Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Educational counter-institutions, I

Thanks to those who have responded, either on the blog or through email, to my post on the "Roots of American Anarchism" course. I suspect that our pilot course online will fall somewhere between self-paced instruction and a basic online seminar, or, more likely, that we'll end up offering both options. There is no reason not to offer options tailored to a variety of learning styles and schedules. I'm open, and I think a viable educational counter-institution has to be open, to a great deal of user-customization of the process. That means being willing to provide a bare minimum, as well as being able to imagine versions of the service that can actually compete within or against existing educational environments. Kevin, who is a busy fellow, has expressed interest in self-paced self-instruction. Brad wants a law school curriculum. Absolutely. I want all of the above. Making any of it happen is mostly a matter of working out what we have to offer, what needs we have, and what needs we can meet.

Our online school can't offer state accreditation. It can't, for the moment, take the place of conventional high school or college courses. It can't rely on any of the structures and social forces that prop up accredited public or private institutions. We're not offering certification in some hot software system. On the other hand, we don't have the overhead, or the bureaucratic dead weight of most colleges, and we're not tied to employment trends. An education in liberty is likely to remain equally im/practical, despite considerable changes in the environment. Unfunded university students are probably going to pay something like $1500-2000 for my course. I'll see a minute fraction of what the university takes in. However, thanks to the economies involved, it's likely that a course of comparable size online might net nearly the same salary, at a fraction of the tuition for students.

Pardon me for making these economic calculations in public. I know even market anarchists can be a little sensitive about mixing such mercenary concerns as food, clothing and shelter with our more theoretical concerns about providing a society in which folks can provide themselves with, well, food, clothing and shelter. As someone who has played the "anarchist entrepreneur" role before, I'm aware just what kinds of scrutiny and criticism this kind of loose talk can bring down. Listen, folks: whatever philosophical, theoretical, or simply semantic problems we have with particular economic concepts (and we all seem to have some with some of them), the bottom line is pretty simple. People gotta eat. And useful labor ought to be able to find compensation. Labors of love are lovely, but no serious libertarian movement can be built that does not find the means to support its own labors.

As some of you know, I recently had a pretty serious crisis of energy. I had to withdraw from a couple of projects and rethink my commitments to some others. It was a very bleak week or so during which I tried to figure out if there was anything in the world I really cared enough about to commit myself to. That sort of questioning may seem strange to folks who only know me by my research, or by the various archiving projects I've been involved in. Don't get me wrong: I'm pleased and proud of the work that I've managed to get done. I've managed to add nearly 15,000 pages to the rather dispersed archive of anarchism online. And I'm equally pleased and proud to be part of a community of others laboring with much the same doggedness, and much the same (lack of) compensation. (Iain, Brad, Kevin, Chuck, Jeremy, Charles, Ken, Jeremy, Roderick, Roger, all the A3/ALL crowd, all the anarchy-listers—thanks.) And, finally, the answer to my existential crisis was that I did indeed really care about doing this work that I've spent a lifetime getting good at, despite everything. But that week of soul-searching came with a lot of confirmation from my friends and allies that the sort of despair I was feeling was not just a figment of fatigue or an effect of blood sugar. A very unscientific survey of my libertarian friends suggests that the question of compensating labor for the movement is not merely an academic one.

Does an educational counter-institution, an anarchist counter-curriculum or libertarian educational marketplace, offer any answers to that apparently pressing question? Maybe. I think so. Stuck in the belly of the university beast, but always faced with the threat of not being stuck here, it strikes me that there is an opening for something else, something that puts the needs of instructors and students alike up front, where we might expect them to be in any sort of rational educational system. Faculty commonly complain about how hard it is to actually teach in the university setting. Students complain about how little they actually learn. In picked sections, supposedly made up of the cream of the student body, I've often seen little or no intellectual curiousity and very little sense of responsibility for self-instruction (which is always part of the educational equation.) I remain open with regard to the nature of the "best" educational experiences. I've been a student and a teacher too long to be smug about that kind of stuff. I'm pretty well convinced that the model currently being pushed on me is a failure, or a solution to a "problem" of a very antilibertarian variety, and that we can do better. And we can look out for one another. And put the resources that we have been building, such as our digital archives, to more and better use. And, in the process, hone skills applicable in other areas. . .

[to be continued. . .]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Calculus, Poetry, the two William Batchelder Greenes, etc

As much as I complain, and will continue to complain, about the quality of Google Books' digital archive, their access to materials is remarkable. I have very mixed feelings about that access, given the rather cavalier way in which scanning appears to be done. I worry that scarce, fragile volumes are being subjected to the rigors of the duplication process—without any complete and usable edition resulting! But the other side of the coin is that today I finally have access to a copy of William Batchelder Greene's 1859 An Expository Sketch of a New Theory of the Calculus, the work, published in Paris, which occupied much of Greene's attention in the years he and his family lived in France. And you have access to it as well, though I expect it is one of the least inviting of Greene's works. I have yet to determine if the diagrams are complete, though I already suspect that they are not. Google Books has also added the Explanation of "The Theory of the Calculus" (misidentified as The Theory of the Calculus itself).

If that isn't enough marginal William B. Greene material for you, then you can dip into the poetical works of William Batchelder Greene and William Batchelder Greene, Jr. Of some libertarian interest is the elder Greene's version of The Book of Job, which has some interesting commentary on secular and divine authority tucked away in its footnotes. Three other volumes:

all appear to be the work of the younger William. William, Jr. was an uneven poet, and received a number of poor reviews. Check out the timeline for a few, including one which begins: "Mr Greene's verses are beautifully printed on admirably thick paper. It grieves us not to find anything more hearty to say by way of recommendation of his volume." Of course, his father was prone, at least in youth, to some uncertain productions in verse, such as his "Song of Espousal." But there are some interesting moments, at least. "The Amputation," in The Staunch Express, is worth a look.

John Gray (1799-1883)

John Gray, best known for his Lecture on Human Happiness, is frequently listed among the earliest of mutualists. Certainly, he was an important figure among the more-or-less-Owenite socialists of the mid-1820s. His Lecture was cited by the "Mutualist" of 1826. But we know that at least some of the accounts of this "first mutualist moment" are at least a bit garbled, particularly where Gray is involved. I'm still deciding how to classify Gray's contribution to the history of mutualism, but the work has recently become easier, thanks to the appearance of a number of digital editions of Gray's works.

The following works are by Gray, or were part of the propaganda surrounding his proposals. A couple of notes: 1) The texts at archive.org are a little hard to work with, but they appear to be complete, which is much more than can be said for the versions at Google Books. I have reported a number of texts missing whole chapters, including one of the books by Gray. So far, I have yet to see a single instance of corrective action in that archive. 2) The "rough pdfs" are genuinely rough, though they are readable at proper magnification. They were provided by a friend who probably went to far too much trouble for such marginal material, but to whom I am very grateful. I hope to have clear, plaintext versions completed for those items soon. 3) An electronic version of the Lecture is in the works as well. I would like to include it in a collection of texts related to the spring course.
  • Lecture on Human Happiness. 1825.
  • ---. Philadelphia, 1826. [digital edition in process]
  • The Social System, a Treatise on the Principle of Exchange. Edinburgh: W. Tait, 1831. [archive.org]
  • Production the Cause of Demand. Birmingham: Radcliffe & Co., 1832. [rough pdf]
  • An Efficient Remedy for the Distress of Nations. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1842. [archive.org]
  • The Currency Question. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1847. [rough pdf]
  • Lectures on the Nature and Use of Money. Edinburgh: A. & C. Black, 1848. [archive.org]
  • Committee of Enquiry into the Validity of the Monetary Principle Advocated in Gray's Lectures. A. & C. Black, 1849. [rough pdf]

Friday, October 26, 2007

1919 Mutual Banking online

Henry Cohen published a number of editions of William Batchelder Greene's Mutual Banking in the 20th century. The pieces of that particular bibliographic puzzle have been hard to assemble. Thanks to archive.org, we have at least one more piece: a digital facsimile of the 1919 edition by The Reform League of Denver, Colo. It's available in a number of formats. Cohen's editions closely follow the 1870 edition, with notes and an introduction by Cohen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fall Classic time

Happy World Series Season!
from the LCA Baseball Syndicate

Four by Calvin Blanchard

I've just updated my bibliography of Calvin Blanchard's works to reflect three new pdfs in the Libertarian Labyrinth archive and a scarce text now available at archive.org. The texts are:

and the rather amazing:

Blanchard is a very odd mix of elements: anarchism and positivism, to name the most important ones. His work is well worth the look.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Roots of American Anarchism" course, and Beyond(?)

Well, it looks now like a fairly sure thing that I'll be teaching a graduate-level course on "The Roots of American Anarchism."

This course is really concerned with the roots of the American anarchist traditions, and with their earliest flowerings. I've been half-joking that I would follow the development only up to about the time that the term “anarchism” came into widespread use. In realtity, I'll go a little further than that, but not a lot. The course is for students of American Culture Studies, but we'll also spend quite a bit of time looking at European sources.


I'm pretty excited about the course. It will be a first chance to work in a academic setting on the understanding of mutualism and its history that I've been developing over the last few years. I've been working with a single student this semester, in an unpaid directed reading, and we've been drawing together a lot of threads. There is a lot of material that it would be nice to cover, for which there is no time. A week or two, for instance, on libertarian experiments in the colonial period would be very useful. I could use a few extra weeks to take things up to 1920 or so, and explore the emergence of anarchist-communism in the U. S., and the effects of the rise of anti-communism as an ideology. There's an enormous literature of libertarian schemes which found at least some purchase in anarchist circles, and there are lots of fairly radical libertarians who are such outliers in the history that it is hard to make space for them. All of that is to be expected, since the course has to be at once a kind of high-level survey and an examination-in-depth. I'm happy with what I've pulled together as a first step. The problem is that I am very unlikely to get a chance to do much in the way of subsequent steps in the classroom and at a traditional university.

If anyone is ready to start an Anarchist Studies Program somewhere, and wants a slightly under-credentialled and perhaps over-obsessive intellectual historian, I'm here. . . .

Hmmm. Apparently not.

I suppose that leaves unconventional educational institutions, counter-institutions even, as the place where we might be able to make some space for an Anarchism Curriculum of some breadth and depth. And I've been talking with a number of collaborators in left-libertarian circles about beginning to develop just such a curriculum. Anarchists and radical libertarians have no shortage of concerns, whether historical, theoretical, or practical, which might be addressed by their own educational institutions, and, most certainly, the movements have no lack of expertise and knowledge floating around. We have been building our archives, our think-tanks, our forums, and our media centers online. I want to start exploring the possibility of constructing an online school of sorts, with the hope that it might become part of something bigger, a kind of anti-authoritarian "university," or perhaps pluriversity. As a start to that, there are tentative plans afoot for an online version of the course I'm currently developing. I would love to hear from anyone at all interested in taking such a class online. Tell me:
  • What sort of instruction would you prefer?

Do you want self-paced, programmed study, or some more direct interaction with an instructor. It's not hard to imagine a range of styles and levels of instruction:

  1. Annotated "Readers' Editions" of key texts, downloadable or available from print-on-demand sources.
  2. Programmed self-study courses, allowing students to work through material at their own pace, with quizzes along the way to help them monitor their progress and understanding.
  3. Similar courses, with more direction from, and interaction with, instructors.
  4. Conventional group sections, with active involvement by an instructor or instructors.
  5. Advanced seminars.
  6. Negotiated individual consultations.
  7. etc. . .

Think then about:

  • What sort of evaluation you would want?
  • What sort of tuition would you be willing to pay?
  • What other material would you like to see covered, whether or not this particular history class interests you?
  • etc. . .

In one form or another, I expect that this project will go forward. Any input from potential users of the service would naturally be very, very welcome at the stage where we're wrestling with software choices and course design. for now, though, here is a tentative, slightly unfinished list of readings proposed for the intial version of my course. Any comments on that are, of course, welcome as well.

ROOTS OF AMERICAN ANARCHISM

Week 1: Anarchism and American Traditions

Voltairine de Cleyre, "Anarchism and American Traditions"
The Declaration of Independence

What has been called "native American" anarchism can be seen as merely an extreme manifestation of the "tradition of Paine and Jefferson," a minor expression (in Deleuze's sense) of the most fundamental, hegemonic American discourses. Unsurprisingly, it is sometimes difficult to determine if this anarchism represents the most radical, or perhaps the most conservative, of American political ideologies.

Week 2: The "First Mutualist Moment,” 1825-7 (1/15)

Robert Owen, "Fundamental Laws of Human Nature and of Government"
"Preamble and Constitution of the Friendly Society for Mutual Interests."
Paul Brown, "The Substance of a Lecture delivered at New-Harmony, on Sunday, May 26th, 1826"

Josiah Warren, "From The March of Mind"
---. "The Motives for Communism, and What It Led To"

The period of the Owenite enthusiasm in the United States makes up the immediate pre-history of American anarchism. Josiah Warren, “the first American anarchist,” was initially energized by Owen’s propaganda in favor of a scientific “social system,” by which the problem of poverty and associated social ills could be solved. However, once at Owen’s community at New Harmony, Indiana, Warren found that the “communism” (presumption of joint interests) at the heart of the project doomed it to failure. None of the dozen or so American Owenite communities prospered, but the debate surrounding them set the agenda for much of what followed in radical circles. Most significantly, for our purposes, it was the occasion for a first set of debates about “mutualism,” which in this pre-anarchist context generally meant the more individualized forms of “socialism” (itself an Owenite coinage.)

Week 3: Josiah Warren and Equitable Commerce

Josiah Warren, Equitable Commerce (Utopia, OH, 1849)
---. Practical Details in Equitable Commerce
---. "Letter to Kossuth"
"Report of the Thomas Paine Birthday Celebration at Modern Times, NY"

Josiah Warren is generally considered “the first American anarchist,” and he developed his radically individualistic version of Owenite socialism at one of the earliest moments out of which we might have expected anything like a modern libertarian philosophy to emerge. Warren himself passionately disliked labels, and considered his own theories entirely distinct from the French anarchism of Proudhon. Nevertheless, his principles of “sovereignty of every individual” and “cost the limit of price” remain key concepts for individualist anarchism, even up to the present day.

Week 4: Orestes Brownson (1/29)
Happy Thomas Paine's Birthday!

Orestes Brownson. “Chartism” [38 pages]
---, “The Laboring Classes” [93 pages]
---, “The Mediatorial Life of Jesus” [17 pages]
---, “The People’s Own Book” [11 pages]
Various. [responses to Brownson]

Orestes Brownson eventually became a staunchly conservative Catholic, but his early career spanned most of the radical movements of the time. He was involved with Universalism, with the New York Workingman’s Party, and with Boston’s free thought movement. He was one of those responsible for introducing French socialist thought into New England intellectual circles, and was a friend and mentor to American mutualist William Batchelder Greene.

Paine's Birthday was a popular occasion for celebration among American radicals and freethinkers. Hundreds—probably thousands—of poems were composed and read for the occasion, and toasts were offered to figures considered representative of America's revolutionary tradition.

Week 5: The Second Mutualist Moment—Association, Saint-Simonism and the Spirit of ’48 in America

Henri de Saint-Simon, “The New Christianity”
Charles Fourier, “Note A”
Pierre Leroux, “Aphorisms”
---, Of Humanity [excerpts]
P.-J. Proudhon, “A Toast to the Revolution”
William B. Greene, “The Doctrine of Life”
---, A Priori Autobiography [excerpts]
---, “International Address”

Warren’s experiment at Utopia, OH coincided with the American response to the French revolution of 1848. Papers such as The Spirit of the Age and The Harbinger attempted to adapt the thought of the major French socialist currents to American contexts. William B. Greene, William Henry Channing, Albert Brisbane and the Brook Farm colonists developed their own home-grown responses. “Mutualism” appears in this period as the most libertarian of synthetic, harmonian philosophies, and had in America a much broader base than in Europe.

Week 6: William B. Greene and Mutual Banking

P.-J. Proudhon, [selections on property, etc]
William B. Greene, Equality
---, Mutual Banking (1850)
---, “Communism vs. Mutualism”
Various, [responses to Greene]

William B. Greene attempted to synthesize the thought of Proudhon and Leroux with native currency-reform traditions. His version of Proudhon’s credit currency scheme has been so popular, despite its lack of success (or even trial), that mutualism has come to be largely identified with it. Greene’s early writings, however, suggest a broader program.

Week 7: Joshua King Ingalls

Joshua King Ingalls, Reminiscences of an Octogenarian
---, “Chapters on Rights”
Albert Brisbane, “A Mutualist Township”

Ingalls is now best remembered as an advocate of land-reform, associated with George Henry Evans. He was actually another wide-ranging reformer, author, and inventory. We’ll get a first-hand look at a range of reforms in his autobiography, and also examine his analysis of natural rights, which originally appeared in The Spirit of the Age.

Week 8: Abolitionists and Non-Resistants

William Lloyd Garrison, “Declaration of Sentiments Adopted by the Peace Convention, September 28, 1838”
Ezra H. Heywood, “The War Method of Peace”
Adin Ballou, Christian Non-Resistance
[Lysander Spooner vs. Wendell Phillips in The Liberator]

Although split on the question of whether or not they were “no-government men,” the non-resistant wing of the abolition movement strongly challenged secular government.

Week 9: Calvin Blanchard and the Freethinkers of The Boston Investigator

Calvin Blanchard, “A Crisis Chapter on Government”
---, “My undertaking and Its Auspices”
---, “The Life of Thomas Paine”
Eliphalet Kimball
Lewis Masquerier
Peter I. Blacker

Week 10: Stephen Pearl Andrews, Universology and the Pantarchy

Stephen Pearl Andrews, Organic Basis or Constitution of the Panarchy
---, Constitution of the New Catholic Church
---, [Weekly Bulletins of the Pantarchy]
Various, [responses to Andrews]

Week 11: The Emergence of Individualist Anarchism

[debates from the pages of the free religionist journal, The Index]

Week 12: Benjamin R. Tucker and Liberty

Benjamin R. Tucker, Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One

Week 13: The Twentieth Century, Lucifer the Light-Bearer, Free-Love, and Eugenics

William H. Van Ornum, Mating or Marrying, Which?
Voltairine de Cleyre, “Bastard Born”
---, “Those Who Marry Do Ill”
Lillian Harman
[etc]

Week 14: Social Mutualism, Communism, etc…

Dyer D. Lum
Peter Kropotkin, “Anarchism”
Emma Goldman
Voltairine de Cleyre

Week 15: Wrap-Up

Anarchist Obituaries and Elegies