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Anarchism and Dualism

Geoffrey Allan Plauche, over at Libertas, engages my point that there is (or has been) a profound relationship between anarchism and dualism.

In my reply to Roderick Long's critique of Total Freedom, I wrote:

Though I identify certain problems with anarchism, Iím equally suspicious of minarchism. I take very seriously some of the trenchant anarchist criticisms of limited government. I greatly value the contributions of anarchist thinkers to libertarian class theory and revisionist historical understanding. If my own perspective helps minarchists and anarchists to move toward a dialectical resolution of sorts, I will be pleased. And if it contributes to a similar transcendence of the conventional left-right continuum that both Long and I reject, I will be even more pleased.

In Total Freedom, I actually held out some hope for a "nondualistic anarchism." The fact that anybody other than Sciabarra and Long is even thinking about this issue makes me smile.

As for Geoffrey's points, I actually agree with him that statism introduces various dualities into social life. I also agree with him that there is a distinction between "government" as an ideal concept and, at the very least, every existing historical example of the "State." But I'm not fully convinced that "anarchism" and "statism" are not two sides of the same dualistic coin. Perhaps it all comes down to what Plauche says: "there are different kinds of anarchism" (just as there are different kinds of statism, of course).

My chief point in part two of Total Freedom was that Rothbard endorsed one kind of anarchism that seemed to reify (as "dualistic") a number of legitimate distinctions: personal morality v. public ethos; the voluntary v. the coercive; the contractual v. the hegemonic; market v. state; liberty v. power; culture v. politics. On one level, his analysis showed much more interaction between these distinctions than his more "monistic" resolution would allow.

In any event, good to see some discussion of this.

Comments welcome, but check out Geoffrey's post too.


Hello Chris! I've written another post for my blog entitled "Anarchism, Statism, and Dualism (Cont.)" in an attempt to elaborate and clarify my argument. If I misrepresented your position I did not mean to. My original post was too brief and hastily written.

Hey, Geoffrey, you wrote a good post the first time and an even better post the second time. Readers should take a look here:


I'm still a bit uncommitted on this topic; I suspect I've not felt the urgency on it because the battle between minarchists and anarchists is almost beside the point---while the world is being consumed by statism on every level. That's not to belittle these very important issues; it's just that if we were to ever get to the point where we could even consider these issues as serious prospects of social order... it would already be a very different world.

You do make excellent points about our never really being "out of anarchy", on some level; I agree and mention in TOTAL FREEDOM that the global community is "anarchistic" in some sense. See pp. 332-33.

Your points are well taken. And we certainly don't neeed minarchist libertarians and anarchist libertarians wasting most of their energy fighting each other which is more consistent logically, ethically, and practically. It isn't a matter of urgency, practically speaking, but I suppose it is my need for consistency and the system-builder in me that makes it important to me to clarify my own worldview. Rand's minarchist state would be a very nice social environment in which to live, comparatively and absolutely speaking, but even it leaves something to be desired (especially motivationally). I think Hayek was correct in his Intellectuals and Socialism that one of the most attractive aspects of Marxism was its radical idealism. It gave people a lofty goal to strive for, even if prosperous socialism is ultimately impossible. I don't think libertarian minarchy is a lofty enough goal. And I think libertarian anarchy, unlike prosperous socialism, while extremely hard to reach, is not impossible.

That second sentence should read: "fighting each other over which".

Geoffrey, excellent point... and I'd be the very last one to argue against any impulses toward "system-building." As you know, also, I've long been fond of Hayek's comment about how the liberal academy needs to create a liberal utopian programme that serves the same inspiration for friends of liberty that the Marxist programme served for its partisans.

My focus has been less on the ultimate "utopia" and more on the ~means~ by which to analyze the current conditions and the ~means~ by which to affect social change: dialectical analysis and its implications for praxis.

I know that many think that word abstruse, but it is only a word to indicate the profound importance of "context-keeping": of grounding the quest for freedom in an understanding of its fundamental preconditions and effects.

I have said it before and will say it again: Freedom is not simply a political ideal, but a philosophical and cultural one, and its achievement requires a simultaneous grasp of concrete historical conditions and abstract principles.

I think we're on the same page on this. :)

Right-o. And before long I'm sure I'll be focusing more on the means too.

Here's a grand research program (or harebrained scheme, call it what you will) for the Dialectical Trinity (Sciabarra, Long, Plauche - thesis, antithesis, synthesis?) to explicitly embark upon: _Investigations into the Necessary Foundations of a Free Society_.

Sorry, I couldn't resist a joke at Hegel's expense when I noticed that there seems to be three arch-dialecticians talking about these issues now, even if one of them is in a little bit of denial. ;o)

Hey, Geoffrey! Sorry I didn't have an opportunity to respond here. :)

Like I've said before, I think Long is a dialectician where it counts (for me, at least): social theory. And as his critique of my work suggests: He came to praise dialectics, not bury it.


All the best,