Monday, December 10, 2012

Two-Gun Mutualism Rearmed extended outline

[I've sent this extended outline for the Two-Gun Mutualism book to a number of friends and colleagues for comment, and have been debating whether or not it made sense to post it here at this point. I certainly welcome any feedback on the project, but I'm also inclined to think that the extended outline amounts to as good a summary of my overall project as I am likely to be able to produce, so here it is, offered with the hope that it may serve as a help in navigating the rest of the material on the blog. The section on property has not been extended in the same way as other sections, since that material has been my focus so often here, and, honestly, I've outlined it so many times in my own notebooks that I need to leave it for another day. ]


Two-Gun Mutualism
the original anarchism rearmed

Shawn P. Wilbur

[expanded outline]


Two-Gun Mutualism will include five chapters and several appendices, outlining the history, philosophy and economic theory of “neo-Proudhonian” mutualism, with attention to the position of the reemerging mutualisms, which have, in essence, one foot in the earliest days of anarchism and one probably best positioned somewhere in its near future. While arguing for the power and importance of the mutualist approach, among the goals of the work is to suggest a perhaps novel way of thinking about the unity of the various anarchist traditions, without recourse to fuzziness and compromise, and to advocate the rejection of sectarian struggle between identitarian positions in favor of more productive and individual forms of internal struggle. [This volume will possibly be accompanied by a reader of The Historical Mutualist Tradition.]

Preface: Becoming a Two-Gun Mutualist

The story of the reemergence of mutualism is inescapably tied to individual stories of the search for a variety of anarchism adequate to the times. The present diversity of nominally “mutualist” positions, originating from a variety of positions both within and outside the mainstream of the anarchist tradition  we inherited from the twentieth century, may tell us something about a widespread theoretical unrest in antiauthoritarian circles—and this may be a far more interesting story than the one which has focused on the “incoherence” of reemerging mutualism. Perhaps we should think about contemporary neo-mutualisms in the context of resistances to fundamentalism and the politics of identity, making the return of anarchism’s repressed origins an occasion for a general renewal of the tradition.

Chapter One: The Ungovernability of Anarchism and the Trouble with Mutualism

As an ideal, a tradition, and as a movement, anarchism faces its would-be adherents with a special set of problems, imposing constant vigilance, endless experiment, and active skepticism and conflict as the means of remaining faithful to its evolving project. Two-Gun Mutualism aims to be a particularly anarchistic approach to anarchism, both in terms of its philosophy and its practical application.

                  1. An Ungovernable Ideal—Thinking about Anarchism Anarchistically

As an ideal, anarchism is not reducible to opposition to a particular manifestation of “the state,” or to any other selection of individual archisms. Its roots are in progressive, perfectionist philosophies which aimed to relentlessly root out all archism, in the service of an ever more demanding standard of freedom. Consequently, it is an ideal which constantly races on ahead of us, urging us to follow if we are to be faithful. Acknowledging this conception of anarchism essentially raises the bar, when it is a question of self-identification or consideration of who belongs within the anarchist movement. It should leave most of us at least a bit uneasy. As a rather relentless goad to even the most committed of social anarchists, it certainly provides little shelter to would-be entryists.

                  2. An Ungovernable Tradition—Thinking about Anarchist History Anarchistically

Histories of anarchism have tended to impose a consistency and developmental tendency on the tradition and its development which, while perhaps accurate in broad strokes, has been more ideological than strictly historical. In the twenty-five years following Proudhon’s declaration “I am an anarchist”—prior to the emergence of collectivist anarchism, and long prior to Kropotkin’s anarchist communism—the range of clearly articulated anarchist positions included multiple forms of mutualism, individualism, and communism, with predictions about means ranging from cooperation to market competition, revolution or even Cossack invasion. And, despite the shortcomings of some of these anarchist founders, broader movement surrounding them including quite a number of women activists and members of the early labor movement. While simplifying the history of anarchism makes it easier to paint, for example, market anarchism as a modern aberration, it is arguably bad history, difficult to manage without also suppressing, for instance, early forms of anarcha-feminism.

                  3. An Ungovernable Movement—Organizing towards Anarchism Anarchistically

Struggles over how best to imagine the practical embodiment of elusive anarchist ideals are a necessary part of our struggle. But struggles to “rule anarchism” or to rule one another by means of movement norms probably fall short of fidelity our anarchist ideals. In fundamentalist or identitarian forms, anarchism risks becoming another archism, and a particularly difficult one to combat.

                  4. Rearming Mutualism and Remutualizing Anarchism

Mutualism has reemerged in a rather protean form, and faces critical challenges about how it will think about its internal diversity and its relation to the broader anarchist movement and tradition. The most likely scenarios seem to be that mutualism will either remain primarily a sort of catch-all category, including a range of positions between anarchist communism and the more strictly market-centered individualisms, or that the recovery of mutualism can be accomplished as part of a recovery of a whole era of anarchist history and the reintegration of a largely forgotten sort of antiauthoritarian philosophy and sociology. The latter option is obviously the harder to achieve, but it is the one which promises to enrich the entire anarchist tradition—even while it challenges much of its conventional wisdom.

Chapter Two: A Two-Gun History of the World

The bold claim behind much of this work is that if mutualism is restored to its proper place in the history of anarchism, that history looks much different. History prior to anarchism’s emergence is different when seen through the lenses adopted by the early mutualists. The era covered by Proudhon’s career emerges in all of its complicated glory. And the subsequent development of the anarchist tradition looks much less like a steady refinement towards the goal of anarchist communism and perhaps much more like a serious of mutilations and abandonments of grand projects for human liberty. The “Two-Gun History” will present an alternative origin story for anarchism, and gesture towards futures which are perhaps not so easy to imagine from the histories we now generally adopt. [Each of these sections would ideally be supplemented by at least a pamphlet of primary source materials.]

                  1. Theories of History and Just-So Stories

Mutualism originally emerged in the context of debates over the nature of progress and the general sweep of history, and nearly all of its pioneers incorporated significant elements from the theorists of “utopian” socialism. While we are likely to see tables of clearly defined historical eras as more like “just-so” stories than serious history, we need to understand those accounts in order to understand key elements of how and why the various early forms of mutualism emerged—and to be conscious of where dubious elements may have crept into those early proposals.

                  2. In Search the “True Contr’Un”

Armed with some sense of the broad historical canvas assumed by the early mutualists, we need to supplement it with a history of early anarchist and proto-anarchist thought which directly contributed to the theories of those early mutualist theorists. Because all attempts to provide coherent origin stories for anarchism tend to have that “just-so” story character, this section will simply present a sort of provocative counter-myth, centering on Etienne de la Boetie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude and its reception in 19th century French socialist circles, by figures like Pierre Leroux. This section will also cover the mutuellisme of the Lyons workers, and a brief introduction to the ideas of Fourier. [This is the history that I began in “Two-Gun Mutualism and the Golden Rule.” The responses to de la Boetie look like they would make an interesting little volume, with early entries by Pierre Leroux, Lammenais and others. I have also one recent response by an Italian egoist which is striking. Aside from the collection of Fourier’s Writings on Gastronomy and Gastrosophy, which Joan Roelofs and I are working to complete, I’ve been assembling introductory texts on Fourier’s works on the Splendors of the Combined Order blog and in a zine called Parcours.]

                  3. Feminism in the Era of the “Utopians”

Several of the women with whom Proudhon struggled over gender issues were activists with careers in the “utopian” socialist movement which extended back as far as his own. This section will provide an overview of the emergence of figures like Jeanne Deroin, Jenny P. d’Héricourt, Andre Leo, and Juliette Adam, and outline some of the characteristics of their feminism. [Translation of works by all these figures is ongoing, with the idea of producing a volume of Feminist Responses to Proudhon after I complete the translation of d’Héricourt’s Woman Affranchised.]

                  4. Equitable Commerce

While Josiah Warren’s project of equitable commerce is generally included in the category of mutualism only because of its later convergence with the Proudhonian tradition in individualist anarchism, that later convergence was certainly not without its logic, and the neo-mutualisms of the present are likely to draw on Warren and Proudhon without much consideration of the historical differences. This section will provide an brief history of Warren’s projects and the equitable commerce movement that emerged around him. [My Annotated Bibliography of Equitable Commerce is well under way, and I’m weighing my options with regard to producing a capsule history for that volume or a somewhat longer work on The Movement for Equitable Commerce.]

                  5. Proudhonian Mutualism and its Discontents

While an adequate sketch of anarchism in the period covered by Proudhon’s career would require a volume or two of its own, it is useful in this context to outline the major developments in his career, and the major responses to that development. This section will include discussion of Joseph Déjacque, Anselme Bellegarrigue, Ernest Coeurderoy, William Batchelder Greene, Jerome Amedee Langlois, and the major mutualists and “disciples of Proudhon” through the end of the 19th century. [Work goes forward on Déjacque’s Humanisphere, and I hope to have at least a “working translation” in circulation by mid-2013. I hope to have a collection of Bellegarrigue’s three major anarchist writings completed in 2013 as well. Last year, I produced the collection In Which the Phantoms Reappear, which is an introduction to Déjacque and Bellegarrigue in the context of their exile on the Isle of Jersey.]

                  6. The Parceling-Out of Mutualism

We have plenty of examples of the communist’s- or collectivist’s-eye-view of mutualism, which tend to treat the earlier tradition as an imperfect early attempt or even “infantile disorder,” but very few attempts to tell the story of anarchism from the perspective of its earliest adherents. From that perspective we might well think of our story as one of compromise and decline. This section will provide a number of possible mutualist’s-eye-view interpretations of, and responses to, anarchist history, ranging from a kind of “calling out” to a doubtless more helpful call for a reintegration of the elements of the mutualist project, which have been parceled out in a kind of antagonistic division of labor.

                  7. Individualist Anarchism and its Mutualism

One of the more complicated historical issues we currently face arises from the fact that, in the hand of individualists like Benjamin R. Tucker, “mutualism” came to mean something considerably different than it hand in the hands of Greene or Proudhon. This section will cover those changes, in order to clarify the relationship between the neo-mutualisms which draw primary inspiration from Proudhon and those which relay primarily on Tucker’s approach.

                  7. The Interregnum

Between the retirement of Benjamin R. Tucker and the appearance of Kevin Carson mutualism experienced a long period of relative dormancy. This section will survey some of the likely causes and some of the forms under which mutualism continued to exist in anarchist and radical circles.

                  8. Proudhon’s Revenge

“Proudhon’s Revenge” was the title of an early 20th century French work, which perhaps prematurely announced the return of Proudhonian anarchism in a form strongly reminiscent of recent left-libertarian market anarchism—right down to some provocative quibbles about anarchist “capitalism.” This section will focus on the apparent delayed fulfillment of that prophecy in our own time, with discussion of the work of Kevin Carson, the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, Iain McKay’s Property is Theft, and related work by myself and others.

                  9. Further Thoughts on Mutualism and the Future of Anarchism

Having presented some of the ways in which the history of anarchism is transformed by the reintegration of its mutualist beginnings, it remains to indicate why such a reintegration stands to benefit the entire movement—barring perhaps those whose sectarian goals require some sort of “governing” of the movement. A feature of the earlier sections will have been an attempt to place the various anarchists schools as something like specializations within the broader field of mutualist anarchism, but also to suggest the ways in which the results of this ideological and theoretical division of labor challenge mutualism to open itself to new strategies, concepts and approximations.

Chapter Three: Progress, Approximation, and the Larger Antinomy

Much of my own work has been an attempt to clarify the philosophical assumptions of mutualism, and the key element of mutualist social science. In that work, a key strategy has been to highlight the borrowings from earlier sources. This chapter will mix elements from Proudhon, Pierre Leroux, Fourier, Langlois, Warren and other historical sources with formulations of my own—key among them the “larger antinomy,” which attempts to situate the specific analyses of the earlier figures in the context of a irreducible dialectic between the poles of concentration and circulation. Although they will have will have appeared in a variety of guises in earlier chapters, it is as the poles of that antinomy—the death of stasis and the death of pure dispersion—that the “two guns” will finally be most clearly defined.

                  1. The Two “Guns” of the Larger Antinomy

In order to construct a common framework within which to discuss the various figures who have influenced the “two-gun” synthesis, while trying to keep within a discourse fairly close to that of Proudhon, it has been necessary to propose a slightly abstracted version of the “synthesis of community and property” he called for in 1840. This section will adapt the “two-gun” motif from my reading of Pierre Leroux’s “Individualism and Socialism” (in which those two terms were presumably invented in French, in order to dismiss both as undesirable extremes) to a broader reading of various extremes of concentration, or circulation and dissipation, found in the various writers who influenced early mutualism, mapping the potential helps and hazards in each. Then it will examine the version of the “universal circulus” proposed by Joseph Déjacque, with an eye to determining if the sort of order he proposes there is indeed an anarchic order, and to determining the relationship between his stated belief in a coming harmony and his own passionate insurrectionary tendencies. At stake is the question of whether the “two guns” represented by the extremes can—or even must—be wielded in our struggle towards greater harmony.

                  2. Individualities and Collectivities, Rights and Strengths

While Déjacque’s vision of universal circulus is haunted by questions about its coherence, Proudhon’s social science threatens to overwhelm us with complexity. Drawing from some of the same sources, Proudhon elaborated an analysis in which every individual was at once a group, organized according to a basic law. Individuals and what we would probably think of as collective individualities then appear at every scale—from the universal to the infinitesimal, as Fourier said—and Proudhon’s anarchistic sense tends to treat individualities at all scales as “equal” in the primary sense in which he used that term—that is, as elements to be balanced by justice. [The section will involve a substantial expansion of my essay of the same name.]

                  3. Explorations and Experiments

The analysis in the first two sections will be necessarily abstract, and the full project implied by it will perhaps remain a bit beyond our grasp, but we can begin to explore the possibilities of this style of analysis with a series of exploratory studies of key points of conflict in the current mutualist milieu.

                                    A. Capitalism and the Right of Increase

When we oppose capitalism and aubaines, what precisely do we oppose? This section analyses capitalism as a sort of imbalance in the negotiation of the larger antinomy, under which circulation is always subordinated to and mediated by concentration, and explores the proposition that mutualists are not—and perhaps cannot be consistently—opposed to windfall increase as such, but rather to the presumed “right of increase” which structures economic relations under capitalism. The exploration will be an occasion to compare the consequences of the form of rights proposed by Proudhon with other conceptions.

                                    B. Gendered Concepts, Feminism, and Patriarchy

The poles of the larger antinomy correspond in many ways to an opposition between the firm and the fluid which has structured much of the discussion of gender roles and characteristics. Arguably, one of the aspects of that general antinomy is a general gendering of elements of our economic relations. This section will explore some of the complex and conflicting ways in which Proudhon and other early mutualists invoked gender in their discussion of property and exchange, and the connections between these treatments and the anti-feminist position taken by a number of them. It will also present a conception of “patriarchy” of a fairly abstract sort, enabling us to draw some connections between more conventional feminist analysis and the neo-mutualist philosophy we are elaborating. [The issues raised here in theoretical terms will be addressed in more practical terms in the section in Chapter 5, “Proudhon for Lovers.”]

                                    C. Ecological and Economic Circulation

The claims made for “market forces” resemble the positing of a sort of second nature, though one mediated by identity and commodity forms at every stage, and some of the things we mean when we talk about “competition” correspond to something like biodiversity for the economic realm. In some respects, however, market order and ecological order seem to be in rather direct opposition. This section will explore these issues and try to give the Proudhonian sociology its most ecologically sound presentation, using the notion of the “universal circulus,” elaborated by Pierre Leroux and Joseph Déjacque, as a potential bridge between natural and economic orders.

Chapter Four: Owning Up—A Two-Gun Theory of Property

While one of the key elements of mutualist philosophy has been the critique of property as “theft,” that analysis was ultimately just the beginning of mutualist property theory. Proudhon himself eventually came to embrace that same property-theft “according to its” aims, incorporating it into his vision of counterbalancing institutions, but he left a great deal of the theoretical apparatus for us to construct. This chapter attempts to elaborate a coherent, and consistently mutualist theory of property.

                  1. Resources from the Propertarian Traditions



                  2. A Survey of Proudhon’s Analysis



                                    A. Keywords and Primary Distinctions



                  3. The Mutualist Subject—The Free Absolute



                                    A. As Approached through Egoism



                                    B. As Approached through Communism



                  4. Self-Ownership Established by Two Gifts—The Gift Economy of Property



                  5. Dynamic Extension of the Self



                  6. The Appropriation of Resources



                  7. Products of Labor



                                    A. Identifying the Subject of Production

                                    B. Alienability and Compensation

                                    C. Saving and Abandoning Products

                                    D. Intellectual Products

                  8. Property in Land

Property in land is

                                    A. Thinking about Land and Property

                                    B. Appropriation

                                    C. Homesteading

                                    D. Cycles of Use

                                    E. Mechanisms of Title

                                    F. Overlapping Use-Rights



                                    G. Abandonment

                                    H. Expropriation

                  9. Ideas as Capital

A further note on intellectual property: The elimination of protections beyond those necessary to bring intellectual products to market eliminates many of the problems we customarily associate with the treatment of ideas under capitalism, but there unquestionably remain a number of less strictly capitalist ways in which we compete to accumulate intellectual capital. This section consists of a long note on the sorts of practices most consistent with the treatment of ideas as a sort of common property or shared means of production.

                  10. Towards a Mutualist Communism

While mutualists have traditionally emphasized individual possession or property, that is perhaps not the only way to organize around the principle of mutuality. In Proudhon’s later work, society is organized in federations of individuals and collective individualities, with the federative bond incorporating a propertarian separation. This section will explore a range of different means of balancing the aspects of property relations which pertain to the separateness and persistence of the self with those which pertain to its evolution and circulation, with an approach to anarchist communist relations among the systems explored.

Chapter Five: Applying the Anarchism of Approximations

Proudhon observed that “humanity proceeds by approximation,” and our hope is that within anarchist societies our institutional approximations will increase in efficiency, justice, and aptness to current conditions. These case studies, drawn from common debates about mutualism, will be more exploratory than definitive, emphasizing the ways in which issues of historical change, rhetorical difference, individual preference, etc. may introduce variation or confusion in our approximations, while attempting to lay out the sorts of consistent concerns which must be addressed regardless of specific contexts.

                  The Past and Future of the Mutual Bank

Mutualists have been dismissed as “currency cranks,” because of their historical emphasis on “free credit” and mutual currency—a charge which has historically often been unfair, but which might well apply to us in the present if we don’t make sure we have adapted our currency strategies to present conditions. This section will explore “mutual banking” from its origins in the land banks of the 17th and 18th centuries through to the present, discuss the difficulties of applying the institution under present conditions, explore alternatives, and then propose some possible forms of mutual banking for the mutualist communities of the future.

                  Theories of Value and Cost-Price Exchange

The debates pitting “labor theories of value” versus “subjective theories of value” seem as often as not to embroil us in misunderstandings and false choices. Mutualists draw from a tradition which includes the recent “Carsonian synthesis” and the subjectivized “labor for labor exchange” proposed by Josiah Warren in the 1820s. This section will explore some of the variations of “equitable commerce” and “equal exchange” proposed historically by mutualists, as well as examining the extent to which the various theories of value overlap in their concerns.

                  Variety, Competition, and Plenty—In the Marketplace, the Workplace, etc.

There is a temptation to say that mutualist societies will necessarily have less variety in offering in the marketplace, but we perhaps there is cause to hope that variety might be maintained, while the sorts of inefficiencies which make consumerism so destructive might be minimized. This section will explore these questions, with particular attention to adapting Fourier’s system of competitive offerings and the notion of attractive industry to the needs of mutualist societies.

                  Are Hotels Immoral?—Further Thoughts on Occupancy and Use

Presumably, one of the goals of mutualist land tenure theory ought to be an increase in liberty, but we often talk about our opposition to monopoly rent and absentee ownership in terms of abolishing the exploitive options, rather than multiplying those based in justice. This section explores a variety of possible use-strategies for real property.

                  A Mutualist Minimum and Mutualist Insurance Schemes

Proudhon identified the “collective force” created under a division of labor as a key source of wealth and property, while still organizing his proposals for mutualist society around the human individual. Warren argued for a separation of interests as complete as possible. However, the degree of “collectivism” incorporated into mutualist societies will be dependent on the needs and preferences of the individuals involved—and in some communities those needs and preferences may make some larger collectivity the appropriate scale for addressing certain basic needs. This section will explore the question of “social security” under mutualism, and address some of the historical debates about the relationship between the collectivist anarchist tradition and the mutualist forms its attempted to supplant during the period of the First International.

                  Proudhon for Lovers

Proudhon is infamous for his anti-feminism and his defense of quite traditional, patriarchal family structures. His writings reveal a mistrust of passion and a rather narrow notion of love. However, his influences included Fourier, for whom the passions were the key to every aspect of life, and there are a variety of tensions in his writings which contemporary readers might be inclined to pursue in other directions. This section will begin with a discussion of some of those tensions, and then will take up Proudhon’s search for the “organ of justice” in human relationships, reading his “Catechism of Marriage” in a variety of ways—including some very much against the grain of Proudhon’s own views.


Appendix A: A Gallery of Mutualist Rogues

The Gallery will contain brief biographies of a range of historical figures associated with the mutualist tradition.

Appendix B: Bibliography of Mutualism

The Bibliography will consist of an essay presenting the major works of the mutualist tradition.

Appendix C: A Working Glossary of Mutualist Terms

The Working Glossary will collect major keywords from the text and from the major mutualist writings, and provide simple definitions, notes on usage and citations in the literature for further study.



1 comment:

Cody Leonard said...

Wow. This is the holy grail I've been looking for since I've become interested in mutualism. Really looking forward to reading this when it's complete!