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Publisher's Summary

A major new collection from "arguably the most important intellectual alive" (The New York Times). Noam Chomsky is universally accepted as one of the preeminent public intellectuals of the modern era. Over the past thirty years, broadly diverse audiences have gathered to attend his sold-out lectures. Now, in Understanding Power, Peter Mitchell and John Schoeffel have assembled the best of Chomsky's recent talks on the past, present, and future of the politics of power.

In a series of enlightening and wide-ranging discussions, all published here for the first time, Chomsky radically reinterprets the events of the past three decades, covering topics from foreign policy during Vietnam to the decline of welfare under the Clinton administration. And as he elucidates the connection between America's imperialistic foreign policy and the decline of domestic social services, Chomsky also discerns the necessary steps to take toward social change. With an eye to political activism and the media's role in popular struggle, as well as U.S. foreign and domestic policy, Understanding Power offers a sweeping critique of the world around us and is definitive Chomsky. Characterized by Chomsky's accessible and informative style, this is the ideal book for those new to his work as well as for those who have been listening for years.

©2002 Noam Chomsky, Peter Rounds Mitchell, and John Schoeffel (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Understanding Power

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

NC: The Left's equivalent to Rush Limbaugh

Bright, biased and well-educated, NC interprets everything through an subjective, confirmation-biased filter. If a government publication agrees with him, he says, "even the government . . .." If the publication disagrees, it is because of an organized, controlling cabal of extremely rich people. Thus, like Rush, he throws out a few facts sprinkles them with emotion and unproven sinister motivation to make a concluding causal statement of effect that may--but most often does not--have any direct causal linkage to the facts or cabal of 'motivated' human agents. He is right that America and the world need to put a check on corporations' role in society, lest the corporate leaders overthrow their shareholders and become our defacto feudal leaders--the most likely road to serfdom. Yet, he is so fixated on 'Socialist Democracy is good' (a connotatively self defeating choice of phrase) that he fails to propose a realistic, executable solution (like trust-busting or forcing large corporations to divide and compete, thereby preventing excess accumulation of power and its harmful effects on society, labor wages, etc.)

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Current times demand you get this into your head.

I'm not what you would consider a member of the left, actually I'm a capitalist entrepreneur. But the ideas and concepts in this book are universal, fundamental and are necesary if you wish to understand how the modern world works and the true forces tha shape our lives.ostl6, if you want to make a change for thr better it's necesary to understand what change looks like in the long timeframes we humans need to make real lasting change.

I don't agree with some of the ideas he presents but they are microscopic and of little importance in comparison to the scope of the information in this book, but that's just an opinion.

The best thing is to read this now, almost 30 years later. Chomsky got most of it right as you will learn if you listen to this completely. he basically predicts our current state.

By the way, I have had this book for 10 years in print and never had made the time to read. so yeah, thanks Audible.

56 people found this helpful

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Staggering insight.

A most amazing compilation of facts surrounding the understanding of world power and their structures by one of greatest minds of our time! I just hope he is wrong in his conclusions.

21 people found this helpful

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Great Material - Dry Performance

Mr. Bloodworth's reading is technically precise and easy to understand, it's as dry as toast roasted in the summer sun on the flats of the Atacama Desert.

The source material more than make up for this.

Recommended.

15 people found this helpful

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Chomsky

Fantastic book. Well organized and narrated. Essential for all, especially anarchists. Chomsky is like a political and economic encyclopedia. Don't make the mistake of idolizing him, think for yourself and go organize!

7 people found this helpful

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Not What I Had Hoped

Knowing nothing about Chomsky and being intrigued by the 5-star review by some 1381 people, I figured I'd give this book a listen. While there is certainly some truth to what he says, I don't think it really requires over 22 hours to get the point across. Basically, Chomsky says those in power will shape, manipulate, or otherwise pervert the system to stay in power at the expense of all those less fortunate. And, the only way to improve the lot of the less fortunate is for such people to organize resistance to the oppressive tactics of those in power, but in a decentralized way that is difficult for those in power to suppress. He does a great job of selectively enumerating historical examples that support his narrative. But, underlying all of this narrative is an implication that those in power are engaged in some sort of highly coordinated, carefully orchestrated plot to suppress all of the rest of us, that the situation is inescapable and hopeless, and that the best we can do is tactically resist to make things here and there a little better. I found the implication of an orchestrated plot by those in power to suppress the rest of us a bit too much of a stretch -- maybe there are some here and there that seek to do that, but not coordination on the scale that Chomsky seems to imply. Frankly, his whole outlook was too depressing for me to continue listening after about the first 11 hours. I think there are more positive ways to view the world and the way society works within it and that the key to improving things involves positive, constructive action, not targeted resistance.

6 people found this helpful

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Understanding Power Indeed

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely, in fact I already have several times. If you feel you need help understanding power, how the media plays people and how the USA control the world this book is illuminating. Better yet it's accessible, and if you need to check it's sources you can readily though it's website.

What about Robin Bloodworth’s performance did you like?

He gets how Noam talks I think, and really gets the points across. I rather enjoy listening to him, so much so I have been listening to the book a second time barely a week later which is unheard of for me.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely, but it's so dense your best to take breaks so you can content with the material.

Any additional comments?

After listening to Understanding power, I recommend Dictators hand book as a companion. and I do suggest them in that order as Understanding power really informs on the hypothesis presented in The Dictator's Handbook.

Possible the best book I've read in years and certainty the best political book I've ever read.

4 people found this helpful

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Understanding Power: good material badly presented

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend it, but with major caveats. Chomsky is a brilliant thinker with an array of facts at his command that goes far beyond "impressive": "staggering" is more like it. He both knows about and has thought about an extraordinary range of issues. And this is part of the difficulty in listening to this book. The material seems to have been organized in a haphazard, or at least bizarre, way: a given chapter might include material on abortion, the Korean War, various conspiracy theories, and Wall Street capitalists. The next chapter might include some of these as well, along with a bunch of others. The material is certainly not organized chronologically, which would have had its own value in seeing the development of Chomsky's thoughts. The chapter titles are of no help here, nor are the "section" titles -- I'm not sure what else to call them -- phrases inserted between chunks of material. They feel like the editor/producer telling me what the next part is "actually" about; this is not a big drawback, but could have been done much better.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Understanding Power?

The book left me with diametrically opposed feelings - the need to take action, to find something that one can do, set next to the feeling of the enormous difficulty of making anything actually happen. These thoughts are echoed over and over by the people -- often serious activists themselves -- who attended these talks and whose questions structure the material. Then again, perhaps that is the result that Chomsky was striving for.

What didn’t you like about Robin Bloodworth’s performance?

The reading itself isn't bad, but there are some choices (which may or may not have been Bloodworth's) that really, and I mean really, get in the way of making this a more enjoyable experience. One is simply how Noam Chomsky's first name is pronounced. I have always heard "Noam" pronounced to rhyme with "Rome" or (what I think is more correct) just as it is spelled, as having almost two syllables: think of saying "Noah" but with an "m" on the end. In the various editors notes that occur through the recording, this is the way Bloodworth says it. All good. But whenever a questioner says "Noam" -- most of the material consists of Chomsky's responses to questions, so this happens a lot --it is pronounced, utterly inexplicably, to rhyme with "Nam" just as in "Vietnam". The first time I thought he was just repeating what the person asking the question actually said. But it's done every single time, and I would bet anything this didn't happen in the actual events. And it's irritating every single time. Such an easy thing to get right, and he knows the right way to say it, so why?? Still, this is less offensive that something it really must have been in Bloodworth's control. Questions are asked, as one would imagine, by both men and women. Bloodworth says at the outset that he will identify the questioners by gender, apparently thinking this makes it easier to follow the material. It doesn't, in my opinion, but it's no big deal. Or not at least till you hear how he does this. When a man asks a question, Bloodworth's voice drops in pitch and becomes rather more harsh, sometimes almost gruff. Even more noticeably, when he's relating a woman's question, his voice gets very distinctly higher in pitch and softer, in some cases actually breathy. He delivers, in other words, the quintessential stereotypes of men's and women's speech and, in my opinion, it verges on outright sexism. It certainly gets in the way of paying attention to the content of the questions. Considering what the book is about, one is only left to wonder what Chomsky would think listening to this.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

This book should not be listened to in one sitting, even if it were short enough to do so as a practical matter. There is too much to think about on each of the many topics covered, not only as to what Chomsky is saying, but how his narrative fits in with (or rather contrasts with) what you've heard and read before. Most of the thinking should be "if I'm so moved and/or disturbed by what I've just heard, what could I or should I do about this?"

7 people found this helpful

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A good start to Chomsky...

I enjoyed this very much. The first 9 "chapters" are a good summation of the U.S. and it's impact both here and abroad throughout the latter portion of the 20th century. For people like me in their mid 30's, it will be very interesting as much of what is covered happened when we were very young or before our time began. The last part of this collection has some very alarming conversation in regards to our future that is happening now and in recent years. Some may find this very boring and that is understandable as it can be very "dry" unless you are just very into Chomsky or his perspective on the power structure in our world. Overall it was a good listen but I had to give it a 4 because I did struggle to stay interested through some of it. I would like to give a lot of credit to the editors for what must have been a tedious and painstaking process to compile the best questions and answers from many different talks .

3 people found this helpful

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Preaching to the choir in a powerful way

So what are you doing about (it - whatever)?? Noam has always pushed us to be our best selves - to try to right wrongs and find alternatives to violence in our own lives and those of people everywhere. He is reminding us of what is in our hearts - we know when something is unsustainable (our shortsighted economic greed and resultant violence) and we know what to do about it (seek out and join with like-minded people to speak out, to support the good and to oppose and expose the oppression by the corporate oligarchy. We are powerful together, but not in isolation. I say listen, learn, love ourselves and others and don't let our brothers and sisters suffer - just do it. Together we are powerful!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Damien H
  • 10-31-17

Compelling listening

The more of the book I listened to, the more engaging and accessible I found it. There is a lot to listen to, but I would encourage listeners to persevere. The more of the book you hear, the more the complete picture is revealed.

25 people found this helpful

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  • C. S. Horler
  • 07-07-18

Effecting Change

I listened to this over 6 weeks, at times a bit repetitive - but I suppose that's to be expected.

Probably 60/40 illustrative examples concern US foreign or domestic policy. Vs. The rest of the world.

The essence of the message :
* Governments under the foot of corporations
* Continual military action to ensure arms manufacture
* Universities shape the potential elites (plus the normal function of education and research)
* The press, not to be trusted.
* Economic strategy reasonably clear as one root cause, but no solution

Negatives:
* no discussion of rights and freedoms in the digital age (modern Internet, digital surveillance, evolution of dark web etc)
* leaves you wondering about if this is targeted at your insecurities - who should we trust.
* lacking in depth treatment of Europe (at one point alludes to more evolved socio-politic of Europe, and at another naive view of Europe wrt US) probably the wrong book if you want a greater understanding of European politics, culture and business.

Doesn't really answer the question how to effect change, only makes clear - new governments are only a placebo during the honeymoon period until corporations fully exert their control. Democratic voting power?

23 people found this helpful

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  • flying_fin
  • 09-15-15

Listen to this book and awake from the dream

What made the experience of listening to Understanding Power the most enjoyable?

This is probably one of the most influential books I have ever experienced. It covers so much ground, is so detailed and fact-rich that I never for a moment questioned the authenticity and sincerity of Chomsky's opinions and study of a world in the grip of trans-national corporate power. The depth of analysis and reasoning is at times breathtaking and much of the content will stay with me forever. I hope many will have the chance to read it and spread the word in order that we might all, in our small way, change for the better the sociopolitical landscape we find ourselves in today.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Thomas McNeely
  • 01-09-17

Mixed bag

This is a good introduction to Noam Chomsky, and enjoyable. I'm glad I bought it.

However, some of the material is redundant - repeating arguments made elsewhere in the audiobook. Also, some of it has nothing to do with politics and society: it's just Noam telling us his guesses and opinions, and explaining how he feels about social activism.

Also, the way the narrator reads the questions from the audiences often presents them as stupid, or worshipful. That's not great.

14 people found this helpful

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  • It's Me!
  • 03-31-16

Really Indispensable Book!

Any additional comments?

This book is quite philosophical in nature. It defines the class of Chomsky if you’ve, only, vaguely heard about the man before. I have had reasonably good understanding of how US is working towards her hegemonic plans. But this book has given me strong understanding as to how serious the country is towards it’s malicious schemes. Arguments presented in the book are very strong and clear. It’s simple and so easy to follow and comprehend. There is no rhetoric, spat or rant of any kind. It’s pure intellectual work. Really loved it!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-13-15

A book made for audible

This is a great book. It is tough going in places, so make use of the bookmarks and go back until you understand. It's long but it's worth it. The detail and examples are well thought out and relevant to today.

If you find yourself questioning information you read on social media, watch on the TV or read in the newspaper, this book is for you.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Sam
  • 11-06-16

insightful and relevant to history and present

Very long and detailed journey of American and world history rooted in real examples a day references. The relevance of some predictions and commentary from 1990's to today's political landscape is truly reflection of well grounded understanding of power dynamics

3 people found this helpful

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  • julien
  • 08-06-17

brilliant

my first experience of Noam Chomsky. I much preferred that book than the subsequent one i read of him, because this one is a collection of picked interventions of the authors rather than a long, structured narrative, which allow a much greater span to the reflexion.

the picture the author paints of the current american and world power structure is so simple, so instinctive yet so completely misunderstood its bewildering.

i highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding our world

6 people found this helpful

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  • J. Deane
  • 04-02-21

In parts quite dated. a Curate's egg from Chomsky

Chomsky is quite a notorious figure on the American left, taking a position far more radical than most American commentators. This is quite refreshing, and his critique of American society is worth listening to. Even if the listener finds some of his conclusions questionable, they do spark thought about the fundamental direction of society. It is a radical collection of thoughts, but very centered on the American experience and culture

Most of the dialogues that this work is drawn from are from the nineties, and while some issues are unchanged and his thoughts often prophetic, others are quite dated. There is little on gender or environmental injustice, or the eclipse of the US economy by other nations. Some pieces are also fairly irrelevant to modern ears, such as critiques of particular American editorialisers.

The narrator mostly handles the text well, though his voices for the male questioners seems rather bombastic and for the females rather pleading.

Worth persisting through the dull bits as there are some gems in there too, and it has inspired me to acquire a more contemporary work.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jack Gleeson
  • 12-09-16

Mind Blowing

The book, which touches on so many intricate subjects, is a masterpiece. Human introspection at the highest level.

Possibly the most powerful and thought-provoking material produced this century.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Hiro
  • 12-07-16

Incredible breadth of knowledge and razor sharp intellect

The biggest problem we encounter when reading(?) audiobooks is the total quality of production. Contents of course, editing, narration, speed, voice....

This one is as good as it can get. Superb writing, obviously. Editors did a fantastic job organising his talks in a very accessible format.
And narration. Very comfortable to listen to. I like it a lot.

Thank you for creating this. Very educational and inspiring, that is, Noam Chomsky.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Marko Maljkovic
  • 11-16-20

brilliant mind

Chomski's master-class in preparation and delivery of hard truths. Facts are much simpler than fiction and I love his "follow the money" approach. At the end of the day, the messages are simple - money is power and power must be preserved by all means.

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  • Igor A. Jakubowicz
  • 10-24-20

Must read for thinking people

This book is still relevant today and should be compulsory reading for every thinking person.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-14-20

Everyone should listen to this.

Excellently narrated. Proper eye opener and still highly relevant in 2020. Everyone should study the concepts contained in this book.

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  • Robert Starreveld
  • 04-17-20

Incredible

Would highly recommend to anyone who wants to understand this subject or how Chomsky is and how he works

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  • Akram
  • 02-13-20

Excellent book

Although the book is covering a period 20 to 30 years ago, it is still vital to understand today's power structure.

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  • Mick
  • 11-19-19

A MUST if you wish to understand our world.

I've been an admirer of Noam Chomsky for many years. His work has shone light in places that power would prefer remain in the dark. I couldn't recommend this collection of his discussions enough.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 10-01-19

really great and eye opening

it was good - clear, and reinforces my preconceived biases so i really enjoyed it

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  • Anton
  • 07-25-19

illuminating

Eye opening work by the great Noam Chomsky, I have recommended this to a number of friends, a great demonstration of how the system is corrupted to favour self-interested elites. Noam does prescribe remedies, but they are hard fought and won, be prepared to do that if you want to see change

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  • Giant Shaven Dwarf
  • 05-27-19

An eye opening discussion worth chewing on

22 hours of mind altering discussions with Dr Chomsky regarding the rough edges and delicate nuances of power and how to understand what they mean in society today. Even if you don't agree or align with what's said, it can't help but allow you a chance to ponder over some of the hot topics and global mechanisms throughout the world which are still valid today.