Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Dialectics of Liberty

One of the issues that I see in “libertarianism” is that it is not clear what this word really stands for—your libertarian might turn out to be someone quite different from my libertarian. There are different types of libertarians who embrace all kinds of philosophical and political values and define their personal philosophy by terms such as divergent as: Anarcho-Capitalism, Civil Libertarianism, Classical Liberalism, Fiscal Libertarianism, Libertarian Socialism, Minarchism, Agorism, Neolibertarianism, and Paleolibertarianism. These schools of libertarianism have wide ideological and methodical differences with each other.

Today I started reading The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, coedited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins. The book has 18 essays by 19 well known libertarian scholars. (The chapter 4, “Whence Natural Rights?” is jointly written by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen.) The book is divided into three parts, each with six essays—Part 1: Foundations and Systems of Liberty; Part 2: Government, Economy, and Culture; and Part 3: Justice, Liberation, and Rights. But, as the coeditors point out in their Introduction to the book, this division of parts has nothing to do with the ““Hegelian Triad”—which actually originated with Fichte, since Hegel himself never used the terms “thesis,” “antithesis,” “synthesis,” in his work!”

I think, this book, with its emphasis on dialectics, may shed light on the context that is common to libertarianism’s myriad offshoots. In their Introduction, the coeditors note that their dialectical approach takes into account all forms of libertarianism: “Dialectical libertarianism is thus a large umbrella formed from the welding together of two major components—the methodology of context-keeping and the ideology of human freedom. It is a very broad paradigm, with numerous variants contending for acceptance, as is reflected in the range of essays in this collection. The nature of the dialectical approach we champion allows for libertarian views that run the gamut from the Mises-oriented “right-libertarians” to the Center for a Stateless Society “left-libertarians,” but all still within the “universe” of the dialectical libertarian alternative the volume represents.”

The first essay, “Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism,” by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, concludes with these lines:

“In the final analysis, dialectical libertarianism forms the basis of a broad research program, within which there may be much theoretical diversity and varying strategic implications. The project seems daunting, for the invitation to large-scale theorizing might give the impression that one must analyze everything before one can change anything. But this specter of “analysis paralysis” is as much of an example of the “synoptic delusion” fallacy as is the notion of central planning. What is required is a more fully developed critique of the system that generates the social problems in our midst—and a corresponding vision for social change that resolves these problems at their root, in all their personal, cultural, and structural manifestations. A genuinely radical project beckons, one that integrates the explanatory power of libertarian social theory and the context-keeping orientation of dialectical method.”

Currently I am halfway through the book’s second essay, “Freedom and Flourishing: Toward a Synthesis of Traditions and Disciplines,” by Edward W. Younkins. I will have more to say on the book in the days to come as I finish reading its other essays.

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