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Chomsky @ The Beach

Published: May 2, 2016

Noam Chomsky at the Beach poster

Noam Chomsky–an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, logician, social critic and political activist–will visit CSULB live via Skype on Tuesday, May 10. The presentation will be held from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center, F03-02, where Chomsky will talk from his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The event is free and open to the public.

The event, organized by Department of Sociology associate professor Jake Wilson, is expected to have Chomsky discuss Israel as an apartheid state, the corporate assault on public higher education, U.S. hegemony and militarism, and plutocratic values and corruption inherent in the U.S. political system, among other topics.

“The MAPS program is honored to welcome Professor Noam Chomsky to Cal State Long Beach,” said Wilson. “For over 50 years, Noam Chomsky’s dissident political voice and activism has challenged the business-as-usual status quo inherent in U.S. academia. His radical critiques of power and hegemony have spanned numerous sites of power, ranging from the role of propaganda in the mainstream media system, the impact of neoliberalism in higher education, Israel’s oppression of Palestinian people, and the imperialist scope of U.S. foreign policy around the world.”

Sometimes described as “the father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He has spent more than half a century at MIT, where he is Institute Professor Emeritus, and is the author of more than 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics and mass media.

Born to middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, at the age of 16 Chomsky began studying at the University of Pennsylvania, taking courses in linguistics, mathematics and philosophy. He married fellow linguist Carol Schatz in 1949 and from 1951-55 was appointed to Harvard University’s Society of Fellows, where he developed the theory of transformational grammar for which he was awarded his doctorate in 1955.

That year he began teaching at MIT and in 1957 emerged as a significant figure in the field of linguistics for his landmark work Syntactic Structures, which laid the basis for the scientific study of language, and from 1958-59 he was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is credited as the creator or co-creator of the universal grammar theory, the generative grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy and the minimalist program. Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of behaviorism, being particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.

An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky attracted widespread public attention for his anti-war essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.” Becoming associated with the New Left, he was arrested multiple times for his activism and earned a place on President Richard Nixon’s enemies’ list.

While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also became involved in the Linguistics Wars. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later co-wrote “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” an analysis articulating the propaganda model of media criticism, and worked to expose the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. However, his defense of unconditional freedom of speech–including that of Holocaust denial–generated significant controversy in what came to be known as the Faurisson Affair of the early 1980s. Following his retirement from active teaching, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the war on terror and supporting the Occupy movement.

Chomsky’s work has influenced a wide array of academic fields and is one of the single most cited scholars in academic citation indices. He is widely recognized as a paradigm shifter who sparked a major revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarly research, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israel–Palestine conflict and mainstream news media.

The event is sponsored by the Metropolitan and Policy Studies Network program, CSULB’s Department of Sociology, the Sociology Student Association and the College of Liberal Arts.

–Shayne Schroeder