Noam Chomsky pp 99-120 | Cite as

Method, Methodology, and Politics

  • Alison Edgley
Part of the Critical Explorations in Contemporary Political Thought book series (CEPT)


In this chapter I seek to explore how and in what ways Chomsky’s voluminous works on American foreign policy provide practical examples of a critical realist research approach in social science. The purpose for doing this is two-fold. First, Chomsky’s political analysis has been systematically sidelined and dismissed within the academy as being of extremist nature, and therefore worthy only of being treated as polemic rather than works with social scientific pedigree. Chomsky himself does not go out of his way to lay claim to a consistent and consistently applied political philosophy, confining his thoughts on the subject to a number of interviews published by Otero (1988) and Barsamian (1992). However, these rarely appear alongside his analysis of political events, which may go some way to explaining the apparent ease with which he has been so summarily dismissed. Second, as Carter and New (2004) observe, critical realist approaches to social science are a comparatively recent development, and much writing about realism and social science has been directed towards philosophical concerns rather than demonstrating what critical realist research might look like. Situating Chomsky’s political writing within a critical realist framework, therefore, makes it possible to gain a greater appreciation of the intellectual depth of Chomsky’s extensive body of social science work, as well as examine how we might ‘do’ critical realist social science.


Foreign Policy Causal Power Critical Realist Khmer Rouge Investment Climate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barsamian, D. (1992) Chronicals of Dissent. Stirling: A. K. Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bhaskar, R. (1979) The Possibility of Naturalism. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester.Google Scholar
  3. Bhaskar, R. (1998) ‘Facts and Values: Theory and Practice’, in Archer, M., Bhaskar, R., Collier, A., Lawson, T. and Norrie, A. (eds.) Critical Realism: Essential Readings. London & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Carter, B. & New, C. (2004) Making Realism Work: Realist Social Theory and Empirical Research. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Chomsky, N. (1969) American Power and the New Mandarins. Pelican Books: London.Google Scholar
  6. Chomsky, N. & Herman, E. (1979a) The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume I. Nottingham: Spokesman.Google Scholar
  7. Chomsky, N. & Herman, E. (1979b) The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume II. Nottingham: Spokesman.Google Scholar
  8. Chomsky, N. (1981) Rules and Representations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Chomsky, N. (1985) Turning the Tide. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chomsky, N. (1988) Noam Chomsky: Language and Politics, (ed.) Otero, C. P. Montreal: Black Rose Books.Google Scholar
  11. Chomsky, N. (1989) Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  12. Chomsky, N. (1992) Deterring Democracy. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  13. Chomsky, N. (2003) Power and Terror: Conflict Hegemony and the Rule of Force. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  14. Chomsky, N. (2011) Hopes and Prospects. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  15. Collier, A. (1994) Critical Realism: An Introduction to Roy Bhaskar’s Philosophy. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  16. Edgley, A. (2000) The Social and Political Thought of Noam Chomsky. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Galtung, J. & Ruge, M. H. (1970) ‘The Structure of Foreign News’, in Tunstall, J. (ed.) Media Sociology. London: Constable.Google Scholar
  18. Herman, E. & Chomsky, N. (1988, 2008) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: The Bodley Head.Google Scholar
  19. Lawson, T. (1998) ‘Economic Science without experimentation/Abstraction’, in Archer, M., Bhaskar, R., Collier, A., Lawson, T. and Norrie, A. (eds.) Critical Realism: Essential Readings. London & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Morgenthau, H. (1948) Politics among Nationals: The Struggle for Power and Peace. New York: Alfred A Knopf.Google Scholar
  21. Peck, J. (1999) The Chomsky Reader. London: Serpents Tail.Google Scholar
  22. Sayer, A. (2000) Realism and Social Science. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wilkin, P. (1997) Noam Chomsky: On Power, Knowledge and Human Nature. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan Press Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Alison Edgley 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Edgley

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations