Sunday, July 15, 2007
Noam Chomsky is one of the key figures on the American and global left. He is said to be one of the most widely quoted intellectuals in the world. In
For all these reasons, we were very excited when we finally had the opportunity in late May to interview Chomsky for 25 minutes about his thinking on progressive grand strategy for building political power on the American left. More specifically, and in keeping with the main interest of our Progressive Strategy Studies Project, we asked him whether he finds it useful to think about how to build power in strategic terms.
Glancing at the list of individuals and organizations that we included in our first report, “Finding Strategy: A Survey of Contemporary Contributions to Progressive Strategy,” he noted that there was more “extensive and far-reaching” thinking on progressive strategy than what was reflected in our report.
Throughout the interview, he mainly referred to the work of Gar Alperovitz,
He started out by emphasizing that the
Since the state, having become so thoroughly co-opted by corporate interests, is part of the problem, it is difficult to significantly change it from within through elections or public policy reforms. While short-term, pragmatic change remains possible and desirable, systemic change would require a transformation of power relations within society through a democratization of economic decision-making.
Criticizing the recent health care reform in Massachusetts as overly complicated precisely because it has to respond to too many corporate interests, Chomsky noted that, even though a large majority of the population favors straightforward changes, the US can’t even achieve a real health care reform. While pragmatic change is better than nothing, it pales in comparison to the kind of change a country like
Serious progress towards a truly functioning democracy requires democratizing the economy. Traditionally, labor has been the main agent of change, but today it is, as Chomsky put it, “smashed,” and struggles to survive. Who can fill the huge gap that labor has left behind? Chomsky admits that other actors, such as churches and universities, are weak, if not marginal, though there has been impressive growth of popular movements, many of them quite new and promising. They offer considerable promise and opportunity for those willing to keep working hard at “building the cells of a future society.”
Wolfgang Brauner is the Project Manager and Principal Researcher of the Progressive Strategy Studies Project at the Commonwealth Institute in
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