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By Chomsky Noam

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But it hasn’t right. I am right – I and one or two other individuals like me’ (Ibsen 1988: 76). The social impact of that typically modern thesis (which, however, hints at Plato) was quite immense, as the fierce language indicated. Stockmann utterly repudiated the notion, ‘that the common man, and all the ignorant and immature elements in society have the same right to criticize and to approve, to govern and to counsel as the few intellectually distinguished people’ (Ibsen 1988: 78). Stockmann was magical and possessed of greater rights to govern so long as he could proclaim the independence and the freedom of the knowledge that the baths were polluted.

Had they been, they would not have been representations of freedom, and neither would they have been able to see the social world from the God’s-eye perspective of a critical distance. The intellectuals as strangers were only, and inevitably, ambivalently linked to the system of social order and meaning. They were not a definite part of the order of things; they could not be easily accommodated within the reified classifications, and so their presence had to be made intelligible in some other way.

All of these themes gelled in the definition of the intellectual as a special type of person, an idea which reached one highpoint in the work of Nietzsche and Ortega y Gasset. But, perhaps more importantly and seriously, the magical strangers tried to eradicate (cognitively and perhaps even physically) other, competing, stranger groups which might have 31 THE TWO SOVEREIGNS been able to make social relationships reflexively aware of their own historical origins. As such, intellectuals went about such things as codifying national languages (and therefore discrediting regional ‘dialects’; this perhaps explains the political importance of language in the many parts of Europe where strangers are an especially great problem (see Anderson 1983, and also Kosztolanyi 1987, Skvorecky 1990)).

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An exchange on Manufacturing Consent by Chomsky Noam

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