TOWARD A DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM
JOSEPH R. STROMBERG, THE JOURNAL OF LIBERTARIAN STUDIES 16, no. 3 (SUMMER 2002): 93-97.
Other Mises Institute references to Total Freedom:
Roberta Modugno Crocetta's Murray Rothbard's Anarcho-Capitalism in the Contemporary Debate: A Critical Defense
Stromberg writes: "Sciabarra's book is both stimulating and frustrating. On the one hand, it seems to be about method; on the other, it seems to wish to apply the method Sciabarra recommends---dialectics---to assess the work of such libertarian thinkers as F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, and Murray Rothbard. There is much to learn here, and also much about which to be skeptical.
"Sciabarra's project is certainly ambitious. . . . I have to say that the exposition of Rothbard's work is quite good, but the critique seems flawed. Sciabarra's account reflects a thorough reading of Rothbard's work and shows a good grasp of Rothbard's ideas. As so often happens in this book, copious quotations are mustered around the topic, while the authorial voice slips into the background. Every serious criticism of Rothbard ever uttered is here, along with all the silly and tendentious ones."
Stromberg then criticizes certain aspects of Sciabarra's dialectical method and raises many questions about its applications and uses. He is extremely critical of Sciabarra's take on Rothbard's "dualism," particularly the Rothbardian distinction between market and state, and Rothbard's alleged "constructivism," particularly with regard to a "libertarian law code." He is also critical of Sciabarra's "shifts between dialectics as epistemology and dialectics as underlying reality," and wonders if "Sciabarra's own position suffers more from 'organicism' than he realizes. On the other hand," writes Stromberg, "[Sciabarra's] reflections on method are both interesting and welcome. His grasp of the connection between nominalism (atomism) and bad theory---the line from William of Occam to Hobbes to mainstream economics and empiricist statism---is unexceptionable."
He concludes: "I wish to dissuade the reader of the idea that I dislike this book; that is quite untrue. I have been following Chris Sciabarra's work since he first aired his ideas some ten years ago in Critical Review [see 1987's "The Crisis of Libertarian Dualism"--ed.], and I have to say that his presentation of them has improved greatly over the years. His demand that we keep track of our levels of abstraction in an organized way is quite in the tradition of C. Wright Mills, and, for that matter, Murray Rothbard.
"This is an important book, one which ought to spark serious discussion about libertarianism as a way of looking at society. This is true whether or not one subscribes, in the end, to the author's enthusiasm for dialectics. ..."
Joseph Stromberg, Senior Fellow
The Ludwig von Mises Institute