Read 9 Free Books By Noam Chomsky Online

Image by Andrew Rusk, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

The gross and ever-increas­ing degree of eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty in the Unit­ed States has become a phe­nom­e­non that even the country’s elites can no longer ignore since the explo­sive pub­li­ca­tion of Thomas Piketty’s Cap­i­tal in the 21st Cen­tu­ry. The book’s high­ly tech­ni­cal mar­shal­ing of data speaks pri­mar­i­ly to econ­o­mists and sec­on­dar­i­ly to lib­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers. Piket­ty’s calls for redis­tri­b­u­tion have lead to charges of “Marx­ism” from the oth­er end of the polit­i­cal spectrum—due to some inevitable degree to the book’s provoca­tive title. Yet in the reck­on­ing of actu­al Marx­ist Slavoj Žižek, the French econ­o­mist is still “a good Keyn­sian” who believes that “cap­i­tal­ism is ulti­mate­ly the only game in town.”  While the Marx­ist left may cri­tique Piketty’s pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions for their reliance on state cap­i­tal­ism, anoth­er fierce left­ist thinker—Žižek’s some­time intel­lec­tu­al rival Noam Chomsky—might cri­tique them for their acqui­es­cence to state pow­er.

Chomsky’s role as a pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al has placed him at the fore­front of the left-anar­chist fight against neolib­er­al polit­i­cal econ­o­my and the U.S. for­eign and domes­tic poli­cies that dri­ve it. Whether those poli­cies come from nom­i­nal­ly lib­er­al or con­ser­v­a­tive admin­is­tra­tions, Chom­sky asserts time and again that they ulti­mate­ly serve the needs of elites at the expense of mass­es of peo­ple at home and abroad who pay the very dear cost of per­pet­u­al wars over resources and mar­kets. In his 2013 book On Anar­chism, Chom­sky leaves lit­tle room for equiv­o­ca­tion in his assess­ment of the role elites play in main­tain­ing a state appa­ra­tus that sup­press­es pop­u­lar move­ments:

If it is plau­si­ble that ide­ol­o­gy will in gen­er­al serve as a mask for self-inter­est, then it is a nat­ur­al pre­sump­tion that intel­lec­tu­als, in inter­pret­ing his­to­ry or for­mu­lat­ing pol­i­cy, will tend to adopt an elit­ist posi­tion, con­demn­ing pop­u­lar move­ments and mass par­tic­i­pa­tion in deci­sion mak­ing, and empha­siz­ing rather the neces­si­ty for super­vi­sion by those who pos­sess the knowl­edge and under­stand­ing that is required (so they claim) to man­age soci­ety and con­trol social change.

This excerpt is but one minute exam­ple of Chom­sky’s fierce­ly inde­pen­dent stance against abuse of pow­er in all its forms and his tire­less advo­ca­cy for pop­u­lar social move­ments. As Hen­ry Giroux writes in a recent assess­ment of Chomsky’s volu­mi­nous body of work, what his many diverse books share is “a lumi­nous the­o­ret­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and foren­sic analy­sis of the func­tion­ing of the cur­rent glob­al pow­er struc­ture, new and old modes of oppres­sive author­i­ty, and the ways in which neolib­er­al eco­nom­ic and social poli­cies have pro­duced more sav­age forms of glob­al dom­i­na­tion and cor­po­rate sov­er­eign­ty.” And while he can sound like a doom­say­er, Chom­sky’s work also offers “the pos­si­bil­i­ty of polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic alter­na­tives” and “a fresh lan­guage for a col­lec­tive sense of agency and resis­tance.”

Today we offer a col­lec­tion of Chomsky’s polit­i­cal books and inter­views free to read online, cour­tesy of Znet. While these texts come from the 1990s, it’s sur­pris­ing how fresh and rel­e­vant they still sound today. Chomsky’s gran­u­lar pars­ing of eco­nom­ic, social, and mil­i­tary oper­a­tions explains the engi­neer­ing of the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion Piket­ty details, one ever more char­ac­ter­ized by the title of a Chom­sky inter­view, “The Pros­per­ous Few and the Rest­less Many.” See links to nine books below. To read, click on links to either the “Con­tent Overview” or “Table of Con­tents.” The books can also be found in our col­lec­tion, 800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

Nec­es­sary Illu­sions: Thought Con­trol in Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­eties (1989): Based on the Massey Lec­tures, deliv­ered in Cana­da in Novem­ber 1988, Nec­es­sary Illu­sions argues that, far from per­form­ing a watch­dog role, the “free press” serves the needs of those in pow­er.

Deter­ring Democ­ra­cy (1991): Chom­sky details the major shift in glob­al pol­i­tics that has left the Unit­ed States unchal­lenged as the pre­em­i­nent mil­i­tary pow­er even as its eco­nom­ic might has declined dras­ti­cal­ly in the face of com­pe­ti­tion from Ger­many and Japan. Deter­ring Democ­ra­cy points to the poten­tial­ly cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences of this new imbal­ance, and reveals a world in which the Unit­ed States exploits its advan­tage ruth­less­ly to enforce its nation­al inter­ests — from Nicaragua to the Philip­pines, Pana­ma to the Mid­dle East.

Year 501: The Con­quest Con­tin­ues (1993): Ana­lyz­ing Haiti, Latin Amer­i­ca, Cuba, Indone­sia, and even pock­ets of the Third World devel­op­ing in the Unit­ed States, Noam Chom­sky draws par­al­lels between the geno­cide of colo­nial times and the mur­der and exploita­tion asso­ci­at­ed with mod­ern-day impe­ri­al­ism.

Rethink­ing Camelot: JFK, the Viet­nam War, and U.S. Polit­i­cal Cul­ture (1993)

What Uncle Sam Real­ly Wants (1993): A bril­liant dis­til­la­tion of the real moti­va­tions behind U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy, com­piled from talks and inter­views com­plet­ed between 1986 and 1991, with par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to Cen­tral Amer­i­ca. [Note: If you have prob­lems access­ing this text, you can read it via this PDF.]

The Pros­per­ous Few and the Rest­less Many (1994): A fas­ci­nat­ing state-of-the-world report from the man the New York Times called “arguably the most impor­tant intel­lec­tu­al alive.”

Secrets, Lies and Democ­ra­cy (1994): An inter­view with David Barsami­an

Keep­ing the Rab­ble in Line (1994): Inter­views with David Barsami­an

Excerpts from Pow­ers and Prospects: Reflec­tions on Human Nature and the Social Order (1996): A scathing cri­tique of ortho­dox views and gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy. See full text in pdf form here.

And for expo­nen­tial­ly more Chom­sky, see, which hosts well over a hun­dred of his top­i­cal arti­cles from the Viet­nam era to the present.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Noam Chom­sky Calls Post­mod­ern Cri­tiques of Sci­ence Over-Inflat­ed “Poly­syl­lab­ic Tru­isms”

Film­mak­er Michel Gondry Presents an Ani­mat­ed Con­ver­sa­tion with Noam Chom­sky

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er on Dutch TV, 1971

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (21)
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  • Hnmm says:

    Dis­ap­point­ed to see Zizek name low­er the qual­i­ty of this post. No march for a thinker like Chom­sky, insult­ing even to men­tion togeth­er with such a ama­teur pseu­do philoso­pher

  • Dellu says:

    same here. i just hate that the peo­ple in this page are putting “Žižek”, a lunatic, child­ish old man, on the side of one of the great­est intel­lec­tu­als in human his­to­ry.

    total­ly dis­grace­ful!

  • Hanoch says:

    If by “eco­nom­ic inequal­i­ty in the Unit­ed States”, you mean that Bill Gates (for exam­ple) has a lot more mon­ey that I (for exam­ple) do, I think your asser­tion is indis­putably cor­rect. But what per­plex­es me is why that fact is some­thing we “can no longer ignore”. In the U.S., the ques­tion isn’t whether one has less than his neigh­bor, but whether he would be bet­ter off (mate­ri­al­ly, at least) some­where else with a dif­fer­ent eco­nom­ic sys­tem. As to that ques­tion, I think the eco­nom­ic data show fair­ly con­clu­sive­ly that the answer is no.

    As for Chom­sky, it is very nice to drone on about sce­nar­ios of class war­fare and oppres­sion — be they real or (more like­ly) imag­ined — but if he has a con­crete pro­pos­al for a bet­ter polit­i­cal or eco­nom­ic sys­tem than exists in the U.S., I have yet to hear it.

  • Andre says:

    “In the U.S., the ques­tion isn’t whether one has less than his neigh­bor, but whether he would be bet­ter off (mate­ri­al­ly, at least) some­where else with a dif­fer­ent eco­nom­ic sys­tem.”

    I’d call that a mis­di­rec­tion. There’s plen­ty that can be done with­in a cap­i­tal­ist frame­work to mit­i­gate inequal­i­ty with­out posit­ing a utopi­an alter­na­tive. In the US, low­er­ing the min­i­mum income for apply­ing estate tax and rais­ing the high­est applic­a­ble break would be just one exam­ple. Rais­ing the min­i­mum wage would be anoth­er.

    “As for Chom­sky, it is very nice to drone on about sce­nar­ios of class war­fare and oppres­sion — be they real or (more like­ly) imag­ined — but if he has a con­crete pro­pos­al for a bet­ter polit­i­cal or eco­nom­ic sys­tem than exists in the U.S., I have yet to hear it.”

    The OC poster chose to frame this arti­cle with a ref­er­ence to Piket­ty, but Chom­sky rarely dis­cuss­es inequal­i­ty direct­ly; he cer­tain­ly does­n’t “drone on” about it. Most of his writ­ing address impe­ri­al­ism (note the books list­ed above), which of course results in inequal­i­ty and actu­al war­fare. He does dis­cuss income inequal­i­ty from time to time, usu­al­ly in inter­views where he’s asked about it, but he’s nev­er pub­lished a work of eco­nom­ic analy­sis.

  • Hanoch says:


    For many rea­sons, I do not sup­port wealth redis­tri­b­u­tion poli­cies. As I see it, if an indi­vid­ual is both­ered because he does not have as much as his neigh­bor, the best way to “mit­i­gate” that inequal­i­ty is to work hard­er. As for the rest of us who are con­tent, we can wish our fel­lows who have more well, and busy our­selves with more impor­tant things.

  • Barley says:

    While I’m pret­ty dubi­ous of Zizek’s cre­den­tials as an “actu­al Marx­ist” (more like enfant ter­ri­ble clown of the bour­geois West), there can be no deny­ing the eru­di­tion and strengths of Chom­sky’s cri­tiques. And despite his claims of being an anar­chist, clear­ly he’s much more of a Man of the Left than the the likes of Piket­ty, Krug­man, etc who dom­i­nate the dis­course today

  • Helga Magnusdottir says:

    …to be imfor­ma­tive…

  • thank you for givern us apo­tu­ni­ty to say some­thing

  • Faisal says:

    Chom­sky is a great man , for his just stands to sup­port who have been oppressed and suf­fered injus­tice is real­ly and high­ly appre­ci­at­ed , I am a staunch read­er and fol­low­er of Chom­sky approach .

  • Marco Borraz says:

    N. Chom­sky is a brave and intel­li­gent man. His ideas of jus­tice are crys­tal-clear and hon­est in his writ­ten work. I start­ed read­ing his work on lin­guis­tics but I´ve also read his polit­i­cal work since “Desert Storm” in Irak. I wish the Unit­ed States gave birth to more valu­able men and women like him. MB.

  • Lou Rush says:

    Most Amer­i­cans would indeed be bet­ter off in most any oth­er econ­o­my even though rel­a­tive per capi­ta income is very high here. We ranked 10th in 2014 but first among major economies. But that sta­tis­tic has to be mea­sured against things the aver­age amer­i­can does­n’t have and must pay for out of pock­et, like uni­ver­sal health care and access to afford­able high­er edu­ca­tion, etc., which oth­er mod­ern economies offer their peo­ple because the eth­ic is that invest­ing in the cit­i­zen­ry will ulti­mate­ly ben­e­fit the entire econ­o­my. Chom­sky talks about class war­fare because that’s the ultra rich are wag­ing the war against the mid­dle class — at least by most objec­tive mea­sures, like like stag­nant wages, declin­ing sav­ings, high per­son­al debt dri­ven among oth­er things by insane­ly high tuition — while their income sky­rock­ets. Amer­i­ca’s youth is being bur­dened with crush­ing debt before they’re 25 years old. It’s a dis­grace. Call it class war­fare or what­ev­er you want but any­one who can’t see the injus­tice or the long term neg­a­tive impact of this sit­u­a­tion, has to be blind or brain­washed.

  • Jhon says:

    Thank you to him the edu­ca­tion grown for the good of human­i­ty

  • John Konson says:

    Some very enlight­en­ing com­ments here.

    “clear­ly he’s much more of a Man of the Left”

    “good of human­i­ty”

    “class war­fare”

    I feel so inspired. :’)

  • Anduin says:

    I know right; most peo­ple dont even know his ground­break­ing work on Syntat­ic the­o­ry and X‑Bar the­o­ry.

    At least thats what brought me here.

  • Jon Balserak says:

    Actu­al­ly, Chom­sky has pro­posed plen­ty of bet­ter eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal sys­tems. He has pro­posed ver­sions of anar­chism, and is very con­vinc­ing in his asser­tion of them.

    See also his books, such as:

  • Marlyne says:

    This sim­ply isn’t true. The notion that peo­ple are poor because they are lazy and don’t want to work does not bear scruti­ny. Not every­one was born into the same advan­tages. It can be almost impos­si­ble to pull one­self out of the ghet­to or poor white neigh­bour­hoods or even for­mer­ly pros­per­ous cities where indus­try has moved on. Espe­cial­ly since 2008.

    The cur­rent super wealthy did not get there by hard work but by manip­u­lat­ing the sys­tems because they could. Even War­ren Buf­fet admits that they have had wind­fall prof­its since and before the bailout. These have occurred on the backs of the rest of the pop­u­la­tion, which many of the super rich are quite uncon­cerned about, pre­fer­ring to think that the 99% are just lazy. Does­n’t make sense.

  • Manya J. Long says:

    Is there a way to con­tact Mr. Chom­sky?

  • Faramarz Safavi says:

    Dear Sir/Madam

    Would also love to con­tact Mr. Chom­sky. Is there a way?

  • John says:

    One does­n’t need to pro­pose an entire­ly new sys­tem of gov­ern­ment to com­ment on inequal­i­ty. Chom­sky is not propos­ing equal out­come, he is propos­ing equal oppor­tu­ni­ty. The mon­drag­on cor­po­ra­tion is one exam­ple.

    Democ­ra­cy does not exist in any true form if you have con­cen­trat­ed pow­er. Whether that pow­er is in the hands of a few fam­i­lies (oli­garch) one fam­i­ly (monar­chy) or cor­po­ra­tions (plu­toc­ra­cy) the results have been his­tor­i­cal­ly poor for those in the work­ing class.

    Pre­sum­ably, despite these inequal­i­ties, you believe the bot­tom half is bet­ter off. That is not so clear. Wages have been stag­nate for a num­ber of years, a once bustling heart­land is now a waste­land, and the U.S. is cur­rent­ly ranked 77th on the world’s hap­pi­ness index.

  • Bill Owen says:

    Total­ly agree.

  • calirad says:

    What will you wish your fel­lows work­ing 3 jobs and still not able to keep up pay­ing for med­ical care for a dis­abled fam­i­ly mem­ber … or your fel­lows fad­ing away home­less on the streets … and so on…and on.

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