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    Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault Debate the Ideal Future Society in 1971

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Behold: Noam Chomsky advocates for his particular vision of how society should organize itself most equitably in the future, and Foucault shoots it down.

    It's 1971 in the Netherlands, and the two big brains are meeting up for a major televised debate (the transcript of which will later be turned into a book, On Human Nature). The ensuing discussion spans topics of justice, human nature, and power. The whole thing has been posted on YouTube, though mostly without subtitles, so you better be up on your French. The relevant bits here see Chomsky outlining his preference for anarcho-syndicalism, or revolutionary industrial unionism. 

    Chomsky envisions a society free of "coercive institutions" like banks or a central government, one led by boss-less worker collectives that share decision-making power. Wikipedia's anarcho-syndicalism page is pretty thorough, and it's a good place to learn the basics. That or Rudolf Rocker's eponymous, definitive treatise on the subject. Regardless, Foucault thinks that the same corrosive forces of power would manifest themselves even in such an egalitarian society, and he poo-poos the whole business. 

    Either way, it's fascinating. Chomsky's syndicalist society of the future certainly hasn't come any closer to fruition, of course; the American social fabric is more deeply stratified and inequitable. Yet there's merit, as he says, to simply laying out an idealistic vision; one which imagines the impossible to eke room out for the plausible. Here's the whole thing.