Noam Chomsky: The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What’s Wrong with Libertarians

I would hope that by now everyone realizes that within the pan-anarchist paradigm favored by ATS there is room for Chomskyites and Rothbardians alike.

Noam Chomsky is interviewed by Michael Wilson.


he following is the adapted text of an interview that first appeared in Modern Success magazine.

So many things have been written about, and discussed by, Professor Chomsky, it was a challenge to think of anything new to ask him:  like the grandparent you can’t think of what to get for Christmas because they already have everything.

So I chose to be a bit selfish and ask him what I’ve always wanted to ask him.  As an out-spoken, actual, live-and-breathing anarchist, I wanted to know how he could align himself with such a controversial and marginal position.

Michael S. Wilson: You are, among many other things, a self-described anarchist — an anarcho-syndicalist, specifically.  Most people think of anarchists as disenfranchised punks throwing rocks at store windows, or masked men tossing ball-shaped bombs at fat industrialists.  Is this an accurate view?  What is anarchy to you?

Noam Chomsky: Well, anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics.  Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.

It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification.  And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.  And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency.  It takes different forms at different times.
Anarcho-syndicalism is a particular variety of anarchism which was concerned primarily, though not solely, but primarily with control over work, over the work place, over production.  It took for granted that working people ought to control their own work, its conditions, [that] they ought to control the enterprises in which they work, along with communities, so they should be associated with one another in free associations, and … democracy of that kind should be the foundational elements of a more general free society.

Leave a Reply