Category Archives: Rand Studies

DWR (4): Navigating the False Alternatives

This is part four of my ongoing dialogues with my friend Ryan Neugebauer (my DWR series, as I call it). In today’s Facebook posting, Ryan stated:

There are two significant perspectives that compete with each other and are in contrast with the dominant Liberal Democrat and Conservative Republican visions: Free-Market Right-Libertarian and State Socialist.

The former wants to reduce everything to market competition to the greatest extent possible (including in its purest form with police, courts/law, and national defense being provided by competing market entities). The other (State Socialist) wants to shrink market competition to the greatest extent possible and sees “public control” (read nationalization) as preferable in all cases but will simply cede to the market if it doesn’t look likely to go well to them.


I reject both of these positions, never having defended the second but having defended the former for a solid 5 months and having some affinity towards it (though not all out acceptance) for several years.


I accept F. A. Hayek’s defense of markets in “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945) and am not convinced you could completely replace them if you want a modern, technologically advanced society (and I do). I could be wrong but that would take a change in humans and technology that no Socialist/Communist has successfully argued or demonstrated at this point. I’m just not ideologically committed to markets. If they could be replaced in an anti-authoritarian way, you’d get no tears or fuss from me.


Similar to Hayek, I don’t think all societal mechanisms or norms should or could be market-based. I’m also not hostile to all welfare and regulations, just as he wasn’t in The Road to Serfdom (1944). If we could produce a society without the state or with the state greatly more constrained that achieves the goals I have in the human welfare and environmental preservation dimensions, then I would be very fine with that. I’m an Anarchist at heart and a philosophical Anarchist at an absolute minimum. But, I admit the pragmatic difficulties with bringing an actual Anarchist society (whatever that would look like) about and believe instead in a never-ending evolving process towards increasing freedom and flourishing with no end point.

My framework is what I call “Dialectical Left-Libertarian”, though I’m not big on terms and always see them as unnecessarily limiting. The dialectical portion comes from my dear friend Chris Matthew Sciabarra who states that “dialectical” is about context keeping and whose “dialectical libertarianism” seeks to bring about freedom and flourishing through the utilization of this process of context keeping. This process involves examining the world from different vantage points and modes of analysis. I state similarly in my Facebook political beliefs section: my perspective subjects all facets of society to critique (state/governance, business/economy, school, social norms, etc.) and seeks to reduce hierarchy and increase autonomy wherever possible. This latter portion speaks to my Left-Libertarian dimension that wants to increase freedom & well-being in a comprehensive manner that doesn’t just reduce things down to state vs market like the Right-Libertarians do.


I’m not convinced that the State Socialist framework, even in its more benign Social Democratic forms, is the way to go long-term. Firstly, normalizing a relation of dominance and subservience, ruler and ruled, is always problematic. It allows massive war crimes and levels of abuse to occur that couldn’t as easily without them. But as Frederic Bastiat shows with “the seen and unseen”, governments and their supporters tend to miss all the ways in which their policies lead to bad outcomes and turn out to be very problematic. They simply deal with their immediate expectations and not unintended consequences. Then there is the problem of cronyism and regulatory capture that a state with a class structure will always be prone to, as Marx himself would note. There are also forms of governance that are not nearly as unaccountable and bad like ours like Libertarian Municipalism. So even if some form of government turns out to be necessary, we can do much better than the current modern nation state model.

So there you have it. I could say so much more, but this speaks to my (in my view) balanced approach to libertarian and left-wing thinking.


This article by Jason Lee Byas helps highlight the significance of markets from a Left-Libertarian perspective, even if I don’t hold a commitment to the larger specific framework that he holds to. A nice complement to this in a similar but different spirit is this article by Nathan Goodman.

In response I stated:

As always, I applaud the ways in which you articulate your position—trying to work through all the limiting conventional ‘isms’ of our era. I find myself in agreement with so much of what you say (especially the stuff about that Sciabarra fellow). At the core of your perspective is your rejection of what I think has become a false alternative between a certain form of anarchism that embraces a reductionist “market” resolution of the perceived duality between state and markets, and a certain form of statism that embraces a reductionist “state” resolution to that same duality. What neither side is addressing is the larger context of authoritarian social relations that can stretch across the state-market divide; what neither side is addressing is how culture contributes to hierarchical and oppressive social relations, serving as both the foundation for and reflection of political domination.

I do think that your own affinity with Hayek’s path-breaking essay (“The Use of Knowledge in Society”) is key to whatever social change eventuates. Which is why I think that societies will likely never dispense with markets. Hayek made a “semiotic” case for prices as a reflection of the division and specialization of labor and knowledge. Prices are ‘signals’ as interpreted in an agent-relative manner; that is, they mean different things to different people, given their own context of knowledge (and knowledge here applies not merely to quantifiable data, but to tacit ‘know-how’).

I’m not reifying ‘markets’ or ‘prices’ here; I’m not saying they are categories that have always existed and therefore must always exist. But I take “markets” to be part of a broader category of social relations of exchange, whatever shape they have taken in the past or in the present. Such social relations will exist as long as our infinitely complex world becomes more globally interconnected. Whether we are talking about prices or some as-yet-to-be-manifested system of “non-monetary” signals, Hayek’s argument stands, and is a bulwark against the social relations of dominance and subservience, ruler and ruled that we both oppose.

Merlin Jetton, RIP

I learned from my friend Stephen Boydstun today that our mutual colleague and friend Merlin Jetton has died of cancer. Merlin is survived by his wife Rebecca.

In the 1990s, Merlin contributed many articles to Stephen’s wonderful journal, Objectivity. In 2006, he contributed the first of seven articles to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. He wrote on subjects ranging from epistemology to ethics. His final JARS article appeared in our July 2021 issue: “Selfish versus Selfish” (which is available on the Scholarly Publishing Collective site here).

Merlin described himself as an independent scholar. He graduated from the University of Illinois as a math major. His bio for JARS reminds us that “[h]e escaped academia in order to apply and expand his math skills in the real world of business.” A Fellow of the Society of Actuaries and a Chartered Financial Analyst, he retired after a twenty-eight-year career as an actuary and financial engineer, having specialized in asset-liability management the last fifteen years or so.

His interest in Rand’s philosophy stretched back decades. As a member of “the Chicago School of Objectivism”, he attended the New Intellectual Forum, a salon organized by another of our friends, Marsha Enright. Merlin made several presentations to that group.

Merlin Jetton, RIP

Stephen’s poignant memories of Merlin are published here. Unlike Stephen, I never met Merlin. But having corresponded with him over the course of 17 years, I got to know him in a way that showed what a congenial soul he was. I’ll miss our discussions of everything from philosophy to baseball. I remember how annoyed he was back in 2020 when the Los Angeles Dodgers—or as he called them, those “damn ex-Bums”—beat his Atlanta Braves in a 7-game National League Championship Series.

We were unable to meet when he came to NYC in 2019, and he expressed the hope that we’d meet someday. But by October 2020, he had already undergone surgery for his second bout with cancer. His health woes never dulled his enormous empathy for me—with my own share of medical problems—or the challenges facing my sister, when she became seriously ill only a month later.

Aside from our interest in philosophy and baseball, Merlin and I shared a love of Peanuts cartoons. Less than a week after my 61st birthday, Merlin sent me a set of Charles M. Schulz classics, including the one below. It’s a reminder of how much admiration and appreciation we had for one another.

I will miss Merlin very much, not just as a member of the JARS family, but as the warm human being and friend he was. The July 2022 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be dedicated to his memory.

Postscript: This was a particularly sad day for me … having noted on Facebook that it would have been the 58th birthday of Steve Horwitz. As I said: “You are gone, but never forgotten, dearest friend. Thank you for having graced my life and the lives of so many others. My love always … ”

C4SS: MES on “Anarchism & Egoism”

This announcement comes from my friend Cory Massimino with regard to an upcoming Mutual Exchange Symposium sponsored by the Center for a Stateless Society on the topic of “Anarchism & Egoism“:

I’m very excited about this month’s Mutual Exchange Symposium. We’ll have contributions from some great folks, including Jason Byas, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Saul Newman, Rai Ling, and others.

“Many consider anarchism and egoism polar opposites. Anarchists oppose all forms of domination, from statism to capitalism to patriarchy, because anarchism is about dignity and autonomy for all. Egoism, derived from the French égoïsme meaning ‘to think of oneself,’ is about the affirmation and assertion of the self. How can the anarchist commitment to universalism be reconciled with the egoist commitment to oneself? Isn’t ‘thinking of everyone’ at odds with ‘thinking of oneself’? This Mutual Exchange Symposium is a collective effort aimed at exploring these and related tensions.

Anarchism and egoism are, ironically, kindred spirits. Both share roots in 19th century radical philosophic and political thought—though the ideas and practices associated with each surely predate their first explicit articulations. Both have been considered, at best, taboo and, at worst, dangerous. Both have been misunderstood, but also mischaracterized. Both ultimately found refuge during the 20th and 21st centuries within broader libertarian undercurrents, where their adherents were fractured and ideas were sharpened. Most importantly, both consider themselves on the side of life and freedom. The essays compiled here explore the complex relationship between these two traditions. ”

My own contribution to this symposium—“A Dialectical Rand for an Egoist Anarchism”—offers a re-reading of the work of Ayn Rand’s ethics as one aspect of a larger project aimed at freedom and flourishing. I will post a link to the piece when it becomes available later this month.

NYC is Alive and Well …

With apologies to some of my pals at The Atlas Society, who recently posted a video saying that “New York City Is Now The Biggest Sh*thole In America“, this city will never die! We’ve been through civil unrest and riots, crime waves, antiwar protests, 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, and the trials and tribulations of a pandemic. We have given birth to some epically awful politicians. We even survived a “bomb cyclone” (which wasn’t even near the record for snowfalls in this town). In Washington Square Park, in the heart of Greenwich Village, in the shadow of my alma mater (NYU), a fun and peaceful, good ol’ fashioned snowball fight broke out. And nobody was hurt or killed. The people of this city are its lifeblood. You can roll your eyes over this video but it’s just a small sign that the New York spirit is alive and well.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, a few issues came up. I reproduce them here for Notablog readers.

I’m born, bred, and still living here. I love it, always will, and have enjoyed life here through good times and bad. But to each his own. Either way, to call this city “the biggest sh*thole in America” was an exercise in outlandish, disgraceful overkill. … This city survived 2000+ murders a year back in the early 1990s. Even with the uptick in crime in 2021, there were a total of 485 murders, unheard of for a city of nearly 8.5 million people.

NYC remains one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Its strength has come from its neighborhoods—in all their magnificent ethnic diversity. I have seen so many ups and downs throughout my 60+ years living here and every time I thought this city would never recover—be it a terrorist attack that destroyed downtown Manhattan, killing nearly 3000 people, and leaving all of us in shock for eons, or a superstorm that caused nearly $20 billion in damages, destroying whole neighborhoods throughout the 5 boroughs—with a tsunami-like storm surge in which the Hudson River met the East River at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, and killing hundreds of people… NYC came back from the edge. I have lost close friends and family in that terrorist attack, that superstorm, and the recent COVID catastrophe.I have absolutely no reason to doubt this city’s resiliency—no matter how many people have left or how many politicians have stayed.

Another commentator said that The Atlas Society had made a rightward turn in its politics and that on those metrics, even the Ayn Rand Institute was better. The commentator said that Yaron Brook was even cordial to Nathaniel Branden at a party. I responded:

The ARIans are still holders of the flame and of the Ayn Rand Archives, and though they’ve opened up their archives more than in previous years, there are still many of us who will forever remain on the outside because we don’t pass their litmus test. Sadly, Yaron Brook, in this podcast, refers to Nathaniel Branden as a “second-hander”, “not a good guy,” and a “scumbag”, who “betrayed” Rand and Objectivism, and “stabbed” both in the back; he has “zero” respect for NB. He refers to him as a “mystic”, “bizarre”, “weird”, “anti-reason”, and so forth. He claims NB “faked Objectivism” and “never understood” it. To me, these comments are just beyond the pale.

Moreover, the ARIans won’t even engage with literature that was written by people since “purged” but that was part of the “authorized” canon of Objectivism, as stated by Rand herself, which included essays by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden. In the post-Rand years, folks whose essays were held in high esteem for years—from George Reisman to David Kelley—were slowly airbrushed from existence. The ARI record speaks for itself.

DWR (3): Rhetoric Right and Left

Back on November 23, 2021, I posted a dialogue I had with my friend Ryan Neugebauer (the third in my ongoing DWR Series) prompted by a Les Leopold article asking if F. A. Hayek was really a Bernie Sanders socialist in disguise. This week, we’ve had some additional discussion, prompted by a Matt McManus article, “To Beat the Right, We Have to Understand Their Arguments.” McManus focuses on the work of Albert O. Hirschmann, who has examined The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy. As McManus puts it, Hirschmann argues that

conservatives use three rhetorical “theses” to make their case: the perversity thesis, the futility thesis, and the jeopardy thesis.

The perversity thesis holds that when the Left tries to produce some beneficial change, “the exact contrary” occurs; their aspirations backfire, done in by the law of unintended consequences. In his Considerations on France, Joseph de Maistre went so far as to argue that God would punish the French revolutionaries and bring about the “exaltation of Christianity and monarchy.”

The second argument Hirschman analyzes is more sobering. It is the futility thesis, or the claim that “any alleged [progressive] change is, was, or will be largely surface, façade, cosmetic, hence illusory, as the deep structures of society remain wholly untouched.”

As Corey Robin has observed, the futility thesis is the most effective against the Left because it bears more than a passing similarity to the structural analysis that radicals favor. If the ambition is to fundamentally reshape the institutions and power dynamics of society, and the best progressives can do is make superficial alterations, conservatives will be on hand to declare: “I told you so.” The result is a sense of powerlessness and, well, futility, on the part of the Left.

The last reactionary trope is the jeopardy thesis. While the perversity and futility theses are “remarkably simple and bald,” the jeopardy thesis takes a more elliptical approach to combating left politics by asserting that a “proposed change, though perhaps desirable in itself, involves unacceptable costs or consequences of one sort or another.” In other words, our desire to have it all jeopardizes what we’ve already achieved.


In the discussion that followed, I remarked:

I’ve read Hirschmann over the years, and he’s very good on these issues.

In truth, however, these arguments—especially those that highlight the important role of unintended consequences and the boomerang effects that happen such that policies enacted achieve the opposite of their alleged intentions—have been and should be used effectively against any “top-down” state planning, be it that of the “right” or the “left”. They are applicable not only to the genesis of “state capitalism” and “state socialism” but even to the rise of the regulatory state, the national security state, and the permanent war economy, each of which taken in isolation, and all of which, taken organically, have produced a host of consequences, both intended (typically, by the ruling elites) and unintended (by those same folks), that have fundamentally undermined the radical, progressive agenda.

Ostensibly, regulation was supposed to rein in the “excesses” of markets, but it typically enriched the very industries being regulated (that’s the history of the Progressive era and everything that has happened since). This is how regulatory capture by corporatist “planners” has panned out. Even the building of a national security state and a permanent war economy were justified to keep the citizenry both “free” and “secure”—and have achieved neither freedom nor security. This was, indeed, “the triumph of conservatism”—as Gabriel Kolko and scores of historians have argued.

Rhetorically speaking and historically speaking, one can turn the tables on the “conservative tropes” by pointing out that “top-down” planning of any political hue typically leads to the entrenchment of the most reactionary elements in global political economy.

The very last sentence in the article hits on a crucially important issue: “This should give the Left confidence that, even if the arc of history doesn’t inevitably bend our way, our ideas will convince more people in the long run. And that’s because they are the right ideas.”

To me, this strikes the most significant chord in the symphony that constitutes progressive social change. It means that the triumph of genuinely progressive social ideals can only happen because more and more people have been convinced of their efficacy—at which point, fundamental change, through a cultural shift from the “bottom up”, rather than the “top down,” will indeed bend “the arc of history.”

Ryan responded:

I think there are weak forms of the theses/arguments that are legitimate. For example, Bastiat’s “the seen and unseen” is an example of how statists often don’t factor in unintended consequences or the ways in which their policies can have negative consequences. So it’s important to not naively think you can just tinker from the top-down and everything works out as intended like so many seem to assume.
 
Furthermore, as you point out with Kolko, there’s the issue with regulatory capture and regulations being used to benefit major corporations. Therefore, any actions will likely be filtered and constrained by the crony system.
 
That said, given that we have the system that we have where business and the state grow closer together and mutually benefit from each other, people like the author and Hirschmann believe we should still try to take actions to reign in the problems that come out of the very imperfect system that we have. This is what the strong versions of the theses/arguments seek to undermine. They want hands off and no regulation, at least in their preferred areas. As you note, the right-wing has their own favored regulations. But we don’t have a non-crony free market system and we can’t just sit around waiting for things to potentially correct themselves.
 
The response “just take away all of the benefits/regulations” that Classical Liberals and Right-Libertarians love is just lazy. It’s like “cool, but that’s not on the table”. I like what you said your Marxist dissertation supervisor Bertell Ollman once said (I’m paraphrasing): “Libertarians act like someone who wants to order Chinese food at a steak restaurant. It’s not on the menu!” Heck, I’m not even convinced we can have literally zero regulations anyways, even if it’s not a nation state implementing them. The Montreal Protocol comes to mind as a clear example of the need for swift action that didn’t just depend on markets eventually shifting things.
 
Ultimately, I think the article’s arguing against the theses was more about opposing the strong versions (which you and I would too) than the weak versions (which you and I would see as necessary).

I replied:

I know Ryan is traveling, so he couldn’t look up the exact quotation from Bertell Ollman, my mentor and long-time colleague and dear friend, but the exact quote is even more stinging. I’ll take it from Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism:

In a 1981 debate with libertarian theorist Don Lavoie, [Ollman] opined: “Libertarians are a little bit like people who go into a Chinese restaurant and order pizza.” The issue here is: What’s on the menu, given objective conditions and constraints? There may be lots to choose from, wildly different meals that one can order in a Chinese restaurant, “but pizza isn’t one of them.”

(As an aside, it is my hope to finally digitize that debate between Lavoie and Ollman and to put it on my YouTube channel before too long. We’ll see how it holds up to the transfer, but it’s full of many such gems.)

We may not like and have not chosen to live in the societies into which we have been born and within which we all live. But given that these are the conditions that exist, there is not a single person alive who can function outside that context. We are a part of the societies we seek to change. Even as we try to influence a society, we are embedded in it and its institutional constraints will, by necessity, shape the choices we make.

I have argued time and again that fundamentalist “libertarians” have dropped the ball on so many issues that I’ve lost count. The libertarian response to the pandemic could be extended to any number of other huge “externalities”, be it climate change, a tsunami, an earthquake, or any other natural or human-made disaster. We try everything we can to check the powers of states from using ’emergencies’ so as to augment their power and to simultaneously enrich the eiltes to which they are beholden. But given that these are the conditions that exist, every one of us is put at a comparative disadvantage if we choose to completely ‘opt out’ of the political give-and-take. The “strong” versions of the conservative ‘trope’ arguments are self-defeating and utopian; they apply, literally to ‘no-where’ (that’s what ‘utopian’ means). We all live some-where, in the world, as it exists, and if we don’t act to counter the forces that oppress us, thinking that ‘hands off’ is going to take care of itself, we’re conceding all political action to those who are most adept at using it—which is why, as Hayek said—the worst always get on top. If fundamentalist “libertarians” opt out of all politics because they think it “sanctions” actions that are immoral by definition, they will forever marginalize themselves to the point of total and complete irrelevance.

This is not just a battle against high taxes and regulations (whether they are endorsed by the tankie left or the nationalist right). It is a battle against laws that are never neutral; and sometimes, advocating a ‘rollback’ on one regulation, as Kevin Carson has argued, will not lead to a net decrease in state and ruling class power, but actually a net increase. That’s why one cannot opt out of the political battles; sometimes, you might eke out a change that alters the balance of power on an issue-by-issue basis that will benefit the most oppressed classes among us, even if it does not change the system fundamentally.

We have a very profound cultural problem. If we don’t do the hard work that is necessary to change the larger culture—a necessary precursor to fundamental social change—the battle is lost.

Finally, on the issue of political labels. I’ve had a lot of issues with words like “socialism” and “capitalism”, which mean so many things to so many people that it’s almost impossible to have a civil discussion about them anymore. I fear that the term “libertarian” is nearing the point of uselessness for the same reasons. Its first use as a word was in the debate over “free will”; but its first use as a political term was by left-wing European anarchists in the nineteenth century. I can live with that, proudly.

I retain the term “libertarian” to describe my politics and approach to social theory only because I always, and without fail, place the adjective “dialectical” before it; it modifies it sufficiently to keep me out of the fundamentalist camp. And it’s mysterious enough to some folks with thick skulls who are still asking me: “Now, what does ‘dialectical’ mean again?”

I’ve spent the bulk of my professional life fighting for the right to conjoin the words “dialectical” and “libertarianism”, and perhaps I’ve got so much intellectual energy invested in it that I won’t give it up, on principle. I won’t surrender either the terms “dialectical” or “libertarian” to those who are not sufficiently one or the other. The terms require each other because together they are integral to the larger project of human flourishing and human freedom.

Though Ryan and I come at this from different places, he agrees

that we are definitely on the same page and think similarly. As for the label “libertarian”, like Chris, I can’t use it in isolation. I say “Dialectical Left-Libertarian” on my profile to speak to accepting Chris’s wonderful approach and the more leftist variants like you get with Kevin Carson, David Graeber, Kropotkin, Proudhon, etc. It can also be seen as some synthesis of left-wing and libertarian thinking more broadly, not just anarchistic ones.

Sheldon Richman once wrote an article on how you can’t escape regulation but rather it comes down to how it is coming about. So he opposed government/community regulation but supported the kind of regulation that comes about through the market process. Sheldon never really shed his right-libertarian thinking even in his most supposedly Left-Libertarian days. Nonetheless, I liked the point on regulation of some sort always existing. What we are usually talking about is in the legislative and community senses, which Sheldon and most typical libertarians oppose or are very uncomfortable with.
 
Personally, I’ve become more comfortable with regulation of that sort and see it as necessary. I don’t think we can have a peaceful and healthy society without at least some of it. That said, there will always be an ongoing battle with reigning in its excesses and making sure it is done when it needs to be.
 
The typical libertarian hears that description and wants to solve it by eliminating the ability to regulate in the first place. Ha! Then there’s nothing to capture! Ha! And as tempting as that picture is (I ate it up for a short period many years ago), I ultimately think it is wrong. Yes, I’d like to see different governance than the state. But it’s not going away any time soon and may never go away. So, we have to do our best with the context we are in. Furthermore, even if it did go away, there would still be some form of community or federation style regulation. It is just how we operate. Then the question becomes “how” and in what way?
 
Unlike the typical libertarian, I want to deal with the difficult situation, not by eliminating any ability to regulate in a legislative or community sense, but rather seek to produce a situation where we don’t need to regulate as much and have a healthier mechanism/arrangement than the state to achieve it.
 
One more comment on tHe FrEe MaRkEt before I go skiing. We can clearly have freer and freed markets that open up competition and make things cheaper. Those still can exist in an environment with at least some regulation. So, I prefer “freer” and “freed” as descriptors over “free” which sounds so absolutist and “perfect”. That said, markets are not magical things. Just like governments are not magical things. Both are mechanisms or tools that operate with humans and all of their problems. Neither mechanism is equal to morality. It produces what the sum of the humans involved happen to push towards. A market where people overwhelmingly support sexual relations with children will likely give those people exactly what they want. Same for a government. Which speaks to the necessity of culture in the equation as you both wisely noted. That said, I don’t think any of us wants sex with children permitted, so then we have to ask how that is to be achieved. This is where I strongly oppose fundamentalist free-market thought that says “let the market decide”. The market is not a moral agent. It’s not a thinking decider. It’s a process engaged in by human thinking agents with all of their faults/imperfections and incentives. Therefore, it cannot be counted on to simply bust out what is moral. So what do you do then other than fight for some sort of government or community regulation with consequences for violating it?
 
This is not an easy conversation for someone like myself, who came from the free-market libertarian tradition, and in the fundamentalist Ancap sense. But it’s important to have.

In my JARS review of the Yaron Brook-Don Watkins book, Free Market Revolution, I too argued in favor of “freed markets”—markets liberated from their statist and authoritarian political and cultural structures of oppression, and from the history of state violence that has been the foundation for “capitalism: the known reality,” so unlike the Weberian “unknown ideal” projected by Ayn Rand.

All in all, this was a good conversation, which I wanted to preserve on Notablog, for those who don’t have access to Facebook.

Scholarly Publishing Collective Launches – JARS Free Till March 31st!

A Major Announcement Today:

The Scholarly Publishing Collective (the Collective) is pleased to announce that its online content platform is now live, with content from over 130 journals published by Michigan State University Press, Penn State University Press, SBL Press, and the University of Illinois Press.

Through the Collective, managed by Duke University Press, publishers have access to resources that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, such as a best-in-class web platform, proven customer relations and library relations teams, and a network of global sales agents with insight into university press content. Journals are hosted on the Silverchair hosting platform, which is home to Duke University Press’s publications as well as publications from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Wolters Kluwer, and many other distinguished publishers.

Through the Collective’s partnership with Silverchair, publishers benefit from fully responsive journal websites that adapt to any display size and have a user-friendly, easy-to-navigate interface. Features of the platform include support for advance-publication articles; the ability for non-subscribers to purchase access to full issues and articles; the ability to search and filter results across journal, publisher, or Collective content; robust usage statistics; and support for supplemental data files, including media.

“Being part of the Scholarly Collective will take Penn State University Press’s commitment to journals publishing to a new level. We’re excited about this exciting growth opportunity for our society partners, our library friends, our contributors, and the editors of our journals,” said Patrick Alexander, Director of Penn State University Press.

The Collective platform currently hosts the journals content of four publishers migrating from the JSTOR Journal Hosting Program, which is ending after 2021. All content is temporarily free to access until March 31, 2022.

“Duke University Press has developed infrastructure for our own publishing program that we can share with our fellow UP journal publishers and society publishers to support them at a time when sustaining their journals program is critical to sustaining their overall mission. Through the Collective, the partners expand their ability to disseminate, promote, and increase the impact of scholarship. More than fifteen years of investment and experience and skill-building have gone into being able to do this, and we want to leverage our experience for our Collective partners,” said Allison Belan, Director for Strategic Innovation and Services at Duke University Press.

What does this mean for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies? Simple! Go here and check out our contents (going back to 2007; all contents going back to 1999 are still available on JSTOR)—free till March 31, 2022. (And speaking for myself and my coauthor, Pavel Solovyev, check out “The Rand Transcript Revealed” in all its full-color glory on the site!)

JARS December 2021 Now on Project Muse

The December 2021 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies has now made its debut on Project Muse, after being made available on JSTOR. The hard copy will be in the hands of subscribers soon! Don’t miss this important issue, which includes my own essay, co-authored with Pavel Solovyev: “The Rand Transcript Revealed“!

Facebook: Philosophers as Profile Month 2021 (II)

As readers know, I chose Don Lavoie (1951-2001) as my first profile pic for the event, “Philosophers as Profile Pictures Month.” In keeping with the holiday season, however, I’m straying from the rules a bit, and staying with my current goofy profile pic on Facebook. But with a H/T to my friend Cory Massimino, who sponsored this year’s event, I wanted to highlight yet another philosopher, posting a passage that I initially discovered in an essay written by Cory, which is featured in the Routledge Handbook of Anarchy and Anarchist Thought, a worthwhile collection edited by my friend Gary Chartier and Chad Van Schoelandt.* The passage below is from a writer with whom I have some differences, but whose work, The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (Crossing Press, 1983), contains so many thought-provoking pieces.

The author is philosopher Marilyn Frye and the passage contains one of the most dialectical formulations of the notion of “Oppression”—the name of the essay from which it is taken—that I’ve ever read. Frye begins by asking us to “Consider a birdcage” …

If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. Furthermore, even if, one day at a time, you myopically inspected each wire, you still could not see why a bird would have trouble going past the wires to get anywhere. There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest scrutiny could discover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in the moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon. (pp. 4-5)


I have to say that I can think of no clearer exposition of what it means to think dialectically about the interlocking social conditions that are inimical to the struggle for human freedom and human flourishing. Personally, I have authored a trilogy of works devoted to understanding the importance to libertarian social theory of grasping the full context of social relations and institutions—from the personal to the cultural to the political and economic dynamics—that constitute the given structural conditions of our world. Oppression is not strictly a personal or a cultural or a structural phenomenon. It is a condition that must be analyzed systemically and dynamically in its full context if it is to be changed radically.

In light of my recent series highlighting a new article, coauthored by Pavel Solovyev and me, on another woman philosopher, Ayn Rand, and her Soviet education during the Russian Silver Age, I wish to emphasize that Rand herself would have agreed both methodologically and substantively with this powerful description of the nature of oppression, even if she would have parted company with Frye’s “radical feminism.”

I should point out, however, that in coediting, with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, a 1999 anthology in the Penn State Press “Re-reading the Canon Series,” I am acutely aware of the tension between—and congruence of—Rand’s work with the many stripes of contemporary feminism.

In any event, as a concluding post for “Philosophers as Profile Pictures Month” (even if I’ve not changed my pic), I offer this portrait of Marilyn Frye. The eloquent passage I’ve highlighted is a stern warning of the dangers of reifying a single wire—a single part—as if it were the whole. To shift our vantage points, our perspectives, our levels of generality so that we can truly apprehend the larger cages that inhibit our ability to be free and to flourish is a monumental undertaking. Here’s to the day when our social life encourages, nourishes, and challenges each precious, individual human being to dismantle the cages and take flight, free as a bird.

Marilyn Frye (born 1941)

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* Ah! I knew I’d seen this passage even before Cory introduced me to it! Yikes! It actually appears in a book I coedited, with Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom. The essay, “Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors”, is written by my friend Roderick Tracy Long. Check it out here. As I stated on Facebook:

I honestly did forget the Frye reference in Roderick’s chapter, which preceded my having seen Cory’s chapter in the Routledge anthology. And as coeditor of The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, that’s my bad! Granted, I edited and proofed that chapter back in 2018-19, and the book was published in June 2019, and I coordinated our online Facebook seminar on the book, which ran for the first few months of 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. (And in truth, I’ve been juggling a few personal challenges and professional projects for over a year now… but that’s another story!)

Still, as one who cherishes charitable attribution, I apologize for having forgotten the Frye reference in Roderick’s wonderful chapter. But also, in truth, it was Cory’s terrific paper in the Routledge anthology, which highlighted that passage, and which sparked my interest to actually go out and get the Frye book and read it! And I’m glad I did. Hence, this post.

So my thanks to both Roderick and Cory for alerting me to this writer, and especially, this particularly eloquent passage from a 1983 book of which I was not aware—and yet, which encapsulates the kind of dialectical insights that I’ve been championing for the bulk of my professional life, stretching back more than four decades.