David Masciotra in the Los Angeles Review of Books:
DAVID MASCIOTRA: Did your and Marv Waterstone’s decision to publish the lectures from your course “What Is Politics?” derive from a sense of needing to return to fundamentals, perhaps due to the convergence of crises we are currently experiencing?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Marv and I felt that the content of the book, which does begin with essentials, like the nature of presupposed “common sense” — where people get their ideas and beliefs from — goes on to reach things that are very urgent and critical today. We based this on our own sense of things, and the reactions from the two class cohorts. One is undergraduate students at the University of Arizona, and the other is community people, older people. The two groups interact, and judging from their reactions, both seemed to find it valuable and instructive. That was encouragement enough for us to put it together, and there is material that goes beyond the lectures, of course. It seemed worth doing, and the reactions we’ve had so far reinforce that conclusion.
What do you believe is a prevalent misconception among Americans in answer to the simple question “What is politics?” And how would you correct that misconception?
Well, if this course was taught by a mainstream instructor, politics would be what is taught in a civics course: how the rules are in the Senate and House, who introduces legislation, who votes on it, the nuts and bolts of the workings of the formal political system. From our point of view, politics is what happens in the streets and what happens in corporate boardrooms. The latter overwhelmingly dominates the shaping and framing of what happens in the political system.