Do you ever wonder about the inequality of wealth and power in American society? Noam Chomsky certainly does.
In his 2015 documentary, Requiem for the American Dream, Chomsky initiates a discourse on the origin, direction, and current state of inequality in the United States. He also discusses the present role of major corporations and financial institutions in the active propagation of the country’s imbalance.
Requiem for the American Dream centers on a series of interviews with Chomsky that occur over the span of four years. Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott co-directed the film.
Chomsky addresses the unattainability of the “American Dream”: the idea that hard work will be rewarded with wealth and respectable living. He focuses on the wealthy minority as the root from which societal inequality stems. Chomsky deconstructs the American Dream through a discussion of his 10 principles of concentration of wealth and power.
The documentary primarily films Chomsky alone, seated in front of a black backdrop as the camera zooms in on his face. Chomsky’s solitary discussion is intercut with scenes of seminal decisions from court cases, speeches from iconic leaders, and a discussion of works from philosophers (such as Adam Smith), which provide further context to Chomsky’s words. Chomsky introduces each of his 10 principles with an illustration, demonstrating the title among American dollar bills. This display reverts back to the main theme of the film.
The 10 principles, which function as the main themes of the documentary, appear connected in an almost linear system. This linear function allows Chomsky to describe exactly how a social system is designed to benefit the elite, while simultaneously deriding the working class. The first principle is called “Reduce Democracy.” This stage pushes for more freedom in the larger public and hopes to limit democratic control in higher sectors. Public mobilization calls for increased democracy in the majority system. It also causes backlash, leading to the entry of the second principle, “Shape Ideology.” This stage involves the consequences of overstimulating the public with too much control.
The third principle is called “Redesign the Economy.” As financial intuitions gain a higher stake in the economy, Chomsky calls for a minimized focus and a redistribution of power among these institutions to avoid elite control over the working class. “Shift the Burden,” the fourth principle, stems from this idea. By turning the economy away from its emphasis on financial institutions, the burden of taxes redistributes equally among the elite and working class. The remaining principles are, “Attack Solidarity,” “Run the Regulators,” “Engineer Elections,” “Keep the Rabble in Line,” “Manufacture Consent,” and “Marginalize the Population.” These principles continue to apply Chomsky’s ideas on a revolutionized political and social system of equality.
Chomsky is interactive during the documentary. He narrates stories throughout to ease the audience into his dense discussion. Yet, he leaves room for independent thought, allowing viewers to arrive at their own conclusion on the subjects of his social criticism.