I hesitated to review a Noam Chomsky book because, at the moment, I don’t want any of these posts to get political. But regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, I think if you consider yourself engaged or informed, you owe it to yourself to read one of the most bewildering authors out there – and by bewildering, I mean one of the most perceptive and seemingly omniscient writers on domestic and foreign policy of all time.
Making the Future is especially useful for people new to this frighteningly well-read man. His books, which number well over one hundred (and that’s not including countless interviews and articles), can be a bit intimidating. Whether writing on Latin America, the Middle East, Vietnam, Iraq, or any of the dozens of other subjects he touches on regularly, his books are extremely interesting, but dense, and not exactly light reading. Making the Future, however, is composed of over fifty brief essays, any one of which could be read in a minute or two. As I said, this is good for a Chomsky-neophyte, because the book offers a chance to get a taste of what makes his writing so compelling and hopefully will inspire you to seek out his other, even more incendiary works.
Incendiary, incidentally, is a good word for his style. Acidic, acerbic, and relentless work, too. That’s one of my favorite things about reading Chomsky – you can feel his palpable rage at every injustice, his contempt for those who are hurting people around the world, and at the same time his indefatigable optimism that hope is far from lost. Another reason to read Chomsky is that you never get the sense he is trying to persuade you. He is merely stating the facts, usually giving a synthesis of them that, while certainly informed by his views, tends to feel more like common sense based on the evidence. If you disagree with him, he cites all his sources, so you have every opportunity to research the issue yourself. And whether you end up changing your mind or not, you’ll ultimately be more informed, which is always good.
The final reason I’d recommend reading Making the Future is that throughout every essay Chomsky never stops focusing on the people and arguing how to best help them. His arguments are consistently about enriching the lives of people not through money, but through freedom, education, and the ability to live happy, healthy, and secure lives (though he certainly wouldn’t mind average citizens getting a bit more money now and then).
At the very least, I can guarantee that when you finish reading his books and begin to comprehend how much this nearly 90-year old professor does every day, you’ll rethink spending an hour or two (or three or four) watching youtube…or afterwards you’ll just feel even guiltier than you do now.
So go read it (and him). Now.
Note 1: I haven’t even brought up his simultaneous, and equally if not more influential, career in linguistics, but I’ll leave that for you to investigate.
Note 2: Oh, and that awesome finger puppet of Chomsky I used as a picture for this post? I have one and it’s great (though I’m not sure how Chomsky himself would feel about it).