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Essay:

Noam Chomsky’s Documentary on Netflix Is Essential Viewing on American Politics

In his introductory remarks to “Requiem for the American Dream,” celebrated intellectual and linguistics professor Noam Chomsky expounds: “Inequality has highly negative consequences on society as a whole, because the very fact of inequality has a corrosive, harmful effect on democracy.”

Inequality is the central theme of this 2015 documentary from filmmakers Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, as they interview Chomsky over the course of 4 years in order to unravel the political and market forces that he deems to have systematically defeated the classic ideal of “The American Dream” over the past century.

The bulk of “Requiem for the American Dream” is built out as an examination of what Chomsky refers to as “The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power“. These principles revolve around the notion that political parties are dependent upon large corporations to support the high costs of political campaigning, and that the political power that corporations earn through their contributions translates into legislation that meets their own special interests. Ultimately this increases the concentration of wealth and power in a “vicious cycle” of influence and profit.

Chomsky, at his rational and coherent best, spells out his perspective regarding the modern political machine and the downfall of democracy, with a keen eye to the historical decisions and influences that have sabotaged the “common good” and shaped America’s current political, financial and social landscape. His views on the suppression of the general populace in favor of empowered members of the upper class are key to his argument, as he posits that the elite have hijacked decision-making in order to maintain their own entitlements.

Well-supported by archival footage and illuminative animation, “Requiem for the American Dream” paints a very concise portrait of political and social change in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the rise of democratization in the 1960s and the government’s often overlooked policy interventions that have helped to suppress social change in favor of corporate profiteering. It’s eye-opening stuff that provides a remarkable history lesson from one of the most esteemed and highly regarded social critics of our time.

On par with the best documentaries of the 21st Century thus far (from “The Fog of War” to “Citizenfour”), “Requiem for the American Dream” is essential viewing for the discerning viewer in search of a more complete understanding of how American society has evolved to such a dramatic point of polarization, and how both politics and big business have played such an inextricably role in this process.