Ben Smithgall

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Bit pusher at Spotify. Previously Interactive News at the New York Times, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.





Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change

By Noam Chomsky (with C.J. Polychroniou)

Finished reading on May 28, 2018

Truly disappointing for a number of reasons:

  1. The format does not lend itself well to an exploration of Chomsky’s ideas; the Q&A format does not give any space to deep exploration about any individual topic, and there are not really any serious footnotes or endnotes for curious readers to pursue further;
  2. C.J. Polychroniou is a poor interlocutor for Chomsky. He does not engage with his interview subject but instead seems to read questions as if from a script and change topics wildly;
  3. The interviews are published in a seemingly random order, where one interview might have a wildly divergent topic from the next, but then in the third you will find questions that are almost exactly the same as ones from the first essay;
  4. As a physical object, this book is low quality. There were several type-setting issues that caused columns of text to be misaligned with other columns.

Altogether, this was a fairly lazy and unfortunate attempt at introducing the politics and ideas of Noam Chomsky.