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 Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism   Wed Mar 05, 2008 1:30 pm

Here's a review of what looks like an interesting book (at least to me) called, 'Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism'.


Quote :
Since the early nineteenth century, Hegelians of the left and the right have accused classical liberals and libertarians of advocating “abstract” and “ahistorical” conceptions of liberty, rights, and capitalism. We are assured, however, that if only liberals’ and libertarians’ thinking were more “dialectical”—if only they would look at liberty, rights, and capitalism as dynamic elements of a larger social whole—then they would see the wisdom of the paternalistic state and of the regulation (if not outright abolition) of the market economy.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra’s Total Freedom is a splendid and ambitious defense of an original and surprising thesis: that a dialectical libertarianism is not a contradiction in terms. Sciabarra argues that libertarians too can think dialectically while still remaining libertarians.

Total Freedom comprises nine chapters that fall into two parts: “Dialectics: History and Meaning” (chapters 1–4) and “Libertarian Crossroads: The Case of Murray Rothbard” (chapters 5–9).

I recommend that after reading the introduction, one begin with chapter 4, “Defining Dialectics,” which provides the necessary context for making sense of the first three chapters. Sciabarra treats dialectic as a methodological category and defines it in contradistinction between to two pairs of rival methodological orientations: strict atomism versus strict organicism and dualism versus monism. He also defines dialectic as a “dynamic” and “historical” method, as opposed to a static and ahistorical one.

Methodological atomism abstracts phenomena from their contexts and examines them in isolation. Although this process is necessary because every inquiry has to start somewhere, one must ultimately go beyond it to understand phenomena in their larger context. Thus, Sciabarra describes dialectic as an art of keeping things in context. Contextualism can, however, go too far and become strict organicism, which claims that the only way to understand anything is to see it as part of the cosmic whole, understood as an organically integrated system. This method, however, presupposes an impossible synoptic view of the whole, which in turn presupposes an impossible Archimedean standpoint outside it. The dialectical social scientist, by contrast, never forgets that we are inside the social world and that we can never have more than a partial grasp of it.

Both monism and dialectic recognize that despite the amazing diversity of phenomena, the whole is unified. The monist, however, sacrifices diversity to unity through reductionism, which holds that—appearances to the contrary notwithstanding—all the different kinds of beings are ultimately “nothing but” a single privileged kind, whether it be the water of Thales, the numbers of Pythagoras, or the atoms and void of the materialists. Dialectic, by contrast, refuses to reduce the plurality of different phenomena to a unity. Dialectic shares this respect for difference with dualism, but dualists draw distinctions so sharply that they lose the unity of the whole. Dialectic maintains the unity of the whole by seeing different phenomena as different, but also as internally related and reciprocally interactive...
The rest of the review can be found here...
http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?issueID=7&articleID=153

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