A few days ago, it came to my attention that both Noam Chomsky and Wikipedia have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Political Science. I was only made aware of just how utterly divorced from reality Chomsky and Wikipedia’s views were from contemporary Political Science discourse when someone dear to me, whom I love and respect greatly, told me of what they’d learned from listening to a Chomsky talk on Youtube and using Wikipedia to verify what Chomsky said. They had told me that they’d learned of the term “polyarchy” and how it is separate from both democracies and dictatorships. They even made note of Robert Dahl, the one credited for giving the term prominence, in our discussion. Needless to say, I was thoroughly confused by what they had said and I began to worry that perhaps I had misremembered my undergraduate Political Science education. I checked the Wikipedia page, which did indeed cite Dahl on numerous occasions, and stated the same thing about polyarchies being different from both democracies and dictatorships. My recollection of the term didn’t fit the definition described on Wikipedia. I went so far as to find my old book by Dahl, the sixth edition of Modern Political Analysis, and looked at the chapter which compared polyarchies with non-polyarchies. A part of me had feared I’d misremembered something crucial in my education. Lo and behold, I hadn’t misremembered anything; Noam Chomsky was espousing a view that was thoroughly divorced from what Political Science lessons actually taught about the meaning of the term and Wikipedia seems to have cited Dahl without fact-checking their own cited sources.
Here is Chomsky’s claim on what the term means:
Here is Wikipedia‘s explanation of the term:
Finally, here is both the pictures and video from the sixth edition of Robert Dahl and Bruce Stinebricker’s book Modern Political Analysis:
One may reasonably question: “How on earth did such a huge mistake on a basic term in Political Science happen?” Well, first, it should be noted that Noam Chomsky being a linguist, is not an expert on anything related to politics and especially not on terminology in Political Science discourse. Uncritically listening to lengthy videos of him droning on is not the same as having an education. Second, Wikipedia is not run by experts on the fields that Wikipedia goes into length about; it is run by laypeople who have no expertise and who rely on “common sense” even when said “common sense” is just how a term like polyarchy is popularly known due to the prolific misinformation by Noam Chomsky, or by the “common sense” view that anyone criticizing Islam is an Islamophobe despite the term Islamophobia being a neologism for blasphemy against Islam imposed upon non-Muslims by gullible people, or this thoroughgoing defense of the Nazi theory of an Aryan Invasion despite no physical evidence to support it and only crackpot “scholars” of “Religious Studies” who have dubious backgrounds and don’t use any evidentiary basis for any of their conclusions as made clear in their own Oxford Handbook of so-called “Indology” where they admit to having no axioms or procedures for any of their conclusions. Sorry, but “common sense” and personal feelings are not the same as critical thinking. I’ve since corrected my dear fellow regarding their misconception of the term and I thought this might be useful pill for others to swallow regarding the veracity of Noam Chomsky and Wikipedia.