Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Libertarian Dialectics

It's not often that you find amongst the Canadian Libertarian Right, the few and the brave that actually read Murray Rothbard or Sam Konkin III. That was until I came on this blog ; Godscopybook the other day with a reference to Rothbard and Dialectical Libertarianism. But alas he does not get it either, falling into that Southern Ontario Libertarianism that loves to rant and rant and rant against their strawman of Socialism.

Of course having not read broadly enough, they mistake Social Democracy, and the Liberal State for Socialism. In this case Godscopybook neo-liberal ideology has failed to even availed himself of a good read of William Godwin's Social Justice. How can you be a "new liberal" or "classical" liberal as the right wing libertarians call themselves, without benefiting from reading the father of Anarchist Utilitarianism. They are not libertarians but neo-liberaltarians.

And this is where the Rand influenced Libertarian Right falls down, they have a narrow focus and a distorted definition of socialism, communism, anarchism and libertarianism. That they lack a historical materialist interpretation of the world is simply a given being they come from the 'disritributive'(prices, value, profit) school of Austrian Economics of Von Mises and Hyaek. Philosophically this German classical economics is of the Schiller school, predating even Hegel, the idealist philosophy of the bourgoies striving to be the artistocracy.

Godscopybook hates the idea of a working class, with true aristorcatic individualistic pretension he rants against class, and class struggle. But empirical reality always comes back and slaps the right wing in the face. There cannot be capitalism without class struggle, it is what makes capitalism function. But of course this is the 'labour' theory of value, of Marx and modern political economy. The autaric capitalism of the idealists, denies labour any value beyond the Hegelian dialectic that the slaves shall serve.

Luckily there were right wing libertarian scholars like Rothbard and Konkin that divorced themselves from the Randian formula long enough to study dialectics. They had read Godwin and laced it well with the Hegelian Anarchist philosophy of Max Stirner. Sam Konkin and I both being from Edmonton, used to coorespond over the years, and his passing last year leaves a hole in the Libertarian Anarchist mileu. What is interesting is that both he and Rothbard refered to themselves as anarchists and as the New Left of the right wing Libertarian movement in the U.S.

And such is the case of Chris Sciabarra, who was influenced in his dialectical thinking by Murray Rothbard on the right and Marxist libertarian Bertell Ollman. For this precious little find I thank godscopybook, and just say, one more step neo-liberaltarian to be a dialectical anarchist.

Chris M. Sciabarra
Chris Matthew Sciabarra has been a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Politics at New York University since 1989. His previous publications include Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (PSP, 1995), Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (SUNY, 1995), and Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand (edited with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, PSP, 1999).

by Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Let me start by saying what this article is not. It is not going to be a place to debate Murray Rothbard’s anarchism. Or his stance on foreign policy. Or his various, changing stances on libertarian strategy. (In fact, all of these stances put together constitute a very small fraction of the totality of his thought.) Suffice it to say, I had and have profound differences with Rothbard. But there comes a point at which it is important to express one’s own appreciation: Murray Rothbard was one of my mentors and made a crucial impact on my own intellectual development. And, quite frankly, he was a teacher to many, many libertarian writers—including those who, today, are among his fiercest critics.

I discuss my own relationship with Rothbard in an essay entitled "How I Became a Libertarian":

While an undergraduate, I met Murray Rothbard. I was a founding member of the NYU Chapter of Students for a Libertarian Society. We got Rothbard to speak before the society several times. I struck up a cordial relationship with Murray, and learned much from my conversations with him. He was a real character, very funny, and quite entertaining as a speaker. When I went into the undergraduate history honors program, Murray gave me indispensable guidance. ... In later years, I don’t think Murray was too thrilled with some of the criticisms I made of his work, but he was always cordial and supportive. I’m only sorry that Murray didn’t live to see my published work on Rand, which greatly interested him, or my Total Freedom, which devotes half of its contents to a discussion of his important legacy.

Total Freedom
Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism
December | 2000 | 6 x 9 inches
Penn State Press

Philosophy, Philosophy - History
Hardback: $70.00 short | 0-271-02048-2
Paperback: $27.00 short | 0-271-02049-0

Building upon his previous books about Marx, Hayek, and Rand, Total Freedom completes what Lingua Franca has called Sciabarra's "epic scholarly quest" to reclaim dialectics, usually associated with the Marxian left, as a methodology that can revivify libertarian thought. Part One surveys the history of dialectics from the ancient Greeks through the Austrian school of economics. Part Two investigates in detail the work of Murray Rothbard as a leading modern libertarian, in whose thought Sciabarra finds both dialectical and nondialectical elements. Ultimately, Sciabarra aims for a dialectical-libertarian synthesis, highlighting the need (not sufficiently recognized in liberalism) to think of the "totality" of interconnections in a dynamic system as the way to ensure human freedom while avoiding "totalitarianism" (such as resulted from Marxism).




* Editor's Word
* Chris Sciabarra: Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

Editor's Word

"Stirnerism" exists as a part of many intellectual movements; Anarchists have their Stirnerite fringe, there tend to be some who love Stirner in every libertarian circle, and Stirnerites often hang out with Objectivists, as they are the only other ones who do also speak warmly about selfishness.

Stirnerite thought is, though, a fringe minority view in these movements, and - while acknowledged - is seldom integrated into the dynamics of these movements' rhetoric. The lesson is recognized, but not learned.

When Chris M. Sciabarra told me a year ago about a book he was writing, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, where he sought to establish Rand's intellectual and philosophical roots in Russian dialectical thinking, that immediately struck me as both a profound insight, and an opening for an approach from Objectivism to "Stirnerism".

Of particular interest I find his statement that the dialectical heritage, as taken up by Rand, is one where mere interpretation of the world is not enough. Philosophy must have as its end a praxis. Mapping this back to Germany of one and a half century ago, this fits better into the thoughts of the rebellious young Hegelians than into the "purer" dialectics of the old Hegelians. So I invited Dr. Sciabarra to write a piece for Non Serviam about the central theses of his book, the results of which appear below. And well, as a little sales plug, I can mention that his book will be available this August [1995] from Penn State Press.

Dr. Sciabarra is a Visiting Scholar in the New York University Department of Politics, and has previously authored Marx, Hayek, and Utopia. Have an enjoying read and a good summer! -- Svein Olav Nyberg

LINGUA FRANCA, (September 1999): 45-55.
The Heirs of Ayn Rand: Has Objectivism Gone Subjective?

Scott McLemee

"When Ayn Rand died in 1982, she left devotees squabbling for control of her intellectual empire. Today, the Objectivist movement is threatened not just by its internal schisms but also by its surprising new popularity in the academy. Can the Objectivists save their guru from the professors they despise?"

In the article, McLemee traces the history and significance of the philosophy and movement of Objectivism. He concentrates on what he calls its three successive crises: the first entailing the Rand-Branden schism, and its subsequent detailing in the writings of Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden; the second entailing the Kelley-Peikoff split; and the third brought about by the publication of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Sciabarra's book was a grand "challenge to 'proprietary' Objectivism," McLemee writes. A libertarian, Sciabarra was stimulated by Bertell Ollman's work on Marx. As his mentor, Ollman encouraged Sciabarra to examine "the methodological and substantive parallels between Marxian and free-market thought." McLemee observes: "Sciabarra was amazed to find that Ayn Rand, too, was a dialectician. So were other libertarian theorists!" Tracing the integration of dialectics and libertarianism "became an epic scholarly quest" for Sciabarra, a project that led to the publication of his Russian Radical, "which set out a drastic reinterpretation of [Rand's] intellectual development and the structure of her system." With successive printings and thousands of copies sold, the "work acknowledges the importance of free-market economic thought for Rand, as well as her sense of a deep continuity between Objectivism's philosophical anthropology and Aristotle's. But [Sciabarra] insists that Russian culture was the strongest and most pervasive influence on [Rand's] vision, especially the culture of the early twentieth century (extending into the first years of the Communist era) when avant-garde movements like symbolism and futurism joined Hegelian and Nietzschean philosophical currents to generate a cultural renaissance. Sciabarra was particularly intrigued by Rand's enthusiastic memories of having studied classical philosophy with N.O. Lossky -- a titan of Russian thought who sought to overcome dualisms such as materialism / idealism and empiricism / rationalism through a grand system of markedly organicist and teleological bent."


Larry Gambone said...

First rate article, you have hit the nail on the head as far as the vulgar libertarians go - purely ideological and limited. They don't seem to have any knowledge of the workers movement, otherwise they wouldn't reduce socialism to its statist form alone. (Anyway, many of these so-called libertarians leave me asking, "Have any of them ever worked for a boss before?"

eugene plawiuk said...

Vulgar libertarians I like that Larry, but I prefer to keep them honest and call them what they are liberaltarians. Of course coming from a fullerbrush salesman ideology they only percieve the world as someplace where goods are bought and sold, not created. Someone else they pay creates the goods. Sweatshop production for consumer capitalism in the USA is the highest form of their liberaltarian market place.

The only libertarians that I recognize amongst the right are those around
in particular Kevin Carson. And Murray Rothbard and Sam Konkin III.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't introduce Larry Gambone as the editor publisher of Any Time Now an anarchist mutualist zine, and publisher of anarchist pamphlets with his Red Lion Press.

Larry is an old friend, and comrade, since, ohmygawd, the early seventies.

His work on Dietzigen and Cosmic Dialectics is a must read it can be found on his web site.

Larry's latest effort is a listing of Anarchists in Canada

eugene plawiuk said...

Hey, Eugene,
Thanks much for your comments and references! Very kind of you. I mentioned your post here:
Chris Sciaarra

eugene plawiuk said...

Another great mutualist libertarian blog is Kevin Carsons, I just found it here on blogspot, ya never know when ya have company in blogsville.

He kindly linked to this article and he continues the Mutual battle we have against the liberaltarians or Vulgar Libertarians as he calls 'em. Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
Yes you read that right, Anti-Capitalism......from a libertarian perspective.