TOWARD A DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM
CAPITALISM & COMMERCE:
CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA -- THINKING FREEDOM IN CONTEXT
EDWARD W. YOUNKINS, LE QUEBECOIS LIBRE (28 APRIL 2001)
A version of this review essay was also published at SOLO HQ: "A Review of Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism." Discussion is archived here (with contributions from Sciabarra).
Younkins states: "In Total Freedom, Chris Matthew Sciabarra offers a provocative, scholarly, and original work in social theory for the analysis of society and human liberty." Sciabarra argues that "the libertarian ideal cannot be isolated from the context upon which it depends and freedom cannot be defended successfully when separated from its broader requisite conditions. . . . Sciabarra's message is that libertarians need an effective strategy that recognizes the dynamic interrelationships between the personal, political, historical, psychological, ethical, cultural, economic, etc., if they are to be successful in their quest for a free society. . . . The author wants people to understand both the necessity for objective conceptual foundations for a free society and the need for cultural pre-requisites in the battle for the free society. . . .
"However, Sciabarra stops short of developing his own substantive dialectical libertarian social theory. His work is primarily methodological and only articulates the view that a dialectical libertarianism is essential to the future of both dialectics and libertarianism. He has taken the first step by offering a metatheoretical structure for social inquiry, rather than a comprehensive argument for liberty. Sciabarra cautions that much work needs to be done to test the validity of various libertarian theories. I am looking forward to seeing what Sciabarra will offer us next that will contribute toward the development of a comprehensive defense of freedom."
Dr. Younkins is a Professor of Accountancy and Business Administration at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.
The Discussion that followed included the following comments:
Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 1:06am Sanction this post Reply
Mr. Younkins -- you always do an excellent job of taking large intellectual works and summarizing their content. I know this is just the typical "good job" post that usually follows whenever you post one of your summaries but I'm happy to have the opportunity to do it myself since I have found your summaries to be extremely useful.
Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 1:26am Sanction this post Reply
"Sciabarra stops short of developing his own substantive dialectical libertarian social theory."
Well, if he didn't, he would have no time to spin his songs of the day! Someone's gotta get the booty moving!
"The problem occurs when Marx steps into the future to evaluate the present. He assumes the information needed by future planners will be available, despite the fact that these planners will have destroyed the context (i.e., the price system) which permits such information to be generated and socially traded. By holding this incorrect assumption, Marx is placing himself outside the historical process that he analyzes."
They *all* do it. They treat their current context as if it were axiomatic. Then they posit their theories without regard to their destruction. It's Rand's thing about treating factories and superhighways as natural phenomena. Just assume it. Everthing else will be ok. Eveything else will follow.
Screw 'em! How about a little capital accumulation? How about the freedom that makes that possible? Blank out.
Furthermore, those Marxist pricks were thick! Despite all their convoluted arguments and dissertations, they were just plain dumb! All they had was invective.
It served them well. It murdered millions. Now, *that* should be instructive as to the power of ideas.
(Christ, if I edit this thing one more time, I'll become a Marxist!)
(Edited by Ross Elliot
on 8/18, 2:10am)
(Edited by Ross Elliot
on 8/18, 2:13am)
Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 5:36am Sanction this post Reply
Hey, thanks Ed, for the review! Since Total Freedom is the culmination of my trilogy, it's nice that your review has been posted during what is the tenth anniversary of the first two books of that trilogy: Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, which was published ten years ago today---August 18, 1995, and Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, which was published in the same 1995 week.
1. It is true that I didn't develop a formal "Sciabarraian" dialectical social theory in my trilogy, but there is an implicit parallel of sorts, between my own work and the work of somebody like Isaiah Berlin. Now, I'm not comparing myself to Berlin (some love him, some hate him) or to Berlin's history of voluminous writing. Moreover, I disagree with a lot of what Berlin has written.
But something of Berlin's "approach" was imparted to me through my Marxist mentor Bertell Ollman, who was himself taught by Berlin. One of the things I learned was that if I wanted to do intellectual history, I could express my own substantive views through my interpretation of the views of others. While my trilogy does not offer a substantive social theory, it is interpretive, methodological, and historical, and one can glean where I stand by the enthusiasm that I bring to my reconstruction of Rand's "tri-level model" (in Part Three of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical) and of Rothbard's "structural" critique (discussed in Chapter 7 of Total Freedom).
2. I think of my own essays on domestic and foreign policy as applications of the tri-level Randian model that I discuss in Russian Radical, and that I endorse, while being fully cognizant of important insights from other theorists as well (including Menger, Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard). Some day, when I finish a whole host of planned articles, I hope to return to the enunciation of a more formal "Sciabarraian" social theory. But before I can do that, I need to work on a much more accessible exposition of dialectical method. Though I defend my own ability to speak "Polish," as Linz has put it (that is, to situate myself in some very technical contemporary debates on methodology), I also believe that the time is ripe for extended essays on "The Art of Context-Keeping"---essays that not only present "Dialectics for Dummies" (so-to-speak), but that integrate and illustrate the concrete practice of the art.
Thanks again, Ed!
(Edited by sciabarra on 8/18, 5:37am)
... essays that not only present "Dialectics for Dummies" ...
Is that for the context-impaired?
Pssst, Happy 10th anniversary!
Really Ross, vituperation is one thing, but this:
Furthermore, those Marxist pricks were thick!
Congrats on your anniversary. You've achieved much. Your trilogy will stand the test of time as a fine piece of work, despite any reservations from ARI. Don't beat yourself up for what you haven't done.
I enjoyed your essay "Total Freedom" and Ed's review of it. In just identifying the problem, you've done more for libertarians than any current "leader" in the movement and have also done no harm which is more than can be said for the likes of Lew Rockwell.
"my own essays on domestic and foreign policy"
Chris -- Is there a webpage where links to your essays are provided? Sounds like they would be good reading. Thanks.
Thanks to the well-wishers here. :)
Jay, I'm usually characterized as a bit of a "links-whore" here. So, in upholding my reputation, let me provide you with the following links, where you may read more of my stuff:
o My "Dialectics and Liberty" Website (easy to remember as chrismatthewsciabarra.com or chrissciabarra.com )
o My Essays Page (which includes links to all available online essays)
o My SOLO HQ/Free Radical Page (which includes links specifically to essays published in those forums)
o My Notablog (easy to remember as notablog.net). I readily open up entries there to comments, except for my regular "Song of the Day" entries that are never open to debate. :)
A few links to interviews were posted this week at Notablog, including An Interview Conducted by Sebastien Care, and one posted today, An Interview at Sunni's Salon.
Thanks for the links. (I see you've been busy. . . .) Is there an Objectivist way to say "God bless the Internet"?
Thank you Jason:
The reason I summarize such large works is so that I can keep track of the author's essential ideas. I can get lost if I don't do that! :)
When I saw that you were being commended for the 10th birthday of 2 of your three children, I thought it would be a nice touch to post a summary of your youngest and most precocious child, Total Freedom, who is only five.
Maybe you and Leonard Peikoff can collaborate on a book called "The Dialectical One in the Many".
Thanks. I am pleased you like my review.
Robert, yes, as thick as two *very* short planks :-)
It irks me the way so many say: oh, sure, the Marxists were wrong but there was genius in their error. Bullshit!
I always repair to Mises on this: socialism is nothing more than a grand rationalisation of petty resentments. Lay it on 'em, Ludwig!
Petty, nasty, evil, thick, dumb.