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Why Noam Chomsky Won't Call Himself a Modern-Day 'Liberal'

Liberalism "accepts a number of different centers of authority and control: the state, conglomerations of private power and individuals," Chomsky says.

Photo Credit: constantskepticupdates/Flikr

According to Noam Chomsky, the power struggle that existed when liberalism was first introduced was between the state and people. "There was no great divergence between people and what they command," Chomsky said in a classic interview, calling this a "post feudal but pre capitalist world." Because of which, iberalism has undergone a complex evolution.
 
"It was the task of liberalism to dissolve the enormous power of the state, which was the biggest threat to individual liberties," Chomsky explained. During the Enlightmentment era, when the term gained popularity, he continued, "[scholars] couldn't conceive of an era in which a corporation would be regarded as an individual or in which enormous disparities over control of resources and production would distinguish between individuals in a massive fashion." Now, to take that view is a very superficial liberalism.
 
Today, liberalism has become synonymous with state intervention in a capitalist economy. "That has very little relation to classic liberalism," Chomsky explained "In fact, classic liberalism is what's now called conservative. This new view accepts a number of different centers of authority and control: the state, conglomerations of private power and individuals.
 
Watch: Noam Chomsky chronicles the evolution of liberalism 

 

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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