Robert F Barsky

Inspired by the works and the milieus of Noam Chomsky, Robert Barsky works at the intersection of literature, law and language theory, where he explores, among other issues, the challenges faced by vulnerable peoples including refugees, homeless people and undocumented migrants. He is currently working on a book about the radical Zionist organization Avukah, and he is completing a project that reviews canonical works from the Great Tradition through the perspective of vulnerable migrants.He is the author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, The Chomsky Effect: A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower, and Zellig Harris: From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism, all three published by the MIT Press.

  • Zellig Harris

    Zellig Harris

    From American Linguistics to Socialist Zionism

    Robert F Barsky

    The intersecting worlds of Zellig Harris, Noam Chomsky's intellectual and political mentor.

    In 1995, Robert Barsky met with Noam Chomsky to discuss hiswork-in-progress, Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press, 1997). Chomsky told Barsky that he shouldfocus his attention instead on midcentury linguist and activist Zellig Harris, who was, Chomsky modestly insisted, more interesting than Chomsky himself. Intrigued, Barsky began to research Harris (1909–1992) and discovered thestory of a major figure in American intellectual life "sitting in a corner in the middle of the room"—part of crucial twentieth-century conversations about language, technology, labor, politics, and Zionism. The intersecting worlds of Harris's intellectualand political activities were populated by such figures as Louis Brandeis, Albert Einstein, Franz Boas, Nathan Glazer, and Chomsky.

    Barsky describes Harris's work in language studies, and his pioneering ideas about discourse analysis, structural linguistics, and information representation. He also discusses Harris's part in the pre-1948 Zionist movement—when many Jews on the Left envisioned a socialist Palestine that would be a haven not only for persecuted Jews but also for disenfranchised Arabs and anyone seeking a sanctuary against oppression—and recounts Harris's debates on the subject with Brandeis, Einstein, and a large group of students involved with a Zionist organization called Avukah. And Barsky describes Harris's views on capitalism, worker-owner relations, and worker self-management, the legacy ofwhich can be found in some of his students' writings, notably those of Seymour Melman. Barsky shows how Harris, as mentor, teacher, and colleague, powerfully influenced figures who came to dominate the twentieth century's political discussion—; thinkers as different as Noam Chomsky and Nathan Glazer.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £6.99
  • The Chomsky Effect

    The Chomsky Effect

    A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower

    Robert F Barsky

    Noam Chomsky as political gadfly, groundbreaking scholar, and intellectual guru: key issues in Chomsky's career and the sometimes contentious reception to his ideas.

    “People are dangerous. If they're able to involve themselves in issues that matter, they may change the distribution of power, to the detriment of those who are rich and privileged.”—Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky has been praised by the likes of Bono and Hugo Chávez and attacked by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Alan Dershowitz. Groundbreaking linguist and outspoken political dissenter—voted “most important public intellectual in the world today” in a 2005 magazine poll—Chomsky inspires fanatical devotion and fierce vituperation. In The Chomsky Effect, Chomsky biographer Robert Barsky examines Chomsky's positions on a number of highly charged issues—Chomsky's signature issues, including Vietnam, Israel, East Timor, and his work in linguistics—-that illustrate not only “the Chomsky effect” but also “the Chomsky approach.”

    Chomsky, writes Barsky, is an inspiration and a catalyst. Not just an analyst or advocate, he encourages people to become engaged—to be “dangerous” and challenge power and privilege. The actions and reactions of Chomsky supporters and detractors and the attending contentiousness can be thought of as “the Chomsky effect.” Barsky discusses Chomsky's work in such areas as language studies, media, education, law, and politics, and identifies Chomsky's intellectual and political precursors. He charts anti-Chomsky sentiments as expressed from various standpoints, including contemporary Zionism, mainstream politics, and scholarly communities. He discusses Chomsky's popular appeal—his unlikely status as a punk and rock hero (Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is one of many rock and roll Chomskyites)—and offers in-depth analyses of the controversies surrounding Chomsky's roles in the “Faurisson Affair” and the “Pol Pot Affair.” Finally, Barsky considers the role of the public intellectual in order to assess why Noam Chomsky has come to mean so much to so many—and what he may mean to generations to come.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £5.95
    • Paperback $16.00 £12.99
  • Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky

    A Life of Dissent

    Robert F Barsky

    This biography describes the intellectual and political milieus that helped shape Noam Chomsky, a pivotal figure in contemporary linguistics, politics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. It also presents an engaging political history of the last several decades, including such events as the Spanish Civil War, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the march on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War. The book highlights Chomsky's views on the uses and misuses of the university as an institution, his assessment of useful political engagement, and his doubts about postmodernism. Because Chomsky is given ample space to articulate his views on many of the major issues relating to his work, both linguistic and political, this book reads like the autobiography that Chomsky says he will never write.

    Barsky's account reveals the remarkable consistency in Chomsky's interests and principles over the course of his life. The book contains well-placed excerpts from Chomsky's published writings and unpublished correspondence, including the author's own years-long correspondence with Chomsky.

    *Not for sale in Canada

    • Hardcover $57.00
    • Paperback $23.00 £17.99