Noam Chomsky: reading guide

Noam Chomsky is such a prolific writer that it is hard to know where to start when reading his writings. What’s more, useful criticisms of these writings can be difficult to find among all the largely useless right-wing comments on the internet. So here is a list of Chomsky’s major - largely political - writings followed by a list of the more useful critiques of his thought. Please suggest any others that we've missed.




READINGS BY CHOMSKY

The Essential Chomsky
- A collection of his best articles.

Understanding Power
- A selection of Chomsky’s interviews on everything from linguistics to anarchism.

American Power and the New Mandarins
- Chomsky's first political book, including his take on the Spanish Revolution.

The Fateful Triangle
- The classic analysis of the USA’s relationship with Israel and the Palestinians.

Manufacturing Consent
- Another classic, this time on the US media.

Year 501
- A damning history of US imperialism.

Hegemony or Survival
- Chomsky’s view of US foreign policy at the time of the disastrous occupation of Iraq. Hugo Chavez displayed this book during his 2006 speech at the UN.


Noam Chomsky, Michael Albert and Hugo Chavez


After the Cataclysm
- Probably Chomsky’s most controversial book. (For a critique of this book see: ‘Chomsky on Cambodia’. For Chomsky’s response to his critics, see: Steven Lukes’ website. For further clarification of Chomsky’s reluctance to criticise national liberation movements, see his 1974 comment about the London Solidarity group.)

The Architecture of Language
- A short summary of Chomsky’s linguistics.

The Science of Language
- The clearest exposition of Chomsky’s latest theories on language and philosophy. (For a critique of this book see: Journal of Linguistics, 'A 'Galilean' Science of language' by Christina Behme.)


Zellig Harris’ influence on both Chomsky’s linguistics and his politics was ‘enormous’. Zellig Harris is pictured here, on the left, next to his friend, the council-communist Paul Mattick. Chomsky had a number of discussions with Mattick but says he was ‘too orthodox a Marxist for my tastes’.


READINGS ABOUT CHOMSKY

Noam Chomsky, A Life of Dissent - Robert Barsky
- The most thorough biography of Chomsky.

Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals- Neil Smith
- The most thorough summary of Chomsky’s linguistics.

‘Chomsky on the Nod’ - Bob Black
- A harsh critique of Chomsky by the polemical anarchist author.

‘Language, Mind and Society’ - Brian Bamford
- Did Chomsky have this issue of the anarchist journal, The Raven, banned? Decide for yourself.

‘The Interpreter’ - John Colapinto
- An useful journalistic introduction to the most recent controversies in the ‘language wars’.

‘There is No Language Instinct’ - Yvyvan Evans
- A clear description of what some linguists believe is wrong with Chomskyan linguistics. (Evans’ recent book, The Language Myth, goes into more detail.)

Decoding Chomsky - science and revolutionary politics - Chris Knight
- This book explores the tension between Chomsky's Pentagon funding and his role as linchpin of the political left and the way that tension led him to establish a radical disconnect between science on the one hand and politics on the other.

It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state."
Noam Chomsky