69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More excellent Chomsky - keep up the good work!
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...
Published on 3 July 2002 by D. Martin
18 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating discussion points but no alternatives offered...
Like the other reviewers here I believe Noam Chomsky is sincere in his hope for a fairer world, more transparency in power and corporations etc., which you have to admire and agree with. However despite all the wide-eyed praise, here and elsewhere, his arguments are full of holes, his world view is that of a swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist (basically white people who...
Published on 15 Oct 2007 by Readerbloke
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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More excellent Chomsky - keep up the good work!,
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!
69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chomsky's most comprehensive title.,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (Paperback)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.
3. In terms of the scope and bredth of the subject matter, again, Understanding Power stands apart from a lot of the rest of his work. Several of his recent books focus on overlapping subjects; for example Chomsky has written about US intervention in Latin America in several different places. Understanding Power contains a massive amount of information and explanation that I haven't seen elsewhere in his work (although I admit I haven't read everything he's written). I think it would therefore be a great choice if you're only going to buy one book by him, or if you've already read several of his books.
I'm not going to go into any detail on what, exactly, is the subject matter of the book because it's incredibly various (and therefore difficult to summarise) and another reviewer has already given a long list of examples.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaking the Unspeakable,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (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.
129 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed my perspective on the world,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (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.
3. Another example of extensive state intervention in the economy, Chomsky says, is that the US government worked early in the 20th Century to destroy the transportation system, build highways, and create suburbia, thus ensure a viable market for oil (Chomsky notes that only because of great international violence does the price of oil remain within the price range the US wants it to). The result is the pollution we see and devastation of the inner cities.
4. Spectator sports are a great way to build up support for chauvinism and totalitarianism. Chomsky says that sports are supported by the ruling class as a way of conditioning the working and middle classes to form irrational loyalties to corporations and to glorify violence. Politics and culture, Chomsky says, are in the hands of the rich. So all the rest of us have is something like sports or sitcoms. (Chomsky says that the emphasis put on sports reminds him of what goes on in illiterate cultures where people form incredibly intricate kinship systems and creative language use. The author says that this shows that people want to use their minds but often do not have supportive outlets in which to do so.)
5. Chomsky says that if there is one thing power understands it is violence. To that end, he reveals how the most powerful country on earth (yes, that's us; the United States of America) has either directly (via many of our - usually illegal - foreign wars), or indirectly (via our political interference, such as the coup in Chile on September 11, 1972 that brought Pinochet to power) caused the deaths of millions.
6. The United States defies the international trend that as industrialization takes place, religious affiliation declines. In the United States the opposite happens. Religious affiliation in the United States has increased as industrializiation has taken place. Chomsky claims that the United States is one of the most fundamentalist countries in the world, and in this regard we have more in common with the impoverished third world nations and are at the same level as them in terms of religious fundamentalism. Chomsky makes two interesting points on this:
A) This trend toward religious affiliation in the United States most likely is a result of the hopelessness the citizens feel because, contrary to the other industralized nations, we in the United States do not have a powerful labor party. This means that the benefits of industrialization fall largely in the hands of the corporate owners, and only futher marginalize the US population. The US population therefore becomes hopeless and feels powerless. When people feel hopeless and powerless they often turn to religion for comfort.
B) Chomsky says that the level of religious affiliation and fundamentalism in the United States is frightening because in times of crisis - such as war or political unrest - religious fundamentalism can very easily convert itself into fascism.
UNDERSTANDING POWER is all in question/answer format, which makes some otherwise complicated issues seem rather approachable. I highly recommend UNDERSTANDING POWER for anyone interested in looking at the world in a different way and knowing the truth behind what has gone on in this world for the last century. Unlike most news media and politicians whose answers point in many different directions and may even contradict themselves year by year (our enemy this year was our friend last year, etc.), Chomsky is completely consistent. He reveals what has been common knowledge for millennia, and yet the elite have denied for just as long: that powerful people will do anything to hold on to power.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Chomsky,
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helping you think about power in a different way,
His impeccable research and evidencing is why so many people who would otherwise reject him out of hand have a hard time with it. He is great at what he does, and this book is of particular relevance to his politics. He has taken his fair share of criticism - but I would say 99% of the criticism is unfounded, and from people who have spent very little (maybe 0) time reading his material. If you need an inspiration to how the world could be a better place, then this guy is for you (although maybe Naomi Klein et al may strike a better introduction chord with some younger readers with her 'No Logo')
The world runs on money and power, and Chomsky shows how these interests often mesh, and almost always have consequences for the quality of democracy and freedom.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Could Change Your Life,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (Paperback)Imagine one day realising that almost everything you think you know about the world is wrong; an illusion designed to indoctrinate into a life of ignorant slavery for the ruling elite. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction? George Orwell dealt with it in his frightening vision of the future in "1984". The Wachoski Brothers' in their film "The Matrix". Both are allegories for the modern world and although written five decades apart are remarkably similar in theme. This is not science fiction though, it is the world in which we live.
In a nutshell 'democracy' is an illusion. Governments, under intense pressure from industrial lobbies, place the interests of corporations and share holders over the interests of the people. In order to minimise dissent the people's thoughts must be controlled; we are not allowed to believe that a better world is possible because we would demand greater wages and rights, decreasing profit margins in the process. Under communist regimes this is achieved through state controlled media, while under democratic regimes the media exerts a stong degree of self-control because it has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
Discontent around the globe is growing. People are coming together with one voice to tell these inhumane capitalists that they're no longer wanted. If like me, you want to help create a better world, then you should get involved in some of these movements. Educate yourself; knowledge is power after all. This book is a good starting point and paves the way for some of Chomsky's heavier reading.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars understanding power,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (Paperback)HEALTH WARNING: READING THIS BOOK WILL CHALLENGE AND CHANGE THE WAY YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORLD AND YOUR POSITION IN IT.
'Understanding Power' has the usual Chomsky hallmarks of massively sourced research to back an alternative comprehension and argument to the given wisdom and propaganda of the establishment. Using a question and answer format over 10 chapters the book demystifies a wide range of topics including: the role of the state, the nature of the capitalist economy, USA foreign relations and the alienated individual who make up the vast majority of the books audience. Reading this book it is unsurprising that Chomsky remains the worlds foremost living intellectual in terms of peer recognition and as a student resource. His book explaining the significance of 9/11 reached no.3 on the New York Times best seller list despite lack of reviews by the popular press. The sources of Chomsky's arguments and examples are meticulously referenced. Yet given the range of materials the book remains accessible and rewards repeat reading. As stated on the back cover not to read Chomsky is to deliberately court ignorance. So help others to see the light - pass it on when you've finished.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars captivating,
This review is from: Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky (Paperback)My first Chomsky and I found it captivating and revealing. A very approachable and readable book indeed.
Compiled from a varierty of talks Chomsky has given in recent years in the US, this book provides exceedingly persuasive argument that capitalist models have chronically failed society thus far.
Chomsksy logically explains why this is the case - with substantial citation and statistics - and why we could be forgiven for not seeing it for ourselves.
Very interesting. Read it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Icing on the Cake for Chomsky,
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Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky by Noam Chomsky (Paperback - 2 Oct 2003)