Start Date

5-2011 9:00 AM

End Date

5-2011 10:00 AM

Subjects

Vietnam War (1961 - 1975) -- Moral and ethical aspects, Noam Chomsky -- Political and social views

Description

The paper offers a critical perspective on the relevance of noted public intellectual Noam Chomsky’s work to American opposition to the Vietnam War. It gives a brief background of the war and United States policies in order to set the stage for an analysis of Chomsky’s critique. Then, the paper situates Chomsky’s main work of dissent, The Responsibility of Intellectuals, in the proper chronological and historical context. Two paradigms of protest by intellectuals and students are noted: logical and reactionary. In Vietnam, it is argued that the former was rooted in the latter, which no intellectual justification touched; therefore, while Chomsky may have and probably did frame the terms and language of the debate in the logical side of Vietnam protest, he did little to affect the deep roots of the movement. He never acted to catalyze change, but rather only shaped what was already there. However, Chomsky’s intellectual contributions did serve an important function: they balanced out the extreme rhetoric and propaganda of the other side of the debate.

Description

Honorable Mention, Karen E. Hoppes Young Historians Award for Outstanding Research and Writing.

Persistent Identifier

http://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/12398

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May 1st, 9:00 AM May 1st, 10:00 AM

The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Chomsky and Student Opposition to the Vietnam War

The paper offers a critical perspective on the relevance of noted public intellectual Noam Chomsky’s work to American opposition to the Vietnam War. It gives a brief background of the war and United States policies in order to set the stage for an analysis of Chomsky’s critique. Then, the paper situates Chomsky’s main work of dissent, The Responsibility of Intellectuals, in the proper chronological and historical context. Two paradigms of protest by intellectuals and students are noted: logical and reactionary. In Vietnam, it is argued that the former was rooted in the latter, which no intellectual justification touched; therefore, while Chomsky may have and probably did frame the terms and language of the debate in the logical side of Vietnam protest, he did little to affect the deep roots of the movement. He never acted to catalyze change, but rather only shaped what was already there. However, Chomsky’s intellectual contributions did serve an important function: they balanced out the extreme rhetoric and propaganda of the other side of the debate.