Today, we’ll finally answer the question of how the world works. Well, I won’t, Noam Chomsky will. Chomsky is the most important academic and intellectual figure that you’ve probably never heard of. A US citizen and MIT professor he is frequently outspoken and ignored in US media (for very important reasons). Chomsky takes a radical and often unheard stance on international relations and domestic economic policies. Voted the world’s top public intellectual in 2005 and one of the most cited academics of all time, Chomsky obviously has something important to say. How the World Works is anyone’s easiest route into Chomsky’s thoughts.

This book is unique. Although the author accredited to it is Noam, he actually wrote very little of it. Instead he spoke it. Arthur Naiman noticed the fluency and accessibility of Chomsky’s oral arguments and as such collected and pieced together the extensive archive of Chomsky’s media appearances. With the help of additional interviews by David Barsamian, the pair sorted, categorised and edited together Noam’s thoughts and opinions into this book. The efforts of this partnership are worthy of deep appraisal as they have created an outstanding piece of literature.

Due to the scribing of Chomsky’s speech the writing is colloquial, fast and easily accessible to anyone. Each chapter is filled with small easily digestible paragraphs – like little chunks of Chomsky’s brain. The same applies for the overall layout of the book. Included within the circa 300 pages are four separate books created and published independently of one another. Each of those books are split into easily negotiable chapters. Personally, as a politics student this structure has been very useful as it makes locating Chomsky’s insightful views on each topic easily findable and thus easily citable. This argument can be extended to the book’s impressive index which Naiman praises himself in his editor’s note, saying ‘it isn’t the sorry excuse for an index you find in most books’.

Aside from the script style and layout, the book’s content is at times mind-blowing. It is a great summary of Chomsky’s revolutionary ideas; thoughts that must be heard. Chomsky details the aggressive, militaristic nature of US actions abroad. He argues that the US will attempt to crush any regime that tries to take an ‘alternative path’ – one where a nation refuses to be an accessory to the USA’s hegemonic global economy. On the other hand, as long as a country’s leader agrees to allow private companies to buy their land and provides a market for US’ goods, it doesn’t matter what humanitarian crimes they commit. Chomsky points to Latin America for ample evidence. Furthermore, world institutions like the IMF use loans and aid to manipulate countries into adopting neoliberal economic policies, not intended for the greater good of their people, but instead rich western elites. And the media at home sieves important information and represents the US in a friendly light, what Chomsky coins as ‘manufacturing consent’ from the domestic population.

Chomsky essentially argues that the world works for the small number of rich elites, who attempt to benefit despite the cost to anyone else.

However, the book isn’t flawless. When documenting the countless interviews, speeches and debates Chomsky has made, repetition is inevitable. Sometimes it can feel like the same points are being ridden over and over. And I can’t help but feel a tale about one country is an echo of another story 100 pages back.

Another problem is not knowing exactly when a statement is made. As the book is a mishmash of Chomsky’s media appearance largely from the 1980s and 1990s, there are often times where one can be unsure of exactly what Noam is referencing. Political situations evolve very quickly and to someone ignorant of an issue Chomsky’s comment on a scenario in 1990 would be outdated and could be misguided as a contemporary analysis. This could be solved through the tedious, although potentially necessary, inclusion of dates next to each paragraph. While this would obviously be a lot of extra effort and make the book appear a lot less clean, it would be vital on fully comprehending Chomsky’s argument and the politics of the topic.

But these flaws definitely do not negate reading this book. It gives the perfect introduction into Chomsky’s philosophy. Its easy-to-read colloquial writing lays out some revolutionary, must-read ideas and presents a history of the world and our current global and domestic systems that shakes the foundations of much of what we’re told.

It buy Noam Chomsky’s ‘How the World Works’

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