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Noam Chomsky: A Life Of Dissent
by Robert F. Barsky
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From Library Journal
Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) is best known for his important contributions to linguistics, cognitive psychology, and contemporary politics. This new biography examines Chomsky's intellectual development both as a student of logic and language and as a philosophical anarchist. Barsky (comparative literature, Univ. of Western Ontario) is particularly concerned with situating Chomsky as an independent political actor, describing his distinctive interventions in debates over Vietnam, the responsibilities of intellectuals, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and U.S. foreign policy. He carefully distinguishes Chomsky's left-libertarian views from those of conventional liberals and Marxists and ardently defends Chomsky against his critics in politics as well as linguistics. Barsky has prepared a lucid and well-organized introduction to the life and work of one of the century's most famous dissident intellectuals. Recommended for academic libraries.?Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
One can hardly complain that Chomsky doesn't write enough to give readers a sense of who he is and where he is coming from. As Barsky, a University of Western Ontario English professor who has corresponded with Chomsky since 1991, observes in his introduction, his subject "has published over seventy books and over a thousand articles . . . [in] linguistics, politics, cognitive sciences, and philosophy." But Chomsky hates biography and deplores personality cults; Barsky justifies his work by urging that "Chomsky's . . . political ideas cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of the organizations, movements, groups and individuals with whom he has had contact, either through study or discussion." His study thus focuses on two milieus: the world in which Chomsky was formed (his home and childhood, education, and professional breakthroughs) and the milieu he helped create (analyzing interactions of intellectuals, the university, and the state, and changes in intellectuals' roles in the twentieth century). An accessible overview; an appropriate acquisition where Chomsky's works circulate. Mary Carroll
". . . a remarkably comprehensive biography. . . . Barsky makes Chomsky the person more visible than ever before."
-- Michael G. Wessells, Contemporary Psychology
"[A] detailed and perceptive survey of Chomsky's life and work."
-- Raphael Salkie, Times Higher Education Supplement
This biography describes the intellectual and political environments that helped shape Noam Chomsky, a pivotal figure in contemporary linguistics, politics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. In describing these formative individuals and milieus, the book also presents an engaging political history of the last several decades, including such events as the Spanish Civil War, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the march on the Pentagon. The book highlights Chomsky's views on the uses and misuses of the university as an institution, his assessment of useful political engagement, and his doubts about postmodernism. Because Chomsky is given ample space to articulate his views on many of the major issues relating to his work, both linguistic and political, this book can also be seen as the autobiography that Chomsky says he will never write.
Barsky's account reveals the remarkable consistency in Chomsky's interests and principles over the course of his life. The book contains well-placed excerpts from Chomsky's published writings and unpublished correspondence, including the author's own long correspondence with Chomsky.
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About the Author
Robert F. Barsky is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, French, and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press), Constructing a Productive Other, Introduction à la théorie littéraire, and Arguing and Justifying. He is currently completing a book on Zellig Harris, for The MIT Press.
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