A multidisciplinary thinker, committed and critical of the system. This is how we can define Noam Chomsky (United States, 1928) , a veteran psycholinguist and political activist who is one of the most applauded figures of contemporary thought.

  • Here you can read Noam Chomsky’s biography

Chomsky, born in East Oak Lane, Pennsylvania, has directed his academic career along several lines. Perhaps the best known are his facets as a researcher and psycholinguist, as well as his fierce political activism as an advocate of anarcho-syndicalism.

As an academic, he formulated his theory of language development. As an activist, he published (and continues to publish) valuable works in which he analyzes the impact of U.S. imperialism on international geopolitics, as well as being one of the most renowned analysts of discourse.

Noam Chomsky’s phrases for understanding his political thought

This versatility in the themes that Chomsky has addressed has aroused admiration and suspicion in equal parts . He is criticized for his permanent disagreement with American foreign policy. However, few people question that Noam Chomsky is one of the most brilliant and prolific thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In this article we will know his best phrases and famous quotes.

1. Case after case, we see that conformity is the easy way, and the way to privilege and prestige; dissidence, however, brings personal costs.

His political activism has brought him strong detractors.

2. The people honored in the Bible were the false prophets. Those whom we call the prophets were the ones who were imprisoned and sent into the wilderness.

A reflection by Noam Chomsky on one of the fundamental pillars on which the Catholic Church bases its doctrine.

3. If you assume that there is no hope, then you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, then there are opportunities to change things.

A phrase by Chomsky that reminds us of the great Eduardo Galeano.

4. People pay for their own subordination.

Accepting a precarious job or paying thousands of euros for a postgraduate degree are signs of living in a society of grateful slaves.

5. The basic idea that runs through modern history and modern liberalism is that the public must be marginalized. The general public is seen as nothing more than ignorant outsiders who interfere, like disoriented cattle.

Western democracy suffers from a real sense of handing over decision making power to the people.

6. When you get a chance to look at the file they keep on you at the FBI, that’s when you discover that intelligence agencies in general are extremely incompetent.

Apparently, Chomsky had access to his own secret report and found what he saw quite ridiculous.

7. The intellectual tradition is one of subservience to power, and if I did not betray it I would be ashamed of myself.

Ethics in the academic world are not usually very present, as Chomsky notes.

8. Freedom without opportunity is a demon gift, and refusing to give those opportunities is criminal.

An indirect criticism of economic liberalism.

9. Who are the guardians of history? The historians, naturally. The educated classes, in general. Part of their work is to shape our view of the past in a way that supports the interests of the present power. If they don’t do that, they will probably be marginalized in one way or another.

Another reflection on power relations in today’s society.

10. We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.

Ideas and creativity over individualism and personalism.

11. What financial capital basically wants is stable currency, not growth.

A thought that challenges the financial system.

12. Companies are simply as totalitarian as Bolshevism or Fascism. They have the same intellectual roots as at the beginning of the 20th century. That is why, just as other forms of totalitarianism had to disappear, so must private tyrannies. They have to be brought under public control.

The days of the private enterprise and its vertical hierarchy are numbered, according to the reflection of the thinker and activist.

13. The principles are clear and explicit. The free market is good for the third world and its growing counterpart in our country. Mothers with dependent children can be taught firmly about the need for self-sufficiency, but not executives and dependent investors, please. For them, the welfare state must flourish.

Another famous quote by Chomsky that reviews the status quo in contemporary capitalism.

14. Sports play a societal role in the procreation of patriotic and chauvinistic attitudes. They are intended to organize a community that is committed to its gladiators.

The hooligan phenomenon can be a powerful weapon of the neoliberal system.

15. If we do not believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we do not believe in it at all.

Is there a limit to freedom of expression?

16. Propaganda is to a democracy what coercion is to a totalitarian state.

A parallelism that can make us reflect on the supposedly free society in which we live.

17. If you don’t develop a constant and living democratic culture, capable of involving the candidates, they are not going to do the things you voted for them to do. Pushing a button and then going home is not going to change things.

Another reflection on politics and democratic culture.

18. Rights are not granted, they are conquered.

Democracy was not delivered by the dictatorship’s guarantors.

19. Part of the reason why capitalism seems to be successful is that it has always had a lot of slave labour, half the population. What women do – outside the world of work – doesn’t count for anything.

Feminism and social criticism, two key elements in Noam Chomsky’s work.

20. Criticism of “democracy” among anarchists has often been criticism of parliamentary democracy as it has emerged in societies with deeply repressive features.

Anarchism and its view of public life.

21. You cannot have a functioning democracy without what sociologists call “secondary organizations”, places where people can meet, plan, talk and develop ideas.

Meeting places for the people are essential to bring about change on a large scale.

22. The purpose of the mass media… is not so much to inform and report what is going on, but rather to shape public opinion according to the agendas of the dominant corporate power.

The media and its disastrous influence on the opinions of the uninformed population.

23. Who are the guardians of history?

A rhetorical phrase referring to the ruling classes.

24. The United States is unusual among industrial democracies in terms of the rigidity of the system of ideological control, indoctrination, we might say, exercised through the mass media.

Another thought that delves into the manipulation exercised by the mass media.

Famous quotes on education and learning

Since Chomsky developed much of his intellectual career as a psycholinguist and educational philosopher , it is also interesting to echo several of his phrases and quotes dealing with this subject.

25. The purpose of education is to show people how to learn for themselves. The other concept of education is indoctrination.

A clear sentence that tells us what the way forward in education should be.

26. Education has a value in itself, regardless of its economic impact on society.

A reflection against the excessive economism with which the educational system is currently organized.

27. Do we want to have a society of free, creative and independent individuals, able to appreciate and learn from and contribute to the cultural achievements of the past, or do we want people who will increase the GDP? It is not necessarily the same.

Same line as above.

28. If you don’t know what you are looking for, if you have no idea what is relevant, willing to question this idea, if you don’t have that, exploring on the internet is just taking random unverifiable facts that mean nothing.

The Internet can be very useful, but we must have enough criteria to know where to surf.

29. The Internet is like any other technology, basically neutral, you can use it in constructive or harmful ways. The constructive ways are real, but very few.

A famous quotation that, like the previous one, questions the use we make of the network of networks.

30. In the common problems of human life, science tells us very little, and scientists, as people, are certainly no guide. In fact, they are often the worst guides, as they often tend to concentrate, like a laser, on their own professional interests, and know very little about the world.

An essential difference between the scientist and the freethinker.

31. Science is an exploration of very difficult questions. Without disparaging the theory of evolution, that is a tremendous intellectual advance, but it tells you nothing about whether or not there is what people believe when they talk about God. It doesn’t even talk about that subject.

Religion is another subject of study for the Jewish intellectual.