Anarchy in America

As William Gillis points out, two important histories of individualist anarchism in the u.s. are now online: Eunice Schuster’s (confusingly titled) Native American Anarchism (1932) and Rudolf Rocker’s Pioneers of American Freedom (1949). These join James Martin’s (sexistly titled) Men Against the State (1953) and William Reichert’s Partisans of Freedom (1976), already online, making a nice quartet.

In related news, just put up an article on Sam Konkin by Jeff Riggenbach.

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12 Responses to Anarchy in America

  1. TomG July 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

    Material like this is just awesome, Roderick – thanks for pointing it out, and an indirect thanks to those who put it online.

  2. Anon73 July 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    My understanding is the term ‘man’ originally meant humans but was later appropriated to refer to males specifically. If you’re absolutely opposed to it then what do you propose to replace with ‘man’ for a gender-neutral term? “Humans against the State”?

    • Rad Geek July 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

      Anon73: My understanding is the term ‘man’ originally meant humans …

      Around the time of Beowulf, sure. (*) But by 1952 the primary use of “man” was “an adult human male,” and any educated writer who decided to use it in the allegedly gender-neutral sense would be aware of the distinct possibility of conflation between the exclusive and inclusive meanings. (It’s just that, in 1952, cultural politics were such that most male writers didn’t particularly care about that possibility.) The gender-exclusive primary use of “man” had been well established since “wer” disappeared in Middle English, and in fact the 19th century had seen a series of public controversies in English-speaking countries as to whether or not the use of “man,” “he,” etc. in traditional laws, charters, by-laws, etc. should be construed to include women, or to include men only — with a number of schools, courts, professional associations, etc. specifically deciding that it should be read to exclude women from admission. (**)

      Of course, if the title is read as “Males Against the State,” that’s mostly an accurate description of the contents of the book. Angela Heywood, Voltairine de Cleyre, Gertrude Kelly and Emma Goldman are all mentioned in passing only; the folks whose expositions of individualist Anarchism get significant discussion in the book are one and all dudes. Which is a problem in itself, aside from any problems with word choice.

      Anon73: If you’re absolutely opposed to it then what do you propose to replace with ‘man’ for a gender-neutral term? “Humans against the State”?

      Enemies of the State would have made a good, equally-provocative title. Individuals Against the State would be clunky but prefigure the individualist content of their opposition to the state. There are of course lots of other titles you could choose that couldn’t be carried out by a simple search-and-replace operation on the title. The fact that anti-sexist language sometimes makes one particular phrase awkward or unwieldy doesn’t mean that a talented writer can’t come up with some other arresting phrase to put in its place, if she simply goes back to the blackboard and thinks it through a bit.

      (*) “Man” in Old English was inclusive, like “homo” in Latin or “anthropos” in Greek. If you needed to specify gender, you said “wer” or “werman” for an adult male and “wifman” for an adult woman.

      (**) In the U.K., the Interpretation Act of 1850 was passed to require gender-neutral constructions of “he,” “man,” etc. in acts of Parliament, apparently mainly to allow more succinct writing; but that bill was also a response to existing legal controversies, and meanwhile in the U.S. a number of schools, courts, and professional associations were insisting on males-only readings in order to exclude women from admission to a number of institutions and professions.

      “Man” in Old English generally functioned like “homo” in Latin or “anthropos” in Greek. Of course, people talking about homo in Latin often implicitly had a male in mind, but
      If you needed to specify gender, you said “werman” for a male adult and “wifman” for a female adult.)

      • Roderick July 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

        Another reason for the title is that it’s (probably) a reference to Spencer’s book The Man versus the State. (That’s not a justification, just an explanation.)

        Incidentally, as I see it the problem with using “man” (and similar terns) to apply to both sexes is not that it’s inaccurate, exactly; “man” is one of many term that has both broad and narrow meanings (like “animal,” both including and excluding humans, or “rectangle,” both including and excluding squares). The problem is that it has harmful results — specifically, that it tends to reinforce the perception of the male human as the standard or normal case. (To take a very simple example, people sometimes claim that “cavemen” is gender-neutral and includes women, but studies show that people are far more likely to draw male figures if asked to draw “cavemen” than if asked to draw “cave dwellers” or “early humans.”) By contrast, the fact that nonsquares are the default case of rectangles causes no particular harm.

        • Rad Geek July 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

          I think the conflation problem also shows up even in putting the words into use in categoricals. E.g., the double use of “animals” doesn’t cause much trouble in being able to understand that “No animal can speak for itself” has a (true) exclusive interpretation and a (false) inclusive interpretation, or in accepting statements like “Some animals can fly aeroplanes” or “Some animals are human.” Supposedly “All men are created equal” should be just as flexible in interpretation, but the same people who would accept “Some animals (viz., us) can fly aeroplanes” are far less likely to be willing to accept “Some men can give birth” or “Some men are women,” unless they are defending a thesis.

          But I suspect the interpretive stickiness in the “Some” categoricals has something to do with cognitive stickiness that probably also shows up in the “All” categoricals — that there’s some reason to think that the meaning is not really reliably being switched over to the inclusive meaning in the universal claims, either. If they are being understood to include women, it’s generally only going to be done by some considerable act of will, against the cognitive grain (the same act of will it takes to read “Some men are women” as a true existential claim), or else is being done only as an afterthought, which is easily forgotten when you start reasoning from the statements that you’ve accepted as true.

        • Roderick July 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

          Back when I was a grad student I used to give my students a handout about sexist language, describing various different ways of handling the problem and the pros and cons of each. I ended the handout with the line “Every man should use her own judgment.” 🙂

  3. Anon73 July 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    I like that term “werman”, it sounds vaguely like “werewolf” (Wermacht?). I’m not saying that you absolutely can’t find another word – witness the egregious use of “his or her” which permeates a lot of documents these days – just that it would be nice to have a one-syllable term to indicate “human regardless of gender” since presently there doesn’t seem to be such a term. The Latin and Greek don’t seem very promising since “Homo” is a derogatory term in this language and “Anth” (or “Anthro”) sounds repulsive.

    On the other hand when the Singularity hits and intelligent machines run the planet we will all be called “organics” or “meatbags”, which although neutral is somewhat revolting.

    • Roderick July 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

      “Werewolf” does indeed have the same root (man-wolf), as does “wergild/wergeld.”

  4. Adrian Atari July 30, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    Thanks for spreading the word, Roderick. I’m thrilled that people are enjoying these.

    For those interesting in making these works as accessible as possible, I’m asking for help correcting errors in, and reformatting, the OCR’d text. I’m starting with “Pioneers”, and will move on to “Native American Anarchism” shortly. Those interested in helping, please have a look here:

    Also, as for “Native American Anarchism” having a weird name, my understanding is that the term “Native American” didn’t come into popular usage as meaning the indigenous populations of America until the late 1950’s. So in that respect it’s not so weird. My understanding could certainly be wrong though.

    • Roderick July 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

      Yeah, I didn’t mean that the title was confusing when she chose it — only that it’s confusing now.

  5. Rmangum August 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    Too bad these texts (except the Martin pdf) suffer from the same problems as a lot of online books: small text, and no hyperlinks so that you can easily jump to certain sections or footnotes.

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