Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Addenda To Yesterday's Bit on Marx

I have been constantly amazed how often I talk to someone with a degree from a fine university, and when I bring up Chomsky's name they are dismissive, and quite often because they don't side with the Marxists. Which seems like at least two thick layers of irony, to me: Chomsky over and over and over has pointed out how, contrary to public opinion, it's the formally educated who are likely to believe what the State would like them to believe. Even liberals, highly educated: you will hear the most naive idiocies uttered by them, especially about "business" and "economics." But more to-the-point irony for our purposes here, the idea that Chomsky is a Marxist. That's just embarrassing. You paid how much for your degree?

Nevertheless, Chomsky articulately echoes my views on Marx (although I will, more incoherently, expound and pontificate [not really] and sound my barbaric yawp on Marx in a week or 23 days), in an interview in the Spring 1984 issue of Vancouver's Open Road journal:

Q: What, in general, is your opinion of Marx and Marxism?

Chomsky: Marx was person, not a God. The concept "Marxism" belongs to the history of organized religion, and should not be employed by a free and independent person. Marx was a major intellectual figure and it would be foolish not to learn from him or to value his contributions properly. He was, like anyone, limited in his perceptions and understanding. His personal behavior (not to be confused with his thought) often left much to be desired, to put it mildly. There are also very dangerous and destructive elements in his ideas, some of which underlie the worst elements of Leninist thought and practice.
-found p.565 of Language and Politics

I don't feel like I really "know" about Marx's character - especially after reading Wheen - as Chomsky seems to know Marx here. More divergently from Chomsky, I wonder about the true role of influence of "dangerous and destructive ideas" in books.

I think Noam is probably right about dangerous and destructive ideas in books. Or at least my overweening audaciousness would prefer to believe it. It's like Timothy Leary said, when a reporter asked him about the dangers of young people trying LSD: Leary said, yes, it is dangerous. And lock up the libraries! Books have led to more mayhem than LSD ever did.

I also suspect (hell: very strongly suspect) that Noam was not an Ironist. We Ironists will read books differently, but that is for another day...


Sue Howard said...

What do you make of Camille Paglia's comments about Chomsky?:

"... if anyone is a symbol of the establishment, it is sanctimonious, nebbishy Chomsky, ensconced in a plush position at MIT for thirty-eight years, while [I] could get no job at a major research institution." (Vamps & Tramps)

"The feckless behavior of the Bush administration has been a lurid illustration of Noam Chomsky's books -- which I've always considered half lunatic. Chomsky's hatred of the United States is pathological -- stemming from some bilious problem with father figures that is too fetid to explore. But Chomsky's toxic view of American imperialism and interventionism is like the playbook of the rigid foreign policy of the Bush administration. So, thanks very much, George Bush, you've managed to rocket Noam Chomsky to the top of the bestseller list!" (Salon.com interview, Oct. 27, 2006)

michael said...

Camille is nuts, but I still find her really interesting, and her book Sexual Personae - which will probably remain her one great book - is, to me, a tremendous work.

I find this take on Chomsky laughably absurd. I don't even know where to begin. Chomsky's "hatred of the United States..."?

This is almost Ann Coulter-ish. Blaming Bush for making Chomsky a best-seller? Noam's view of American imperialism and interventionism is "toxic"?

Some people should stick to what they know.

And telling: Chomsky got a job at a major research institution while Camille didn't. Yea, well, there were structural reasons for this...Like , I say, I don't know where to begin.

Best just to let her words lie there for all to see, and I worry that Camille isn't getting enough pussy...

Sue Howard said...

Yes, a bit nuts. She also once called Chomsky "fascist" or "fascistic" (unfortunately I can't find the link). I had no idea what she meant, but I enjoyed reading the deeply outraged reactions on a few Chomsky discussion boards.