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Noam Chomsky biography

In this article I`ll introduce to you the Noam Chomsky biography, my version. I didn’t use all data about his life, but I tried to focus on most important or most famous facts for such a shortened version.

If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion. (Noam Chomsky)

Introduction

Avram Noam Chomsky was born on 7th December in 1928. He is a philosopher, linguist, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist and social critic. Some people say he is a father of `modern linguistics`. Now he holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University of Arizona.

His ideological directions are anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism. Noam Chomsky was also a good writer and he published many books.

Childhood and education

He was born in middle class Jewish immigrant family in Philadelphia. His father was William Zev Chomsky Ashkenazi Jew originally from Ukraine, a principal of the Congregation Mikveh Israel religious school. His mother was Belarussian-born Elsie Simonofsky, a teacher and activist. Chomsky`s primary education was at Oak Lane Country Day School, an independent institution which allows pupils to pursue their own interests. His secondary education was at Central High School where he joined various clubs and societies. He was troubled by hierarchical and regimented of teaching used there. Soon he discovered early interest in anarchism from alternative bookstores in New York City.

The work of anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker and democratic socialist George Orwell had significant influence on young Chomsky.

He began studying university at 16 in Pennsylvania, taking courses in linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. He also explored languages, with primary interest in learning Arabic. Later he was appointed to Harvard University`s Society of Fellows. At Harvard, he developed transformational grammar, with this he awarded doctorate in 1955.

Personal life

In 1947 Chomsky entered relationship with Carol Doris Schatz, they married in 1949. The couple moved to Boston till 1965, then they relocate to Lexington. After that the couple took time for traveling to Europe, they visited UK, France, Switzerland and Italy. They also spent 6 weeks in Israel, where he was appalled by Jewish nationalism.

Chomsky always kept the linguistic scholarship and political activism strictly separated from his family life. He usually tries to avoid academic conferences including left-oriented preferring to speak to activist groups or hold university seminars for mass audiences.

His wife Carol died in 2008. They had three children: daughters Aviva (1957) and Diane (1960) and son Harry (1967).

Career

Chomsky began teaching at MIT in 1957. There he was engaged half time in mechanical translation project and half time teaching a course in linguistics and philosophy. Later he was involved also in US`s nuclear missile program. He was also employed as visiting professor in Columbia University. From 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was the National Science Foundation fellow.

Anti Vietnam War activism

First time that Chomsky actively involved in political protests, was US involvement in the Vietnam war in 1962. He had speeches at small gatherings in churches and homes. As I mentioned Chomsky vocally opposed this war and believed this was an act of American imperialism. In 1967, he attracted widespread public attention for his anti-war essay The Responsibility of Intellectuals. He expanded his political arguments and published his first political book American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), this soon established him on the forefront of American dissidents. Although editorial change put a stop to it, he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Although The New York Review of Books published contributions from Chomsky and other leftists when an editorial change put a stop to it, he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was associated with the American New Left movement and because of his anti-war activism he was arrested multiple times. The president Richard Nixon also put him on the black list of state enemies.

Chomsky soon visited the city of Hanoi in Vietnam and give a lecture at Hanoi University of Science and Technology. On this trip he also went to Laos and visited refugee camps created by war. His work in this area lead to international recognition of Chomsky and he received honorary doctorates from The University of London and The University of Chicago.

The Faurisson affair

From late 1970s and 1980s Chomsky`s publications and articles continued his early started work. In his public talks he often criticized Israel government`s actions and military. Because of his political views Chomsky was often criticized from right wing and centrist figures. He started collaborating with Edward S. Herman, who also criticized US war involvement in Vietnam.

In 1979 Noam Chomsky and Herman revised Counter-Revolutionary Violence and published it with South End Press as two-volume The Political Economy of Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Here they compare US media reactions to the Cambodia genocide and the Indonesia occupation of East Timor. They proved that in case of Indonesia occupation the US media ignored the situation, because Indonesia was US ally. In case of Cambodia they focused on the situation there, because Cambodia was US enemy. They actually discovered the US media (or government related media) are in big hypocrisy.

Linguistic Theory

In the field of linguistics, McGilvray credits Chomsky with cognitive revolution and he also credits him with establishing the field as a formal, natural science, moving it away from the procedural form of structural linguistics that was dominant during the middle of 20th century.

His work on media and political activism

In 1983 he published the book The Fateful Triangle, it was about Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He argued that USA is constantly using this conflict for its own goals in region. In 1988, he visited Palestinian territories to witness the impact of Israeli military occupation.

In 1988 Chomsky and Herman published Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, where they described their propaganda model for understanding the mainstream media. They argued that even in countries without official censorship, the news are censored through four filters, which have a great impact on what stories we read and how are they presented. In 1989 Chomsky was very critical about so called pseudo-democratic standards of western capitalistic states, the book Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies was talking about this topic.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Chomsky was widely interviewed, these interviews were published by Seven Stories Press in October. He argued that the ensuing War on terror was nothing new but rather the continuation of the same US foreign policy that has been pursued since at least since the Reagan era in the 1980s.

In 2002, he visited Turkey to attend the trial of a publisher who was accused for treason because of printing one of Chomsky`s books. During that trip he also visited Kurdish areas of Turkey and speak in favor of the Kurds human rights. In 2003 he published Hegemony or Survival in which he criticizes US imperial strategy of War on terror and Iraqi war.

In 2011 Chomsky published Profits Over People. In this book he takes on Neoliberalism examining the contradictions between the democratic and market principles proclaimed by those in power and those actually practiced. In 2012 he was active in the Occupy movement and also write a pamphlet.  In March 2014 he joined the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation advisory council, he is a senior fellow there. In Late 2015 he declares his support to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, the documentary Requiem for American Dream was released, summarize his views on capitalism end economical inequality, later in 2017 there was also published as a book. The same year he published Who Rules The World where he explains how the world’s political and financial elite are now operating almost totally unconstrained by the so-called democratic structure.

Asked about claims that Russia interfered in US presidential elections, Chomsky said: “It’s possible, but it’s a kind of strange complaint in the United States. The U.S. has been interfering with, and undermining, elections all over the world for decades and is proud of it.”

In August 2017 at age 88 and retired from 2002 Chomsky left MIT to join the linguistics department of University of Arizona in Tucson as part-time faculty.

My opinion

Noam Chomsky is a great man, who needs to be respected because of his open mind, his work and activism. He cares about things in system which are wrong, but they want us to think the opposite. There are not many influent people on the west who would be able to have such self-reflection as Chomsky. I think that too many people, too many times see the world only through our western glasses.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky

Luka

8 Comments

  1. Hi Luka, Thank you for this extremely interesting and illuminating insight into the world of Noam Chomsky and his works and beliefs. 

    It is wonderful to read what an open minded person he was right from early childhood and I think that could be as he had the type of schooling which encouraged free thinking. How I wish that all schooling was like this and we weren’t fed the garbage we were fed at school.  Which turned out to be lies in the long run.

    Thank you again for introducing me to Noam Chomsky and his book which I will be looking out for. 

    What a remarkable man.

  2. Wow!  This man has lived a very full and active life.  He seems to be an authority  on politics and also linguistics, if I am right.

    I never heard of Noam until your article.  We must always strive for a better world and make a difference to our world as we live.  It is not only about family and what we can provide.

    Rather, we need to make such a difference to our world that it sits up and takes notice.  Which is what this gentleman has done.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Dear Luka thank you very much for this condensed biography of Noam Chomsky. As you correctly says he brings a different perspective to the traditional western lens which is desperately needed at this time.  The world seems to be moving towards nationalism and we see the right gaining traction across the world. He will be a good role model to follow with regard his thinking and the way he analysis situations. He always takes a principles position and is prepared to stand behind it regardless of the consequences. Love the story about his trip to Turkey to support the publisher of his work. Thanks for sharing

  4. Hi Luka! I have been interested in Noam Chomsky’s life and works for some time now. I was born in a home of professors and they constantly talked about his work in linguistics. And later I have come to know about his political activism and major influence in other topics. With all his credentials, I have been drawn to get a bit more acquainted with him. I must say thank you for this short biography.

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