biblio-excerptise:   a book unexamined is not worth having

Understanding Power

Noam Chomsky

Chomsky, Noam;

Understanding Power

Penguin Books India 2003

ISBN 0143029916

topics: |  politics | philosophy

Culled from lectures and conversations spanning a ten-year period
(1989-1999), Understanding Power [uses a] question-and-answer format. Chomsky
holds forth on all manner of topics, from American imperialism and human
nature to the politics of dissent and the terminal condition of unmoderated
capitalism. Chomsky's polemic is rigorous and accessible, typically lucid,
exhaustively researched and often darkly comic.

on the shortcomings of the free market catechism: "You can't make driving a car
survivable by driving well yourself; there has to be some kind of social
contract involved, otherwise it won't work. If there was no social contract
involved in driving –if everybody was going as fast as they can and
forgetting all the traffic lights and everything else- you couldn't make that
situation safe just by driving well yourself. The trouble is, that's the way
capitalism works. The nature of the system is that it's supposed to be driven
by greed; no-one's supposed to be concerned for anybody else, nobody's
supposed to worry about the common good -those are not the things that are
supposed to motivate you, that's the principle of the system. The theory is
that private vices lead to public benefits -that's what they teach you in
economics departments. It's all total bullshit, of course, but that's what
they teach you...”

Another throwaway nugget strips away the ostensible neutrality of such terms
as ‘capital flow’ and ‘market confidence’ to reveal the implicit threat so
often hidden behind their use: “Suppose Massachusetts were to increase
business taxes. Most of the population is in favour of it, but you can
predict what would happen. Business would run a public relations campaign
saying: ‘You raise taxes on business, you soak the rich, and you'll find that
capital is going to flow elsewhere, and you're not going to have any jobs,
and you're not going to have anything.’ That's not the way they'd put it
exactly, but that's what it would amount to: ‘Unless you make us happy you're
not going to have anything, because we own the place; you live here, but we
own the place…’ ‘It's going to hurt jobs, it's going to hurt investment,
there's going to be a loss of business confidence’, and so on. That's just a
complicated way of saying, unless you keep business happy, the population
isn't going to have anything..."

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at] 17 Feb 2009