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A group of essays on the Indochina War by the MIT linguist and opponent of American Southeast Asia policy, followed by discussions of academia, language, anarchism, and the work of B. F. Skinner and hereditarian Richard Herrnstein -- most of which have previously appeared in such publications as Journal of Contemporary Asia, the Yale Law Journal, Ramparts, Social Policy. and the New York Review of Books. With respect to Vietnam, one of Chomsky's general arguments is that the domino theory has some truth -- an independent nationalist model of social and economic development and its contagious appeal would threaten U.S. policymakers' plans for continued control of "the free world." Examining the Pentagon Papers, Chomsky observes that "In its official propaganda, the United States government, like most others, presents itself as a status quo power attempting to uphold a stable international order in the face of violence and aggression. . . the Pentagon historians generally operate within this ideological framework. The documentary record that they were examining, however, reveals that exactly the opposite was the case. At every point, the United States resorted to force to disrupt. . . arrangements that it regarded as detrimental to its global policies. A response by indigenous forces was then labeled 'aggression'. . . ." The Papers' silence about the bombing of the South, and the assertion that "pacification" was viewed chiefly as a military-police problem, are also explored. Chomsky's anti-Skinner article represents one of the most serious polemics to date on behaviorism. The other pieces are relatively slight, summoning "difficult and serious work" as the basis for university reform while themselves avoiding full rigor in their praise of the Berrigans and anarchism. But as a whole, the book is an exercise of great critical gifts on supremely important subjects.
Pub Date: June 29th, 1973
ISBN: 1565847946
Page count: 440pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1973


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