File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2003/lyotard.0302, message 163

Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 14:15:27 +1000
Subject: Re: terms - libertarian


Shawn wrote:

>When Hugh
>posted his collection of dictionary definitions - not even acknowledging
>that dictionary definitions are generally multiple - it was clear
>enough, i think, that very little political reality was captured in
>them. Essentially no history was captured by them.

Usually, I have qualified dictionary definitions as a starting point,
thinking  that
those on the List understand their multiplicity, and failure to capture

>From another list, yesterday, when I was skeptical about a quote, I was told
I must read a book by the author of the quote so I could grasp his logic.

One could sit in a library and have a great conversation by simply pointing
to volumes on the shelves.


----- Original Message -----
From: "shawn wilbur" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, March 01, 2003 3:32 AM
Subject: Re: terms - libertarian

> "steve.devos" wrote:
> > The standard understandings of the ter libertarian have a different
> > meaning in Europe and the USA.
> Steve, this is an interesting rhetorical gambit - this magisterial
> account of "standard understandings," and "standard understandings" for
> whole continents. I'm curious, as someone actively involved in the
> ongoing process of defining certain forms of "libertarianism," how the
> "standard" here works. I'm also curious why the "commonly understood" is
> particularly useful in a conversation between individuals like
> ourselves, completely capable of holding our own opinions and
> negotiating our own positions. Marxism is *commonly understood* to be an
> obsolete form of totalitarian thought - if we take the "common"
> understanding to be that of the "average person." I would bet that that
> understanding of Marxism was not "common" to the members of this list. I
> would certainly insist that it was an inadequate understanding, both
> because it does not capture what i take to be the direction and
> significance of Marx's work and because it does not reflect the
> practices of a significant body of self-identified marxists. When Hugh
> posted his collection of dictionary definitions - not even acknowledging
> that dictionary definitions are generally multiple - it was clear
> enough, i think, that very little political reality was captured in
> them. Essentially no history was captured by them.
> This relates to the issue of "being unpleasant." In your last message,
> you talk about "the libertarian in [me]," but here you go on to explain
> to me what "libertarian" means. Here we have the differend in a form not
> much more sophisticated than "how long have you been beating your wife."
> Honestly, Steve. I'm in the middle of writing a history of some strands
> of libertarian thought, and engaged in the ongoing, difficult, but
> potentially very positive clarifying discussions between libertarian
> factions. If your characterizations were indeed a something to "begin
> with," they would take us almost nowhere before they had to be scrapped.
> As it is, they really seem to be attempts to dismiss whole traditions.
> There are reasons to be concerned with common understandings. Anarchists
> frequently debate - all too frequently, perhaps - whether a given label
> - "anarchist" or "libertarian," for example - gives a bad first
> impression to outsiders. But, more often than not, these debates bog
> down into uselessness precisely because they never get beyond hegemonic
> "common sense" or dictionary definitions, despite the fact that the
> histories of these terms are well documented. I'm happy to be involved
> in those debates, to the extent that they are clarifying. I simply
> refuse, on the other hand, any attempt either to assign "common"
> characteristics to my own "libertarianism" or to deny the historical and
> present character and diversity of nominally "libertarian" thought and
> practice."
> Besides, it was only early January when the "libertarianism" thread
> happened, and i took the time to talk a bit about these issues. If you,
> Steve, or anyone else, want to debate the material i posted then, i'll
> be happy to address the issue in more depth. In any event, i think i
> have made my own basic position clear: "I'm happy to call myself a
> libertarian, a mutualist, an anarchist, a socialist, and an
> anti-capitalist."
> > In Europe it is commonly understood as refering to a culture and
> > ideology based on the defense of individal liberty as a supreme value
> > - this may be against the state but also in allaince and with the help
> > of  govenments, for example privacy protection, welfare state
> > provision and so on. In the USA context 'libertarian' is a
> > socio-political ideology that includes a distrust of govenments, often
> > including the understanding that the market will take care of
> > everything and that individuals will take care of themselves. There
> > are other variants but the above are in some way or other sufficient
> > to begin with.
> The characterization of "the USA context," beyond betraying a real
> misunderstanding of the diversity of political positions here - even
> within as small an envelope as "libertarianism" (as a careful reading of
> almost any nominally "libertarian" forum would, i think, show) - is a
> bit vague and/or confused about who or what will "take care" or things.
> A "distrust of governments" at this stage of the game is probably just
> good sense. And most libertarians i've met - however else we disagree,
> and however different our reasons for thinking so - understand at least
> at some level that "taking care of ourselves" will necessarily involve
> some taking care of one another. I've already suggested, in the earlier
> thread, some of the ways in which the difficulties which all of the left
> has had in maintaining simultaneous concern for individual liberty and
> social justice are a result of battles internal to socialism, and how
> there existed within our broad tradition much more balanced approaches -
> such as that of Skidmore. Libertarian mutualism - anarchist mutualism -
> is one influential minor movement which has attempted, with some degree
> of success, to maintain the balance while being hardheaded about
> "markets."
> > Whilst the former variant is acceptable, though not a position I agree
> > or particularly sympathise with, the latter is not.
> Elsewhere, you talk about "crass anti-statism." This sounds like the
> kind of dismissive label anarchists encounter frequently. As i have said
> on several occasions before, i'm not interested in "crass" anything, and
> know enough about these traditions, their possibilities, and the world
> context, to make a stab at distinguishing between the crass and its
> alternatives. There certainly are "crass anti-statists" out there, both
> on the right and the left. There are also Stalinists. These are the
> crosses we bear, if we identify with the broad socialist tradition.
> But, again, i think i have made it quite clear that the position i take,
> and the general tendency of which it is a part (broadly "libertarian
> mutualism") is rooted in a history of practical socialism and an
> evolving theoretical tradition. To the extent that you keep talking at
> me like i'm some Libertarian Party hack - and these folks are the butt
> of jokes across much of the "libertarian" landscape, right or left -
> i'll be forced to keep responding as if you're someone who doesn't
> listen or read so well.
> > Do I want to ban the 'cyborg' - no because as a construct, theoretical
> > or otherwise I don't believe that they exist and am certainly not
> > convinced by the level of argument that Haraway or Gray produce.
> More on the cyborg elsewhere...
> -shawn
> > As for SUV's yes - they should be banned and at some stage they will
> > have to be, because they are environmentally appallingly destructive
> > machines...
> >
> > (there's nothing wrong with being a romantic - on the whole I
> > approve...)
> >
> > regards
> > steve
> >
> >
> >


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