Noam Chomsky and Fabian Scheidler on the Crisis of Civilization and „The End of the Megamachine“

Noam Chomsky and Fabian Scheidler on the Crisis of Civilization and "The End of the Megamachine"

In this video, world-renowned linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky speaks with Fabian Scheidler, author of the book “The End of the Megamachine. A Brief History of a Failing Civilization” ( The conversation, moderated by Nermeen Shaikh, focuses on the destructive forces that are threatening human survival and the future of life on earth.

0’14”: Nermeen Shaikh: Introduction.

Fabian Scheidler:
2’05: The crisis of life on Earth. Demystifying the history of states, “civilization” and modernity/capitalism.
3’20: Formation of states and “civilization” 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Surge of violence due to militarization and land privatization
5’20 The Four Tyrannies: physical power; structural violence (e.g. property relations); ideological power; “The Tyranny of Linear Thinking”.

Noam Chomsky:
10’00: Pre-state phase of human existence was less violent than life in state systems.
11’05: Europe the most violent place in the world for the last 1000 years until 1945, due to warring states.
13’50: Imposed state structures in the Middle East and Africa.
14’35: Erosion of state system and borders necessary in the face of global crises: pandemics, global warming, the threat of nuclear war demand internationalism.
15’55: US state-building: endless wars since 1783.
16’20: American Revolution and war of extermination against Native Americans
18’25: The thousand years’ war of European states against the Muslim world, brutal imposition of nation states.
19’25: New internationalism. Covid-19 vaccines needed for everyone.
21’00: US destroys internationalism: WHO / Cofex. Paris climate agreement. Iran agreement.

Nermeen Shaikh:
24’00: Crumbling of the nation state system in the US, the EU?

Noam Chomsky:
24’25: US face possible civil war and breakdown. War games for the case that Trump loses the election.
28’35: EU, reasons for its failure: economic system run by unelected bodies (European commission, IMF, ECB). Neoliberal plague. Anger, bitterness, ascent of demagogues.
31’40: Root causes for Brexit: de-industrialisation of Britain
33’00: Progressive international: Bernie Sanders movement plus Diem25.
33’55: International class war. Reactionary international based in the White House.
34’10: Agreements between Israel and Arab dictatorships: forging a reactionary international in the Middle East.
35’50: Progressive international: struggle about post-pandemic world.
36’50: US constitution: James Madison: government “to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”

Fabian Scheidler:
39’10: Response to Chomsky. Climate refugees main topic for progressive internationalism.
40’05: The myths of modernity: torture, inquisition, witch hunts reached climax not in the “dark” Middle Ages but in modernity. Slavery and genocides as “monsters of modernity”.
41’00: War, militarization and the emergence of capitalism. Private capital and states.
44’10: Corporations enforcing endless expansion.
45’25: Capitalism based on monopolies, not free markets.
46’55: The corporate nanny state. Subsidies and bail-outs: fossil fuel industry, Wall Street, car industry, aviation industry. Taxpayers financing the industries that destroy the planet.
48’55: Transformation of the state: money for decentralized economic institutions that work for the common good. Cooperatives.

Noam Chomsky:
51’05: State capitalism and corporations.
52’10: The neoliberal plague.
54’55: After WW II: Egalitarian growth, no financial crises, no tax havens. Different varieties of state capitalism.
56’05: Climate change: “With 3 or 4 degrees centigrade warming, we are probably finished.”
56’35: Different time scales for stopping climate havoc and overcoming capitalism.
57’20: Green New Deal proposals: Congress version. Proposal by Robert Pollin.
58’40: Government should buy up fossil fuel industry, hand it over to the workforce, shift to renewables: “Perfectly feasible tomorrow.”
1h 00’ 00”: Capitalism to be overcome in the long run, by self-managed industries, cooperatives, localism.
1h 01’ 15”: “Refugee crisis” a “moral crisis of the West”.

Noam Chomsky:
1h 02’ 33”: Climate crisis as an international class struggle. Fridays for Future / Greta Thunberg, indigenous people, first nations.
1h 04’ 30” Green New Deal. Sunrise Movement. AOC.
1h 05’ 25” Democratic Party: Biden climate proposal killed by Clintonites/DNC.

Fabian Scheidler:
1h 10’ 00”: Climate/energy transition. Car industry. Living better with less production.
1h 12’ 30”: Ecological class struggle: taking away the resources from the richest 20 % and redistributing it.
1h 13’ 20”: Social movements: getting prepared for future crises. Convergence of Sanders movement, Black Lives Matter, climate movement.

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