Noam Chomsky to Teach Politics Course in Spring

Students: There are still seats available for POL 150C2: “What is Politics?”

Community members: The class offered through the Humanities Seminars Program is sold out.


This spring, students of all ages will have the exciting opportunity to learn about and discuss politics with one of the greatest public intellectuals of our time, Noam Chomsky.

Noam Chomsky is starting to be a familiar face on the University of Arizona campus.

For three out of the last four years, Chomsky has visited the UA to give sold-out lectures, the most recent being SBS’s “Conversation on Privacy” event last March with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, a two-hour talk that has been viewed by more than 300,000 people.

Chomsky is a world-renowned linguist, public intellectual, and political activist. A professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT, Chomsky is the author of more than 100 books, his most recent being “Who Rules the World?” Chomsky is one of the most cited scholars in modern history.

Chomsky’s stay in 2017 will be his longest yet. He will be co-teaching the course POL 150C2: ‘What is Politics?” The course, which is a regular 3-unit offering with both online and in-person elements, will meet for seven weeks from Jan. 12-March 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

POL 150C2 is a general education course for UA undergraduates. For the first time ever, the UA has made it possible to co-convene a regular course with an offering of the Humanities Seminars Program, thus providing an opportunity for community members to learn alongside first- and second-year UA students. Connecting students from multiple generations and political outlooks, this course is sure to stimulate ideas, debate, and dialogue. The course also includes an Honors section, in which Honors students will participate in small-group weekly discussion led by Chomsky. (The Humanities Seminar course and Honors section are full. Undergraduate seats are still available.)

“Chomsky’s talks at the UA have been tremendously popular,” said John Paul Jones, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We thought that students might want a deeper engagement with him, so we asked him if he wanted to teach a class at the UA and he enthusiastically said yes. We also wanted to make room in the class for members of the Humanities Seminars Program, the average age of which is post-retirement.”

Jones is excited about the possibilities of convening an undergraduate class at the same time as a Humanities Seminar.

“It's potentially the best learning experience that either group will ever have, both because of the instructors and the cross-generational aspect,” Jones said.

Malcolm Compitello, director of the Humanities Seminars Program, was excited to offer this course to the community: “’What Is Politics?’ fulfills so many of the Humanities Seminars Program’s missions: first, high-quality teaching with one of America’s great scholars and intellectuals; second, community outreach across generations and town-gown borders; and third, challenging content in its exploration of America’s political, economic, and social achievements and failures.”

The course examines industrial state capitalism as the dominant organizing principle of our economy. Students will interrogate the consequences of this orientation, such as climate change, social inequality, potential nuclear terrorism, and the expansion of militarism and warfare. Students will also investigate the achievements and difficulties involved with agitating for progressive change.

Chomsky will teach with Marv Waterstone, UA emeritus professor in the School of Geography and Development, who also has a long and distinguished career. His research and teaching focus on the Gramscian notions of hegemony and common sense, and their connections to social justice and progressive social change. His most recent co-authored book is Geographic Thought: A Praxis Perspective.

Chomsky's connections to the UA are deep and long-standing. Several UA linguistics faculty were either Chomsky’s students or departmental fellows at MIT.

Widely considered to be the father of modern linguistics, Chomsky is credited with revolutionizing the field of linguistics by introducing the Chomsky hierarchy, generative grammar and the concept of a universal grammar. He has debated the likes of B.F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, and Michel Foucault.

Chomsky is also famous for his political commentary. Over the years, he has published numerous books and lectured widely on U.S. foreign policy, Mideast politics, terrorism, democratic society and war.

His fame has even seeped into popular culture. Called the “Elvis of academia” by Bono, Chomsky has been “interviewed” by Ali G, referenced in TV shows such as the “Gilmore Girls,” and landed on coffee mugs and T-shirts.

Students taking the Politics 150C2 course should look forward to a unique experience.

"After attending the talk between Chomsky, Greenwald, and Snowden last year I became fascinated by Chomsky and his perspectives on both security and linguistics,” said Julea Lipiz, a senior studying political science and molecular and cellular biology. “The ability to study what politics actually is from a person who is known worldwide for their work in both politics and psychology is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I knew that if I didn't take this course I would deeply regret it."

Chomsky’s visit to the UA is supported by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Humanities Seminars Program, the Confluencenter for Critical Inquiry, the College of Education, the Graduate and Professional Student Council, the Honors College, the Department of Linguistics, the Institute of the Environment, and the Office of Inclusive Excellence.

Published Date: 

11/10/2016 - 11:17am