What is Noam Chomsky’s book ‘Who Rules the World?’ about? Read the book review and summary of Chomsky’s book on GreatBooks&Coffee !
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Book Review & Summary:
‘Who Rules the World?’ – Noam Chomsky.
‘Who Rules the World?’ is a book worth reading if you are interested in contemporary and current global politics, with an emphasis on United States influence-making. While reading the book may prove complex at times, Noam Chomsky is known for his very strict positions on the matter and is therefore a voice that needs to be heard, whether we agree with him or not. I’m a 30-something Ph.D, GreatBooks&Coffee is my books blog, and here is my book review.
I didn’t really think about reading Noam Chomsky’s ‘Who Rules The World?‘ book before I bumped into it.
I was told that the author was brilliant but I also knew about his controversial reputation so I never tried my luck with him.
But that day I spent a couple of hours at one of my friends’ place and saw the book, forgotten in a corner of the room under a pile of newspapers.
I asked his opinion about it, but he answered that he had barely started it. He had bought the book for his girlfriend who didn’t get hooked into it, and he ended up giving up on it too. So I borrowed it.
They didn’t enjoy the book, and to be strictly honest I also had a hard time reading it fully because the writing and the book’s structure go against my definition of a good and clear argumentation (I’ll explain why in the book review below).
Still, having read it in full, my opinion is that the book is worth knowing about because it provides some of the most extreme arguments in the U.S. foreign policy debate.
In case you wondered, Noam Chomsky is a Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has been described as “the world’s greatest public intellectual” by the press.
Originally an expert in linguistics, he has written on a wide range of topics including war, media and politics. As just noted, he is known for his often extreme political and ideological positions, for a media critic and for a political opponent to what he has long been calling – since the Vietnam war – American imperialism.
As described on a famous online encyclopedia, Chomsky “remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neo-liberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media”.
What you get in this book review:
- An introduction to Noam Chomsky’s book ‘Who Rules the World?’
- A book review which includes in-depth comments on the main themes, questions and conclusions.
- Insights to help you put the book in context.
- My take on the book and why it could be worth your time and money!
A brief book review, for starters…
‘Who Rules the World?’ in its paperback version is a 260-page book (excluding footnotes, which come on top of that at the end of the book) relevant to those of us interested in getting a bigger picture on international politics and in having some very critical insights on United States diplomacy.
The book discusses what Noam Chomsky calls “outrages”, that is, events and policies that have taken place in the international community over the past decades, with a particular emphasis on United States manipulations.
While reading the book proves complex at times, Noam Chomsky is known for his very strict positions on the matter and is therefore a voice that needs to be heard, whether we agree with him or not.
The style is probably the major weakness of the book. While some convinced commentators have described the book as a compilation of “meticulously researched chapters” and have noted that the author’s “political writings are written in a clear, direct and highly accessible style”, in my own opinion (and my Ph.D got me into reading quite a pile of books) accessibility and clarity are not obvious here.
In fact, the way the argument is constructed makes it very repetitive and hard to follow. It is sometimes difficult to see where the author is going and to understand what point he is trying to make. In some chapters starting with the last paragraphs can even prove helpful in getting the whole idea of what the author is talking about…
Now. How about a more comprehensive book review?
Now, let’s dig into Chomsky’s ideas.
‘Who Rules the World?’ is divided into 23 chapters but one is forced to note that the book does not discuss twenty-three topics. Far from that!
In fact, Chomsky mainly deals with seven major issues which tend to be redundant throughout the book (the influence and the fall of the United States, the Israel – Palestine conflict, terrorism, the corruption of modern societies by corporate interests, etc.). Chomsky discusses the responsibility of intellectuals and condemns their tendency not to stand for change, discusses terrorism and pictures the United States as the main terrorist state in yesterday’s and today’s world.
He also condemns the corruption of democratic systems by financialization. As most readers would expect, in addition, Chomsky studies and comments on the decline of the United States, takes a very critical stand over the US, Israel and Palestine triangle and considers the many challenges ahead. A major theme throughout, finally, fits in a single word: outrages.
As usual on my GreatBooks&Coffee book reviews, I will only look at the first theme here but for more insights on the other themes please have a look at my book summary of Noam Chomsky’s ‘Who Rules the World?’ – which you can get for just $3,99 with your 20% member discount! Isn’t that beautiful?
The first main theme of Noam Chomsky’s ‘Who Rules the World?’ book deals with the role and influence of intellectuals in yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s worlds.
To Chomsky, the term “intellectuals” describes various types of people. One type of intellectuals includes “the ridiculous eccentrics” described as “value-oriented “people who represent a threat to the established order because of their taste for challenging authority. Another type of intellectuals, in contrast, rather refers to ”the principal architects” of government policy. Or, as Chomsky notes, to those Adam Smith use to call “the masters of mankind” who want all for themselves and do not govern in the interest of the people.
So, Chomsky asks, what is the responsibility of intellectuals? Does their contribution mainly lay in the realm of morality or do they have practical roles too? Should intellectuals play a role as dissidents capable of advancing causes such as freedom justice or peace? Should they just move forward? For instance, was Nelson Mandela a visionary or a terrorist? In a related way, was the decision to declare a war on terrorism and invade Irak or Afghanistan after 9/11 serving the interests of freedom and peace?
Chomsky’s point here is that we tend to forget that intellectuals have a privilege: their inputs can guide decision-making processes. Hence this privilege also creates a responsibility to act for the greater good. In reality, however, things do not work this way and the ones that defend values over conformism appear to be left unconsidered at best, “punished” and classified as terrorists at worst.
Despite style-related criticisms, ‘Who Rules the World?’ is one of those books that contribute to the past and present literature (and debate in general) by criticizing the existing model in a direct, frontal and abrupt manner.
Noam Chomsky talks about a variety of outrages here, starting with the tendency of the United States to act in their own interest and in an imperial manner all over the world, from Cuba to Israel.
He also elaborates largely on the issue of terrorism which, even though it is usually seen in terms of civilians attacking civilians, also has intellectual and governmental dimensions.
As noted previously, Chomsky notes that thinkers and activists with alternative opinions are often pointed at as terrorists which therefore limits the ability of intellectuals to do their work, think, write and argue.
From a governmental perspective, Chomsky talks about how countries such as the United States or Israel have over time been involved in using terror, torture and illegal violence to achieve their goals and agendas. Hence, in his opinion, the United States is the largest terrorist country and the most significant danger to peace and security.
The book furthermore asks interesting questions as to what the future of the United States is. Unsurprisingly, it also contributes to the general debate on financialization, which in Chomsky’s opinion has led to crises and to corrupting democratic governments. When asking “who rules the world?”, in other words, financial institutions and corporations are clearly a good place to start from.
To wrap up, Chomsky is known for his very clear-cut opinions on a variety of United States-related topics (American imperialism, in short), which means that the book provides one openly polemical perspective towards global politics that significantly confronts the liberal School of Thought in which the current society tends to evolve.
The main contribution of the book, therefore, remains its ability to question the status quo, to question the established order, and to make readers wonder whether, at the end of the day, something goes wrong in the current system.
Some readers will agree with Chomsky, others won’t, that’s for sure. Still, the book contributes to the discussion and provides an aspect of debates that cannot be ignored. It is worth looking at for this very reason.
Just in case, if you’re interested in U.S. politics, you might also want to take a look at my book review of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book “What Happened”. The context is very different for sure as that book is about Hillary Clinton’s perspective on the 2016 Presidential Elections, but hey, why not?
That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! The next step for you is to move on and learn something!
As always, I hope you enjoyed this book review! Please let me know what you think with the comment box down the page, especially if you read the book, if you feel like buying it, or if you read my summary!
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