Saturday, November 13, 2004
And one induced by this piece by one Stefan Kanfer on Chomsky. Needless to say I don't agree with the thrust of the article. It however raised some thoughts with me on arguably the most widely-known leftist intellectual.
I am a bit biased against Chomsky because of his linguistics. That does not mean his linguistics are bad - however, the Chomskyan syntax-centered "paradigm" of linguistics had a tendency in the 1960s and 1970s to overshadow all other areas of linguistics. However, when Chomsky is criticizing the US for its invasion of Hawai'i, mentioning that "Hawai'ians voted to become the fiftieth state" in the 1950s as Stefan Kanfer does is a, well, astonishingly weak defence.
The problem with Chomsky, if any, is probably that he thinks and speaks like a Vulcan. That's why his criticisms on the U.S. right after 9/11 sounded so terribly flat. They were also, in broad lines, correct. In his log (see sidebar) Ken MacLeod recently remarked that socialists (and I know Chomsky is an anarchist) should "Read Gramsci, but talk like Debs". Chomsky, however, writes and talks like Mr. Spock.
However, there's one reason why I respect the man. Chomsky may be an academic, and a leftist, but he's always stayed clear from "academic leftism" in as far as the latter means a concern with pseudo-radical postmodernist "deconstruction" of the world, rather than an actual analysis of it.