23 Apr 2018

Noam Chomsky on capitalism, terrorism, and education


Noam Chomsky, who is often referred to as “the father of modern linguistics,” is a linguist, philosopher, historian, and social critic. Additionally, he is the author of over 100 books, writing about war, society, and politics.

Here are Chomsky’s 3 thoughts on society:

1) “It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”

Chomsky, in this quote, is criticizing capitalism. He believes that even though Western societies are always preaching about freedom and claiming that all their citizens are free, they are not. They are not free because they are controlled by the institutions that they work for.

For example, if you work for a big company, you are most likely taking orders from someone who has a higher title than you. You are not doing the work that you want or work that you feel needs to be done. You do the work that is assigned to you by your boss, and Chomsky feels that this is not how a free person lives. He believes that there is as much freedom under this system as there was under Joseph Stalin.

2) “It’s only terrorism if they do it to us. When we do much worse to them, it’s not terrorism.”

Here, Chomsky is calling out the hypocrisies of Western nations.

Every time there is a terror attack in America, the Americans always retaliate. And when they do fight back, they always do much worse to the other nation (destroy more land, kill more people, persuade other nations to scorn, etc.). But only one of these attacks is called terrorism, while the other one is referred to self-defense if you will.

Additionally, when a government of a foreign nation does something terrible to its citizens, they are bad governors. But when a Western nation does terrible things to its citizens, it is referred to as an accident that will be fixed as soon as possible (i.e. water situation in Flint, Michigan).

3) “The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”

Chomsky believes that educational and professional training systems were not created for people who have agency (people who can think and act for themselves). He believes that these people do not serve a purpose for these institutions because they will not easily obey, and that is why they are referred to as degenerates or deviants.

For example, in school, there is always at least one student who always calls out and questions the teacher about something that is taught. Many times (not always, but a lot), the teacher may not have a logical response to the student's comment and will punish him/her for questioning the teacher’s knowledge and authority. This, according to Chomsky, would be an instance of an institution filtering out its citizens.

These are Chomsky’s thoughts on society. Which quote do you feel is most valuable or needs to be discussed more? Share it below in the comments.

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