Friday, March 11, 2016

Chomsky versus the Regressive Left

I tire of people trying to paint Chomsky as the father of the regressive left.

Yes, some elements of this thinking have influenced it and flowed into it (e.g., an often unbalanced and one-sided critique of US foreign policy). And, yes, you can make serious and sometimes very serious criticisms of Chomsky too.

But I also tire of regressive leftists trying to invoke Chomsky as if he is one of their own. This is blatantly untrue.

If you look seriously at Chomsky’s thought and beliefs, there is a vast amount there that is vehemently opposed to the regressive, Postmodernist left.

Let us run through a list:
(1) Chomsky is strongly in favour of free speech and he once went so far as to defend the right of a French holocaust denier to free speech.

Furthermore, Chomsky praises America’s free speech and its constitutional protection of free speech, and even goes so far as to say that America’s protection of free speech is the “best in the world” (and that is his words as quoted in Mitchell and Schoeffel 2002: 268). Do regressive leftists agree with Chomsky here and defend people’s right to free speech, even racists and holocaust deniers?

(2) Chomsky rejects French Poststructuralism and Postmodernism, and all its related ideas, and he has called leading Postmodernist thinkers “charlatans.” Chomsky has also been scathing in his assessment of Michel Foucault and cult of Foucault.

(3) Chomsky thinks that Freudianism and Marxism are irrational cults like organised religion, and has been brutal in his criticism of them (Mitchell and Schoeffel 2002: 227).

(4) Chomsky wrote a scathing attack on leftists who talk about “white male science,” saying that the concept sounds as stupid as the Nazi idea of “Jewish physics.”

(5) Chomsky is a defender of the best values of the Enlightenment from hostile anti-rationalist leftists. Chomsky is also committed to the defence of the real existence of objective truth, as part of his defence of the Enlightenment.

(6) Chomsky also rejects the extreme social constructivism and “blank slate” view of human beings that characterise some parts of the modern left, and he thinks that human beings have a real human nature caused by biology and evolution.
In particular, point (6) by implication constitutes a brutal rejection of the extreme social constructivism of Postmodernism and Third Wave Feminism: e.g., it seems likely that, if Chomsky were honest, he presumably thinks that sex differences and even some gender differences (note the word “some”) are real and rooted in biology and Darwinian evolution. This doesn’t deny important environmental influences, of course, but it requires that genes and biology are important, and entails the rejection of extreme social constructivism.

I wonder how long it will be before Chomsky is slandered as a racist, sexist, homophobic, white male oppressor and member of the patriarchy?

Time to add his name to the long list below!

Mitchell, Peter R. and John Schoeffel (eds.). 2002. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. Scribe Publications, New York.


  1. Lol... Chomsky would attribute something to 'Darwinian evolution'. Are you remotely familiar with Chomsky's scientific work; much less his opinions on Darwinian evolutionary theory.

    1. Not only am I familiar with them, I have little doubt that I know more than you do.

      Chomsky does not doubt the reality of Darwinian evolution. I challenge you to provide any evidence of this.

      What Chomsky does is that the language faculty is innate and caused by some part of the brain and is a biological phenomenon, but he just disputes it was caused directly by Darwinian adaptive selection, and instead thinks it was a “spandrel”/ “exaptation” (“a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection”), an idea which he appears, incidentally, to have got from the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould (the best discussion of this is in Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, pp. 384–400).

      It’s my understanding that the classic (though maybe now dated) statement of this view developed from Gould and Chomsky is M. Piattelli-Palmarini, (1989). “Evolution, Selection and Cognition: From ‘Learning’ to Parameter Setting in Biology and in the Study of Language,” Cognition 31: 1–44.

      But, in the wide and general sense, not even Chomsky is rejecting Darwinian evolution or biology as the ultimate cause of the language faculty.

      The issue that you want to seize on here is that many other linguists and biologists take the view that the language organ was caused directly by Darwinian adaptive selection (and not a "spandrel"), the view famously argued in Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, 1990. “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13.4: 707–784.

      So, yes, god damn it, I know a great deal about this issue -- more than you do, it seems.

    2. Really? You asked Chomsky? Or talked to anyone who has?

    3. Oh, god, why would I need to ask a person directly when their ideas are published and in print and all over the internet? You can find the relevant references to Chomsky's published work on this issue in Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, pp. 384–400).

      Do I need to ask Keynes personally or someone who knew Keynes personally to know his opinions in the GT?

    4. Okay. Well in private Chomsky is well known to be skeptical of Darwinian accounts of evolution. Make of that what you will. I think his concerns are perfectly valid and very much in keeping with his linguistic theory.

    5. "Well in private Chomsky is well known to be skeptical of Darwinian accounts of evolution."

      No, Illusionist, I've seen no evidence for this.

      He's not an evolution denier. At most, some of his technical work questions the precise mechanisms by which, e.g., the human language organ emerged in terms of biology, but this doesn't deny the reality of evolution as a general theory. As Daniel Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea (pp. 384–400) shows occasionally he has made statements that could be interpreted as sceptical of particular Darwinian explications for particular human traits, but this is **very different** -- very different -- from saying he doubts Darwinian evolution as a overarching scientific theory.

      In fact, he quite clearly dispels this myth here:

      A critic of his apologises there and says:

      "Professor Chomsky agrees that the origin of language, like that of other complex organs, must ultimately be explained in Darwinian terms, as the result of natural selection."

      This is in fact an example of desperate PoMo leftists seeking vindication for their evolution-denial and science-hatred by seizing on technical points in complex scientific discussions that they doesn't even understand.

      Now one final point: Chomsky rejects Spencerian Social Darwinism, yes, as any sensible person does. But this is not Darwinian evolution as it exists in modern biology.

    6. Okay, LK. Whatever you want to believe is fine with me.

      It's well-known that Chomsky started being diplomatic toward the Darwinian True Believers in public because town-criers and simpletons like Dennett started casting dispersions.

      But I'm sure you don't want to hear that. You come across as a True Believer. Chomsky is too smart to buy into the arguments that fall out of Dennett's beard and Dawkins' "mind".

    7. "It's well-known that Chomsky started being diplomatic"

      lol... Well known by whom? Do you have hard evidence of this?

    8. "casting dispersions"
      That is my favourite catechresis of the week; it works so well literally.

  2. Lol what? "Darwinian True Believers". What exactly are you implying, and what is it that you believe in yourself, Creationism?

  3. Your non-regressive God Sam Harris thinks Noam Chomsky is part of the regressive left.
    As does the one who coined the empty 'regressive left' term Maajid Nawaz.

    Instead of saying 'regressive left', just say 'amen'

    1. I'm well aware of what Harris thinks. This doesn't refute any of my points above which show that actually Chomsky is far from the regressive left on these particular issues. So Harris lacks nuance.

  4. Here's a quote from Chomksy.
    As you know he has spent a lot of his life being anti-capitalist.

    Here's a quote.

    "See, capitalism is not fundamentally racist -- it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn't built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist -- just because its anti-human. And race is in fact a human characterstic -- there's no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangable cogs who will purchase all the junk that's produced -- that's their ultimate function, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevent, and usually a nuisance."

  5. Chomsky may refer disparagingly to 'Marxists', but this has always had the appearance of a family dispute. Do you know of any element of Marxian economic theory Chomsky substantially disagrees with, LK?

    1. Of course, Chomsky disagrees: he is a left libertarian on economics, in favour of decentralised worker-owned enterprises, which are federated in a larger society. He's not an advocate of communist command economies.

    2. As you've shown, Marx's main opus was a critique of capitalism rather than a blueprint of a socialist society. Have you any evidence that Chomsky disagrees with this critique in any substantive way?

    3. Chomsky's opinion is given here:

      As to what specific things he agrees with and doesn't agree with in Marx's economics, this is unclear to me. However, I take your point that there is probably agreement on certain issues.

      That, however, doesn't refute what I've said above: that Chomsky has said that modern Marxism is a quasi-religious cult.

    4. Incidentally, whatever Chomsky's own beliefs about Marx's economics are, his basic approach of taking anything genuinely useful and correct in Marx's Capital and discarding everything else that is rubbish is essentially right.

      Of course, there is a lot of rubbish in there.

    5. Finally, in his analysis of modern economies, I find Chomsky using Keynesian economics most of the time, not Marxism. Important point.

  6. Here's Chomsky, discussing how racism pervades our society and how slavery's effects are felt very strongly today. How regressive right?

    Here's a Chomsky quote, complaining how gunships are named after native Americans, and that they are racist. Read the full interview to get the context. Or look up how often Chomsky talks about the use of the word Tomahawk to name a weapon, he regards it as racist.
    What a reeegggreeesssssiiiiivvveee!!!!

    Here Chomsky says the U.S is a very racist society.
    Just so regressive of him.

    Here Chomsky calls pornography degrading to women. What a regressive leftist.

    Here he complains about racism in our literary culture (and literary history). Uh oh, so regressive again. What a regressor.

    1. Correct. But still doesn't refute any of my major points above which show that actually Chomsky is far from the regressive left on those particular issues.

  7. This is hilarious!
    Chomsky disses leftist like yourself, trying to pretend patriarchy and racism isn't massively pervasive.

    ML: But it’s not just issues of epistemology, because there we could have a good debate; it’s that there is a climate or a culture in the Left and the liberal arenas that simply assumes that anybody who would have a religious position must be intellectually underdeveloped or psychologically stuck, needing a father figure or scared of the unknown, or some other psychologically reductive analysis. That approach — a kind of ridicule of anybody who could possibly think that there was a spiritual dimension of reality, when it’s pervasive, pushes people away even if they agree with much of the rest of what the Left is saying. How does one raise that issue? How does one deal with that issue among lefties who are simply unaware of the elitism and offensiveness of these suppositions? There was a time when it was extremely difficult to raise the issue of patriarchy, sexism, or homophobia, because people thought, “well that’s ridiculous, it’s just not true, it’s not happening” — there was a huge level of denial. Do you have any advice for us on how to deal with that level of denial that exists in the culture of the Left? In my own study of this — I’ve done a rather extensive study of the psychodynamics of American society, which involved over 10,000 people — we found that this was a central issue for a lot of middle-income working people, who agreed with much of the Left’s positions, but felt dissed by the Left.

    NC: Well, the way you approach people is to explain to them that not only is it not in their interest to diss other people, but it’s also morally and intellectually wrong. For example, one of the greatest dangers is secular religion — state worship. That’s a far more destructive factor in world affairs than religious belief, and it’s common on the Left. So you take a look at the very people who are passionately advocating struggling for atheism and repeating arguments that most of us understood when we were teenagers — those very same people are involved in highly destructive and murderous state worship, not all of them but some. Does that mean we should diss them? No, it means we should try to explain it to them.

    What a regressive right?! :D :P

    1. Still doesn't refute any of the points above which show that actually Chomsky is far from the regressive left on a number of issues.

    2. Also, in point of fact Chomsky has never been big on feminism, and certainly not fashionable PoMo feminism.

      See here:

      "The same has been true of women’s rights. But when you have a working class that’s under real pressure, you know, people are going to say that rights are being undermined, that jobs are being under- mined. Maybe the one thing that the white working man can hang onto is that he runs his home? Now that that’s being taken away and nothing is being offered, he’s not part of the program of advancing women’s rights. That’s fine for college professors, but it has a different effect in working-class areas. It doesn’t have to be that way. It depends on how it’s done, and it was done in a way that simply undermined natural solidarity. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but by this point it’s going to be pretty hard to organize the working class on the grounds that should really concern them: common solidarity, common welfare."

  8. Chomsky hates POMO. he likes various kinds of repression and dishonesty. Split the point and go home guys.

    1. "Chomsky hates POMO."

      (1) and truth/moral relativism
      (2) and anti-Enlightenment leftists
      (3) and extreme blank slate social constructivists
      (4) and the anti-science mentality of some leftists
      He doesn't get enough credit for these stands.

  9. LK you able to show me an example of Maajid Nawaz defining regressive left as those that are:
    (1) and truth/moral relativism
    (2) and anti-Enlightenment leftists
    (3) and extreme blank slate social constructivists
    (4) and the anti-science mentality of some leftists

    He coined the term.

    These sources don't seem to mention any of this stuff, why's that?

    Dave Rubin:

    Atheist Revolution:



    Let's also remember that having all the characteristics that are defined as being 'regressive left' can still be applied to someone that agrees or disagrees with each of these:

    (1) and truth/moral relativism
    (2) and anti-Enlightenment leftists
    (3) and extreme blank slate social constructivists
    (4) and the anti-science mentality of some leftists

    In other words, you mean something different to what they mean.
    Once again, someone that is POMO, and everything you've posted there - would still be defined as 'regressive left'. It makes no difference to the definition of the term.

    You made your own definition it appears?
    The people that coined the term, and gush over the term also put Chomsky in there...
    Why's that? They wrong in their definition of the term? Is Maajid wrong in his characterization?

    1. No, it is absolutely true that people who are identified as the regressive left by Nawaz and Rubin and others tend to be people who:

      (1) accept cultural/ truth/moral relativism (all cultures are equal!!)
      (2) are anti-Enlightenment leftists (rational secularism, who needs that!)
      (3) and extreme blank slate social constructivists (everything is culture.. how dare you criticise someone's culture!!)
      (4) and anti-science (white male science .. who needs that!!)
      Nawaz and Rubin just fail to see what I can see because I have a better grasp of the intellectual history of the left.

      Note carefully: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Peter Boghossian (all people who call out the regressive left) also savage the Postmodernists and attack the critics of the Enlightenment. Coincidence? No. They have this in common with Chomsky, but fail to see Chomsky is with them on these issues: Chomsky is not a full blown member of the regressive left.

    2. Right.
      So what you are saying is your definition of 'regressive left' is correct and Nawaz' isn't?

      Can you show me an example of him or Sam defining someone as regressive left, definitively, the way you do so?

      And still, it is not a contradiction by their definition (the ones that coined the term) to not be 'POMO/all you post about here' in the slightest yet still be regressive left.
      How do you account for that?

      Can you answer these questions please?

    3. (1) No, I think I have a better, more defensible definition of the regressive left, because I understand the left better than Nawaz, and I understand the underlying beliefs (especially (1) to (4) above) that drive these people to attack Nawaz.

      (2) No, obviously they don't define the regressive left in the exact same way I do. My definition is broader, but cam be defended.

      (3) Of course you can display aspects of the regressive left and not be PoMo. However, it is likely that *most* of these people are influenced by PoMo ideas or part of the PoMo left. We are dealing here, as often in social science, with broad trends or generalities, not with 100% consistency.

    4. I see.
      The main thing I’m getting at is,
      So according to 99% of all information on the definition of the 'regressive left', including those put forth by those that coined and pioneered the term (Harris and Nawaz), and the definitions consistently put forth by Sam Harris, on many an occasion.

      It is absolutely possible to be => Foucault, Derrida, Lacan and still not be 'regressive left'.
      Whether it is common or not, that's another thing.
      But by what the definition appears to be, it allows for it.
      It is not contradictory.
      You agree I’m sure.

      (Social science tendencies I’m not concerned with here, I’m talking about meaning)

      But by your definition, it does appear to be contradictory.

      Such a contradiction present in definitions implies a difference in meaning and reference. Do you disagree?

      One could be someone that is regarded as 'regressive left', like Chomsky, and not be 'regressive left' at all by your definition.
      As you stated early that it is you that have the proper definition of the term 'regressive left’, the term that was coined recently by Nawaz.

      On a recent post you stated.

      "Postmodernist left and its modern offshoot the regressive left…”

      That statement implies that you can be post-modernist yet not 'regressive left'. Seeing as it is a modern offshoot, this implies the concepts can be separated.

      So in turn, you can be post-modernist and not:

      (1) accept cultural/ truth/moral relativism (all cultures are equal!!)
      (2) are anti-Enlightenment leftists (rational secularism, who needs that!)
      (3) and extreme blank slate social constructivists (everything is culture.. how dare you criticise someone's culture!!)
      (4) and anti-science (white male science .. who needs that!!)

      As this is how you define ‘regressive left’, yet it appears ‘regressive left’ is merely a modern offshoot of post-modernism. (i.e conceptual offshoots are not the same as the concepts they shoot off of, otherwise there would be no offshoot at all)

      In your post entitled:
      'Enough of the Sickness and Poison of Cultural Relativism'

      You state:

      "Let me put it in simple terms: Postmodernism + cultural relativism = regressive left insanity."

      Yet in your article:
      'The Consequences of Postmodernist Truth Relativism'

      You state:

      "One of the core beliefs of Postmodernism is this:
      Proposition (1): there is no such thing as objective truth; all “truths” are culturally relative."

      Ironically, it appears your definitions are quite fluid.
      I may be completely wrong in my analysis.

      Out of interest.
      How do you account for all of this? The points I brought up appear in conflict.

    5. (1) "That statement implies that you can be post-modernist yet not 'regressive left'. Seeing as it is a modern offshoot, this implies the concepts can be separated."

      They can be separated conceptually but you misunderstand my point. The regressive left in 2015/2016 (often made up of millennials) is profoundly influenced by and steeped in the core ideas of Postmodernism. Probably many of them do not consciously self-identity as Postmodernists, but that is only because they lack an understanding of the history of the left and where their ideas came from.

      (2) "So in turn, you can be post-modernist and not:

      (1) accept cultural/ truth/moral relativism (all cultures are equal!!)" etc

      No, not really. Those things are at the core of Postmodernism.

    6. (3) I do not see any of the alleged contradictions you claim to see in my posts.

      (4) What you have failed to understand is that Nawaz's own criteria for regressive leftists can simply be added onto my list of points above in the original post. Finally, yes, those criteria generally speaking characterise the regressive left today:

      (1) intolerance of free speech
      (2) strong influences from Posmodernism and its related ideas such as cultural/truth/moral relativism (all cultures are equal! etc.)
      (3) probably some vulgar Marxism and (maybe though not necessarily) some pop Freudianism and
      (4) hatred of science, and bashing of “white male science”
      (5) anti-Enlightenment thinking
      (6) extreme social constructivism and “blank slate” view of human beings
      (7) Identifying culture with race, and militant hostility to people who criticise the religions or cultures of non-white people.

  10. Ecce sinistro

  11. Bernie fans unleashed

  12. LK, given Chomsky is often lumped in with the regressive left when it comes to Islamism, I'm a bit surprised you didn't touch on those differences. Do you think it's fair to lump him in with the regressive left when it comes to his perspective on the role US foreign policy had in Islamism winning out over other, more progressive trends in the region over the past few decades?

    1. Chomsky's default position is to blame US foreign policy for every negative development in the world. The growth of Islamism can largely be explained by the psychological trauma caused by the Arab defeat in the Six Day War. See this article in Al in the link below:

      Of course many Arabs blamed their defeat in this war on US support for Israel, but these are largely conspiracy theories. Prior to 1967, Israel got most of its advanced weapons from France.

      The video you put up of Nasser's speech mocking the idea of women wearing the hijab is a good illustration of weakness of Islamism before the Six Day War. I have also seen pre-67 footage of teenage Saudi girls with their heads uncovered in a classroom. Imagine how unthinkable that would be today.

    2. The humiliation of '67 was certainly a watershed moment that played a key role in the delegitimization of Arab nationalism). However, even with the delegitimization of Arab nationalism, it was still hardly guaranteed that Islamism would win out over competing ideologies. It took over a decade after '67 for Islamists to stage a successful revolution, and Arab nationalist forces still had more legitimacy than Islamists in states like Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, and the Palestinian territories well into the 1980's. That very article mentions that other socialist alternatives were also sought out. It seems a rather glaring omission to not mention the role King Faisal and other reactionary Gulf Monarchs played promoting Islamism over the other progressive currents in the region. This opposition predates the humiliation of '67, and continues pretty much into the present era, as does the US Cold War policy in the region which supported such regimes over the progressive alternatives. In fairness, it should be noted that those more progressive trends leaned more and more Soviet from the 60's onward, and the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and other nations that promoted Islamism must be understood within that context.

      There's another current that needs to be understood regarding Islamism which '67 does not explain, and that is the rise of Salafism. While the Hanbali loons aren't exactly progressive, they're not nearly as hostile and violent as the Salafi lunatics. Many of the loony Sunni's can, and have, dealt amicably with the West for years. The Salafi's have proven much more difficult to tame, even for the Saudi's. As Patrick Cockburn has noted (in work that Chomsky has praised very vocally), one of the most odious trends within the Muslim world today is Salafism steadily eclipsing Sunni practice as the dominant form of Islam. While Saudi Arabia's relationship with these forces is more complicated than many of their critics acknowledge, they have played a key role in these forces spreading internationally. As Saudi owes much of it's dominance in the region to picking the winner of the Cold War early on, it doesn't seem sensible to absolve US foreign policy as playing a key role in Islamism winning out.

      As a hopefully humorous aside, it is worth noting that Iran being both a Shi'ite state, and the state with the first successful Islamic revolution was caused by outside meddling...not by Western states, but by the asiatic hordes that kept destroying Persia. The Shi'ite clergy ended up filling a void so there would be some semblance of order in the land, and had been a major player in the governance of Persia ever since.

      That clip LK posted a few weeks back is the best Nasser one in existance. Nothing does a greater job of succintly demonstrating how different the Arab world was prior to Islamism gaining traction. It really makes one mourn for the day when men like Nasser and Habash were the hope of the Arab world. Far from saints, but certainly preferable to the current crop.

    3. 1.The defeat of arab nationalism have nothing really to do to 6 days war come on its loony idea not to mention soviet union helpee arab countries to fight israel.

      I will give betfer idea by asking important question? Who won the most from so called secular arab nationaislm?
      Secterian ethnic and religious minorities which were discriminated and opressed and looked as second sort citizens at best under tradional tribal religious rule in the middle east.

      So of course this minorites (sunni minority in iraq alawi minority in syria christian shia minority in lebanon beduhi minority in jordan coptic christian minorty in egypt which all been very influencial during this period of time).

      So of course this minorites which been educated rich with tendency toward secularism and connections to the governments in the region wanted to keep this idea alive to avoid discrimination and be kept in positions of power. what is the reason for the rise of radical islamic sentiments and movements in the middle east?

      Three factors demographic change economic stagnation and huge amount of saudi money which went on radical islamic brainwash.

      So simply what happened is that while the secular educated minorities birth rate been 2 childern per familiy,the birth rate of the poor masses been huge (5-7 children per familiy)

      Which caused 2 major demographic shifts

      1.the ratio of the sunni uneducated religious majority compare to other minorites became way bigger (in iraq is shia majority)

      2.age shift:in arabic countries there is really big ratio of young people to old people (arab population really young).

      Now imagine a situation where you have huge uneducated unemployed masses of young people which are desperate and angry in a really unequal and corrupt society while in the same time you have saudi arabia which spends billions of dollars annually on islamic brainwashing.

      And you get radical islamic middle east

    4. Daniel, while I agree that folk tend to overstate the role '67 had in destroying Arab Nationalism, I do think it's fair to say that '67 dealt a fatal blow to the idea of Pan-Arab Nationalism, and Nasser's death a few years later killed it for good. I suggest it would be more accurate to claim Arab nationalism evolved following the humiliation in '67. It shifted from Pan-Arab Nationalism, to a more local/regional practice of Arab Nationalism.

      You're also correct to point out that religious minorities were big supporters of Arab Nationalism-Arab Christians in particular were supportive of it over Islamist styles for fairly obvious reasons. However, I am under the impression that, in Egypt at least, the current straits of the Miaphysites began under Nasser, particularly his land reform policies.

      Out of curiosity, could you point me in the direction of the source that has led you to these beliefs regarding the rise of Islamism?

    5. well i am living in israel and i am interested in the middle east since young age.

      i read a lot about the middle east and i agree with you that egypt is unique arab country and its have strong national tradition (which came to existence way before six pico).

      but this analyze is my own i based it on the facts i told you before which is demographic boom in the middle east and islamic brainwashing machine of saudi arabia,and the stagnating economy of the middle eastern countries since the 50-s

      (in the 50-s israeli gdp per capita and egyptian gdp per capita been the same today israeli gdp per capita is 10 times bigger than egyptian gdp per capita).

      just to show you how severe been the stagnation of the arabic economies in the 20 centuary.

      and yes i agree with you that arab nationalism was built on nazzer personility and when he died its started to die with him.

  13. "As Saudi owes much of it's dominance in the region to picking the winner of the Cold War early on, it doesn't seem sensible to absolve US foreign policy as playing a key role in Islamism winning out."

    Saudi Arabia was only dominant in the sense of having oil wealth which it used to fund reactionary madrassas. It didn't use the advanced weapons it bought from the US to spread its ideology by force. Whatever reasons muslims had for sending their children to these madrassas, the US-Saudi alliance wasn't one of them.

    A more plausible charge against the US was its support for Afghan mujahideen in the ant-Soviet war, but the evidence suggest most of this support went to Afghan nationalists such as Ahmed Shah Masood who were devout muslims but later fought against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

  14. The reasons why Muslims send their children to Madrassas is usually fairly obvious, at least if we're referring to a very poor area; they attend because there aren't any other alternatives. That's parallel to why Saudi can spread this noxious sect of Salafism internationally; if you're some poor Imam in a backwards area who needs money for a mosque, the Saudi's will support you. However, if it's simply oil wealth that has enabled Saudi Arabia to remain in a position of power, and the US alliance has little to do with it, one would need to explain the rather different perspective the US holds towards Venezuela. Whether one like's Maduro or Chavez, it's fair to say they look like Mahtama Gandhi compared to King Abdullah, and yet purchasing oil from Venezeula didn't magically make us tolerant of their practices. Had Saudi Arabia leaned Soviet and Nasser leaned American in the 60's, how would they still remain in a position of power to spread this noxious ideology internationally? Did Sadat reversing course, and starting to favor the US over the Soviets, have little to do with the drastic change in US policy towards Egypt between the mid 60's and late 70's?
    Regarding your claims about force, Saudi Arabia was arming and supporting reactionary Islamists in the Yemeni Civil War against Nasser's forces, including the Houthi's that they're bombing today. That seems to qualify as spreading your ideology by force, in opposition to more progressive trends in the region.
    Anonymous, only tangibly related, but are you the same anonymous I had a previous discussion on this blog about a US troop presence in Iraq potentially giving Daesh more legitimacy?

  15. "The reasons why Muslims send their children to Madrassas is usually fairly obvious, at least if we're referring to a very poor area; they attend because there aren't any other alternatives."

    They are also devout muslims who want their children to learn the Quran. I doubt the US posture in relation to Saudi Arabia has anything to do with their decision.

    "However, if it's simply oil wealth that has enabled Saudi Arabia to remain in a position of power, and the US alliance has little to do with it, one would need to explain the rather different perspective the US holds towards Venezuela. "

    Chavez denounced the US in virtually every speech he made and cosied up to the enemies of the US. It's absurd to suggest the US could have adopted a friendly position to his regime - even if they had tried he would have probably rejected such overtures or suspected a trick. He did try to use his oil wealth to subsidize leftist governments but it was never going to succeed because of the mess he made of Venezuela's economy.

    "Had Saudi Arabia leaned Soviet and Nasser leaned American in the 60's, how would they still remain in a position of power to spread this noxious ideology internationally?"

    What wouldn't they? Being anti-American didn't stop Iran spreading its influence and ideology in Lebanon. Had the Iranians not been Shiites, they would have been more successful than the Saudis because of their anti-Americanism. Being allied to the US doesn't win you brownie points from the Muslim masses.

    "Did Sadat reversing course, and starting to favor the US over the Soviets, have little to do with the drastic change in US policy towards Egypt between the mid 60's and late 70's?"

    Sadat took a decision to break with the Soviet Union. One of his motives was to get US backing for his peace initiative leading to the return of the Sinai.

    "Regarding your claims about force, Saudi Arabia was arming and supporting reactionary Islamists in the Yemeni Civil War against Nasser's forces, including the Houthi's that they're bombing today. That seems to qualify as spreading your ideology by force, in opposition to more progressive trends in the region."

    OK, but Yemen is in the Arabian peninsula and shares a border with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi military has never been powerful enough to project its power further than that. I don't know who the other anonymous was.

    1. I stated that the rural poor attend Madrassas largely because they're the only game in town. How does that morph into "the US posture in relation to Saudi Arabia is why Muslims go to madrassas?"

      I can not recall why, exactly, I brought up Venezuela, since you were not making the claim that America loves Saudi Arabia because of oil. I did not mean to imply that America should have been pursuing friendly relations with Venezuela, either. Apologies for erecting a strawman with little relation to our discussion.

      There are some huge problems regarding your claim that Iran's existence means Islamism still would've became dominant even if Saudi Arabia didn't exist. First, Iran is Shi'ite, which wouldn't exactly endow their style of Islamism to the non-Shi'a that make up the vast majority of Muslims. Two, Iran being the first state where there was an Islamic Revolution didn't occur in an historical vacuum; the clergy had played a prominent role in the governance of Persia for centuries following the collapse of central government due to constant invasions from Asiatic Hordes. Incidentally, this collapse of central government is the same reason why the Shi'ites were able to get a foothold in Persia, eventually becoming the dominant Islamic practice in the region. Three, the country you bring up, Lebanon, has never functioned as an Islamist state since the Islamic Revolution, or ever in it's history, for that matter. Iran's friends in Hizbullah have been operating as a Lebanese political party for some years now, and have been more than willing to make the kind of sleezy deals with sect leaders that anyone involved in Lebanese politics have to make. Four, and most important, you're again ignoring the rise of Salafism, and it's role in producing violent Jihadis and Islamists. Salafism, and the consequent Jihadi violence, would not have become a dominant force within Islam had Saudi Arabia ceased to exist, simply because Iran still existed. Iran hates Salafists, and the Salafists in turn wish to exterminate all Shi'ites. Iran's doing much more to combat Salafi Jihadists in Iraq and Syria than any of America's beloved Arab allies (and Israel and Turkey, if we're making a list), and Iran and America having converging interests combatting Salafi Jihadists in Iraq is almost certainly one of the reasons the Obama administration has decided to warm up relations with Iran. I apologize in advance if the above comes across as snarky, but your claim that Islamism would still dominate without Saudi Arabia because Iran exists really ignores the demographics of violent Jihadists, and the hostility between the Shi'ite and Salafi.

      Yes, Sadat took a decision to break with the Soviet Union...which is one of the primary reasons America stopped treating him as an enemy. Recall that when Nasser was playing both sides of the fence, America was willing to work with him too, and arguably sided with him during '56 over Israel, Britain, and France. His break from that policy, and siding with the Soviets, is one of the key factors for why the US opposed him in the 60's...and turned to more reactionary elements in the region who promoted Islamism, like Saudi Arabia, to counter Nasser's ideology.

      Yemen shares a border with Saudi Arabia, and for obvious reasons, Saudi Arabia did not want a Nasseresque Arab Nationalist regime taking power on their borders. They turned to reactionary Islamists time and time again to counter these forces that threatened their interests in the did the United States. Which is something Chomsky brings up quite frequently in his critiques of how US foreign policy bears responsibility for Islamism winning out over other trends in the region.

    2. Feel the need to clarify a sentence from my previous post. When I stated "Iran being the first state with an Islamic Revolution didn't occur in an historical vacuum", I meant to say "Iran being the first state with a SUCCESSFUL Islamic Revolution didn't occur in an historical vacuum."

  16. I really love this blog; you are clearly a very intelligent person and do a lot of reading and research on all the topics you engage with. Like you, I am also some kind of post-Keynesian and social democrat (except I prefer, like Chomsky, to adopt an anarchistic rhetorical posture). The two main influences on my political and economic thinking have been Steve Keen, particularly Debunking Economics, and Noam Chomsky. Since I have done much less reading than you, and probably have less mathematical and theoretical knowledge, I am perfectly open to the possibility that you will thoroughly refute the arguments I'm about to make here -- but I want to make them nonetheless.
    I introduce myself thus because I would like to go further than you do, and defend Chomsky from even the charges that you suggest are fair. The first charge that I would like to defend him from is the one you mention on this post, his "often unbalanced and one-sided critique of US foreign policy".
    I don't know if you are aware of this (I assume you are, because you seem very well-read), but there is a strong logic to Chomsky's one-sidedness, and he has articulated this logic on multiple occasions over the years. See this quote, for example:
    "My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century."
    Unfortunately, I'm not sure of the provenance of this quote (it presumably comes from one of his thousands of interviews) but you can find plenty of other similar examples if you're worried that I'm making this up.
    I happen to think this is a reasonable argument, and it is an argument that largely exculpates him from any accusation of cognitive bias or zealotry. Evidently, I am not trying to argue that he is not one-sided, merely that he has a very good reason for this.
    Chomsky also has two other arguments for his one-sidedness, both of which are related to this. The first is that, if he wasn't such a harsh critic of US foreign policy, then he would be leaving a massive vacuum, since, just as it has been throughout history, the vast majority of intellectuals today reflexively support the actions of their state. One provocative, historical example he often cites to show this is the great moral icon, John Stuart Mill, who wrote paens to the humanity and decency of British imperialism (and most right-thinking people nowadays recognise that there was plenty to polemicise about in the British Empire's treatment of native peoples from Africa to India to Australia (including what can only be called genocide), even if there might be a utilitarian case that the British Empire overall did more good than bad (and I personally think that's impossible to determine)). I think it is pretty obvious that Chomsky is performing a profound and unique service in expressing dissident opinions on US foreign policy.

  17. Moreover, I don't think Chomsky's critiques are as one-sided as they are made out to be by the standard, trite, ill-informed criticisms of the man (for example, Cohen's, Kamm's, Harris', Windschuttle's etc). While there is clearly a bias in his FRAMING of issues, as well as in the topics he chooses to focus on, he is typically far more rigorous than any state apologists in his citation of facts and concentration on the empirical and verifiable, rather than the vague, general and specious (compare Dershowitz on Israel-Palestine to Chomsky, or Sam Harris on ISIS to Chomsky on ISIS).

  18. The second sub-argument emerges from Chomsky's view that -- in Marxist slogan form -- "the only language the powerful understand is violence". As one can see in Chomsky's exchange with Harris, and in basically all his writings (which Harris knew nothing about before initiating the exchange), Chomsky thinks it little more than a category error to impute "noble intentions" or "humanitarian motivations" to powerful states. This view is not some crude anarchist dogma, but simply an empirical generalisation resulting from intelligent institutional analysis and a passing scrutiny of the annals of history. The institutional analysis I am referring to here is Chomsky's very sensible view that the US state is not really democratic in any meaningful sense, since the state has a powerful, symbiotic relationship with the corporate and financial worlds in all kinds of ways (super-Pacs, donations, lobbying organisations, an economic structure that has become reliant on huge multinationals, politicians who come from the corporate world or financial sector, the corporate media (see Manufacturing Consent)), and his belief that foreign policy is largely dictated by Eisenhower's notorious "military-industrial complex". If you want more evidence that the US is not democratic in any meaningful sense, please see the relevant section of this essay I wrote:
    Meanwhile, the "passing scrutiny of the annals of history" I am referring to is the idea that reading a bit of history leads one to the conclusion that similar patterns get repeated endlessly. Intellectuals invariably defend the "humanitarian interventions" (i.e. conquests) of their states, and always claim the same thing: "noble intentions". As Chomsky pointed out to Harris in the exchange, this was even true in Japan during the time of the Rape of Nanking and was most certainly true in Nazi Germany.
    So even though Chomsky is happy to concede that American people are, in very general terms, more morally advanced than Wahabi muslims (contra Harris' ignorant impressions), he doesn't think this extends to the state, with good reason.
    The other charge I want to defend Chomsky from is that his anarcho-syndicalism is simply a product of romanticism. I think Chomsky is intelligent enough to realise that no radical change is going to happen any time soon, and, as such, I think he uses anarcho-syndicalism more as a telos for activism, rather than a serious ideology for the present. I also think people have a few misconceptions about what it would look like. Chomsky is very vague about what an anarcho-syndicalist society would "look like" himself, but the way I see it, the main difference between it and our present society would just be the existence of REALLY STRONG, FULLY DEMOCRATIC UNIONS to which everyone belongs, and an economic system whereby all big corporations look like the Mondragon Corporation (and if corporations were co-operatised on a mass-scale, the economic system would evolve away from capitalism on its own). Now, I'm not saying this will happen, but when the robots take over in the next few decades, it might have a chance.