Chomsky and the Failed States

Posted by M ws On Friday, January 13, 2012 6 comments
Avram Noam Chomsky born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and a major figure of analytic philosophy. His work has influenced fields such as computer science, mathematics, and psychology. Chomsky is credited as the creator or co-creator of the Chomsky hierarchy, the universal grammar theory, and the Chomsky–Sch├╝tzenberger theorem. (Source: Wikipedia)

In 2006, Noam Chomsky wrote Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. A New York Times review said:

Forceful, lucid, and meticulously documented, Failed States offers a comprehensive analysis of a global superpower that has long claimed the right to reshape other nations while its own democratic institutions are in severe crisis, and its policies and practices recklessly place the world on the brink of nuclear and environmental disaster. Systematically dismantling America's pretense of being the world's arbiter of democracy, Failed States is Chomsky's most focused, and urgent, critique to date.

Stephen Lendman wrote an excellent commentary on Noam Chomsky's book AT THIS LINK.

Excerpt from Chomsky's book:

The term failed state is often used by political commentators and journalists to describe a state perceived as having failed at some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government. In order to make this definition more precise, the following attributes, proposed by the Fund for Peace, are often used to characterize a failed state:
loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein,
  • erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions,
  • an inability to provide public services, and
  • an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. 
Often a failed nation is characterized by social, political, and/or economic failure. 
Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of its territory; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality; refugees and involuntary movement of populations; and sharp economic decline. 
The level of government control required to avoid being considered a failed state varies considerably amongst authorities. Furthermore, the declaration that a state has "failed" is generally controversial and, when made authoritatively, may carry significant geopolitical consequences.

Since 2005 the United States think-tank Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy, publishes an annual index called the Failed States Index. According to the Index:

The index's ranks are based on twelve indicators of state vulnerability - four social, two economic and six political.[6] The indicators are not designed to forecast when states may experience violence or collapse. Instead, they are meant to measure a state's vulnerability to collapse or conflict. All countries in the red (Alert, FSI of 90 or more), orange (Warning, FSI of 60 or more), or yellow (Moderate, FSI of 30 or more) categories display some features that make parts of their societies and institutions vulnerable to failure.

Some in the yellow zone may be failing at a faster rate than those in the more dangerous orange or red zones, and therefore could experience violence sooner. Conversely, some in the red zone, though critical, may exhibit some positive signs of recovery or be deteriorating slowly, giving them time to adopt mitigating strategies.

Here are the 12 factors used by Fund For Peace to ascertain the status of a country (from Wikipedia):


Mounting demographic pressures.
Massive displacement of refugees, creating severe humanitarian emergencies.
Widespread vengeance-seeking group grievance.
Chronic and sustained human flight.
Slum creation in poor areas.


Uneven economic development along group lines.
Severe economic decline.


Criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state.
Deterioration of public services.
Suspension or arbitrary application of law; widespread human rights abuses.
Security apparatus operating as a "state within a state".
Rise of factionalized elites.
Intervention of external political agents.

6 comments to Chomsky and the Failed States

  1. says:

    Anonymous Masterwordsmith - so you studied linguistics eh? It has been so long since I heard Chomsky's name after leaving uni.

    Thanks for sharing this piece.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Good morning, proud2bmalaysian!

    No, I did not study linguistics. I majored in Mass Communication and my minor was in Sociology. What did you study? You are most welcome. I am trying to explore different topics while trying to cope with my art homework :-). Great to hear from you again! Wishing you a lovely weekend! Keep in touch!


  1. says:

    pak yeh Chomsky is Libertarian Sociology. But Democracy is dependent on the fact that the majority is knowledgeable. However in reality ,the majority is stupid.
    Failed States is "Failed United States" as a democratic state. America used to practice true democracy, but had passed its peake and is now practicing a false democracy.There is no more 2 party system as both had been bought over by the Corporotocracy.
    Another party which would look like a 3rd party but actually is the 2nd Party, considering that the 2 parties had become one, should make their presence.
    The Ying Yang equation of politics must be maintained,otherwise the it will be a failed state.
    If America is going to be a failed state, the whole world will be a failed state, because every state is adopting American Capitalism, characterised by President Nixons Breton Woods money without security in gold standard.
    Beware of year the Financial Apocalypse.!!!

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Pak Yeh


    Thank you for your excellent take on Chomsky's "Failed States". With one knock-out blow, you have expertly zeroed in on the heart of the matter!!!

    You are right! Indeed, we are living in dangerous times. If only more can be enlightened!! With the kind of education system that we have, no wonder we see the state of minds who cannot perceive how and why we need to have something better than the choices we have before us!!

    Take care and hope that you will continue to share your nuggets of wisdom here.

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend!


  1. says:

    Anonymous You do have some very intellectual visitors like Pak Yeh here.

    My major has nothing to do with writing or even language. Just that I enjoy writing and this was a way to vent my pent up frustrations yet having to temper the verbiage with prudence and be as apolitical as possible. Writing political views have heightened my awareness of our country as well as building a penchant to ensure accuracy of fact rather than playing with mere opinions from what I surmised from the deluge of comments from Malaysians.

    Perhaps I should also venture to other areas like yourself.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Proud2bMalaysian

    Yes, I am blessed with a good cross-section of readers, including intellectual ones like you, Pak Yeh, Walla and many others.

    Thank you for sharing so beautifully about your motivation to write. I sincerely hope that you will continue to impart your wisdom and opinions via your elegant writings.

    Take care and before I forget, Gong Xi Fa Cai to you and yours!

    Best wishes

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