This essay argues that the reception of Noam Chomsky's political scholarship by progressive academics demonstrates that the state of theory in the humanities has reached a point of crisis; that is, Chomsky's unpopularity in certain academic circles indicates that conceptions of intellectual labor have been radically reconfigured within the academy since the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the wake of much of his political writing about 9/11, an interesting phenomenon has emerged: Chomsky repels his onetime allies within progressive circles, while attracting more and more people among the general public to his point of view, providing an extremely interesting commentary on the state of intellectual labor in the academy. Chomsky's popular base seems to have expanded while his academic base has contracted. How can we account for these opposed tendencies? Is it that Chomsky has embarrassed “elite educated opinion” in a way that some can no longer tolerate? In “Crude Wars,” Timothy Brennan and Keya Ganguly write, “It has become fashionable for cultural critics to reject supposedly outmoded theories of political economy, to disdain the simple exposure of hidden agendas, to scoff at the likes of Noam Chomsky or Armand Mattelart on the grounds that their notions have been superseded by the ever-inventive strategies of the market.” To what within current conceptions of intellectual labor can we really attribute this tendency? It is this question to which my essay turns.

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