Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Travelling through "Liberty"

Between 1891 and 1908, Benjamin R. Tucker's published 403 issues of Liberty, almost certainly the most important individualist anarchist publication in English, and probably in any language.

Tucker was a, perhaps the, key player in the second phase of individualist anarchism in the United States. He both continued and greatly modified the earlier mutualist projects of William Batchelder Greene and Josiah Warren. By the end of his career he had come to embrace a Stirneresque egois—apparently worlds away from the Saint-Simon-influenced Christian mutualism of Greene's early work or the Owenite origins of Warren's. Questions of continuity and development within the individualist anarchist tradition are extremely contentious, particularly among the wide range of market anarchists—ranging from fairly orthodox Proudhonian mutualists to "anarcho-capitalists" of various stripes—who claim connection to Tucker's work.

There are real difficulties in coming to grips with the individualist anarchist theory that was worked out in the pages of Liberty. First of all, there was simply a lot of it, and there were a lot of forceful voices raised on issues that were already contentious before they were raised in those pages. It's also necessary to come to terms with the degree to which Tucker, and others, were committed controversialists and natural sectarians—and then to balance that in our understanding against the instances where Tucker, and others, tilted far off their "plumb line" axis to reach out to potential allies among liberals and capitalists.

What I'm going to do in the posts here is to work my way through Liberty, covering as much of the material as I can by the end of 2007. I'll summarize issues, make commentary, scan key texts, develop a cumulative table of contents, track down related articles and scan them when possible and appropriate. I'll also try to include some coverage of the Radical Review and of Tucker's contributions to other periodicals like The Index and The Word.

Thanks for reading. Solidarity and freedom,

—Shawn P. Wilbur

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