Announcements, Left-libertarianism

Announcing: The BHL/C4SS Symposium on Left-Libertarianism!

One of the most significant developments in contemporary libertarian thought has been the rise of  “left-libertarianism,” a position which combines a (libertarian) support for free(d) markets with a trenchant (leftist) critique of contemporary corporate capitalism.

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Benjamin Tucker, Thomas Hodgskin, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the current wave of left-libertarian scholarship is led by the likes of Kevin Carson, Charles Johnson, Sheldon Richman, and our own Roderick Long and Gary Chartier. You can find their writings on the web at the Alliance of the Libertarian Left and at the Center for a Stateless Society. And now, thanks to the hard work of Charles and Gary, you can find a great sampling of classic and contemporary left-libertarian writings in their anthology, Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty, available as a free PDF or in paperback.

Left-libertarians see themselves as recognizably leftist insofar as they affirm class analysis and class struggle, shared responsibility for addressing economic vulnerability, grass-roots empowerment, and worker self-management and union activity, while challenging structural poverty, racism, sexism, nationalism, war, and imperialism. They see  themselves as recognizably libertarian insofar as they support robust property rights and markets and oppose state power.

Not all of us here at BHL consider ourselves left-libertarians, but most of us are at least sympathetic to the position. And we most definitely think the issues left-libertarians raise are important enough to merit serious attention and discussion.

And so, in conjunction with the Center for a Stateless Society, we’re pleased to announce an upcoming symposium on the topic! From November 5th through November 16th, BHL and C4SS will run a series of six lead essays on various aspects of left-libertarian thought. Those lead essays will run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with shorter response essays and discussion in the comments thread taking place in between. As always, we welcome participation from our readers, both in the comments thread here and at your own blogs.

Here’s the lineup:

Week 1 – The Left Libertarians

Week 2 – Their Critics
  • Monday, November 12 – John Holbo, blogger at Crooked Timber and Associate Professor of Philosophy at National University of Singapore
  • Wednesday, November 14 – David Gordon, senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • Friday, November 16 – Steve Horwitz, BHL-blogger, Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY and an Affiliated Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center

Spread the word, and we’ll see you in November!

  • I am studying your movement carefully as I truly think that you believe in at least a few mutually exclusive things. However, I wish you all well as I am generally supportive of most of what you believe in. If I had time, it would be fun to be at the symposium.

    • Well, of course, since it is a virtual symposium you can “be there” any time you like! The essays will be there waiting for you.

  • Renzo Novatore

    Gordon will annihilate.

  • Matt

    Shouldn’t you have Peter Vallentyne or Michael Ostsuka or Hillel Steiner or some of the other most important people writing on left libertarianism if you’re going to do this? I’d think these are the “leaders” in the area.

    • Sean II

      Yes, well…I’m sure there will be a separate title fight later on, featuring those three squaring off against Hans Hoppe and a giant IBM hologram of Nozick or something.

    • I think the Steiner/Vallentyne/Otsuka variety of left-libertarian is a distinct idea. There’s some overlap, but not to the extent that the shared name (unfortunately) suggests. See: This symposium is on the view they describe as “Left Wing Market Anarchism.”

      • Matt

        Okay, but then why not just call it that, then? The “Left Libertarian” name and idea had been used by Steiner, Vallentyne, and Otsuka for quite a while, after all (especially Steiner), so if you think this is importantly different idea, you should be explicit about calling it something different.

        • 1) As is so often and so regrettably the case, no one asked my opinion on the matter before they started slapping names on things.
          2) “Left Wing Market Anarchism” is, arguably, unsuitably narrow as a label, since there is at least some question regarding whether anarchism is an essential or merely contingent element of the view.
          3) I think the question of which group has “dibs” on the name is a matter of at least some dispute. I don’t know the earliest usage of the phrase, but I suspect strongly that it precedes Steiner. And while the usage you indicate might be standard within academic philosophy, I think the phrase is much more contested outside of that (relatively narrow) circle.

          • For much of the world, the “libertarian left” has just been anarchism, since the 19th century. For those originally clustered around the Alliance of the Libertarian Left, the reference was most directly to Samuel Konkin III’s agorist Movement of the Libertarian Left, with the understanding that some of us were more Emma Goldman sort of libertarian than the Murray Rothbard sort.

  • yes, there is a “rise” of left-libertarianism as of late, but it is on the ‘left’ that libertarianism started…the ‘right’ have co-opted the term, thanks nonetheless, I eagerly await the essays

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