The Responsibility of Intellectuals

Fifty years after it first appeared, one of Noam Chomsky’s greatest essays will be published for the first time as a stand-alone book, with a new preface by the author

“Chomsky is a global phenomenon. . . . He may be the most widely read American voice on foreign policy on the planet.”
The New York Times Book Review

As a nineteen-year-old undergraduate in 1947, Noam Chomsky was deeply affected by articles about the responsibility of intellectuals written by Dwight Macdonald, an editor of Partisan Review and then of Politics. Twenty years later, as the Vietnam War was escalating, Chomsky turned to the question himself, noting that “intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments” and to analyze their “often hidden intentions.”

Originally published in the New York Review of Books, Chomsky’s essay eviscerated the “hypocritical moralism of the past” (such as when Woodrow Wilson set out to teach Latin Americans “the art of good government”) and exposed the shameful policies in Vietnam and the role of intellectuals in justifying it.

Also included in this volume is the brilliant “The Responsibility of Intellectuals Redux,” written on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which makes the case for using privilege to challenge the state. As relevant in 2017 as it was in 1967, The Responsibility of Intellectuals reminds us that “privilege yields opportunity and opportunity confers responsibilities.” All of us have choices, even in desperate times.

Books by Noam Chomsky

The Chomsky-Foucault Debate
On Human Nature

Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault

American Power and the New Mandarins
Historical and Political Essays

Noam Chomsky

The Cold War and the University
Toward an Intellectual History of the Postwar Years

Noam Chomsky, Ira Katznelson, R.C. Lewontin, David Montgomery, Laura Nader, Richard Ohmann, Ray Siever, Immanuel Wallerstein, Howard Zinn

Towards a New Cold War
U.S. Foreign Policy from Vietnam to Reagan

Noam Chomsky