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Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor emeritus and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific community as the father of modern linguistics. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident, an anarchist, and a libertarian socialist intellectual. He also established the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. His 1959 review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior challenged the behaviorist approaches to studies of behavior and language dominant at the time and contributed to the cognitive revolution in psychology. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has affected the philosophy of language and mind.[11] Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of US foreign and domestic policy. He is a self-declared adherent of libertarian socialism which he regards as "the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."[12] According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar during the 1980Ė92 period, and was the eighth most-cited source. At the same time, his status as a leading critic of American politics has made him a controversial figure.

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- by Kajal Mukhopadhyay


Urhalpool: In Kolkata, it has been increasingly seen that the Big in every sphere is marginalizing the Little. Media and culture are no different. Locals are dying and big money is producing only saleable culture for the market. Do you think this trend is another menace, a particular breed of globalization thrown at the Third World?


Noam Chomsky: Itís a consequence of a particular version of globalization. The term globalization is a propaganda termóitís not a descriptive term.  There is a technical meaning of the term globalization.  It means international integration. The main proponents of integration in the world are the people who meet at the World Social Forum every year, whether itís Mumbai or [Nairobi]. These are people from all over the world, from every walk of life. 

They want cultural integration and economic integration and so on, and theyíre called anti-globalization. Why? Because theyíre in favor of globalization in the interest of the public. Now technically the way the word is used in the media and so on, globalization means international economic integration in the interests of investors and lenders. Not the public. The public are incidental. So thereís the technical meaning of globalization, and thereís a literal meaning, and the two are totally different. Itís kind of like terror. Actual globalization, like what people were talking about at the Mumbai World Social Forum, is not what theyíre talking about in SwitzerlandÖ


You see it in the World Trade Organization in the rules and regulations.  Theyíre not for the benefitówhat happens to people is incidental.  Maybe theyíll be helped, maybe theyíll be harmed, itís just not a concern.  Theyíre designed to protect the interests of the investors. For one thing, theyíre highly protectionist. They protect monopoly pricing rights. So, for example, pharmaceutical corporations have enormous protection way beyond any historical patent rights, so they have monopoly pricing rights. They make huge profits. It has nothing to do with liberalization.  Itís the exact opposite. Much of the World Trade Organization has nothing to do with trade. So for example, itís granting whatís called national treatment.  General Motors invest in Mexico; they have to be treated like a Mexican company.  Itís the liberalization of trade, and that has to do with granting multi-nationals the right to rule the world.  Notice that General Motors has the rights that people donít have.  Like if a Mexican comes to the United States, say New York, and asks for national treatment, heíll be lucky if he doesnít end up in Guantanamo. But for corporations, yes, they have to have rights beyond the rights of persons. In fact, much of it hasnít had anything to do with trade at all.  It takes a General Motors. And a large part of whatís called trade is internal to corporations. So if General Motors produces parts in Indiana, in the United States, sends them to Mexico for assembly, sends them back to Los Angeles to sell as cars, thatís called trade in both directions. Itís interactions within a command economy. Itís, say, the old Soviet Union. If they produced cars in parts of Leningrad and sent them to Poland to be assembled, sold them in Moscow across the borders, that we would call trade. However, when itís ourselves, a doctorate requires that we call it trade. Thatís not a small percentage of trade. Itís probably one half or something like that. Thatís globalization. Itís a set of devices in the interests of the people who design the system.


Not surprisingly the systemís designed by small groups of multi-national corporations from a few powerful states which they largely dominate and, naturally, itís mostly in secret. Others have to sign it pretty much at the point of a gun. If you donít sign it, you get cut out of the big markets. And thatís whatís called globalization.  I mean, if some Martian were looking at this, heíd collapse in ridicule. 


You know, this globalization is, say, the international peasants movementÖ alongside the World Social Forum, which brings together peasants and farmers from all over the world, the large majority of the worldís population. They interchange seeds, they work on accounting programs, they try to deal with problems like, say, the rising rate of suicide in India and so on. Thatís globalization, but thatís called anti-globalization.  So when you ask what the effect of globalization is, you have to ask which globalization do you meanóthe real one or the doctoral one? 


Now the only one weíre allowed to think about is the doctoral one, and itís entirely natural that that kind of naturalization [happens] since itís designed in the interests of the rich and the powerful, and the investorsÖ [will share] in their interests. What happens to the rest of the world is essentially a matter of indifference.  Maybe some people are helped and some people are harmed, but itís irrelevant to policy. We can look into just what happened to people, and itís complicated but one thing thatís very clear is that so far as globalization has been enacted (the Neo-liberal programs), itís been quite harmful. And the evidence on that is just overwhelming. International economic affairs are a complicated matter. A lot of variables, but itís surprisingly clear on this issue. So, overall the countries that followed the Neo-liberal rules most rigorously suffered badly, Latin America and southern Africa particularly. They really followed the Neo-liberal rules and, you know, stagnated or declined. Very sharp decline in their growth rates in their earlier years.


The countries that ignored the Neo-liberal rules did quite well, the East Asian tigers, for example. Pretty much disregard China, disregard it, and, you know, big growth rates and so on. This is kind of fudged and obscured in the literature by an interesting device, muddling two entirely different things: Neo-liberalism and export orientation, which have nothing to do with each other. So China violated the Neo-liberal rules but was export-orientated, and it grew so that it enabled commentators to say that if a billion Chinese underwent rapid growth by violating the Neo-liberal rules that justifies Neo-liberalism because they were export-orientated.  The intellectualism of this shoddy discourse is kind of overwhelming, but thatís what you read. So the verdict on that is reasonably clear. In fact, you can see it right in the United States.


The powerful states like the United States do not subject themselves to anything like Neo-liberal rules. The US economy, for example, is very heavily reliant on the state sector and the dynamic sector of the economy. You can see it right where we are.  This institution, MIT, is technically private but thrives on public funds, and the funds pour in under the cover of the Pentagon or whatever. So the people here will create the economy of the future. Thatís why you have this technology. Thatís why you have the internet and computers and so on: to develop here in places like this at public expense and later in the case of computers and internetóthirty years later approximatelyóitís handed over to private corporations. Thatís called entrepreneurial initiative and a free market.  Actually itís state based. Nevertheless, to some extent, Neo-liberal principles have been applied in the United States since the late 1970s.  And the results are quite clear to be expected from economic history or elsewhere in the world, but for the majority of the population, itís probably been the worst period of American economic history. No big depressions, no wars, nothing like that, but real wages have stagnated or declined for the majority for about thirty years.  Working hours have gone way up; benefits have declined. Itís exactly what economic history tells you. In fact, thatís how the Third World developed.


You go back to the eighteenth century, and there wasnít much difference between the First and the Third Worlds. In fact, India, in a way, was more advanced than England.  England had to steal Indian technology and force India to accept inferiorityóEnglish goods and so on.  But they had force and they could do it.  What about the Neo-liberal principles pretty much applied in the colonies, and they became the Third WorldÖ  England finally turned to free trade in 1846. But that was after about two hundred years of heavy state intervention in the economy and crushing competitors: Ireland, India, the Low Countries and so on. Then England was so far ahead of any other country they were willing to accept some kind of free trade. But even that was very carefully qualified. So India was kept as a captive market.  And England developed the biggest narco-trafficking and enterprise in world history. In fact a lot of India was conquered for that purpose: so they could gain an opium monopoly and break into China by a gun vote and force themselves into the Chinese market, but the Chinese didnít want their goods. Thought they werenít good enough. Thatís a period of Liberalism. Thatís the same with the United States.


The United States was a very highly protectionist country of the highest protection in the industrial world in the nineteenth century and also the highest growth rate. It finally, around 1950, was willing to accept free trade (so-called).  But then at that point, it had about half the wealth of the world.  Nobody was going to compete, so, fine, weíre going to compete. Nevertheless, as I say, they also hedged their bets so that the high-tech economyóthe advanced economyóthat relies on the state sector.  And if you even look at the details, it takes a Reaganóa lot of rhetoric about markets. He was the most protectionist president in post-war history. He doubled entry barriers to the US market in order to save collapsing American manufacturing from the Japanese challenge.  Which is what England did in the 1920s. They couldnít compete with Japanese production, so they just closed off the empire. Good-bye free trade. Itís fine as long as you win. If you donít win, Iím sorry, we donít play that game anymore. The Third World had to play the game, because they had it rammed down their throats. Thatís the primary lesson of economic historyÖ  everything is more complicated. But these are powerful themes.



The previous installments of this interview appeared in our November 2008 and May 2009 issues.  To read Parts 1 and 2, please go to: