Introductory Notes

This blog is my temporary home for what will be The Institute for Left Libertarian Studies (ILLS).  I’m hoping that ILLS will be a sort of online school for left-libertarians with a major emphasis on teaching introduction material in left-libertarian philosophy, economics, and institutions that will replace both capitalism and the state.  However, I would also like to have more advanced texts which extend the left-libertarian ideas into a new century.  I am particularly interested in developing new concepts (not blueprints) of the post capitalist world.  At the moment, I’m looking for contributing writers that are knowledgeable in political philosophy, economics, and the institutions that will replace capitalism and the state.  I also need volunteers to read and record older texts, anything from a small 4 page article to larger works such as book. While I still encourage the importance of books about the subject, ILLS will be heavily media driven to address the fast paced lifestyle of the world we are in.   The format needs to accommodate that many people have busy schedules full of obligations to family, work, and friends.

I would like to have a quick word on the language I use on this blog.  Most people who are interested in politics or current events use the language of political science.  That’s fine.  However, on this blog I will be using the language of political philosophy which in many cases has the opposite meaning from most political uses.  For most people, communism means something along the lines of the former USSR or North Korea.  Socialism means big state while capitalism means corporatism.  In political philosophy, however, language is extremely precise and cannot be extended this way.  Rather than studying current events, political philosophy questions the underlying structures and institutions while asking deeper questions on the subject of property rights, theories of justice, and liberty.  In current political philosophical discourse, we can separate political systems into four main groups: state capitalism, state socialism, classical liberalism, and libertarian socialism.

State Capitalism: A system that uses both the state and capitalism, examples of which would include everything from the Democrats and Republicans to most European countries.

State Socialism:  The state owns the majority of the means of productions such as land, factories, tools, and workplaces.  Examples include Cuba, North Korea, and the former USSR.

Classical Liberalism:  A belief in little or no state.  If the state does exist, its primary job is to protect private property and provide a small military.  This would include schools of thought such as right-“libertarianism,” and “anarcho-capitalism,” along with those of a number of older philosophers such as John Locke and Adam Smith.

Libertarian Socialism:  A stateless society where the means of production are either commonly owned or owned by the workers.  An example is the anarchist stronghold in Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Each of these groups usually has a number of schools of thought within them.  A left-libertarian is synonymous with libertarian socialism and includes schools of thought such as individualist anarchism, mutualism, libertarian-collectivism, libertarian Marxism, etc.  However, in this blog, I use the term left-libertarianism to be closer to what is called social anarchism.

We can further define a couple of terms which I’ll use.

Communism: Communism is considered a stateless, classless, moneyless society.  It has nothing to do with North Korea, Cuba, and the former USSR which are more accurately classed as totalitarian state socialist societies.

Capitalism:  Private ownership of the means of production and the use of wage labor.

Free Market: Voluntary trade between individuals within a particular framework of property ownership. 

Anarchism:  Anarchism is an anti-authoritarian philosophy which aims to replace vertical social bonds with horizontal bonds in order to maximize individual autonomy.

In the field of political science or current events, most of the underlying institutions, property norms, and legal systems remain unquestioned.  When they are questioned, they remain so within a very limited framework.  For instance, one might question a particular law but individuals rarely question the entire legal system, how and for whom it operates, nor do they offer totally new forms of rehabilitation.  Political philosophy aims to question the underlying systems and structures that govern our lives.  Currently, most individuals falsely believe that politics falls within a very narrow framework where we have a straight line where the USSR sits on the far left and Fascism falls on the far right.  The US might be considered to be in the middle.  The reality is: there is no such line and none has ever existed.  Instead, we can have systems which apparently contradict each other according to linear forms of political thought.  For instance, you can have a free market, anti-capitalist, anti-state system of socialism.  This is what individualist anarchism claims to be.  They desire for the elimination of the state and capitalism but believe that workers should own the means of production.

Left-libertarianism

I’ve decided to consistently refer to myself as a left-libertarian for a number of reasons.  What I’ll refer to as left-libertarianism is synonymous with social anarchism  Schools of thought within this group include Proudonian Mutualism, anarcho-syndicalism, libertarian-collectivism, and libertarian communism.  The main difference between these is how they are organized in a post-capitalist, post-statist world.  In my own opinion, I think real world experience will bear out aspects of each.  I also believe that each school of thought has much to contribute to modern libertarian thought. In other words, I don’t fully subscribe to one school, but have a number of sympathies and criticism of each.

Secondly, I use the term left-libertarianism as a signal that a new direction in the course of anarchism is deeply needed.  While I think history and older writings are important, I believe it is time to move into new modes of thinking about the subject.  The world has drastically changed in the past 150 years and much research in economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology can aid left-libertarianism in a major way.  To be blunt, I think left-libertarianism needs a major facelift.  In my opinion, this facelift needs to take into account the world we’ve inherited which means directing our message toward the masses.  I think it is time to drop some of the rhetoric and words such as anarchism, socialism, and claiming to be “against private property.”  While I consider myself an anarchist and a socialist and I’m certainly against private property, people new to the subject will make a number of false assumption such as believing that left-libertarians are pro-state, believe in chaos, or are against personal property such as an individual’s home and car.  Language plays an important role is shaping thought and once certain words are introduced, individuals will conceptualize left-libertarianism within that framework.

Over the years, left-libertarianism has fallen into an internal trap; a world which alienates most outsiders while promoting its own internal code or even uniform.  If the world is really as dire as left-libertarians claim, we must end factionalism, exclusivity, and elitism.  We must reach out to our enemies and others with similar value systems.  This requires that left-libertarians remain as pluralistic as possible which means being open to a diversity of thoughts.  This could include everything from being open to new schools of economic thought to trying to find common ground between Continental and Analytic philosophy.

Lastly, I’ve chosen to use the term left-libertarianism because I think left-libertarianism speaks to individuals on the political Right and Left especially because left-libertarian history synthesizes individualism with socialism.  While libertarianism might be considered a right-wing philosophy in the US, it was the left that originally coined and developed the thought.  Therefore, I think we have a platform to appeal to a large number of people especially those disenfranchised by the state of current events.  People are looking for alternatives and I think left-libertarianism has something important to offer.

It is also important to realize that the masses feel comfortable with the status quo.  Individuals work hard within the framework they are presented (such as the state and capitalism) and feel like they should be rewarded when they work hard to accomplish goals.  When the foundations of the status quo are questioned, individuals who obey the rules tend to get upset, which is completely justifiable.  A person could spend an entire life working, going to school, and trying to achieve what is believed to be right.   They follow the rules of the game and like most games, they are rewarded.  Then suddenly, the left-libertarian comes along and says all the rules are wrong.  In fact, they aren’t just wrong, they are unjust.  It is no wonder so many people react to left-libertarianism the way they do.  However, we still need to find positive methods and messages that encourage ourselves to question the very foundations of our world and ensure that we are where we want to collectively be as a society.

To me, anarchism isn’t just a negative philosophy, one that critiques current institutions.  The “I’m against ___.”  Rather, it’s a philosophy that has an analysis of the present with a plan for new institutions and infrastructure.  In short, we believe another, better world is possible.

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