Friday, July 01, 2005

A Labyrinthine Plan of Research

I'm in the process of finalizing plans for my mutualist history manuscript, tentatively titled "Into the Libertarian Labyrinth." I've talked a bit about what i'm up to in various places, but it seems useful to make a kind of declaration of intent here.

This will not be the 10-volume authoritative History of Mutualism. Such a work might be worth doing - and, who knows, maybe i'll take it on one day - but it's certainly not the work i'm aiming at presently. Instead, i hope, in a couple of hundred pages, to produce a more-or-less adequate, roughly chronological account covering The American Mutualist Thread (that line of direct influence and personal connections from Josiah Warren into at least the mid-20th century) and as much of the surrounding fabric as i can coherently include. Trust me, that's still going to involve serious work. The research process will involve a fairly massive re/reading program. This time, as i work my way through the material i plan to build up the content of the Libertarian Labyrinth site as i go. I'll post reviews of the material and, where time allows, post e-texts of original documents. The major addition to the Labyrinth will be a year-by-year timeline of important events and publications. Obviously, all of this is going to be helpful in constructing my own manuscript, but i also intend it as a means for others to check my work and to engage in their own research. If all goes well, a couple years' work ought to produce a useful general history and a collection of related texts and commentaries. That accomplished, i can actually turn to some much closer studies of individual figures.

What i hope to accomplish is to write a history a bit more inclusive than James Martin's "Men Against the State" or Schuster's "Native American Anarchism." Every writer has their biases, but, in this instance, i am attempting to be biased towards openness, focusing on connections (even when they are complicating and disturbing). I'm hoping that, in this, my history of mutualism will be a mutualist history, in the sense that "I am a mutualist" seems to mean "I am an anarchist - and i'm willing to talk about the details."

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