Hopes and Prospects - Noam Chomsky

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Sourcing leading academic journals and the best experts, Chomsky pulls the wool that covers our eyes in regards to the way we – according to the revisionist interpretation infected with historical amnesia we’ve been taught–  view the 20th century and America’s actions during it. Nothing escapes his gaze; the scope of this novel is breath-taking and is only outdone by the keen insight he offers into global issues as disparate as: Israel-Palestine affairs, the situation in the Middle East, rising NATO-Russian tensions over provocative Ballistic Missile Defence placements, the future of Latin America and why it matters, and domestic US issues amongst other things.

Were this revelatory exposé a map taking readers to a new dimension of political awareness, its key would come in three parts: the maxims of Thucydides and Adam Smith, and the Jennings corollary. The first states that the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must; the second is an observation that “merchants and manufacturers (of England) were the principal architects of state policy, and made sure that their own interests were most peculiarly attended to”; the last is a reflection of Francis Jennings that: “In history, the man in the ruffled shirt and gold-laced waistcoat somehow levitates above the blood he has ordered to be spilled by dirty-handed underlings.”

Hopes and Prospects is a 280-page diatribe that pulls no punches (and for the most part, seems to offer few hopes or prospects); Chomsky’s unilateral discussion fails to elaborate any of the positive aspects of globalisation. He is unequivocal: it’s bad. He cites the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1994 as “one of those rare treaties that managed to harm the working populations in all the countries participating: Canada, the United States, and Mexico.” Globalisation and free trade liberalisation, he argues, advances the interests of a few, the principal architects of state policy (doubtful? you need only think of the SUPERPAC decision 2010 and its immense implications), at the expense of the many. 

Chomsky muses that for defenders of the US’s foreign policy, Orwell’s ‘doublethink’, or the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, is a crucial talent.  Support for Pinochet, Mobuto Sese Seko, Mubarak, and opposition of Mahmoud Abbas are examples of America’s consistency in promoting democracy – when it conforms to domestic economic and strategic interests that is.

Chomsky doesn’t stop there. Neoliberalism, he continues, is the enemy of democracy because it creates a so-called “virtual Senate” of investors and lenders who conduct moment-by-moment referenda on government policies, which if aren’t favourable to them, can be used as reason to cause massive de-stabilising capital outflows. And yet organisations such as the WTO, WB, and IMF continue to impose trade liberalisation (conquest no longer works) via conditioned loans and assistance on less developed countries. (If you haven’t had your fill of hypocrisy thus far, you might note that the U.S. was historically one of the greatest perpetrators of protectionism and state intervention.)

Even the usually non-contentious issue of aid offers Chomsky ammunition. Studies by Edward Herman found that US aid tends to correlate with a favourable climate for business, which is commonly improved by murder of labour organisers and human rights activists, thus yielding a secondary correlation between aid and egregious violation of human rights. 

Throughout Hopes and Prospects, Chomsky is undoubtedly persuasive and it’s hard not to follow his arguments to their logical conclusion: the US is monstrous. Case in point, US-led sanctions on Iraq in the 80s led to up to 500,000 child deaths. And yet understanding the US’s actions, and aversion to and repression of regional movements for autonomy such as ALBA, Mercosur, UNASUR, and national movements for self-determination such as those of Bolivia and Vietnam requires context. It requires understanding the nation’s zero-sum, founding geo-political philosophy that underpins all of its decisions, one that is best summarised by the maxims of Thucydides and Smith, and the Jennings corollary. 

Although reading Chomsky might incense you to pick up the nearest pitchfork, what he fails to do is offeran examination of how today’s situation might actually be the next best alternative to what is otherwise an idealistic impossibility. And although the hypocrisy and injustice it commits is incessant, the US and all that it entails, entrenched powerful interest groups, etc., is simply a logical progression of capitalism – and there aren’t that many alternative world systems to choose from. 



1: 514 years before publication, 1496, is the year that Christopher Columbus returned from his second journey to the ‘New World’, having successfully colonised Hispaniola, the island that today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic… Chomsky implies that this is the most disastrous event in the history of our species

2: Liberal trade agendas advanced by organisations such as the WTO, WB, and IMF are simply new ways to impose trade liberalisation (conquest no longer works) on less developed countries. Trade liberalisation, which historically, “has been the outcome rather than the cause of economic development” has been credited with recentglobal growth, which actually has been propped up by Chinese protectionist-induced growth. Hypocritically, the U.S. and the British empire were huge perpetrators of protectionism and state intervention (, policies they now argue harm global trade.