Thursday, July 28, 2005

Post-anarchism: Instead of an Essay

I see that the Postanarchist list has landed back at the old digs at Yahoogroups, since the demise of the Spoon Collective, and that founder/moderator Jason Adams is blogging at Immanent Multiplicity.

For those of you unfamiliar with postanarchism, it's an attempt to bring together elements of poststructuralist philosophy with anarchism. Todd May's Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism marks one of the origins of postanarchism, although the term was coined by Saul Newman, author of From Bakunin to Lacan. The Institute for Anarchist Studies made space for a debate on the subject in 2003. Saul Newman contributed The Politics of Postanarchism, and Jesse Cohn and i rebutted with What's Wrong With Postanarchism? My position has been - for a long time now - that there is a good deal in poststructuralist theory that might be used by anarchists. Unfortunately, the postanarchist movement has attached itself to an understanding of "classical anarchism" as presupposing some sort of naturally cooperative human essence - a position probably not all that well supported by the writings of those same "classical" anarchists.

The differences between "postanarchists" and other anarchists dabblers in poststructuralism (like myself) aside, the postanarchist list has been host to a lot of interesting discussion. You can check out the archives from the Spoon Collective period here, and the rest are linked to the group home page. And here's a scattered collection of my posts from the early days of that list that still might be worth a look (or not):

Browse at your own risk. . .

Monday, July 25, 2005

Libertarian history resources: Rothbard and Hall

Thanks to Wally Conger for pointing out the online archive of The Libertarian Forum at the Ludwig von Mises Foundation. If your tastes run to Karl Hess, Murray Rothbard, and (later) Wendy McElroy, this ought to be a treasure trove. Even if they don't, there's a lot of great historical material here.

I hit my own little pot of gold today. If you have access to ProQuest, there's a wealth of .pdf files of older periodicals to page through. I started working on the periodical publications by Bolton Hall and came up with the full text for 116 separate items, plus another 30 or so about him. That ought to keep me busy for awhile. . .

Sunday, July 24, 2005

My Dad Rocks!

It's nice to see thoughtful writing coming from religious circles - of any religion - particularly when that writing is open to anarchist thought. Imagine my pleasure at finding all of that on Symbios, a site written by my father. Dad's a career environmentalist, responsible for some very good, sane, balanced work on endangered species preservation. For a nitty-gritty look at what it takes to do that kind of work for Uncle Sam, i can heartily recommend his recent Condor Tales: What I Learned in Twelve Years with the Big Birds. Mutualists might look at his section on Saving Small Towns, which is based in large part on his experiences in northern New Hampshire, where my parents are summer residents. And anyone interested in "Christianity for thinkers," as Dad puts it, should check out the wonderfully-titled section: Searching for Christians (in a Confusingly Religious World). Thoughts on Religion, Politics and Thinking (Offered up to a Nation Obsessed with Morality and Family Values, but with Seemingly No Understanding of Either.) The essay Has Your Christianity Been Hijacked includes some thoughts on Christian Anarchy, which is particularly fun for me to read, as, even as an adult child, i've at times had a bit of explaining to do about my enthusiasm for anarchism. Our takes are rather different, of course, though they get us a lot of the same places. I'll take the time to put my thoughts on the subject together soon, probably in the context of some historical analysis, but for now, here's what Dad has to say.

PS: For a little bonus look into my past, look at that Symbios homepage again. That's a much younger version of yours truly, looking out from a ridge in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Sigh. It's been a year or two since my calves looked like that - or i dared wear the pack-shorts slit clear to the waistband on the sides.

Not Our Grandparents' War, etc

Apparently, i'm not the only one who can't make sense of the whole war narrative. Tom Shanker has an interesting piece in the New York Times today, called "All Quiet on the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why." It begins:
The Bush administration's rallying call that America is a nation at war is increasingly ringing hollow to men and women in uniform, who argue in frustration that America is not a nation at war, but a nation with only its military at war.
Overall, it hasn't been the cheeriest news day, and the Times features stories on the use of eminent domain against merchants near Ground Zero, the fact that the Iraqi guerrillas "appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever," the possibility that "deaths of North Atlantic right whales may be underreported by as much as 83 percent annually," and speculation that it was only a pileated woodpecker they photographed in that swamp.

At least Lance won the Tour.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Scattered anarchist and libertarian reprints

It's often difficult to track down works by libertarian writers, and, as often as not, more interesting works come with a substantial price tag attached. Specialized publishers like AK Press, Charles H. Kerr, M&S Press, and the Liberty Fund have reprinted lots of low-cost classics for their respective audiences, but it's rare that publishers have the means to publish everything radicals would like to see. Academic reprint companies have brought out a number of generally very expensive editions, which don't help much. So it's interesting to see quite a few very interesting, but decidedly marginal texts from the tradition appear from scattered and frequently equally marginal sources.

Stephen Pearl Andrews' Discoveries in Chinese is available from Elibron (as are nearly all of Samuel Butler's works, including the hard-to-find stuff on evolution, in either paperback or eBook editions.) William Batchelder Greene's The Blazing Star and the Jewish Kabbalah is also available from an occult publisher in paperback. Kessinger has publisher Bolton Hall's Gift of Sleep, along with Three Acres And Liberty, and copies of a Loose Leaf Press edition of Halo of Grief are available various places online. Josiah Warren's Written Music Remodeled and Invested with the Simplicity of an Exact Science is apparently available in a print-on-demand edition from Astrologos, which isn't cheap, but is sure likely to be more usuable than the microforms i've seen.

These are all works by libertarian authors, all very interesting, but somewhat distant from those authors' core concerns. What's interesting is that they seem to be potential bridging points for other audiences.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

More research plan

My library is nearly unpacked, after the move, and i've been sifting through material, trying to get a handle on things, so i can proceed in a more or less orderly manner. Because i want this manuscript to be useful as a broad history of mutualism, and as a tool for orienting more specific studies (both my own and others'), i've decided to organize it as on a year-by-year basis (or as close to year-by-year as the material requires.) I'll combine reports of relevant publications, organizations, births, deaths, and career highlights of prominent folks, with historical context and general analysis. I'll use the Libertarian Labyrinth site to organize the data, make my interpretations of what it all means - and then we can all argue about it.

This means that i'll be attempting to simultaneously present all of those different varieties of mutualist history i've noted in an earlier post, which poses some problems but also ought to clarify much of what is still unclear about the relationships between them.

Government's "Civil Defense Dilemma"

Just a follow-up to yesterday's post: it seems there is a kind of basic contradiction at the heart of most government sponsored civil defense efforts. Such programs are necessary because, when push comes to shove, government resources alone are not sufficient to provide security in severe crises, so citizens are prepared to take over important government functions during those crises. Everything depends on making the standing government resources unnecessary, under certain very limited circumstances. Governments are reluctant to delegate authority, of course. To tell people that they can get along more or less by themselves, precisely at the moment where things are at their worst, might give folks ideas of a distinctly anarchist sort.

If we can get along without formal government after the bombs fall, just exactly why do we need it right now?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Responding to terrorism

Since the London bombings, the question has been raised again - just what sort of response should anarchists have to acts of terrorism? Actual reponses have been a little weird sometimes, among the weirder ones the suggestion that anarchists shouldn't get themselves worked up about such things, as that only plays into the "spectacle" of the "War on Terror." The problem with that sort of response is that the victims of all aspects of the current world conflict are not merely "spectacular," though it's harder and harder to maintain their concrete reality and specificity within the context of mass-mediated world war. It's been interesting to watch the attempts of groups like Iraq Body Count to maintain a coherent rationale for their studies, as the terms and rationale of the Iraq conflict continue to change. They haven't always been successful, unsurprisingly, though a recently released dossier summarizing civilian casualties may afford an opportunity to clarify some things and correct some of the missteps. Of course, most of us are trying to navigate the continuing flood of facts, rumor and innuendo about Iraq and the War on Terror without anything like a critical program or research agenda, and it's no wonder that anarchists have seldom moved far beyond responding to isolated incidents or reports.

So maybe at least some kind of theoretic clarification is healthy and helpful, if only as a means of evaluating what we're being told about current conflicts. We can start by recognizing our stakes in all of this. I had friends, even anarchist friends, who might have been on the London subways when they were bombed, just as i had friends who worked in our near the World Trade Center. So far, i know of no one close to me who has been killed in those attacks, though it's hard to say how many correspondents from internet mailing lists or other online forums might have simply disappeared without causing much notice. I have friends in military service, and, so far, they've all come home in one piece. While we're not exactly "all in this together," and while intelligent folks of most stripes ought to reject as specious pretty much all of the "with us or against us" oversimplifications, anarchists can hardly afford to stay entirely aloof.

Figuring out where we can and should attempt to have an impact is going to require clarifying what we think is happening in the world, and has happened since 9/11. A few thoughts:

  • The WTC and Pentagon attacks were hardly unanticipated. On the contrary, it seems like we've been waiting for just those sorts of attacks for decades. Since 9/11, i've been informally collecting "attacks on the Twin Towers" stories, and similar bits of pop culture: a Nick Carter, Killmaster paperback from the '70s features middle eastern terrorists flying planes into buildings; a Superman comic where what appears to be an attack on the Towers is actually villains using them as a giant tuning fork to destroy the rest of NYC; etc. . . Men's adventure series novels have been one of my guilty pleasures for years. They've also been fodder for academic work and a window into current attitudes about security and justice. The US has been subject to a constant string of literary terrorist attacks, in books like the Mack Bolan novels published by Harlequin's men's line Gold Eagle, since the late '70s. And we've all seen the films and read the best-sellers. Our tendency to treat the 9/11 attacks as anything other than surprisingly late in coming is something that has to be accounted for somehow.
  • There are threats to peaceful civilians pretty much anywhere on the planet. Some of those threats can be meaningfully called "terrorism," and some are presenting themselves as "security measures" in response to terrorism. Some threats are much more immediate and likely to come to pass than others. But it does seem to be the case - particularly now that the US and its allies have set themselves at the anti-terror crusade in earnest - that we're not all that safe, or all that free. When the 9/11 attacks happened, i was already in the midst of a study of civil defense, as Americans had known it in the WWII and cold war eras. As the Bush administration began to use the language of civil defense as part of its "homeland security" rhetoric, one of the things that became clear was that this administration was simply incapable of delegating self-defense responsibility to the people. The closest we were likely to get was moves to encourage neighbors to spy on one another in the service of Total Information Awareness. Initially, the Homeland Security site, Ready.Gov, looked almost like a nostalgia site (and how much of current affairs since 9/11 has looked like the political/diplomatic version of "That 70s Show"?), with vague references to "shelters," though emergency sheltering is no longer an active government initiative. Things haven't got much better. The president still answers the "what can i do?" question with "love your neighbor." Now, i'll concede that brotherly love might well be an important component in the grand plan to make the world a less violent and uncertain place. But it's hard to keep all of the bits of Bush-administration rhetoric in the picture all at once. "People have declared war on America" and the administration "will rid the world of the evil-doers." Terrorism, and Saddam Hussein, presented "a clear and present danger" to Americans. We've taken on multiples wars with armed forces lacking in basics like armor and ammunition. You would think, given all of that, that some form of general mobilization of American civilian resources would be called for, as happened during WWII and, to a lesser degree, during the Cold War. But, no, this is one national crusade we're supposed to watch on TV - and we're not supposed to watch much of it (no bodybags, please), and we're not supposed to question what we see. We're supposed to think good thoughts, love our neighbors, hate those who "hate our freedom," and "work hard" at the same old stuff, despite the fact that 9/11 is supposed to have "changed everything." We're left to wonder what part of the whole package doesn't add up. There seem to be threats. There certainly has been a change in the world status quo - whether it was caused by the attacks or by the US/allied response. There certainly seems to be a need for more than just thinking good thoughts and staying out of the government's way (when one isn't submitting to searches or surveillance.)
  • My thought for some time has been that radicals - which at this point probably means anyone who values individual liberty - might do well to consider how to undertake a real civil defense. That is, we should take the time to wade through all the spin and nonsense, evaluate our situations, and see if we can come up with means of mutual self-defense - against all threats to life and liberty. Environmental activists have been encouraging folks to conduct local environmental surveys for some time now. The EZLN-inspired encuentro movement attempted to organize a "network of struggles" on the basis of local concerns. Unfortunately, there has been very little impetus to follow through on the hard work of figuring just what local conditions are. Perhaps that, at least, has changed a bit post-9/11. Now, it may seem strange to talk about government-sponsored civil defense efforts and zapatista encounters in the same breath, but some of the strangeness may be merely apparent. In ongoing research on the Ground Observer Corps, i've been surprised to find all sorts of potentially-positive mutualist developments. The GOC were civilian skywatchers in the 1950s, working from posts all over the US, scanning the skies for that Soviet Bison bomber that never actually arrived. At one level, the whole enterprise looks like a massive, government-sponsored snipe hunt, good as a spectacular show of readiness, and good for involving people actively in the culture of security, but not much else. (Notice that the current administration falls short of even these levels.) The curious thing is that once you got folks organized around a threat, however fanciful, the evidence suggests that they found themselves motivated to all sorts of improvements, so that official publications like The Aircraft Flash tell a story of increasing delegation to civilians, of civilian innovation in security technology, and of various sorts of other organizational efforts that sprung out of GOC efforts, many of them not tied to military/security goals. (I'm going to try to make both original copies and etext transcripts of some of these magazines available through the web site soon, as i've picked up several large lots recently.)

I'm really just writing around the edges of an intuition i've had for some time that anarchists need to come to much closer grips with the problem of civilian defense than we have for the most part. This is, perhaps, a characteristically deconstructive intuition of mine, seeing the means of combating the blossoming security society in a close examination and criticism of its own terms. But the approach seems to serve me well in other areas, so there it is. . .

The traditional libertarian objection to thinking in terms of civil defense has been that such a move places a kind of general military or security mentality at the center of projects that might otherwise have some less bellcose foundation. I'm sympathetic to the objection, but also keenly aware that there seems to be very little outside to "the War on Terror" and the new security state. So, for now at least, i think i'll continue pursuing whatever insights can be derived from the history of civil defense. Expect lots of images and texts from that history at the web site as time allows.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bolton Hall - sketch for a bibliography

It's been awhile since i've put together any new bibliographies. Since there seems to be interest in non-state Georgism, i guess i'll keep at my work on Bolton Hall. At this stage, I'm concentrating on WorldCat, Union Catalog and bookseller records, so i'm getting mostly book-length works. He was extremely prolific, so the list of shorter publications will be extensive. In any event, here's a start:

  • Crime and criminals, 2nd edition. By Bolton Hall; Clarence Darrow; Eugene V Debs
    E Haldeman-Julius. Girard, Kan. : Appeal to Reason, ????.
  • The disease of charity. Philadelphia, Justice Pub. Co., 1894.
  • "Emerson the anarchist." The Arena, 1907. pp 400-404.
  • Even as you and I. London, New York, F.T. Neely, 1897. ["A popular presentation of the principles and doctrine of Henry George and of Tolstoy's philosophy."]
  • Even as you and I: Parables, true life. Boston, Small, Maynard & Company, 1900.
  • Even as you and I; fables and parables of the life today. London, The Simple life press, 1903.
  • Free America: short chapters showing how liberty brings prosperity. Chicago, Ill., L.S. Dickey & Co., 1904.
  • The game of life. New York, A. Wessels Co., 1902.
  • The game of life. New York, M.M. Breslow Co., 1909.
  • The game of life, Revised edition. New York : Arcadia Press, 1909.
  • The garden yard: a handbook of intensive farming. By Bolton Hall, Herbert W Collingwood, Samuel Fraser. Philadelphia, D. McKay, 1909
  • The gift of sleep. New York, Moffat, Yard and company, 1911.
  • The halo of grief. New York, Brentano's, 1919.
  • The halo of grief. Stockton Springs, Me. : Loose Leaf Press, 1997; ISBN: 0965607712
  • The iron ore trust. [Boston?] : New England Free Trade League, , 1899.
  • A little land and a living. New York, The Arcadia press, 1908.
  • The Living Bible, being the whole Bible in its fewest words. New York : A.A. Knopf, 1928. The Living Bible, being the whole Bible in its fewest words, Revised edition. Cleveland, World Syndicate, 1938.
  • Life and love and death. New York, London, F.T. Neely, 1898.
  • Life, and love and peace. New York, The Arcadia Press, 1909.
  • The love letters of St. John. New York : Mitchell Kennerley, 1917
  • The love letters of St. John. New York : Frank-Maurice, 1926.
  • The mastery of grief. New York, H. Holt and company, 1913.
  • Money making in free America: short chapters on prosperity. New York, Arcadia Press, 1909.
  • Monkey shines:little stories for little children. Leon Foster Jones, illustrator. New York : A. Wessels, 1904.
  • The new thrift. New York, B. W. Huebsch, 1923
  • The psychology of sleep. New York : Moffat, Yard, 1911
  • Seems-So Stories. New York : Arcadia Press, 1909? [Listed in Arcadia titles, not in WorldCat
  • Selections from Free America and other works. Port Townsend, WA : Loompanics Unlimited, 1987; ISBN: 0915179652.
  • The story of Bolton Hall's 'Halo of Grief'. Stockton Springs, Me. : Loose Leaf Press, 1997.
  • Things as they are. Boston, Small, Maynard, 1899.
  • Things as they are, Revised and enlarged edition. New York, Arcadia Press, 1909.
  • Three acres and liberty. New York, Macmillan Co.; London, Macmillan & Co., 1907.
  • Three acres and liberty. By Bolton Hall; Robert F Powell. New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 1907.
  • Three acres and liberty, revised ed. New York, Macmillan Co., 1918
  • Thrift. New York, B. W. Huebsch, 1916.
  • What Tolstoy taught. New York, B.W. Huebsch, 1911.
  • What Tolstoy taught. London, New York, Chatto and Windus, 1913.
  • Who pays your taxes? A consideration of the question of taxation. New York [etc.] G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1892.
  • Equitable taxation. Six essays in answer to the question, What, if any, changes in existing plans are necessary to secure an equitable distribution of the burden of taxation for the support of national, state, and municipal governments? byJohn Winslow Cabot; William Hamilton Cowles; J Whidden Graham; Bolton Hall; Robert Luce; Walter E Weyl. New York, T.Y. Crowell & Co., 1892.

Other documents authored by Hall exist at U. Mich. in the Labadie collection and Bentley History Library ("Sunrise Cooperative Farm Community records, 1933-1937."). And the New-York Historical Society lists this interesting collection:

Description:1 box (ca. 210 items)
Abstract:Correspondence and papers, ca. 1830-1949, of Bolton Hall and members of the Herrick family of New York City. Included are 6 volumes of check stubs of Bolton Hall, 1882-1897; ca. 54 personal letters to Hall from friends and associates, mostly routine greetings but some of them pertaining to publications, Hall's political interests, and current events; 11 letters to Mr. and Mrs. Gerard P. Herrick, 1919-1949, including 4 letters to Mrs. Herrick (daughter of Bolton Hall) from opera singer Geraldine Farrar, mostly discussing the activities of her garden club; patent for improving steam boilers, with diagram and explanation, issued to James Pirsson, Jr., 1846; and a collection of ca. 150 deeds, indentures, and legal papers relating to lands owned by the Herrick family, mostly located in New York City.

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    Book Wanted

    If anyone has a copy of William O. Reichert's "Partisans Of Freedom: A Study in American Anarchism" that they're interested in parting with, let me know. It's one of my least favorite of the individualist anarchist histories, but there are odd details in the work that don't seem to be elsewhere, and which should be checked out. "Wild Bill" taught at Bowling Green State University, where i got my master's degree, and the Popular Press still showed one copy of the book in inventory when i was first looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.

    "a toast to dear old Bolton Hall"

    Bolton Hall, single tax anarchist - the song!

    The great things you find online! Kevin Carson's recent post on Georgism led me back to the work of Bolton Hall. I read through his collection of children's stories, "Monkey Shines," over coffee yesterday and read parts of "The Game of Life" last night. It's hard to overstate what a fine writer and sane thinker Hall was. But here's a taste:

    The Social Poultice Society

    The subject for the evening was, "How to Abolish War." The President suggested, that, as a matter of course, we should prohibit the use of dum-dum bullets, and that we might also compel combatants to fight with sticks, as we have compelled prize-fighters to wear gloves.

    A woman delegated from the Pink Cross Society said that what was really necessary was to heal the wounded.

    The Light Cross delegate said that immorality inevitably went with war; so that all that was needed was to stop immorality.

    A teacher wrote a book to show that it was necesary to first dig up some dead soldiers to see whether it was really war or "the personal factor" that caused them to die.

    The Disturber of the Peace then explained that we have killed in the Philippines only 30,000, but that the railroads killed over 2,000 each year in the United States alone; that our war had cost only $400,000,000, but that our advertising cost $100,000,000 every year; that our soldiers have violated a few women in Luzon, but that 40,000 women are violated in New York brothels every night; that fatigue and wounds are nothing compared with the strain of business and the horror of losing one's job. Just then, the Secretary hurriedly rose, and the Disturber moved that it be "resolved by this Society that the slaughter being greater, the waste infinitely larger, the miseries more intense, and the crimes more horrible in our industrial war than in our military war, our fist duty is to stop the industrial war."

    But one cannot open men's eyes with an oyster knife.

    The Game of Life," 171-172

    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."

    Happiness is a warm bunker

    But if this is a potentially fascinating work of architecture, it is, sadly, fascinating in the way that Albert Speer's architectural nightmares were fascinating: as expressions of the values of a particular time and era. The Freedom Tower embodies, in its way, a world shaped by fear.

    That's Nicolai Ouroussoff, in yesterday's New York Times, talking about the redesigned Freedom Tower. Read the rest of the article, as it gets straight to the heart of at least some of the absurdities of the project. The Freedom Tower will rest on a 200-foot-tall, nearly windowless, cement pedestal, gussied up a bit with reflective metal panels?!! It's really hard to say anything about the current understanding of "freedom" that isn't already said by the design.