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Often insightful, often repetitive
on 28 February 2012
Hopes and Prospects is classic Noam Chomsky and I mean that in two ways: (1) there is some insightful material that gets to the heart of contemporary United States democracy, particularly around the hollowness of the Barack Obama presidential campaign of 2008, contrasted with the meaningful participatory democracy of some recent Latin American elections; however, (2) Hopes and Prospects is also full of self-referencing and self-plagiarising material, some of it seemingly ripped straight from his 1991 pinnacle, Deterring Democracy.
Like the Rolling Stones or Woody Allen, Chomsky has produced some excellent work that will last - but much of his subsequent output seems to be a pale imitation with dashes of his former glory, with increasingly diminished returns.
So, too, with Hopes and Prospects. Chomsky delivers exactly what you expect of him and some of this is indeed great but he also repeats himself to the point where I'm thinking, is this money for old radicalism? I write this not to seem clever or cynical but as someone who has admired Noam for several decades but has found his recent work seems to be rehashing what he has already written, several times over.
Hopes and Prospects is not really a book with a consistent theme, despite the best efforts of publisher Hamish Hamilton to convince you otherwise. Rather, this is just a collection of unconnected essays and speeches that sometimes bare little connection to the title of their chapter. It's always interesting and sometimes it is devastating but unfortunately, those flashes of brilliance are increasingly accompanied by recycled work from his other books.