Noam Chomsky may justly be considered the most important public intellectual alive, and the most significant of the post-World War Two era. Despite his scholarly contributions to linguistics, at least three generations know him primarily for his political writings and activism, voicing a left-radical, humanist critique of US foreign policy and other subjects.

Given that a human-rights discourse is prominent in Chomsky’s political writing, and given that genocide-related controversies have sometimes swirled around him, it is worthwhile to consider the overall place and framing of genocide in his published output. The present paper undertakes such an inquiry. It employs a broad and systematic sampling of Chomsky's published work (including online sources and interviews) to explore:

- How Chomsky understands the concept "genocide," and how this has evolved over the years;

- His skepticism towards the term and and criticisms of its political manipulation;

- Past genocide-related controversies involving Chomsky (the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia/Kosovo, Rwanda);

- Cases of mass violence that Chomsky considers genocides, "near" or "virtual" genocides, and propagandistic non-genocides;

- The place of the Holocaust and Israel in Chomsky's analysis; and

- Structural forms of genocide, especially those linked to contemporary capitalism and neoliberalism.

The attempt is to provide a critical and wide-ranging evaluation of a leading public intellectual's writing and commentary on genocide over the past half-century.



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