Indigenous societies today face difficult choices: can they develop, modernize, and advance without endangering their sacred traditions and communal identity? Specifically, can their communities benefit from national education while resisting the tendency of state-imposed programs to undermine their cultural sovereignty, language, and traditions? According to Lois Meyer and Benjamín Maldonado, these are among the core questions being faced by indigenous societies whose comunalidad—or communal way of life—is at odds with the dictates of big business and the social programs of the state.
To explore these issues in depth, Meyer and Maldonado conducted a series of dialogues with Noam Chomsky, and invited numerous organizers and intellectuals from indigenous communities of resistance to comment. In three in-depth conversations, Chomsky offers poignant lessons from his vast knowledge of world history, linguistics, economics, anti-authoritarian philosophy and personal experience, and traces numerous parallels with other peoples who have resisted state power while attempting to modernize, develop, survive, and sustain their unique community identity and tradition. Following the interviews are commentaries from more than a dozen activists and intellectuals from the Americas, who speak from their on-the-ground experiences and work with indigenous communities in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Peru.