Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky were two of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
(Chomsky is still one of the greatest minds of the 21st)
But they didn’t really get along. They disagreed on a number of issues that were key to their respective ideologies and had some pretty intense debates on these issues. In fact even today some supporters of Foucault tend to dislike Chomsky (whereas most supporters of Chomsky tend to not give a shit).
One of the major issues of disagreement related to power, its expression and its perpetuation.
Chomksy believes that power is directed from above (in western democracies this means via influence over institutions of power, particularly politics and the media).
Foucault believed that power arose from below, through the ways in which the things we say endlessly feed off and reinforce each other in the collective communication process that results in the arising of a Discourse.
So Chomsky believes that the powerful tell us what to think while Foucault believes that we all tell each other what to think.
Clearly these two approaches are different, but which is right? Both of these men are geniuses and both of these ideas are brilliant.
Well, I actually think that they are both right, and that if you put their ideas together you can gain a much better understanding of the way the world really works. continue reading…