“On Anarchism” is a collection of 5 essays/interview transcripts by Chomsky that came to be in vastly different periods and contexts and were combined, more or less successfully, in order to give an introduction to the concepts of anarchism. It is corroborated by a wealth of citations and references, and the notes section is abundant with additional information.
I would say that this compilation works pretty well, and that after reading it I understand the topic in question much better.
Notes on Anarchism
An excellent introduction to evolution of anarchist theories throughout history. It cites ideas of various thinkers and philosophers on the nature of the human freedom and how it may be achieved in relation to the state. It also lists most prominent attempts to achieving that freedom pointing out the failures and the partial gains.
Excerpts from Understanding Power
After reading the first essay I was left with a vague idea of the goals of anarchism and what it aims for, but Chomsky mostly restrained himself from much commentary, or to proscribing a recipe on how exactly this may be achieved. This second section is a transcript from an interview in which Chomsky answers some questions that I might have asked him myself after reading the first section. Essentially, he describes why it is something viable that we should strive for instead of being an idealistic utopia.
Part II of “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship”
This section is on biasness and non-objectivity of liberal scholars illustrated with an example of analyses of social revolution that took place during the Spanish civil war. The essay goes in depth by citing many sources, primary and secondary, both sympathetic and unsympathetic to the revolution and trying to shed light on the rise, achievements and suppression of that revolution with focus on interpretation by liberal scholars in comparison with available evidence. Reading this section helped me understand (politics of) Spanish civil war much better.
Interview with Harry Kreisler, from Political Awakenings
This is probably the section that least fits topically in the book “On Anarchism”.
While in all other sections of this book it is Chomsky-scholar speaking about the anarchism, in this transcript of a short interview a more personal relation may be seen.
Language and Freedom
This essay is most challenging. To oversimplify it, the way I understood it, it cites attempts by philosophers to describe human nature and its necessity for freedom, also defining this freedom. It analyses why and how all previous and current social orders prevented the full freedom, and suggests that studying language, as a “product of human intelligence that is, for the moment, most accessible to study”, “may contribute to humanistic social science” by projecting “a concept of social organization that would … best encourage and accommodate the fundamental human need … for spontaneous initiative, creative work, solidarity, pursuit of social justice”.