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Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky Paperback – 2 Oct 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2 Oct. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099466066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099466062
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Arguably the most important intellectual alive" (New York Times)

"Chomsky ranks with Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible as one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities" (Guardian)

"Noam Chomsky is a major scholarly resource. Not to have read him is to court genuine ignorance" (The Nation)

Book Description

Characterised by Chomsky's accessible and informative style, Understanding Power is the ideal book for those new to his work as well as for those who have been listening for years.

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Customer Reviews

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72 of 73 people found the following review helpful By D. Martin on 3 July 2002
Format: Paperback
Those familiar with Chomsky's _Propaganda and the Public Mind_ will understand the basis of this book as it reiterates, in more detail, many of the points made previously plus a whole load more.
The book itself is a huge collection of transcripts from Chomsky's interviews and discussions with other community activists and general members of the public. As the title suggests, the emphasis here is on power structures and how we can create a workable alternative to the systems currently in place. Chomsky provides sound arguments for and how to achieve change, while also advising how a carefull choice of approach must be taken. This book is very broad in it's scope so provides a wide range of historical examples and methods for change, while also warning of possible risks in the process.
One of the books great selling points is it's COMPREHENSIVE references... This makes fantastic reading and means all the cases argued are, as usual, meticulously followed up and referenced.
One for any activist out there!
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By D. Hetherington on 31 May 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've never read any of Chomsky's political work, then I'd thoroughly recommend you give him a chance. I believe he's the strongest author within his particular political caucus. If you agree with him, he's one of the best sources of information you will find; and if you don't, then he can offer you a presentation of "the other side" without the factual and logical errors that are a little bit too common in leftist writing.
So, to compare "Understanding Power" with other work by Chomsky:
1. Understanding Power is based on transcripts of discussions, ie in question-and-answer format. Whilst some of Chomsky's other books are based on interviews, the difference here is that Understanding Power is overwhelmingly carefully edited. The format generally makes the book more accessible than his other work; many complex issues are simple to understand when explained in this direct, concise way.
2. The footnotes are unbelievably detailed, though sadly not included in the paper edition. They're available in HTML and PDF format from [...] and they're about 450 pages long, assembled by the editors rather than Chomsky himself. Although Chomsky is generally much more careful than other authors to substantiate everything he says with citations, Understanding Power goes much further, and most notes contain substantial quotations from Chomsky's original source, which means that in many cases it's not necessary to dig out some 50 year old book or government document from the 1960s in order to see what he is basing his opinion on. This is incredibly valuable, because Chomsky so often makes statements that fly in the face of everything you'll read in the media or have learnt in school that it's natural to want to check everything he says with primary sources.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By S Walker on 30 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
To discover why Noam Chomsky, one the World's foremost post-war political thinkers, has been largely ignored by the mainstream press and broadcast media for the last thirty years should be reason enough to read this book.
Within its 400 pages I found an easily readable and deeply enlightening radical insight into the structures of political power; the processes of Western propaganda and the relationships between power and corporate business. All reinforced with specific and frequently referenced historical examples.
Chomsky's thorough research is legendary and this book continues this tradition with an easily accessible website available to check his hundreds of references.
Anyone who feels today's global events are moving regardless of their interests and want to know why should read this book. Anyone else who does no more than suspect that what they are being told may not always be the truth would also do well to pay this excellent book the attention it deserves.
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130 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Parodi on 15 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
Every once in a while I find a book that alters my view of life and the world, a book that blows my mind. UNDERSTANDING POWER is that book this year. It is profoundly frightening and profoundly liberating. It is frightening because it taught me that just about everything I had been taught about my country and the world, everything I had taken for granted to be true, is in fact a lie. It is liberating because it corrects the lies and taught me the truth.
UNDERSTADING POWER is far too comprehensive for me to list all the amazing things Chomsky says that have changed my perspective on life (the chapter notes are so extensive that they are not included in the book but stored on a website [put ".com" behind the book's title]), but here is a brief summary of some of the most important points:
1. Noam Chomsky explains that there is no such thing as a free economy. The US has always had extensive state intervention in the economy. (Chomsky reveals that the US became powerful because of taxtiles, which are made of cotton [Chomsky says cotton was in that day what oil is today]. The reason cotton was so profitable is because the indigenous population had been obliterated and slaves had been brought in from Africa. "Imagine a more severe market distortion than that," Chomsky says.)
2. Before the industrial revolution, capital was land. Land is immobile and workers were mobile; workers could move from country to country more freely than they can today. Now, due to technological advances, capital (the companies) is mobile and due to tighter immigration laws the workers are immobile. What this creates is a situation where corporations can easily move their headquarters overseas, pit one national workforce against another, and drive everyone's standard of living down.
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