Monday, September 9, 2013

Chomsky--Foucault: On Human Nature

70m, around 1970
A very young Chomsky takes on the eldering (and balded) Foucault. The Vietnam war was going on when the depicted dialog took place. Chomsky's thinking, arrived at from the route of his epochal linguistic studies, resonates with the likes of Jung, in recognizing a mysterious (at least unknown) underlying sea of possibilities. Starting from every child's ability to arrive in a short time to a grammatically integrated linguistic ability to the achievements of the likes of Newton, Chomsky envisions, through the telescope of his own mind, a startling vastness that is each individuals endowment. There is a universal human nature, he says, alongside the undeniable individualization. From here he takes a giant leap (virtually abandoning the tool of science, finding it too blunt for the matters of greatest urgency) which lands him into his chosen field of social and political activism, exposing himself to considerable personal danger. Before anything, he is a humanist. Deeply ingrained in Chomsky's intellect is a concept of justice, which he has made his life's work. It is indeed a rare pleasure to hear the young Chomsky discourse so effortlessly and the sparks flying in all directions.
Full Video


Pankaj said...

I really liked this discussion as well, though I was also mildly in agreement with Foucault - the need for a vigorous criticism of current institutions so that the underlying power structures are not reconstituted. For him all institutions - psychiatry, the prison system, education and even justice were based on this power structure (Chomsky didn't at all agree with the last).

S. M. Rana said...

Since there is lots of other stuff, I'm not likely to re--view this. But Foucault struck me a a somewhat rabid Marxist, with a strait-jacketed thinking, whereas Chomsky is too brilliant to be bogged down by ambiguities. Someone asks Chomsky how he can reconcile with MIT, a major contributor to weapons research (their Radiation Lab developed Radar during WW2), and he rightly retorts that MIT, like the US, embraces contradictions, and MIT, is able to support an establishment critic like Chomsky.