Sunday, April 09, 2006

Chomsky


Chomsky
Originally uploaded by himbly.
I am very familiar with Chomsky's theories...

...on language, that is.

I am not quite as familiar with Chomsky's social views.

This gets me in trouble.

For the last few weeks, I've been involved in a debate over Chomsky and his alleged 'hypocrisy' involving my friend Bumf, and his partial posting of this guy's article that ended up in the Western Standard. Well, these guys might not know I've been involved in this debate, but I assure you, students in the linguistics department at the UofC do.

W.G.'s argument was that Chomsky is a hypocrite because he believes language is an innate feature of the human mind...and he's left wing.

I'm not going to get into all that right now. You can read it in my post before this, if you want. I did eventually comment to W.G. and I hope he responds.

But this whole thing has been haunting me.

Now...this being the case, I did a little research. I intend to do more because I think starting my M.A. in linguistics in the fall would warrent I do a little research into philosophy beyond language acquisition...but as I do research into Chomsky's politics, I'm finding something interesting.

Now...as a woman studying linguistics, believe me...I know Chomsky can be a difficult read. Hell, I've attended a speaking engagement here in Calgary a few years ago and didn't understand a word (the acoustics were terrible). But I've seen Manufacturing Consent. My boyfriend reads Chomsky regularly. I'm not entirely blind to his politics. And I've done some additional research.

So..what I found was interesting. Frankly, I don't think anyone who argues against Chomsky has read/listend to him, either. They've certainly read/listened to each other...but not necessarily him.

They describe him as a socialist. And hate him for it. Well...my own politics aside..from what I understand, he's not. He's an anarchist (with a socialist bend). Look:

CHOMSKY: The introduction to Guerin's book that you mentioned opens with a quote from an anarchist sympathiser a century ago, who says that anarchism has a broad back, and endures anything. One major element has been what has traditionally been called 'libertarian socialism'. I've tried to explain there and elsewhere what I mean by that, stressing that it's hardly original; I'm taking the ideas from leading figures in the anarchist movement whom I quote, and who rather consistently describe themselves as socialists, while harshly condemning the 'new class' of radical intellectuals who seek to attain state power in the course of popular struggle and to become the vicious Red bureaucracy of which Bakunin warned; what's often called 'socialism'. I rather agree with Rudolf Rocker's perception that these (quite central) tendencies in anarchism draw from the best of Enlightenment and classical liberal thought, well beyond what he described. In fact, as I've tried to show they contrast sharply with Marxist-Leninist doctrine and practice, the 'libertarian' doctrines that are fashionable in the US and UK particularly, and other contemporary ideologies, all of which seem to me to reduce to advocacy of one or another form of illegitimate authority, quite often real tyranny."

So, when I read "...because he argues that our sociability is also natural, and therefore in a better world without capitalists, etc, we would all be loving socialists like him." I wonder where that came from.

From what I understand, and I do intend to get more familiar with it this summer when I have time, what he's against is extreme forms of politics...because they end up needing some sort of oppression in order to keep themselves going. That's his problem with capitalism, that an unusual amount of power has been given to "the corporation".

And actually...that's what I thought he was all about the whole time.

3 comments:

Ian Scott said...

I have not read Chomsky, but I'd like to - he seems (to me) to be an interesting character.

I have read bits and pieces here and there; some I have agreed with, others I'm not sure exactly where he was coming from.

As an anarchist myself, I have "issues" with capitalism today - in regard to corporations. Corporations have special status above and beyond what individuals have. They are granted "status" of sorts, of their own entity, by government. Historically, this was granted in many instances in order to also grant a monopoly. Which of course, is very "un-capitalist."

Linguistics is interesting - another subject I don't know about, but on some basic approaches, I have very strong disagreements with some concepts that are taught.

To me, words are one thing, and one thing alone: A manner to communicate ideas.

Some claim people think in words. After having four sons, this is absolute nonsense to me. If this were true, non of my sons ever really "thought" before having a vocabulary.

By the way, thanks for your comment on my blog. I'll keep visiting here :)

Himbly said...

Hi Ian!

Always great to have someone visit. It gets lonely in Himblytown.

I would suggest following some of the links I've posted, if you're interested. That William Gairdner post I am refering to is called More on Chomsky, Nativism, and Politics and was written March 30. He's wrong. Ha! At least in my opinion. He's misinterpreted Chomsky on both the linguistic level and the social level, but this seems to be the way the kids at the Western Standard blog like to think of N.C.

I'm actually thinking of writing a long post on basic linguistic theory after my papers and assignments are through. If you like, I can alert you over at your blog when (if) I do.

With which parts do you disagree? I understand from your post about your son that he is dealing with a language impediment? Do your problems with some linguistic theories come from that?

Ian Scott said...

"I'm actually thinking of writing a long post on basic linguistic theory after my papers and assignments are through. If you like, I can alert you over at your blog when (if) I do."

Please do!

"With which parts do you disagree? I understand from your post about your son that he is dealing with a language impediment? Do your problems with some linguistic theories come from that?"

One of my sons had a speech impediment. He found it difficult, especially when he was younger, to communicate his thoughts. I'm not sure that my theories come from that experience, exactly, but rather, a "wholistic" approach to attempting to understand human behaviour in response to words. It seems to me that most people are "irrational" when it comes to words - one story, I have no idea if it is true or not, really got me started on thinking about this. The story goes that there was an elderly woman walking up Yonge Street, in Toronto, and there were two men behind her. The elderly women kept hearing "fuck" over and over again, and "felt" offended by this language by the two men.

After awhile, she decided to be courageous, and give them "shit" for using such profane language. Turns out the two men were German tourists, talking in German, and not saying "fuck" at all.. but it was her projections upon what she heard that caused her own offence.

Once she realized they were speaking in German, her "offence" to the sounds she heard, disappeared.

In a previous lifetime, heh, I used to be required to investigate certain things. Sometimes, I'd have a partner with me. Eventually, I found it humorous to walk into a lobby, with about 15 drug dealers, all of whom were calling us "blood clot faggots," and watch my partner take their "words" personally. I mean.. in 3 hours, we'd be off duty, and getting on with own lives.. who the hell cared what a bunch of drug dealers "called" us? Even if we WERE fags?

So I'd play games.. talk to them, figure out who was what in the group, and end up saying something like, "yeah man, you do got a cute ass" to one of the ones calling me a "faggot."

Worked wonders. Cuz.. it was the LAST thing he expected me to say. Caught them off guard :)

and then, after it was all dealt with, my partner would ask, "How could you SAY such a thing? Are you gay?? Did you like his ass??"

People don't think in words - they think with their own patterns in their own minds. Words are simply a means of communication. And one can communicate a number of ideas, with the same words.

I'm not sure if I'm making sense - or answering your question. It's far too late, and I need some sleep.

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