Noam Chomsky Breaks Down the Long History of Corporate Hostility to Workers’ Rights

“A major reason for the almost fanatic attack on unions is they are a democratizing force.”

— Noam Chomsky, from Requiem for the American Dream


The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a case that’s expected to have sweeping implications for workers’ rights and the future of organized labor. If history is any guide, the court will likely do a lot more to advance the interests of corporate owners and managers than the interests of rank-and-file American workers.¹

If you’re looking for resources to help students explore the long, and often violent, history of corporate America’s resistance to labor rights in this country, don’t miss the critically acclaimed documentary Requiem for the American Dream, featuring Noam Chomsky.

In the film, Chomsky shows how the business world’s unrelenting decades-long offensive against labor unions and workers’ rights links up with a range of other fundamental threats to American democracy, including exploding levels of income inequality and what he calls “corporate tyranny” over virtually every aspect of our political and information systems.

“Right through American history, there’s been an ongoing clash between pressure for more freedom and democracy coming from below, and efforts at elite control and domination coming from above,” Chomsky says in the film. “A major reason for the concentrated, almost fanatic attack on unions, on organized labor, is they are a democratizing force. They provide a barrier that defends workers’ rights, but also popular rights generally. That interferes with the prerogatives and power of those who own and manage the society.”

Requiem for the American Dream is at once a remarkable piece of cinema and an extraordinary teaching tool, ideal for classroom use and community organizing. You can now watch the full movie through your university or public library on the Kanopy streaming platform, purchase a 7-day streaming rental through MEF, or get it on DVD. To see if your university subscribes to Kanopy, click here. For other streaming options, click here.

Requiem for the American Dream was directed by award-winning filmmakers Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott.


“[Chomsky] melds history, philosophy and ideology into a sobering vision of a society in an accelerating decline.”

— The New York Times

“Brilliant. Chomsky is a master of distilling complex histories and powers into their most essential elements.”

— Dr. Wendy Brown | Author, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Anti-Democratic Politics in the West

“Chomsky tells this compelling horror story with moral authority and charismatic calm. The camera seems to speak his mind, moving back and forth between his memorable face, historical footage, vivid images, and collages cut from the currency of greed.”

— Dr. Nancy Folbre | Author, Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas

“This short, sharp, smart film serves as one of the best entry points to the discussion of inequality.”

— The Hollywood Reporter

“Chomsky’s critique extends beyond left and right, resulting in a lucid analysis that’s breathtaking in its simplicity, and all the more scary for it.”

— TimeOutNy

“If you want to understand neoliberalism in the U.S. over the past 40 years, you must watch Requiem for the American Dream.”

— Dr. Robert Pollin | Distinguished University Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst