Monday, May 19, 2008

A book, approximately

I'm roughly two weeks away from my cross-country relocation, which explains my relative quiet online lately. I've been whittling away at 18 years worth of accumulated stuff and making as much use of the research resources here as I can before heading west, reading Proudhon and Leroux, working on texts for LeftLiberty, etc. I've also been doing a lot of talking with friends here about mutualism, following up on this Spring's informal seminar and a presentation I gave on mutualist institutions. The result has been a significant crystalization of my thoughts about mutualism, and the outline, finally, for a collection of writings on the subject.
  1. The Anarchism of Approximations: the synthesis/manifesto, parts of which have been posted here;
  2. Towards a History of Mutualism: a discussion of the issues to be resolved before any sort of definitive history of mutualism could be written, including an introduction to major figures and texts;
  3. A Mutual Theory of Property: a look at property in Locke, Proudhon, Leroux and Ingalls, and a discussion of self-ownership, occupancy and use, possession vs. property, intellectual property, ecological concerns, etc., all in the context of the principle of mutuality;
  4. Mutuality and Mystery: a discussion of the religious elements in William B. Greene's original Christian Mutualism, with some thoughts on how mutuality and religious mystery may be connected there, and how they both might connect with contemporary treatments of community in the works of writers like Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Derrida, and Giorgio Agamben;
  5. Mutualist Institutions for the Here and Now; a very nuts-and-bolts discussion of what institutions (and it's probably not the mutual bank) mutualists could attempt to institute right now, with the actual resources at hand, and some discussion of existing left-libertarian projects (my own and others') in that context;
  6. A review (overdue, no doubt) of Kevin Carson's Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, and some discussion of how I see Kevin's vision of mutualism and my own connecting.

This is the stuff that goes to the top of the to-do list, as soon as the cats and my bulkier possessions start on their way west. Much of it is already written, or outlined, so it may start to appear fairly quickly. Nothing, of course, is certain, given the rather complete upheaval of my life just around the corner, but I hope to have the majority of this circulating in some form by the end of 2008.

And then I stumbled upon...

There are a certain number of volumes in almost every major library collection, with titles like "Philosophical Pamphlets," or something equally vague, which contain collections of materials bound together, with more or less rhyme or reason. The digital collections, of course, have them too, though frequently with even less in the way of contextual material or metadata to identify them and their contents. Once in a while those volumes turn out to be gold mines.

This weekend, while searching at the Internet Archive site (one of those before-I-log-out searches, a stab in the dark, because I hadn't done it in a while and who knows...?), I ran across a volume called, you guessed it, Philosophical Pamphlets, which contained another digital copy of Henry Cohen's edition of William B. Greene's 1870 Mutual Banking. The full contents are these:
  1. Mutual banking : showing radical deficiency of the present circulating medium ... / by William B. Greene. [1895?] (66 p.)
  2. An appeal to the young / by Peter Kropotin. 1896. (27 p.)
  3. Herbert Spencer's synthetic philosophy / by Benjamin F. Underwood. [n.d.] (85 p.)
  4. Evolution and social reform ... / by Hugh O. Pentecost. 1890. (p. 302-318)
  5. The scope and principles of the evolution philosophy / by Lewis G. Janes. 1889. (26 p.)
  6. Ernst Haeckel / by Thaddeus B. Wakeman. [1890?] (p. 21-58)
  7. The philosophy of evolution / by Starr Hoyt Nichols. 1889. (p. [343]-366)
  8. Co-operation : its laws and principles. (The sun ; v.1, no.1) 1885. (28 p.)
  9. Prohibition, or The relation of government to temperance. [n.d.] (28 p.)
  10. The reorganization of business. [1885?] (28 p.)
  11. The financial problem : its relation to labor reform and prosperity ... / by Alfred B. Westrup. 1886. (32 p.)

There's some good stuff here, not least The Financial Problem, which has been one of the last real holes in my collection of Westrup's work. Several of the others are publications of the Brooklyn Ethical Association, including the Pentecost piece, which is specifically titled "The Anarchistic Method," and originally appeared, if I remember correctly, in The Twentieth Century during Pentecost's tenure as editor. The library record actually attributed, or seemed to attribute the eighth pamphlet to Herbert Spencer, but when I looked at the title I realized that it was actually a scarce pamphlet by Charles T. Fowler. Fowler is one of the few figures generally associated with mutualism that I have note yet been able to read at all. As it turns out, the ninth and tenth works are also from Fowler's paper, The Sun. I will transcribe all of these to the Libertarian Labyrinth archive as soon as possible, but in the meantime, check them out at the Internet Archive.

Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas weblog

On the Research on Anarchism list, Robert Graham writes:
I've recently set up a weblog to provide additional commentary and selections to complement the published edition(s) of my anthology of anarchist writings, Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas. Recent posts include the first English translation of anything by Ernest Coeurderoy, an excerpt from his Jours d'exil (Days of Exile), and a CNT-FAI pamphlet from December 1936, encouraging Spanish peasants to embrace libertarian communism and assuring them that such a thing could never be imposed upon them. I've also posted the Preface
and Table of Contents to Volume 1, From Anarchy to Anarchism (300CE-1939), which was published by Black Rose Books in 2005, and tentative tables of contents for projected Volumes 2 and 3, Between Apopcalypse and Utopia (1939-1977) and The Anarchist Current (1974-2007), which I hope will come out soon.

I plan to post some additional previously unpublished selections that didn't make it into Volume 1, such as "On the Equal Ability of Humans," by Shen Shu (Liu Shipei), who published an anarchist review, Natural Justice, in Japan circa 1907 with his wife, He Zhen, whose piece on "Women's Liberation" was included in the published version of Volume 1, in Chapter 20, "Chinese Anarchism."

I also hope to include links to more complete versions of some of the selections, for example Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Proudhon's System of Economic Contradictions, for people interested in reading more from these authors.

The address is: Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Best regards,

Robert Graham

The site is very nice, and the first volume of the collection is quite useful.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A new rogue for the gallery

The search for material for LeftLiberty has taken me in some interesting directions. Every time I think I have a pretty good idea of the range of "socialist" positions out there, I run across some new figure who turns out to be significant, even if largely forgotten. In the mid-19th century, of course, there are a lot fewer socialists out there than there were at the end of that century, and it has been in the course of exploring the late 19th and early 20th centuries that I have found some of the greatest surprises, along with some difficult problems of interpretation. The intellectual genealogies get complicated: Ernest Lesigne, for example, had connections with the Comtean positivists, which adds another complicating dimension to his rather idiosyncratic version of socialism. And Comte is one of those factors that we've really hardly begun to deal with, despite his widespread influence, on a range of figures from Stephen Pearl Andrews to Kropotkin.

It was in the process of tracking down some contextual material on Lesigne that I encountered Eugenio Rignano, author of Un socialisme en harmonie avec la doctrine économique libérale (1904). That's A Socialism in Harmony with the Liberal Economic Doctrine, written by someone for whom "socialism" was a matter of "historical materialism" and the like. I've just started to read the work, but what I've read so far is very interesting, as Rignano attempts a fairly audacious synthesis of more-or-less marxian socialism and liberal property theory. Apparently, though, audacious synthesis was Rignano's thing: his other works seem to look for synthetic positions in biological debates of vitalism vs. mechanism, in the debates over the inheritance of acquired characteristics, etc. The biological and evolutionary material was of a sort regularly debated in radical circles, where "voluntaristic" forms of evolutionary theory managed to hold out much longer than they did in the surrounding culture. Rignano may shed some more direct light on the connections between the biological and sociological-political debates.

Perhaps a LeftLiberty issue or supplement down the road can tackle some of these scientific questions.

A Reminder: It would be great to hear from more regular readers of the blog on those definitional questions for LeftLiberty 1-2. You can enter responses directly into the wiki. (Registration is required to edit the page.) The more responses we get, the more useful the collections of texts can be, and the more efficiently I can direct my research in the older material.