Chomsky on French Intellectuals

Two areas of research outside of pure sciences offer in Chomsky’s sense particularly valuable analyses, but for the most part these areas touch on the mysteries of human existence. The first is history: ‘Historical studies are another matter. One can learn a lot from history, as from life, as long as it avoids the pretentious tomfoolery required by intellectuals for career and power reasons.’ Examples of pretentious tomfoolery are important for this discussion, since they’ll help guide an analysis of Bakhtin’s pertinence, at least from Chomsky’s perspective. One term that Chomsky mentions is Foucault’s ‘épistemé’: ‘When Foucault says I’m working within a particular ‘épistemé’ because of time-culture limitations, he could be right, and I would even agree to listen to him if he or anyone could offer as much of a hint of a rational, credible argument. He couldn’t, and no one else can either, so I’m afraid I have no choice but to dismiss this as more of the games that intellectuals play when they have nothing in their heads but must try to seem important to themselves and to one another.’ Pierre Bourdieu, another theoretician whose work has been applied to literature, doesn’t suffer any less. ‘Doubtless there is a power structure in every speech situation; again, that is a truism that only an intellectual could find surprising, and seek to dress up in appropriate polysyllables.’ And Lyotard? ‘As for Lyotard and the post-modern age, I await some indication that there is something here beyond trivialities or self-serving nonsense. I can perceive certain grains of truth hidden in the vast structure of verbiage, but those are simple indeed.’—-.htm



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