Author, activist Noam Chomsky to receive award

March 29, 2010

by Stacy Forster

Philosopher, political activist, lecturer and author Noam Chomsky will receive the A.E. Havens Center’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship on Thursday, April 8.

The award ceremony and Chomsky’s lecture, "The Role of the Radical Intellectual: Some Personal Reflections," are free to the public and will take place at 7 p.m. in Madison’s Orpheum Theater, 216 State St. No tickets are required.

Chomsky is the third scholar to receive the Havens Center award, which is given to a scholar with a distinguished and extensive record of scholarly achievement in the critical tradition of social thought. The first two went to Frances Fox Piven in 2004 and Howard Zinn in 2006.

Chomsky has provided a voice in politics for more than 40 years. Although he is well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics, since the 1960s he has become known more widely as a political dissident, an anarchist and a libertarian socialist intellectual.

Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. In February 1967, Chomsky became one of the leading opponents of the war with the publication of his essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," followed by his 1969 book, "American Power and the New Mandarins," a collection of essays that placed him at the forefront of American dissent.

"Noam Chomsky is almost certainly the best known and most widely read American public intellectual in the world," says Havens Center director Erik Olin Wright. “In his powerful early essay, ‘The Responsibility of Intellectuals,’ published at the height of the Vietnam War, Chomsky wrote, ‘It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.’ In the over four decades since that publication he has steadfastly lived up to that responsibility, relentlessly exposing the misinformation used to justify American military aggression around the world and the domination of conservative politics at home.”

His far-reaching criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and the legitimacy of U.S. power have made him a controversial figure. A prolific author, Chomsky has written dozens of books.

Established in the UW-Madison sociology department in 1984, the A. E. Havens Center for the Study of Social Structure and Social Change is dedicated to promoting critical intellectual reflection and exchange, both within the academy as well as between it and the broader society.