Opinion | Noam Chomsky’s Theory of the Good Life

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

How do you introduce Noam Chomsky? Perhaps you start here: In 1979, The New York Times called him “arguably the most important intellectual alive today.” More than 40 years later, Chomsky, at 92, is still putting his dent in the world — writing books, giving interviews, changing minds.

There are different sides to Chomsky. He’s a world-renowned linguist who revolutionized his field. He’s a political theorist who’s been a sharp critic of American foreign policy for decades. He’s an anarchist who believes in a radically different way of ordering society. He’s a pragmatist who pushed leftists to vote for Joe Biden in 2020 and has described himself as having a “rather conservative attitude towards social change.” He is, very much, himself.

The problem in planning a conversation with Chomsky is how to get at all these different sides. So this one covers a lot of ground. We discuss:

Why Chomsky is an anarchist, and how he defines anarchism

How his work on language informs his idea of what human beings want

The role of advertising in capitalism

Whether we should understand job contracts as the free market at work or a form of constant coercion

How Chomsky’s ideal vision of society differs from Nordic social democracy

How Chomsky’s class-based theory of politics holds up in an era where college-educated suburbanites are moving left on economics

Chomsky’s view of the climate crisis and why he thinks the “degrowth” movement is misguided

Whether job automation could actually be a good thing for human flourishing

Chomsky’s views on US-China policy, and why he doesn’t think China is a major geopolitical threat

The likelihood of nuclear war in the next decade

And much more.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday.)

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Roge Karma and Jeff Geld; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld.

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