When justice meets power: the legendary Chomsky-Foucault debate.

Truth and justice. Power and the subtle politics of cohersion. While one represents the traditional idea that truth can be absolute, and so justice can arise from it, the other perspective defines truth as something that arises relative to the context in which it is created. Power relations construct our perceptions of truth. What is just depends on what is deemed right and wrong, but these judgments are not indepent of the mechanisms by which they are created and maintained.

In essence, Chompsky, the modernist, argued for the need to act justly. Foucault, the post-modernist, argued for the need to understand how power creates our ideas of what is deemed just.

I believe it helps a lot to bear both arguments in mind. While I like to agree intellectually with Foucault, when it comes to real life, one at times has to be Chomskian. Pragmatic in action, radical in thought.

Fun fact before you start watching: Foucault was paid in hash to appear in the debate, broadcasted live on Dutch TV, which he supsequently refered to as “Chomsky hash”. And he drove a Jaguar.

The debate starts at about 3 minutes into the video.


A picture of a protest against bullfighting in Colombia, taken a week ago when I got to experience both events, simultaneously, from my balcony. The possibility, and indeed the very idea, to call for justice for animals is very recent, and undoubtedly arose out of a particular set of power relations that allows for such voices to be legitimate today.


Noam Chomsky Talks Trump, Free Speech, and the Virtues of ResistanceSam Fragoso