a world-renowned linguist who revolutionized his field. He’s a political theorist who’s been a sharp critic of American foreign policy for decades. He’s an anarchist who believes in a radically different way of ordering society. He’s a pragmatist who pushed leftists to vote for Joe Biden in 2020 and has described himself as having a “rather conservative attitude towards social change.” He is, very much, himself.
The problem in planning a conversation with Chomsky is how to get at all these different sides. So this one covers a lot of ground. We discuss:
— Why Chomsky is an anarchist, and how he defines anarchism
— How his work on language informs his idea of what human beings want
— The role of advertising in capitalism
— Whether we should understand job contracts as the free market at work or a form of constant coercion
— How Chomsky’s ideal vision of society differs from Nordic social democracy
— How Chomsky’s class-based theory of politics holds up in an era where college-educated suburbanites are moving left on economics
— Chomsky’s view of the climate crisis and why he thinks the “degrowth” movement is misguided
— Whether job automation could actually be a good thing for human flourishing
— Chomsky’s views on US-China policy, and why he doesn’t think China is a major geopolitical threat
— The likelihood of nuclear war in the next decade
And much more.
Mentioned in this episode:
On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky
Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal by Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin
“Why the Amazon Workers Never Stood a Chance” by Erik Loomis
“Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018” by Carter C. Price and Kathryn A. Edwards
“There is no Plan B for dealing with the climate crisis” by Raymond Pierrehumbert
"The Last of the Just" by Andre Schwarz-Bart
"All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw" by Theodore Rosengarten
Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at email@example.com.
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Rogé Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.