[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Kevin Carson’s Studies in Mutualist Political Economy is not 700 pages long, I’m happy to say; but it is now at long last available through Amazon.
While I don’t always agree with all the details of Carson’s updated version of Tuckerite anarchism (the two main points of contention are the labour theory of value and the opposition to absentee land ownership – though given Tucker’s subjectivised spin on the labour theory and his acceptance of competing property regimes under anarchy, these differences are less sharp than they might seem), his book is an absolutely essential text for the cause of left/libertarian reunification, and I’m delighted to see it in a position to reach a wider audience. For more on Carson, see here. (For what it’s worth, I suspect Carson makes the best gateway author for libertarian-curious lefties, and that Konkin and 60s-Rothbard make the best gateway authors for left-curious libertarians; so give your lefty friends Carson first, and then Konkin and 60s-Rothbard, and give your libertarian friends Konkin and 60s-Rothbard first, and then Carson. Maybe – I’m not wedded to this hypothesis.)
Speaking of left/libertarian reunification, Brad Spangler’s website, blog, and Agorism page seem to be back to normal. The Center for a Stateless Society site is only half back (the front page loads but not much else does), but I expect this’ll be corrected shortly.
“I suspect Carson makes the best gateway author for libertarian-curious lefties”
Indeed. I was reading Kevin Carson, at the behest of a more ‘right-wing’ libertarian buddy long before I made the jump and became an anarchist and left-libertarian.
Though I just got done listening to “For A New Liberty” from Mises.org, I too am still of the “different property regimes depending on whom you associate with” under anarchism.
Update: Center for a Stateless Society appears to be fixed now.
Thanks for the kind recommendation, Roderick. Thanks to you, also, Mike.
On labor theories of value, I get the impression that subjectivized spins are more the rule than the exception, historically. Adam Smith explained it in terms of “toil and trouble” (the Ricardian socialist Hodgskin quoted him directly on the subject), and a subjective understanding of utility maximization seems to be implicit in the classical political economists’ understanding of how the law of value actually worked. The main departure was Marx (or at least his Hegelian side), who tended to get all mystical about “social labor” and “species being.” Most critiques of the LTV I’ve seen on the right start with a strawman intrinsicist caricature of the labor theory rather than the actual understanding of Ricardo et al.
No problem. And for clarity, I was a lefty, statist (an NDP supporter in Canada) before I read your stuff.
While I still disagree with Kevin on land issues (and quite possibly banking, though I honestly haven’t given that part of his work enough attention to form a strong opinion), I think much of the hoopla over his “LTV” comes from the label, as opposed to what it actually is, sorta like the hoopla created by Kevin’s use of the term “capitalism”.
If Kevin’s intent was to “fit in” with the Austrian mainstream, he could have labelled it as an “analysis of the factors of cost in the subjective theory of value” and taken his place at the, ahem, left hand of George Reisman. Instead, he issued a challenge, and instead of meeting him on the field of battle, they circled their wagons and called him a Marxist. He’s done a very good job of illuminating who in the Austrian movement is capable of independent thought, and who is merely a dogmatist or shill. In other words, who cares more about the concept versus who cares more about the labels.
Proudhon, too, subjectived the labor theory:
(General Idea of the Revolution in the 19th Century, 6th Study)
“No doubt Value, the expression of liberty, and growing out of the personality of the worker, is of all human things the most reluctant to submit to formulas. Therein lies the excuse of the misleading routine arguments of the economists. Thus the [disciples] of Malthus and Say, who oppose with all their might any intervention of the State in matters commercial or industrial, do not fail to avail themselves at times of this seemingly liberal attitude, and to show themselves more revolutionary than the Revolution. More than one honest searcher has been deceived thereby: they have not seen that this inaction of Power in economic matters was the foundation of government. What need should we have of a political organization, if Power once permitted us to enjoy economic order?
“But precisely because Value is in the highest degree difficult to formulate, it is eminently transactional, seeing that it is always the result of a transaction between the seller and the buyer, or as the economists say, between supply and demand.”
Kevin Carson’s thought has me reading and thinking about political economy more than I have in years. It turns out that the end of the road isn’t market anarchism + Spoonerite explicit social contract theory. Carson’s history and rock-solid knowledge of the development of economic thought help make his case; the state granting of land title in the late middle ages coupled with the long distance transportation subsidy reasonably describe primitive capital accumulation in, say, England. The Libertarian Left camp, with its emphasis opposing state-privileged corporations is a good home for my mind these days, but I keep these thoughts in mind: Leftism without leftoidism & Watch the guns –
I was a lefty, statist (an NDP supporter in Canada) before I read your stuff.
Join the club. Maybe we should have t-shirts made up?