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Noam Chomsky books: Where to start?

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The renowned American philosopher, historian and social critic, Noam Chomsky, has been a free-thinker almost all his life and has written books challenging the many ways society has programed us to think and believe. Chomsky is among one of the most cited living authors across the globe.

Growing up in a politically active household, he learned from an early age the concepts of politics and anarchism. By age 10 he had written an essay on fascism and by 16 years old he was studying philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. And although he has contributed greatly to the field of linguistics, below are some title, which are among the best and noteworthy books to read on politics, war and media.

The Essential Chomsky

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For fifty years, Noam Chomsky’s writings on politics and language have established him as a preeminent public intellectual and as one of the most original and wide-ranging social critics of our time. Among the seminal figures in linguistic theory over the past century, since the 1960s Chomsky has also secured a place as perhaps the leading dissident voice in the United States.

Chomsky’s many bestselling works–including Manufacturing ConsentHegemony or SurvivalUnderstanding Power, and Failed States–have served as essential touchstones for dissidents, activists, scholars, and concerned citizens on subjects ranging from the media to human rights to intellectual freedom. His scathing critiques of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Central America, and the Middle East have been the intellectual inspiration for antiwar movements over nearly five decades. As the political landscape has changed over the course of Chomsky’s life, he has remained a steadfast voice on the left, never wavering in his convictions and always questioning entrenched power.

The Essential Chomsky assembles the core of his most important writings, including excerpts from his most influential texts. Here is an unprecedented, comprehensive overview of Chomsky’s thought.

On Anarchism

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With the specter of anarchy being invoked by the Right to sow fear, a cogent explanation of the political philosophy known as anarchism has never been more urgently needed. In On Anarchism, radical linguist, philosopher, and activist Noam Chomsky provides it. Known for his brilliant evisceration of American foreign policy, state capitalism, and the mainstream media, Chomsky remains a formidable and unapologetic critic of established authority and perhaps the world’s most famous anarchist.

On Anarchism sheds a much-needed light on the foundations of Chomsky’s thought, specifically his constant questioning of the legitimacy of entrenched power. The book gathers his essays and interviews to provide a short, accessible introduction to his distinctively optimistic brand of anarchism. Chomsky eloquently refutes the notion of anarchism as a fixed idea, suggesting that it is part of a living, evolving tradition, and he disputes the traditional fault lines between anarchism and socialism, emphasizing the power of collective, rather than individualist, action.

Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

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Noam Chomsky’s backpocket classic on wartime propaganda and opinion control begins by asserting two models of democracy–one in which the public actively participates, and one in which the public is manipulated and controlled. According to Chomsky, propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state, and the mass media is the primary vehicle for delivering propaganda in the United States.

From an examination of how Woodrow Wilson’s Creel Commission succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population, to Bush Sr.’s war on Iraq, Chomsky examines how the mass media and public relations industries have been used as propaganda to generate public support for going to war. Chomsky further touches on how the modern public relations industry has been influenced by Walter Lippmann’s theory of spectator democracy, in which the public is seen as a bewildered herd that needs to be directed, not empowered; and how the public relations industry in the United States focuses on controlling the public mind, and not on informing it. Media Control is an invaluable primer on the secret workings of disinformation in democratic societies.

Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance

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An immediate national bestseller, Hegemony or Survival demonstrates how, for more than half a century the United States has been pursuing a grand imperial strategy with the aim of staking out the globe. Our leaders have shown themselves willing-as in the Cuban missile crisis-to follow the dream of dominance no matter how high the risks.

World-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky investigates how we came to this perilous moment and why our rulers are willing to jeopardize the future of our species. With the striking logic that is his trademark, Chomsky tracks the U.S. government’s aggressive pursuit of full spectrum dominance and vividly lays out how the most recent manifestations of the politics of global control-from unilateralism to the dismantling of international agreements to state terrorism-cohere in a drive for hegemony that ultimately threatens our existence. Lucidly written, thoroughly documented, and featuring a new afterword by the author, Hegemony or Survival is a definitive statement from one of today’s most influential thinkers.

Who Rules the World?

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n an incisive, thorough analysis of the current international situation, Noam Chomsky examines the way that the United States, despite the rise of Europe and Asia, still largely sets the terms of global discourse. Drawing on a wide range of examples, from the sordid history of U.S. involvement with Cuba to the sanctions on Iran, he details how America’s rhetoric of freedom and human rights so often diverges from its actions.

He delves deep into the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel-Palestine, providing unexpected and nuanced insights into the workings of imperial power on our increasingly chaotic planet. And, in a new afterword, he addresses the election of Donald Trump and what it shows about American society. Fierce, unsparing, and meticulously documented, Who Rules the World? delivers the indispensable understanding of the central issues of our time that we have come to expect from Chomsky.

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