2011 Professor Noam Chomsky

Distinguished American linguist, social scientist and human rights campaigner

Sydney Peace Prize Citation

For inspiring the convictions of millions about a common humanity and for unfailing moral courage. For critical analysis of democracy and power, for challenging secrecy, censorship and violence and for creating hope through scholarship and activism to promote the attainment of universal human rights.

On 3 November, the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize was presented to Professor Noam Chomsky by 2008 Peace Prize Laureate, Patrick Dodson, at the McLaurin Hall at the University of Sydney.

Earlier that day, at the Sydney Opera House, Prof Chomsky answered audience questions on ‘Problems of Knowledge and Freedom’- linguistics, global politics, human rights, responses to climate change, the nature of democracy. This event was chaired by veteran Australian broadcaster Mary Kostakidis.

On Wednesday 2 November, a 2000-strong crowd at the Sydney Town Hall were eager to show their appreciation to Professor Chomsky, whose life’s work as a challenger of unjust power has lent influence and inspiration to activists world wide.

Professor Noam Chomsky is often described as one of the West’s most influential intellectuals in the cause of peace, and the most significant challenger of unjust power and as an individual who is not only brilliant but heroic. Chomsky first became widely known through his work on modern linguistics especially his theory of a universal grammar. Since the 1960s, when he opposed the Vietnam War, he has forged a reputation as a political activist or “libertarian socialist”, especially as a critic of American foreign and domestic policy. He has written more than 150 books.

The award to Noam Chomsky came at a time of violence and protest around the world. Across the Middle East brave people challenged authoritarian rule, yearned for human rights and for a state of their own. Yet instead of deliberating on how we might also foster dialogue about justice, Australia was producing an ugly state of politics. Those who expressed the needs of the planet and of vulnerable people were demonised by radio commentators, demeaned by powerful leaders, and even threatened in the streets. In contrast to those developments, the Jury’s choice for Noam Chomsky produced a great opportunity to promote inspiring conversations about peace with justice.

The Peace Prize Jury noted that for more than 50 years, Chomsky has been a world champion of freedom of speech, of the value of transparency in government and the need to challenge secrecy and censorship. In his study of the political economy of human rights, he exposed state crimes, induced by US foreign policy, across South America, the Middle East and South East Asia. The committee applauded Chomsky for challenging abusive uses of power with unfailing moral courage, and for commitment to the principle that forces for change should be nonviolent.

The Jury also commended Professor Chomsky for his dual role as an activist as well as intellectual and would not separate those responsibilities. Urging academics to find the courage to move far beyond the ivory tower, he hopes they can play a fuller role as citizen educator — about human rights, about violent militaristic ways of thinking and acting, about those peace with justice issues, such as poverty and hunger.


Chomsky’s intellectual stature has been compared to that of Galileo, Newton and Descartes. His influence has been felt in fields as diverse as artificial intelligence, cognitive neurology, music theory, anthropology, law and theology. His moral stature has been described as prophetic. He was the only scientist or philosopher on the White House ‘Enemies List.’

During his stay, Noam Chomsky delivered lectures and answered questions about economics, history, international relations, linguistics, philosophy, justice and much more: What is unique about human language? How is it related to core components of human nature: cognition, moral judgment and other human activity? How can peace in the Middle East be achieved? What does the rise of China mean? What ought to be done about global economic problems? Is there a difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?

An edited book was published, reconstructing Chomsky’s extemporaneous talks, informal notes, interviews and transcripts during his few days in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Click here to order the 2012 Book “Peace with Justice – Noam Chomsky in Australia”, Edited by Clinton Fernandes.

Ideas at the House: “Problems of Knowledge and Freedom”
Noam Chomsky’s in conversation with Mary Kostakidis

2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient Professor Chomsky
Interviewed on SBS Australia

City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture:
“Revolutionary Pacifism: Choices and Prospects”

Peace remained a distant prospect in a world torn apart with wars unnoticed, such as that in the eastern Congo, and wars unwinnable, such as that in Afghanistan.

Watch Professor Chomsky’s acceptance speech

Laureate Media

  • 2011 Laureate Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump: how we got here, and what now?

    2011 Sydney Peace Prize recipient Professor Noam Chomsky has been incredibly vocal about the dangers posed by a Trump presidency, well before the primaries and certainly after the inauguration. The below two interviews illustrate Chomsky’s view on how the United States’......

  • “Peace with Justice – Noam Chomsky in Australia” ed. Clinton Fernandes

    In November 2011, the cognitive scientist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky arrived in Australia to receive the Sydney Peace Prize. He delivered lectures and answered questions about economics, history, international relations, linguistics, philosophy, justice and much more: What is......

  • 2011 Sydney Peace Prize

    Below is an archive of print media coverage of the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize. It spans the announcement of the recipient in June 2011, through to the awarding of the prize in November 2011. Footage of the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Award......