Sunday, August 4, 2013

S. E. Parker: Anarchism as "secular religion"

From his essay Archists, Anarchists and Egoists:
I agree with Dora Marsden. Anarchism is a redemptionist secular religion concerned to purge the world of the sin of political government. Its adherents envisage a “free society” in which all archistic acts are forbidden. Cleansed of the evil of domination “mankind” will live, so they say, in freedom and harmony and our present “oppressions” will be confined to the pages of history books. When, therefore, Marsden writes that “anarchists are not separated in any way from kinship with the devout. They belong to the Christian Church and should be recognized as Christianity’s picked children” she is not being merely frivolous. Anarchism is a theory of an ideal society — whether communist, mutualist, or individualist, matters little in this respect — of necessity must demand renunciation of domination both in means and ends. That in practice it would necessitate another form of domination for its operation is a contradiction not unknown in other religions — which in no way alter their essence.
The conscious egoist, in contrast, is not bound by any demand for renunciation of domination and if it is within his competence he will dominate others if this is in his interest. That anarchism and egoism are not equivalent is admitted, albeit unwillingly, by the well-known American anarchist John Beverley Robinson — who depicted an anarchist society in the most lachrymous terms in his Rebuilding the World — in his succinct essay Egoism. Throwing anarchist principles overboard he writes of the egoist that “if the State does things that benefit him, he will support it; if it attacks him and encroaches on his liberty, he will evade it by any means in his power, if he is not strong enough to withstand it.” Again, “if the law happens to be to his advantage, he will avail himself of it; if it invades his liberty he will transgress it as far as he thinks it wise to do so. But he has no regard for it as a thing supernal.”

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Andrews on "the general disintegration of interests"

From Stephen Pearl Andrews' The Science of Society:
The truest condition of society . . . is that in which each individual is enabled and constrained to assume, to the greatest extent possible, the Cost or disagreeable consequences of his own acts. That condition of society can only arise from a general disintegration of interests,—from rendering the interests of all as completely individual as their persons. The Science of Society teaches the means of that individualization of interests, coupled, however, with cooperation. Hence is graduates the individual, so to speak, out of the sphere of Ethics into that of Personality,—out of the sphere of duty of submission to the wants of others, into the sphere of integral development and freedom.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wilbur, McElroy and the Libertarian Left

Shawn Wilbur, anarchist historian and translator (check out his blog here), left the following very ample comment at the Daily Anarchist, on a piece by Wendy McElroy about left libertarianism:
You seem to be having it both ways a bit, Wendy. If, as indeed seems to have been the case, the “umbrella term “socialism” covers several different approaches,” and “socialists” differed on questions like the role of the state, the use of violence, etc., it seems hard to argue—except by an appeal to a particular one of the several definitions—that the anarchists you are talking about—a group that includes both individualists and mutualists in the tradition of Proudhon—were “definitely” not socialists. 
The history of the term “socialism” is, of course, enormously complex. The North American individualists and mutualists inherited it from two separate sources: the English debate surrounding Owen’s “social system” in the 1820s, where it had both centralized, more or less paternalistic, and decentralized, mutual aid-based, varieties; and the French political debates of the 1830s and 1840s, within the context of which Pierre Leroux initially proposed it as label for an extreme emphasis on the collective aspects of social life, but during the course of which it became adopted by a wide range of positions on the French left. (Variations on the term “mutualism” also appeared in those two traditions, designating varieties of decentralized, mutual aid based “socialism.”) In the period of the 1848 revolutions, which is ultimately the period in which the term “socialism” gained a generally accepted meaning, it clearly covered a wide range of positions regarding the state, violence, the nature of value, etc. Indeed, the common thread was probably a concern with “social science” as a “solution to the social problem,” rather than any simple rule about social ownership, the state, or adherence to a labor theory of value. 
We have to be very careful, given that history, when we look at the 19th century figures. Greene’s treatment of “socialism,” for example, seems very closely connected to his embrace of Leroux’s terminology and triadic philosophical scheme. Leroux believed that the true form of De la Boetie’s “contr’un” (anti-one, opposition to authority) was a structuring of relations in threes, which he also believed was a natural division of roles. Greene embraced some of his method, and consequently tended to spin out models in which each of three terms was objectionable by itself, but contributed to a harmonious, broadly libertarian whole. It is in this sort of context that Greene spoke of “socialism,” “communism,” and (very, very early among writers in English) “capitalism”—damning them all in isolation. But we have to place his comments about “socialism in Massachusetts” alongside his comments about the Paris Commune—which he praised so highly he considered Paris a third “holy city” as a result of it—if we are to get a clear picture. 
The question of labor theories of value may be misleading, too, with regard to the opposition to “usury.” Although it is conventional to divide economic approaches along an STV/LTV line, there are too many prominent spoilers to make it a very satisfactory approach. Warren, for all of his emphasis on trading “hours” of labor under the cost principle, insisted that his traders would value their own costs subjectively, against a conventional yardstick marked in hours of a particular, familiar sort of labor. Proudhon, after some flirtation with equal pay by the hour, came to the radically different notion that values were individual, incommensurable, and could only really be “exchanged” according to some convention of reciprocal respect. What all of the opponents of “usury” seem to have opposed was any “right of increase” associated with the mere ownership of capital. And that’s a somewhat different critique. 
As for the “primacy of contracts,” that’s probably true of Tucker in a certain phase. But the influences of egoism, on the one hand, and Proudhonian mutualism, with its primary emphasis on reciprocity and opposition to “simple property” and the “right of increase,” on the other, are both very strong currents. 
And the more broadly, and specifically, we consider even the North American individualists and mutualists, the harder it is to pin things down definitely.
 Clearly neither individualists nor mutualists were state socialists, and I imagine that is the most familiar form of socialism for this particular audience, but my reading of the history suggests no “definite” answer to the question posed.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

J.K. Ingalls on "the industrial problem"

From Joshua King Ingalls' Labor, Wages, and Capital: Division of Profits Scientifically Considered (1873):
These views of the industrial problem beget no feeling of hostility against the wealthy, for many of them are useful workers; nor of especial interest in those who work for wages, merely on that account. Many of them are employed not in adding to the genuine wealth of society, but in pernicious and destructive pursuits. They do, however, awaken an interest in those who produce in contradistinction to those who merely absorb and consume the labor-product of society. No especial blame attaches to any class. No one with true manly feeling can contemplate occupying the position of a hireling all his life without disgust. Nor can any true man feel that the account is wholly settled between him and his life-long helpers when he has merely paid them the current wages during his prosperity and business success.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Class Analysis in Smith's Free Market

From James E. Alvey's Adam Smith: Optimist or Pessimist, A New Problem Concerning the Teleological Basis of Commercial Society:
Smith argues that mercantilism, despite its vehement claim to the contrary, was a system of economic thought devised to promote only merchant interests.
Mercantile theory was particularly dangerous as it had been put into practice. By imposing restrictions on the manufacturing and trading opportunities of its American colonists, British mercantilism was "a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind." By breaching such "rights" it seems clear that mercantilism is, on Smith's view, contrary to nature. Smith gives a very detailed account of mercantilism's defects and it is this account which often earns him a place in the history of economic thought.
Opposing the monopolistic and parochial trade policies of mercantilism was free trade. Free trade results in "mutual communication of knowledge and all sorts of improvements," and "among nations, as among individuals, a bond of union and friendship." Mercantilism changes international trade from being a source of mutual gain and harmony into a source of discord: it changes trade into a source of war rather than peace.
Third, Smith had an insightful class analysis. The Marxist Ronald Meek says that Smith was one of the first to recognize three classes (landlord, "capitalist," worker) with three class incomes (rent, profit, wages). Indeed, it has been said that Smith's view of "profit and rent as 'deductions from the whole produce of labour'" was the "true impetus to early nineteenth-century British socialism." Smith's analysis may have been misinterpreted in this area.
Fourth and finally, Smith's political economy includes a great deal of criticism of certain (inherent) defects of commercial society. He provides what amounts to a catalogue of charges against it; amongst this list is the charge that it produces alienation. Lamb says that "Smith anticipates all three types of alienation identified by Marx," namely, the labourer's powerlessness, isolation and self-estrangement. Andrew says of Smith that "[t]he celebrated champion of competitive capitalism anticipated the core of the Marxian critique of that system." 
 

"I am my own state"

From Orestes Augustus Brownson's Democracy and Liberty:
Then we see not what there is to prevent the application of the doctrine to themselves by any number of individuals who choose. Nay, what is there to prevent its adoption by single individuals, and to make it not absurd for an individual to say to the state, "I disown you; I am my own state; I ask nothing of you, and I will concede you nothing. I am a man; I am my own sovereign, and you have no authority over me but by my consent. That consent I have never given; or if I have heretofore given it, I now withdraw it. You have, then, no right over me, and if you attempt to control me you are a tyrant."

Marx Edgeworth Lazarus on Joshua King Ingalls

In an 1885 installment of Liberty, Lazarus wrote about right-conflationism (that is, "vulgar libertarianism") more than a hundred years before we at C4SS were talking about it:
[J.K. Ingalls] exposes the hypocrisy of defending the actual business world by laws of tendency, as it were, in a vacuum; while ignoring the continual intervention of circumstances, and especially of government,—i.e., of arbitrary wills,—to frustrate [those laws of tendency]. Warmly espousing the cause of oppressed labor, he shows how "opportunity is wanting for play of that free competition," which is with economists the excuse for every iniquity.