With this study, Vanderbilt professor Barsky follows up Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, his first expositionary volume on the octogenarian MIT linguist-cum-political writer. It focuses on how Chomsky's political writings-often published in small venues and in reaction to developing events-get disseminated and used throughout the world. The result is an indirect approach to a compelling subject, namely: what are Chomsky's politics, and what broader lessons can be drawn from them? Barsky begins by defining what he calls "The Chomsky Effect," whereby Chomsky's ideas get distorted and argued about in degraded form, whether by bolsterers or naysayers, resulting not only in bad arguments, but in undeserved infamy for Chomsky. He tracks the effect through the academy, the radical left, legal studies, literature and media, and, along the way, provides very lucid commentary on, and summation of, Chomsky's ideas. That said, Barsky, like Chomsky himself, refuses to distill Chomsky's thought to sound bites as he sifts through all the claims and counter-claims. That may prove frustrating for some readers, but it is fully in the spirit of Chomsky's own work.
"The Chomsky Effect by Robert Barsky is a magnificent book showing Chomsky as the leading linguist of our time; the philosopher whose analytic powers and prophetic vision are unparalleled, yet matched only by his moral and ironic outrage which draws intellectual blood from his adversaries. Barsky's significant accomplishment is to add his deep learning in the history of comparative ideas and popular culture with his own incisive and readable accounts of crucial intellectual and political battles that dictate the present and probable future. A wonderful read."
--Marcus Raskin, Co-founder, Institute for Policy Studies, and Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, George Washington University
"Robert Barsky succeeds in uniting the various strands in Chomsky's career-- teaching, political theory, philosophy, and public debate. Chomsky's success constitutes definitive proof that an intellectual can be an activist and that every society needs a Socrates to shame it. Barsky has produced a work of homage to learning and to personal courage."
--Julius H. Grey, Constitutional lawyer, former member of McGill Faculty of Law