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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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really well narrated.

Honest and easy to understand tool for dissecting elitist propaganda. All who struggle with their position within the system should read this.

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Amazing book, narration ok.

Amazing book, highly recommended. The narrator's use of different voices for men and women is distracting and unnecessary though.

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  • Senor Comatoso
  • 12-08-2015

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.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Tobinardo
  • 20-05-2015

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.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • 13-05-2015

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott M Riccardelli
  • 31-03-2015

The bleak reality of the US

Everyone needs to listen to Chomsky. Whether you're a corporate shill or a concerned citizen, this puts the bleak cultural wasteland of America into focus and exposes the nastiness and the modern form of slavery that corporations are imposing on everyone.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelly
  • 17-08-2016

Good intro

Though I don't agree with all of Noam's points I think he does a great job of getting us to understand power and how it functions in society.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Franklin Wise
  • 11-02-2016

Life Changing

The content transcends left or right "politics" and focuses on the mechanism of human power. It does so in a way that enables anyone to learn how to reason about power, namely organizational power.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • E. Ard
  • 16-07-2014

Excellent Standalone or as a Supplement

Would you listen to Understanding Power again? Why?

Yes.Noam Chomsky's writings and lectures are filled with an overwhelming number of facts, numbers, and statements. So many, in fact, most of it will never reach your long term memory after just a listen or two. I read the hard copy first. While I don't mind plucking through the pages for a part I want to revisit, this was a much less daunting review that allowed for a cover-to-cover experience.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Every single aside and footnote could be traced to a real world reality. If he said a corporation wrote a letter asking for something from the government, even if the request seems insane, that letter exists and is available to the public. That is not to say there isn't opinion in here, there is very strong opinion. The facts are immaculate, however.

Which character – as performed by Robin Bloodworth – was your favorite?

Robin Bloodworth performed Chomsky's work throughout. One thing that immediately jumped out to me, having seen or heard some of the lectures, was the difference between inflection and emphasis. I only mention this because I am aware that most who would call themselves Chomsky fans have heard a lot of audio and seen many lectures. I found that Bloodworth's performance evened out Chomsky' and provided consistency to a collection written over such a long period (at 85, he sounds healthy, but obviously different than in his youth) and including diverse formats.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

"And the end result is in fact quite similar: what are called opinions "on the left" and "on the right" in the media represent only a limited spectrum of debate which reflects the range of needs of private power-but there's essentially nothing beyond those "acceptable" positions."

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel G.
  • 02-12-2016

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?"

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. B
  • 13-05-2016

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 .

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  • Peggy Sue Richards
  • 30-06-2015

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Damien H
  • 31-10-2017

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • flying_fin
  • 15-09-2015

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.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • buzzm
  • 08-08-2017

Not bad, but not great

I enjoy listening to political commentary and Chomsky definitely has something to say. However i found this book repetitive. This is down to it being a compilation of his works. However I believe the editor could have done slightly better in putting it together.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter Thomas McNeely
  • 09-01-2017

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 13-08-2015

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.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss Ahmed
  • 06-11-2016

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

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • It's Me!
  • 31-03-2016

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!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • julien
  • 06-08-2017

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

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack Gleeson
  • 09-12-2016

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • nabil chouba
  • 02-09-2015

Great book about Power

If you could sum up Understanding Power in three words, what would they be?

I will never see the world in the same way after reading this book

Any additional comments?

I will never see the world in the same way after reading this depressing book about power. Noam is probably focusing on the dark side but all the annoying facts presented are real.
we all agree that the current system is unfair, I think future will be better with technology, an Anarchist-Chomsky solution will be possible in 20-30 years from now.
(A Must Read Book)

4 of 5 people found this review helpful