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Friday, December 14, 2007

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Gabriel Matthew Schivone

On Responsibility, War Guilt and Intellectuals

GMS: Addressing a community of mostly students during a public forum at the steps of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1969, you expressed: “This particular community is a very relevant one to consider at a place like MIT because, of course, you’re all free to enter this community—in fact, you’re invited and encouraged to enter it. The community of technical intelligentsia, and weapons designers, and counterinsurgency experts, and pragmatic planners of an American empire is one that you have a great deal of inducement to become associated with. The inducements, in fact, are very real; their rewards in power, and affluence, and prestige and authority are quite significant.” Let’s start off talking about the significance of these inducements, on both a university and societal level. How crucial is it, in your view, that students particularly consider and understand this, as you describe, highly technocratic social order of the academic community and its function in society, that is, comparably to the more directly associated professional scholarship considering it?

CHOMSKY: How important it is, to an individual, depends on what that individual’s goals in life are. If the goals are to enrich yourself, gain privilege, do technically interesting work—in brief, if the goals are self-satisfaction—then these questions are of no particular relevance. If you care about the consequences of your actions, what’s happening in the world, what the future will be like for your grandchildren and so on, then they’re very crucial. So, it’s a question of what choices people make.

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