Saturday, December 02, 2006

Books for Holidays

Okay, you've taken off your overcoat and have sat down in front of the warm fireplace. Of course, your first thought is what do you want to read. Perhaps something deep enough to help you forget the cold chill in your bones while you dry off:

Republicanism: A Shared European Heritage (Cambridge U. Press, Vol I--2002, Vol. II--2005)
by Martin van Gelderen and Quentin Skinner (editors). If there is one work that you want to have on hand about the history of Republicanism, this is it! It is comprehensive as one would expect with Quentin Skinner's involvement over many years in the evolution of this project. The details of the Anglo-European experiences in Republican theory and practice are fully laid out here by specialists in English, Dutch, French, Italian and Polish history as well as Jewish and aristotelian sources. It is a must read.

Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (PublicAffairs, 2007) by Brian Doherty. Okay, okay, this won't be out until February of next year, but you can pre-order. Based on original research and interviews with more than 100 key sources, Brian Doherty of Reason magazine traces the evolution of the movement through the life stories and historical events that altered the course of the libertarian movement from the New Deal through the culture wars of the 1960s to today's most divisive political issues.

The Constitutionalist Revolution: An Essay on the History of England, 1450-1642 (Cambridge U. Press, 2006) by Alan Cromartie is an examination of constitutional ideas during the crucial period from the mid-fifteenth century to the time of Charles I, showing how the emergence of grand claims for common law shaped England's cultural development.

George Mason, Forgotten Founder (U. of North Carolina Press, 2006) by Jeff Broadwater is a welcome addition to the literature on the “Founding Fathers”. One of the American Revolution's most important theoreticians, Mason helped to raise a militia and draft the influential Virginia Declaration of Rights as well as the state constitution. Mason's leadership at the Constitutional Convention shaped the U.S. Constitution, although he ultimately (albeit unsuccessfully) urged that Virginia refuse to endorse it. He believed that, absent a bill of rights, the proposed Constitution did not sufficiently safeguard minority rights, and he feared that the central, federal government it sought to establish would be too powerful and offer too much temptation to corruption. Broadwater also helps to resolve the issue of Mason's stand regarding slavery. Mason was an ardent opponent of slavery, regarding it, in Broadwater's words, "as a moral evil, debasing the souls of slave owners and storing up wrath against the entire nation for a final day of judgment." Mason would speak out strongly and repeatedly against slavery during debates at the Constitutional Convention and opposed the move to count slaves for purposes of determining representation.

The Tyrannicide Brief (Vintage Books, 2006) by Geoffrey Robertson is the first biography of John Cooke, Charles I's prosecutor during the English Civil War, and who was executed for his efforts. A defender of the Levellers, of common law rights and innovator in jurisprudence, it is time for this well-deserved biography.

The Sage of Sugar Hill: George S. Schuyler and the Harlem Renaissance (Yale U. Press, 2005) by Jeffrey Ferguson is a welcome contribution to our understanding of this black libertarian intellectual journalist and novelist.

A History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917-1945 (Greenwood Press, 2002) by David Berry. Anarchists sought to clarify anarchist theory regarding the nature of 20th-century revolutions and to integrate anarchism more fully into the broader socialist and trade union movements. They organized large campaigns and their analyses of developments on the left and in the trade union movement were often more prescient than those of the socialists and communists.

The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (Transaction Publishers, 2004) by Allan Carlson. Ralph Borsodi, Louis Bromfield, Herbert Agar and "The Twelve Southerners" are all discussed in this work on the "New Agrarian" movment and the efforts toward decentralism from the early to mid-1900's. Many of these figures were central to the gradual evolution of libertarianism from the left to the right during this period.

The Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative Thought (U of N Carolina Press, 2000) by Paul V. Murphy. The Southern Agrarians were a group of literary theorists and historians who gathered at Vanderbilt University in the 1920s. Murphy follows the Agrarians and their thought into the middle part of the twentieth century, demonstrating how the arguments made by John Crowe Ransom, Alan Tate, Donald Davidson, et. al. in their famous collection of essays I'll Take My Stand contributed to the emergence of conservatism in the 1950s.

D.M. Bennett, The Truth Seeker (Prometheus Press, 2006) by Roderick Bradford. This biography of the embattled free speech advocate, D.M. Bennett, founder of the infamous journal, The Truth Seeker, and known as the "American Voltaire", is a real treat. If you are unfamiliar with the American freethought movement, his life will come as a complete surprise. His publications were censored, prohibited at newsstands, and denied access to the US mail. Bennett’s prominent role in the National Liberal League, affiliation with abolitionists, suffragists and the National Defense Association (forerunner of the ACLU) are also examined.

Community Associations: The Emergence and Acceptance of a Quiet Innovation in Housing (Greenwood Press, 2000) by Donald R. Stabile. While I have some trepidations about quasi-municipalities such as homeowner associations, this is an excellent examination of the amazing growth of this new sociopolitical phenomenon. These Community Associations (CAs) have increased in number from 500 in 1960 to 205,000 in 1998. This book explores the issues surrounding this housing innovation and provides a history of community associations and the process of trial and error in the design of CAs.

Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality (U of Illinois Press, 2003) by Joanne E. Passet includes some of the most up-to-date information on important feminist figures like Mary Gove Nichols, one of the leaders of individualism and the free love movement in antebellum America to the continuing effort to promote an acceptance of sexual freedom until the end of the 19th century. The connections to the spiritualist and abolitionist movements are examined as well.

Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Vol. I (Black Rose Books, 2004) by Robert Graham and Maurice Spira is a good left-anarchist overview with essays going back to an ancient Taoist text, "Neither Lord Nor Subject" up to 1939 (Vol. II will cover later texts). For those who are unfamiliar with anarchist thought, this is a good place to begin.

Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement (See Sharp Press, 2001) by Frank Fernandez and Charles Bufe. The Cuban libertarian movement was perhaps the most vibrant in all of Latin America. At the height of their influence in the 1920s, Cuba's anarchists dominated the unions, provided free nonreligious schools for poor children, provided meeting places for Cuba's working class, organized campesinos into unions and agricultural collectives, and published newspapers and magazines across the island. Later, they would take an active part in the resistance to the Machado, Batista, and Castro dictatorships.

Orgasms of History: 3000 Years of Spontaneous Insurrection (AK Press, 2002) by Ives Fremion and Guillaume Keynia. This is an introductory People's History (somewhat poorly translated from the French) of riots, uprisings, revolutions and social groups springing up seemingly from nowhere. Our standard histories tend to treat these as oddities, if treated at all. From the Cynics & Spartacus through the Levellers, Diggers & Ranters to the Revolution of the Carnation, the San Francisco Diggers, Red Guard of Shenwulian, Brethren of the Free Spirit, Guevara, the Provos & the Metropolitan Indians. Nearly 100 episodes of revolt and utopia which popped up without a plan or a leader from the ancient Greeks to the present.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism


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