This biography describes the intellectual and political environments that helped shape Noam Chomsky, a pivotal figure in contemporary linguistics, politics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy. In describing these formative individuals and milieus, the book also presents an engaging political history of the last several decades, including such events as the Spanish Civil War, the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the march on the Pentagon. The book highlights Chomsky's views on the uses and misuses of the university as an institution, his assessment of useful political engagement, and his doubts about postmodernism. Because Chomsky is given ample space to articulate his views on many of the major issues relating to his work, both linguistic and political, this book can also be seen as the autobiography that Chomsky says he will never write.
Barsky's account reveals the remarkable consistency in Chomsky's interests and principles over the course of his life. The book contains well-placed excerpts from Chomsky's published writings and unpublished correspondence, including the author's own long correspondence with Chomsky.