Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power (1971)

Once again, we’re heading back to 1971. Yesterday we had Dick Cavett’s 1971 interview with George Harrison. Today, it’s the clash of two intellectual titans, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault. In ’71, at the height of the Vietnam War, the American linguist and French historian/social theorist appeared on Dutch TV to debate a fundamental question: Is there such a thing as innate human nature? Or are we shaped by experiences and the power of cultural and social institutions around us?

40 years later, you can find the classic debate on YouTube. If you need subtitles, make sure you turn on the captions function at the bottom of the video.

full transcript of the debate can be read online, or you can purchase a copy in book format. Finally, a recent BBC program revisits  and analyzes the Chomsky-Foucault encounter. H/T Metafilter

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Comments (8)
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  • parrhesiastes says:

    Did the Dutch TV only air 12:53 minutes of the whole debate? Cause the same fragment (in two parts) of debate is scattered all over the web. It would be great to see (or at least hear) the whole debate.

  • Bree says:

    “A federated, decentralised system of free association incorporating economic as well as social institutions, would be what I referred to as Anarcho-Syndicalism and it seems to me that it is the appropriate form of social organisation for an advanced technological society in which human beings do not have to forced into a position of tools – of cogs in a machine – in which the creative urge, which I think is intrinsic to human nature, will in fact be able to realise itself in whatever ways it will…” <3 ah, man after my own heart

  • Robert Dutu says:

    BBC video is removed

    “Chomsky Vs Mi…” This video is no longer available because the YouTube account associated with this video has been terminated due to multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement from claimants including: [HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.], [HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.], [HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.]

  • The Marching Morons says:

    where is the full debate video???????

  • Alarion says:

    Actually i watch the 12 minutes of debate alongside with the Chomsky vs Foucault pdf file hang out everywhere in the web, and find out a lot of coincidences. Therefore, for people who wanna take a look at the debate regardless the video just download the pdf file.

  • OMC says:

    “Did the Dutch TV only air 12:53 minutes of the whole debate?”

    No, this was actually a live broadcast (by VPRO). But I know what you mean, you always find the same fragment on the web. Not only that but the same fragment is always shown on television when requested in certain programs. Which raises the suspicion that the whole debate is either lost or stored away (and they use this fragment as reference.)

  • parrhesiastes says:

    @OMC: I noticed that in “Manufacturing Consent” documentary, a different clip from the same debate was shown so there must be a full version somewhere.

  • Cris says:

    I found the whole debate here:

    (well, I think it is complete. Could someone with the pdf check it out?

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