Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and political activist. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific community as one of the fathers of modern linguistics, and a major figure of analytic philosophy. Since the 1960s, he has become known more widely as a political dissident and an anarchist, referring to himself as a libertarian socialist. Chomsky is the author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views, despite being typically absent from the mainstream media.
Chomsky is also the eighth most cited human being in history, behind Karl Marx, Lenin, Shakespeare, Aristotle, the Bible, Plato and Freud.
In the 1950s, Chomsky began developing his theory of generative grammar, which has undergone numerous revisions and has had a profound influence on linguistics. His approach to the study of language emphasizes "an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans" known as universal grammar, "the initial state of the language learner," and discovering an "account for linguistic variation via the most general possible mechanisms." He elaborated on these ideas in 1957's Syntactic Structures, which then laid the groundwork for the concept of transformational grammar. He also established the Chomsky hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power. In 1959, Chomsky published a widely influential review of B. F. Skinner's theoretical book Verbal Behavior. In this review and other writings, Chomsky broadly and aggressively challenged the behaviorist approaches to studies of behavior and language dominant at the time, and contributed to the cognitive revolution in psychology. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has influenced the philosophy of language and mind.
Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, first articulated in his 1967 essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" and later extended in his American Power and the New Mandarins (1969), Chomsky established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. He has since become an outspoken political commentator and a dedicated activist; he is a self-declared anarcho-syndicalist and a libertarian socialist, principles he regards as grounded in the Age of Enlightenment and as "the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of advanced industrial society."
Chomsky's social criticism has also included an analysis of the mass media; Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), co-written with Edward S. Herman, articulated the propaganda model theory for examining the media.
According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index in 1992, Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992. He is also the eighth most cited source of all time, and is considered the "most cited living author". He is also considered a prominent cultural figure, while his status as a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy has made him controversial.