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Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty (1st ed., November 2011)

Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty
Edited by Gary Chartier & Charles W. Johnson
Published by Minor Compositions
428pp. Release date: November 5, 2011.

I’m glad to announce that Markets Not Capitalism, the new anthology that Gary Chartier and I have been working on for the past year, has been given a beautiful print edition by Minor Compositions, an imprint of Autonomedia. The book has gone to the printers, and is now available for pre-order. It’s set to be released on November 5.[1] Minor Compositions has also — admirably, as they do with all their books — made the entire book available online through Scribd, so you can get a preview, or — if you just love reading PDFs on a computer screen — you can enjoy the whole thing to-night. If you want a paper copy to hold, or you don’t like screens shining light in your face when you read, then it can be had for $20 with a pre-order of the print edition from Minor Compositions, or from me through the Alliance of the Libertarian Left Distro. ALLies who are interested in making a bulk order for bookfairs or other events may want to contact me to see what we can get set up.

I have an awful lot of people to thank, and a few to thank an awful lot. You can see who in the Acknowledgements, but I just wanted to say again here how immensely greatful I am to my co-editor, Gary Chartier, for a delightful, intense and fruitful collaboration on a project I’ve long wanted to see in print, and for his constant grace, generosity and commitment to the project; to our publishers, Stevphen Shukaitis, Minor Compositions, and the Autonomedia collective, for the beautiful edition they have made of our MS., and for their willingness to take on such a potentially controversial project. We are very much aware of the ambivalence and the profound disagreements that some of Autonomedia’s members and constituents feel about the arguments that we advance, and we immensely appreciate their willingness to put the book out there as an opening of dialogue, which we hope will bring some fresh, fraught, and intriguing conversations. And of course I cannot extend enough thanks to the rowdy, brilliant collective of contributors — my friends, interlocutors, and teachers — who made it such a pleasure to put together this anthology.

This post is something of an advertisement, of course; but it’s also a text. By way of a teaser, here is the Introduction that Gary and I wrote for the book, along with a list of all the essays included in the anthology. Tolle, lege.

* * *


Market anarchists believe in market exchange, not in economic privilege. They believe in free markets, not in capitalism. What makes them anarchists is their belief in a fully free and consensual society — a society in which order is achieved not through legal force or political government, but through free agreements and voluntary cooperation on a basis of equality. What makes them market anarchists is their recognition of free market exchange as a vital medium for peacefully anarchic social order. But the markets they envision are not like the privilege-riddled “markets” we see around us today. Markets laboring under government and capitalism are pervaded by persistent poverty, ecological destruction, radical inequalities of wealth, and concentrated power in the hands of corporations, bosses, and landlords. The consensus view is that exploitation — whether of human beings or of nature — is simply the natural result of markets left unleashed. The consensus view holds that private property, competitive pressure, and the profit motive must — whether for good or for ill — inevitably lead to capitalistic wage-labor, to the concentration of wealth and social power in the hands of a select class, or to business practices based on growth at all costs and the devil take the hindmost.

Market anarchists dissent. They argue that economic privilege is a real and pervasive social problem, but that the problem is not a problem of private property, competition, or profits per se. It is not a problem of the market form but of markets deformed — deformed by the long shadow of historical injustices and the ongoing, continuous exercise of legal privilege on behalf of capital. The market anarchist tradition is radically pro-market and anti-capitalist — reflecting its consistent concern with the deeply political character of corporate power, the dependence of economic elites on the tolerance or active support of the state, the permeable barriers between political and economic elites, and the cultural embeddedness of hierarchies established and maintained by state-perpetrated and state-sanctioned violence.

The Market Form

This book is intended as an extended introduction to the economic and social theory of left-wing market anarchism. Market anarchism is a radically individualist and anti-capitalist social movement. Like other anarchists, market anarchists are radical advocates of individual liberty and mutual consent in every aspect of social life — thus rejecting all forms of domination and government as invasions against liberty and violations of human dignity. The market anarchists’ distinct contribution to anarchist thought is their analysis of the market form as a core component of a thoroughly free and equal society — their understanding of the revolutionary possibilities inherent in market relationships freed from government and capitalistic privilege, and their insights into the structures of political privilege and control that deform actually-existing markets and uphold exploitation in spite of the naturally equilibrating tendencies of market processes. Since they insist on so sharp a distinction between the market form as such and the economic features of actually-existing capitalism, it is important to carefully distinguish the key features of markets as market anarchists understand them. The social relationships that market anarchists explicitly defend, and hope to free from all forms of government control, are relationships based on:

  1. ownership of property, especially decentralized individual ownership, not only of personal possessions but also of land, homes, natural resources, tools, and capital goods;

  2. contract and voluntary exchange of goods and services, by individuals or groups, on the expectation of mutual benefit;

  3. free competition among all buyers and sellers — in price, quality, and all other aspects of exchange — without ex ante restraints or burdensome barriers to entry;

  4. entrepreneurial discovery, undertaken not only to compete in existing markets but also in order to discover and develop new opportunities for economic or social benefit; and

  5. spontaneous order, recognized as a significant and positive coordinating force — in which decentralized negotiations, exchanges, and entrepreneurship converge to produce large-scale coordination without, or beyond the capacity of, any deliberate plans or explicit common blueprints for social or economic development.

Market anarchists do not limit ownership to possession, or to common or collective ownership, although they do not exclude these kinds of ownership either; they insist on the importance of contract and market exchange, and on profit-motivated free competition and entrepreneurship; and they not only tolerate but celebrate the unplanned, spontaneous coordation that Marxists deride as the “social anarchy of production.” But left-wing market anarchists are also radically anti-capitalist, and they absolutely reject the belief — common to both the anti-market Left and the pro-capitalist Right — that these five features of the market form must entail a social order of bosses, landlords, centralized corporations, class exploitation, cut-throat business dealings, immiserated workers, structural poverty, or large-scale economic inequality. They insist, instead, on five distinctive claims about markets, freedom, and privilege:

  • The centrifugal tendency of markets: market anarchists see freed markets, under conditions of free competition, as tending to diffuse wealth and dissolve fortunes — with a centrifugal effect on incomes, property-titles, land, and access to capital — rather than concentrating it in the hands of a socioeconomic elite. Market anarchists recognize no de jure limits on the extent or kind of wealth that any one person might amass; but they believe that market and social realities will impose much more rigorous de facto pressures against massive inequalities of wealth than any de jure constraint could achieve.

  • The radical possibilities of market social activism: market anarchists also see freed markets as a space not only for profit-driven commerce, but also as spaces for social experimentation and hard-driving grassroots activism. They envision “market forces” as including not only the pursuit of narrowly financial gain or maximizing returns to investors, but also the appeal of solidarity, mutuality and sustainability. “Market processes” can — and ought to — include conscious, coordinated efforts to raise consciousness, change economic behavior, and address issues of economic equality and social justice through nonviolent direct action.

  • The rejection of statist-quo economic relations: market anarchists sharply distinguish between the defense of the market form and apologetics actually-existing distributions of wealth and class divisions, since these distributions and divisions hardly emerged as the result of unfettered markets, but rather from the governed, regimented, and privilege-ridden markets that exist today; they see actually-existing distributions of wealth and class divisions as serious and genuine social problems, but not as problems with the market form itself; these are not market problems but ownership problems and coordination problems.

  • The regressiveness of regulation: market anarchists see coordination problems — problems with an unnatural, destructive, politically-imposed interruption of the free operation of exchange and competition — as the result of continuous, ongoing legal privilege for incumbent capitalists and other well-entrenched economic interests, imposed at the expense of small-scale competitors and the working class.

  • Dispossession and rectification: market anarchists see economic privilege as partly the result of serious ownership problems — problems with an unnatural, destructive, politically-imposed maldistribution of property titles — produced by the history of political dispossession and expropriation inflicted worldwide by means of war, colonialism, segregation, nationalization and kleptocracy. Markets are not viewed as being maximally free so long as they are darkened by the shadow of mass robbery or the denial of ownership; and they emphasize the importance of reasonable rectification of past injustices — including grassroots, anti-corporate, anti-neoliberal approaches to the “privatization” of state-controlled resources; processes for restitution to identifiable victims of injustice; and revolutionary expropriation of property fraudulently claimed by the state and state-entitled monopolists.

The Market Anarchist Tradition

Early anarchist thinkers such as Josiah Warren and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon emphasized the positive, socially harmonizing features of market relationships when they were conducted within a context of equality — with Proudhon, for example, writing that social revolution would abolish the “system of laws” and “principle of authority,” to replace them with the “system of contracts.”[2]

Drawing on Warren’s and Proudhon’s use of contract and exchange for models of social mutuality, distinctive strands of market anarchism have emerged repeatedly within the broad anarchist tradition, punctuated by crises, collapses, interregnums and resurgences. The history is complex but it can be roughly divided into three major periods represented in this text — (i) a “first wave,” represented mainly by “individualist anarchists” and “mutualists” such as Benjamin Tucker, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Dyer Lum, and occupying roughly the period from the American Civil War to 1917;[3] (ii) a “second wave,” coinciding with the radicalization of formerly pro-capitalist American libertarians and the resurgence of anarchism as a family of social movements during the radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s; and (iii) a “third wave,” developing as a dissident strand within the anarchist milieu of the 1990s and the post-Seattle movement of the new millennium.

In spite of discontinuities and differences, each wave has typically revived the literature of the earlier waves and drawn explicitly on its themes; what has, in general, united them is their defense of market relationships and their particular emphasis on the revolutionary possibilities inherent in the market form, when it is — to the extent that it is — liberated from legal and social institutions of privilege.

The anti-capitalism of the “first wave” individualists was obvious to them and to many of their contemporaries. Benjamin Tucker famously argued that four monopolies, or clusters of state-guaranteed privileges, were responsible for the power of the corporate elite — the patent monopoly, the effective monopoly created by the state’s distribution of arbitrarily engrossed land to the politically favored and its protection of unjust land titles, the money and credit monopoly, and the monopolistic privileges conferred by tariffs. The economically powerful depended on these monopolies; eliminate them, and the power of the elite would dissolve.

Tucker was committed to the cause of justice for workers in conflict with contemporary capitalists and he clearly identified with the burgeoning socialist movement. But he argued against Marx and other socialists that market relationships could be fruitful and non-exploitative provided that the market-distorting privileges conferred by the four monopolies were eliminated.

The radicalism of Tucker and his compatriots and that of the strand of anarchism they birthed was arguably less apparent after the breaking of the first wave than it was to their contemporaries. Perhaps in part this is because of their disputes with representatives of other anarchist tendencies, whose criticisms of their views have influenced the perceptions of later anarchists. It is also, unavoidably, a consequence of the identification of many of their twentieth-century descendants with the right wing of the libertarian movement and thus as apologists for the corporate elite and its social dominance.

Though there were honorable exceptions, twentieth-century market-oriented libertarians frequently lionized corporate titans, ignored or rationalized the abuse of workers, and trivialized or embraced economic and social hierarchy. While many endorsed the critique of the state and of state-secured privilege offered by Tucker and his fellow individualists, they often overlooked or rejected the radical implications of the earlier individualists’ class-based analysis of structural injustice. There were, in short, few vocal enthusiasts for the individualists’ brand of anti-capitalism in the early-to-mid-twentieth century.

The most radical fringe of the market-oriented strand of the libertarian movement — represented by thinkers like Murray Rothbard and Roy Childs — generally embraced, not the anti-capitalist economics of individualism and mutualism, but a position its advocates described as “anarcho-capitalism.” The future free society they envisioned was a market society — but one in which market relationships were little changed from business as usual and the end of state control was imagined as freeing business to do much what it had been doing before, rather than unleashing competing forms of economic organization, which might radically transform market forms from the bottom up.

But in the “second wave” of the 1960s, the family of anarchist social movements — revived by antiauthoritarian and countercultural strands of the New Left — and the antiwar radicals among the libertarians began to rediscover and republish the works of the mutualists and the other individualists. “Anarcho-capitalists” such as Rothbard and Childs began to question libertarianism’s historical alliance with the Right, and to abandon defenses of big business and actually-existing capitalism in favor of a more consistent left-wing market anarchism. Perhaps the most visible and dramatic example was Karl Hess’s embrace of the New Left radicalism, and his abandonment of “capitalist” economics in favor of small-scale, community-based, non-capitalist markets. By 1975, the former Goldwater speechwriter declared, “I have lost my faith in capitalism” and “I resist this capitalist nation-state,” observing that he had “turn[ed] from the religion of capitalism.”[4]

The “second wave” was followed by a second trough, for anarchism broadly and market anarchism in particular. By the later 1970s and the 1980s, the anti-capitalist tendency among market-oriented libertarians had largely dissipated or been shouted down by the mainstreaming pro-capitalist politics of well-funded “libertarian” institutions like the Cato Institute and the leadership of the Libertarian Party. But with the end of the Cold War, the realignment of longstanding political coalitions, and the public coming-out of a third wave anarchist movement in the 1990s, the intellectual, social stages were set for today’s resurgence of anti-capitalist market anarchism.

By the beginning of twenty-first century, anti-capitalist descendants of the individualists had grown in number, influence, and visibility. They shared the early individualists’ conviction that markets need not in principle be exploitative. At the same time, they elaborated and defended a distinctively libertarian version of class analysis that extended Tucker’s list of monopolies and highlighted the intersection of state-secured privilege with systematic past and ongoing dispossession and with a range of issues of ecology, culture, and interpersonal power relations. They emphasized the fact that, while genuinely liberated — freed — markets could be empowering, market transactions that occurred in contexts misshapen by past and ongoing injustice were, not surprisingly, debilitating and oppressive. But the problem, the new individualists (like their predecessors) insisted, lay not with markets but rather with capitalism — with social dominance by economic elites secured by the state. The solution, then, was the abolition of capitalism through the elimination of legal privileges, including the privileges required for the protection of title to stolen and engrossed assets.

The new individualists have been equally critical of explicitly statist conservatives and progressives and of market-oriented libertarians on the right who use the rhetoric of freedom to legitimate corporate privilege. Their aggressive criticism of this sort of “vulgar libertarianism” has emphasized that existing economic relationships are shot through with injustice from top to bottom and that calls for freedom can readily be used to mask attempts to preserve the freedom of elites to retain wealth acquired through state-tolerated or state-perpetrated violence and state-guaranteed privilege.

The Natural Habitat of the Market Anarchist

This book would not have been possible without the Internet. The reader of Markets Not Capitalism will quickly notice that many of the articles do not read quite like chapters in an ordinary book. Many of them are short. Many of them begin in the middle of a dialogue — one of the most frequent opening phrases is “In a recent issue of such-and-such, so-and-so said that . . . .” The contemporary articles often originally appeared online, as posts to a weblog; they refer frequently to past posts or pre-existing discussions, and often criticize on or elaborate comments made by other authors in other venues. While the articles have been reformatted for print, many still read very distinctly like the blog posts that they once were.

But this is not merely an artifact of Internet-based social networks. The history of the individualist and mutualist tradition is largely a history of ephemeral publications, short-lived presses, self-published pamphlets, and small radical papers. The most famous is certainly Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty (1881-1908), but also includes such publications as Hugh Pentecost’s Twentieth Century (1888-1898), as well as “second wave” market anarchist journals such as Left and Right (1965-1968) and Libertarian Forum (1969-1984). All these publications were short and published frequently; their articles were typically critical rather than comprehensive, idiosyncratic rather than technical in approach and tone. Long-standing, far-reaching debates between papers, correspondents, and the surrounding movement were constant sources of material; where a specific interlocutor was not available for some of these articles, the author might, as in de Cleyre and Slobodinsky’s “The Individualist and the Communist: A Dialogue,” go so far as to invent one. The most famous book-length work from the “first wave” — Tucker’s Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One (1893) is simply a collection of short articles from Liberty, the majority of which are clearly themselves replies to questions and arguments posed by Liberty’s readers or fellow journal editors. The critical exchanges read very much like those one might encounter today on Blogger or WordPress sites — because, of course, today’s blog is merely a new technological form taken by the small, independent press.

The independent, dialogue-based small press has provided a natural habitat for market anarchist writing to flourish — whereas liberal and Marxist writing found their most distinctive habitats in declarations, manifestos, and intricate, comprehensive treatises. Why this might be the case is a large question, worth exploring far beyond what the limits of this preface might allow. However, it may be worth noting that market anarchism has more or less always emerged as a critical and experimental project — on the radical fringes of social movements (whether the Owenite movement, the freethought movement, the labor movement, the American market-oriented libertarian movement, or the counterglobalization movement and the associated social anarchist milieu).

Market anarchism aims to draw out social truths not by dogmatizing or laying down the law, but rather by allowing as far as possible for the free interplay of ideas and social forces, by looking for the unintended consequences of accepted ideas, by engagement in an open-ended process of experimentation and discovery that permits the constant testing of both ideas and institutions against competitors and bottom-line reality.

The revolutionary anarchist and mutualist Dyer D. Lum (1839-1893) wrote in “The Economics of Anarchy” that a defining feature of market anarchy was the “plasticity” of social and economic arrangements as opposed to the “rigidity” of either statist domination or communist economic schemes. The substance of market anarchist ideas has arguably shaped the form in which market anarchist writers feel most at home expressing them. Or perhaps, conversely, the form of the writing may even be what has often made the substance possible: it may be that market anarchist ideas most naturally take shape in the course of dialogue rather than disquisition, in the act of critical give-and-take rather than one-sided monologue. The value of spontaneity, exploratory engagement, and the rigors of the competitive test may be as essential to the formation of market anarchist ideas in writing as they are to the implementation of those ideas in the world at large.

If so, then these articles must be read with the awareness that they have, to a certain extent, been lifted out of their natural environment. There are longer, sustained treatments of the topics they address, but most articles were originally contributions to longstanding, ongoing projects, and took place in the course of wide-ranging debates. We have collected them in a printed anthology to do a service to the student, the researcher, and anyone else who is curious about alternative approaches in free market economics and anarchist social thought. But they are best understood not as identifying the end of the subject, or even really the beginning, but rather as offering an invitation to dive in in medias res, to see observe left-wing market anarchist ideas emerging from the dialogical process itself — and to participate in the ongoing conversation.

What’s In It

With these articles, we seek to help unearth a tradition of radical dissent that arguably deserves greater attention. But we hope that they will prove to be of more than historical interest. Our goal is to offer detailed analyses of key issues related to power and resistance, provide a basis for conversation between individualist anarchists and representatives of other anarchist tendencies, and clearly undermine the self-serving corporatist apologetics, and the claim to the “libertarian” label, of defenders of conventionally pro-capitalist “vulgar libertarianism.”

The book collects essays from the late nineteenth century to the present, organized into eight parts.[5]

Part One, “The Problem of Deformed Markets,” introduces the central theme of the text: the political deformation that distorts, obliterates, or perverts the naturally positive and mutual relationships characteristic of markets, and the naturally productive and harmonizing role of market forces such as competition, trade, and the division of labor, into the alienating, exploitative structure of state capitalism. In “The Freed Market,” William Gillis shows how a simple change of tense can make all the difference in clarifying the difference between market anarchy and statist capitalism. In “State Socialism and Anarchism,” Benjamin Tucker explains why a market-oriented variety of anarchism can be understood as part of the socialist tradition, provided the role of privilege in bringing about the evils against which socialists rightly protest is understood. In excerpts taken from his General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, Proudhon argues that competition, division of labor, commerce, contract, and property — economic forces which are, today, forces driving exploitation, alienation and poverty — can be transfigured by the revolutionary dissolution of political privilege, and the replacement of the authoritarian “system of laws” by the mutual “system of contracts.”[6] In “Markets Freed from Capitalism,” Charles Johnson examines the political mechanisms and structures of privilege by which government misshapes markets, constructs state capitalism, and foists fetishized forms of exchange into social spaces where they are not wanted; and examines the importance of envisioning the revolutionary transformation of markets without capitalistic inequalities.

Part Two, “Identities and Isms,” collects careful reflections by individualist anarchists on the desirability, undesirability, and significance of multiple identities: “capitalist,” “socialist,” “libertarian,” “individualist,” “communist.” In “Armies that Overlap” and “Socialism: What It Is,” Benjamin Tucker argues that the socialist call for worker autonomy and the end of capitalist privilege is not a violation of market principles; it is against privilege that socialists fight, and that need not mean a fight against market exchange. In “Advocates of Freed Markets Should Oppose Capitalism” and “What Laissez Faire?,” Gary Chartier and Sheldon Richman argue that right-wing market-oriented libertarians’ romance with capitalism is profoundly mistaken and that the rejection of capitalism is not only compatible with but, indeed, required by support for genuinely freed markets. In “Market Anarchism as Stigmergic Socialism” and “Socialist Ends, Market Means,” Brad Spangler and Gary Chartier argue more aggressively that the market-oriented anarchism of the individualists is, as Tucker made clear, not only anti-capitalist but part of the socialist tradition. In “The Individualist and the Communist,” and the follow-up essay, “A Glance at Communism,” Rosa Slobodinsky and Voltairine de Cleyre explain why two varieties of anarchism can be thought of as pursuing similar goals using different means. (The individualist in Slobodinsky and de Cleyre’s imagined dialogue accepts the label “capitalist” for the sake of argument, but takes a position unequivocally opposed to capitalist privilege.) Charles Johnson’s “Libertarianism through Thick and Thin” explains why a narrowly conceived anti-statism fails to capture the emancipatory potential of libertarianism, and lays the groundwork for arguments designed to link opposition to state power with challenges to such other forms of hierarchy as subordination in the workplace and patriarchal gender relations.

Part Three, “Ownership,” enters an open debate among market anarchists, individualist anarchists, and mutualists: the nature and justification of property. Individualists and mutualists have a broad, end-of-the-day agreement on the question of ownership — they view actually-existing property titles as shot through with privilege and injustice, but argue in favor of free social arrangements in which decentralized individual ownership — cured of the disease of privilege and political dispossession — will play an important role. But within that broad, end-of-the-day agreement there is an intense and complicated dialogue over justifications for property as well as the details of how it ought to be recognized and how far it might extend. In this section we aim to offer a series of unconventional defenses of property rights from some of the major perspectives repersented in the debate — unconventional both in their foundations and in their implications for the kinds of “property” that might characterize markets freed radically from capitalist privilege. In “A Plea for Public Property,” the individualist anarchist Roderick Long defends a natural-rights justification for individual property rights — and shows that, given the arguments he uses to defend such rights, it follows that a fully freed market must include space for the commons and genuinely public property, owned neither by the state nor by private owners, but rather by the “unorganized public” that enjoys its use. In “From Whence Do Property Titles Arise?” the market anarchist William Gillis begins with a sympathetic exploration of anarchist communism and ends with a utilitarian defense of a strong form of private property, derived from considerations of economic calculation. In “The Gift Economy of Property,” the mutualist Shawn Wilbur re-examines Proudhon’s approach to property and commerce, and asks whether the social anarchist conception of the gift economy and the gift of mutual recognition might not provide a subversive sort of foundation for an economy of ownership and equal exchange, which challenges both conventional natural-rights accounts and utilitarian understandings of property. In “Fairness and Possession,” Gary Chartier offers an alternative market-anarchist defense of possessory rights rooted in a natural-law approach, shaped by the Golden Rule and a fundamental appeal to principles of fairness, taken in tandem with a set of truisms about human behavior and the human situation. Finally, in “The Libertarian Case against Intellectual Property Rights,” Roderick Long turns to an important question of application, challenging capitalists’ frequent assertions of ownership over ideas through copyrights and patents; “intellectual property rights,” Long argues, are not genuine labor-based property rights, but instead coercive, monopolistic claims on the minds and tangible property of others.

Part Four, “Corporate Power and Labor Solidarity,” brings together articles on big business, bosses, workers, and the extent to which the concentration of economic power and inequality in the labor market depend on large-scale privileges conferred repeatedly and persistently by the state on corporations and capitalists. In “Corporatoins versus the Market, or Whip Conflation Now,” Roderick Long lays out the problem of “conflation” or “vulgar libertarianism” — in which patterns of corporate ownership and common business practices propped up by state intervention are confusedly defended as if they were the outcome of free market processes. In “Does Competition Mean War?” and “Economic Calculation in the Corporate Commonwealth,” Benjamin Tucker and Kevin Carson each show how market competition and profit motives, typically invoked to try to defend the interests of large corporations, would actually dissolve their fortunes and free markets from their grip in the absence of legal protections for over-centralized business models. Roy Childs’s “Big Business and the Rise of American Statism” takes a step back into history, emphasizing that the growth of state power in American history cannot be seen as a counterweight to the growth of corporate power because it has largely been driven by the corporate interests of politically-connected robber barons. Thus also Roderick Long demonstrates, in “Regulation: The Cause, Not the Cure, of the Financial Crisis,” that it was not “unregulated finance markets” but a long history of unaccountable, government-insulated finance capitalism which produced the financial and economic collapse of the last half-decade. In “Industrial Economics,” “Labor Struggle in a Free Market,” and “Should Labor Be Paid or Not?” Dyer Lum, Kevin Carson, and Benjamin Tucker consider the foremost alternative to corporate power: not a political solution or a regulatory state, but radical free market labor solidarity, wildcat unionism, and, ultimately, worker ownership of the means of production.

Part Five, “Neoliberalism, Privatization, and Redistribution,” considers the pseudo-market politics of neo-liberal “market” reforms, and considers how a radical defense of free markets, private property, and the “de-statification” of the economy might call for dramatically different approaches from either state progressivism, or corporate “liberalization” and subsidized capitalist “development.” In “Free Market Reforms and the Reduction of Statism,” Kevin Carson underscores the importance of understanding just how particular legal, social, and political structures are interconnected and what the net effect of altering each would be on the dismantling of the state. In “Free Trade is Fair Trade,” Joe Peacott of the Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade looks at the radical possibilities of a world truly without economic borders, and the political fraud of government-managed, corporate-subsidizing “free trade” agreements. In “Two Words on ‘Privatization,’” Charles Johnson disentangles two senses of “privatization” — on the one hand, genuine efforts to devolve control of politically-confiscated resources from government back to civil society, and on the other the kind of corporate-driven “privatization” routinely inflicted on developing countries, which amounts to little more than the outsourcing of government monopolies. Finally, in “Where are the Specifics?” and “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle,” Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard look at the radical implications of anarchistic property rights, and argue that the emergence of freed markets calls for a radically different model of “privatization:” worker occupations of many large businesses and institutions, and revolutionary expropriation of the means of production.

Part Six, “Inequality and Social Safety Nets,” asks whether freed markets would sustain large-scale inequalities of wealth, and how, with the abolition of all forms of government, including government welfare, economic crises and poverty might still be addressed through authentically social safety nets — that is, through grassroots mutual aid. Jeremy Weiland’s “Let the Free Market Eat the Rich” begins by discussing “economic entropy” and the doom of accumulated fortunes in freed markets; he shows how economic relationships genuinely free from privilege can, and naturally will tend to, undermine the wealth and power consolidated in a capitalist society. Joe Peacott’s “Individualism and Inequality” considers how capitalism depends on economic inequality, and how market anarchy would confine or destroy such inequality; he goes on to ask how the end of destructive, systemic inequalities might relate to smaller-scale, more everyday forms of social inequality. Roderick Long’s “How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis” and Joe Peacott’s “The Poverty of the Welfare State” discuss ways in which statist welfare programs destory social power while fostering state power, and suggest that the form of social power working people have repeatedly used to gain control over their own health care costs and provide security for each other in hard times — grassroots networks of worker-run mutual aid associations — can provide positive alternatives to statist welfare systems in a flourishing free market.

Part Seven, “Barriers to Entry and Fixed Costs of Living,” examines how capitalist economic relations have depended on the forced immiseration of the poor, and the systematic burning out of alternatives to wage-labor and rent. One of the most effective means is to make workers artificially desperate by means of a sort of ratchet effect — simultaneously boosting fixed costs of living and destroying opportunities for making a living outside of the cash-wage economy. The ratchet effect has been exerted by means of government-granted monopolies that drive up the costs of pervasive, everyday goods; large-scale land theft and engrosssment that bolster rents and deprive workers of opportunities to support themselves on their own terms; and government regulation in the interest of socioeconomic cleansing. In “How ‘Intellectual Property’ Impedes Competition,” Kevin Carson looks at the large-scale structural ripple effects of pervasive monopoly rents in the transmission and expression of ideas in culture, medicine, and technology. In “English Enclosures and Soviet Collectivization,” Joseph Stromberg shows how the state, whatever its explicit ideology, can foster what he suggestively identifies as an “anti-peasant mode of development.” In “The American Land Question,” Stromberg shows that massive land theft and engrossment have distorted economic relationships in the United States since before the colonial period. In “Health Care as Radical Monopoly,” Carson explains in detail how the cost, accessibility, and flexibility of health care are profoundly limited by the state’s action on behalf of multiple groups on whom it deliberately or inadvertently confers legal privileges. “Scratching By,” by Charles Johnson, is a devastating indictment of the regulatory state’s role in the creation and perpetuation of poverty.

Part Eight, “Freed-Market Regulation: Social Activism and Spontaneous Order,” looks at ways in which the social order achieved in a market society freed from capitalist domination would ensure productive and mutual cooperation, and live up to a reasonable ideal of social justice, without coercive regulation by a state. Where other sections have demonstrated negatively that social and economic privileges often depend on background legal coercion, and that removing legal coercion will undermine or eliminate unjust privilege, this section focuses on potential social problems within the market form, and the positive means by which those problems might be addressed without the use of aggressive force. In “Regulation Red Herring,” Sheldon Richman discusses the importance of spontaneous order as an organizing and harmonizing force in markets, and a natural form of market “regulation” based on mutual human relationships instead of political domination. In “We Are Market Forces,” Charles Johnson develops the same point and emphasizes the possibility not only of unplanned orders, but also of consensual social activism within freed markets: from the individualists’ radical anti-capitalist perspective, the world of markets is much more extensive than the world of commercial transactions, and incorporates all of the voluntary, cooperative actions in which people can engage — including those designed to restrain or otherwise respond to non-violent but morally objectionable conduct on the part of other people or organizations. In “Platonic Productivity,” Roderick Long considers the question of gender wage gaps, arguing that even in a fully freed market sexist discrimination might continue to be a serious social and economic problem, one which conscious social activism could be needed to address. In “Libertarianism and Anti-Racism,” Sheldon Richman encourages market anarchists to consider the nonviolent sit-in movement against segregated lunch-counters in the American South as a historical model for precisely this sort of freed-market social activism. Mary Ruwart’s “Aggression and the Environment,” from her book Healing Our World, and Charles Johnson’s “The Clean Water Act versus Clean Water” continue developing this the theme by examining ways in which capitalist privilege, rather than free-market profit motives, encourage environmental destruction and the anti-environmental ethic of limitless “growth” at all costs — and in which, in freed markets, community activists would be far freer to use market pressure and direct action to preserve the environment and heal the damage already inflicted by ecologically unsustainable corporate capitalism. In “Context-Keeping and Community Organizing,” Sheldon Richman provides a strong defense and synthetic overview of the possibility of freed market grassroots social activism.

The individualist anarchist tendency is alive and well. Markets Not Capitalism offers a window onto this tendency’s history and highlights its potential contribution to the global anti-capitalist movement. We seek in this book to stimulate a thriving conversation among libertarians of all varieties, as well as those with other political commitments, about the most fruitful path toward human liberation. We are confident that individualist anarchist insights into the liberatory potential of markets without capitalism can enrich that conversation, and we encourage you to join it.

Charles W. Johnson
Molinari Institute
Gary Chartier
La Sierra University

* * *

Table of Contents.

Part One: The Problem of Deformed Markets

  • The Freed Market, William Gillis (2007)
  • State Socialism and Anarchism: How Far They Agree, and Wherein They Differ, Benjamin R. Tucker (1888)
  • General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (selections), Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1851)
  • Markets Freed from Capitalism, Charles Johnson (2010)

Part Two: Identities and Isms

  • Market Anarchism as Stigmergic Socialism, Brad Spangler (2006)
  • Armies that Overlap, Benjamin Tucker (1890)
  • The Individualist and the Communist: A Dialogue, Rosa Slobodinsky and Voltairine de Cleyre (1891)
  • A Glance at Communism, Voltairine de Cleyre (1892)
  • Advocates of Freed Markets Should Oppose Capitalism, Gary Chartier (2010)
  • Anarchism without Hyphens, Karl Hess (1980)
  • What Laissez Faire? Sheldon Richman (2010)
  • Libertarianism through Thick and Thin, Charles Johnson (2008)
  • Socialism: What It Is, Benjamin R. Tucker (1884)
  • Socialist Ends, Market Means, Gary Chartier (2009)

Part Three: Ownership

  • A Plea for Public Property, Roderick T. Long (1998)
  • From Whence Do Property Titles Arise? William Gillis (2009)
  • The Gift Economy of Property, Shawn Wilbur (2008)
  • Fairness and Possession, Gary Chartier (2011)
  • The Libertarian Case against Intellectual Property Rights, Roderick T. Long (1995)

Part Four: Corporate Power and Labor Solidarity

  • Corporations versus the Market, or Whip Conflation Now, Roderick T. Long (2008)
  • Does Competition Mean War? Benjamin R. Tucker (1888)
  • Economic Calculation in the Corporate Commonwealth, Kevin Carson (2007)
  • Big Business and the Rise of American Statism, Roy A. Childs, Jr. (1971)
  • Regulation: The Cause, Not the Cure, of the Financial Crisis, Roderick T. Long (2008)
  • Industrial Economics, Dyer D. Lum (1890)
  • Labor Struggle in a Free Market, Kevin A. Carson (2008)
  • Should Labor Be Paid or Not? Benjamin R. Tucker (1888)

Part Five: Neoliberalism, Privatization, and Redistribution

  • Free Market Reforms and the Reduction of Statism, Kevin A. Carson (2008)
  • Free Trade is Fair Trade: An Anarchist Looks at World Trade, Joe Peacott (2000)
  • Two Words on ‘Privatization,’ Charles W. Johnson (2007)
  • What Are the Specifics? Karl Hess (1969)
  • Confiscation and the Homestead Principle, Murray N. Rothbard (1969)

Part Six: Inequality and Social Safety Nets

  • Let the Free Market Eat the Rich! Economic Entropy as Revolutionary Redistribution, Jeremy Weiland (2011)
  • Individualism and Inequality, Joe Peacott
  • How Government Solved the Health Care Crisis, by Roderick T. Long (1993)
  • The Poverty of the Welfare State, Joe Peacott (1998)

Part Seven: Barriers to Entry and Fixed Costs of Living

  • How ‘Intellectual Property’ Impedes Competition, Kevin A. Carson (2009)
  • The American Land Question, Joseph Stromberg (2009)
  • English Enclosures and Soviet Collectivization: Two Instances of an Anti-Peasant Mode of Development, Joseph Stromborg (1995)
  • Health Care and Radical Monopoly, Kevin A. Carson (2010)
  • Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It, Charles W. Johnson (2007)

Part Eight: Freed-Market Regulation: Social Activism and Spontaneous Order

  • Regulation Red Herring: Why There’s No Such Thing as an Unregulated Market, Sheldon Richman (2009)
  • We Are Market Forces, Charles Johnson (2009)
  • Platonic Productivity, Roderick T. Long (2004)
  • Libertarianism and Anti-Racism, Sheldon Richman (2010)
  • Aggression and the Environment, Mary Ruwart (1993/2003)
  • The Clean Water Act versus Clean Water, Charles W. Johnson (2010)
  • Context-Keeping and Community Organizing, Sheldon Richman (2010)

  1. [1]I swear I had nothing to do with that. But now you can all put it down in your Slingshots with a note to Remember, remember…
  2. [2]See “Organization of Economic Forces,” General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century, ch. 3 (37-58), in this volume.
  3. [3]

    The exact differences between “individualists” and “mutualists” during the first wave were hardly ever cut and dried; many writers (such as Tucker) used each word at different times to refer to their own position. However, a few differences might be sketched between those who were most frequently called “individualists,” such as Tucker or Yarros, and those who were most frequently called “mutualists,” such as Dyer Lum, Clarence Swartz, or the European followers of Proudhon — in particular, that while both supported the emancipation of workers and ensuring that all workers had access to capital, the “mutualists” tended to emphasize the specific importance of worker-owned co-operatives and direct worker ownership over the means of production, while “individualists” tended to emphasize that under conditions of equal freedom, workers would settle on whatever arrangements of ownership made most sense under the circumstances.

    Complicating matters, “mutualism” is now retrospectively used, in the twenty-first century, to refer to most anti-capitalist market anarchists, or specifically to those (like Kevin Carson) who differ from the so-called “Lockean” position on land ownership — who believe that land ownership can be based only on personal occupancy and use, ruling out absentee landlordship as undesirable and unworthy of legal protection. “Mutualists” in this sense of the term includes both those who were most frequently called “individualists” during the first wave (such as Tucker) and those who were most frequently called “mutualists” (such as Lum).

  4. [4]To be sure, while Hess’s social attitudes do not seem to have changed substantially after he made these statements, he became less wedded to the language of anti-capitalism; he published Capitalism for Kids: Growing up to Be Your Own Boss in 1986. But there is no reason to doubt that what Hess meant by “capitalism” here was what contemporary left-wing market anarchists mean when they talk about peaceful, voluntary exchange in a genuinely freed market, rather than what he had rejected in 1975. Certainly, as the book’s subtitle suggests, he had no intention of steering young readers into careers as corporate drones.
  5. [5]We have sought throughout these essays to standardize reference style and in some cases to correct, expand, or update references. In at least one case, we have also corrected a quotation.
  6. [6]In selecting passages from Proudhon’s nuanced and immensely challenging work, we must acknowledge — and indeed insist — that we have not presented anything like the whole of Proudhon’s social and economic thought, or even the entirety of his thought about economic forces, contracts, and property. Rather, we have attempted to identify and present a particular strand within the tapestry of Proudhon’s thought, and, in particular, to present the strand which was best understood by and most influential on the work of later market anarchists, such as Benjamin Tucker or Dyer Lum — with such themes as the mutuality of contract, the deformation of markets by privilege, and the transfiguration of property, competition, and exchange in markets liberated from hierarchy. In these passages Proudhon should, to an extent, be read as “Tucker’s Proudhon” or “the mutualists’ Proudhon;” there are other Proudhons to be found (the Communards’ Proudhon, Kropotkin’s Proudhon, the syndicalists’ Proudhon . . .), and the real thinker himself must be recognized as someone quite as important as, and far more intricate than, any of these.


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34 replies to Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty (1st ed., November 2011) Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Discussed at humaniterations.wordpress.com

    Markets Not Capitalism « Human Iterations:

    […] Charles in his excellent introduction: Market anarchists believe in market exchange, not in economic privilege. They believe in free […]

  2. Todd S.

    So, shipping begins the 5th of November. That should be easy enough to remember, remember.

  3. sofias mint

    scribd sucks. it’s a monopolist “don’t download our shit”-service. could you just share the file directly (or via bittorrtent, in case bandwith is an issue…)? would be nice, thanks. :)

  4. Discussed at aaeblog.com

    Manifesto Manifests, Manifestly:

    […] has an official announcement of the release of the C4SS/ALL anthology Markets Not Capitalism, along […]

  5. Ashton

    Why doesn’t the anthology have anything on the rule of law in anarchistic society (assuming there would be anything remotely resembling the “rule of law”)?

    I’m interested in this, and responses to the Hobbesian and Lockean forms of the state of nature, which may be compared to anarchy.

    I think it is argued somewhere that without “rule of law” there is essentially chaos and a more deplorable situation than that of civil society.

    • Rad Geek


      This book may be more up your alley, then. I think it’s too heavily oriented towards the capitalistic end of things, but that’s a function of the ancaps having done most of the nuts-and-bolts writing on possible mechanisms of stateless dispute resolution. In any case it’s a huge reader and there is good stuff in there from Spooner, Tucker, de Cleyre, et al.

      We didn’t cover that ground in Markets Not Capitalism because the book is more narrowly focused on the debate over markets and capitalism; and there is already far more ground that we would have liked to cover than we were able to, without making the book unworkably long and prohibitively expensive.

      I think it is argued somewhere that without “rule of law” there is essentially chaos and a more deplorable situation than that of civil society.

      I think that depends on what rule of law is supposed to mean. In any case Anarchists are not opposed to civil society. What we oppose is the attempt by one social institution (the State) to dominate civil society, to violently reshape it to its own ends, and to monopolize social processes which could be handled more peacefully and mutually by other social institutions or different kinds of social processes within civil society.

  6. Discussed at reasonandjest.com

    Articles to begin the Week » ReasonAndJest.com:

    […] Rad Geek: Introduction to Charles Johnson and Gary Chartier’s book, Markets Not Capitalism: Individualis… […]

  7. Cassandra Troy

    This book is intended as an extended introduction to the economic and social theory of left-wing market anarchism. Market anarchism is a radically individualist and anti-capitalist social movement.

    A truly warped and absurd analysis so as to be able to maintain the moral superiority of the Left-winger! Current system isn’t capitalist, it’s fascist! It’s ‘market anarchy’ that is capitalism. How can you string a sentence together in which a ‘social theory’ is at the same time radically individualist! This is how the Left is continually bastardizing philosophy and changing definitions. Mrely the latest postmodern monstrum. Brrrr

    • Roderick T. Long

      Current system isn’t capitalist, it’s fascist! It’s ‘market anarchy’ that is capitalism.

      Maybe so, but there are good reasons not to use the term “capitalism” to refer to free markets. Gary Chartier talks about some of them here.

      How can you string a sentence together in which a ‘social theory’ is at the same time radically individualist!

      Why not? What’s the problem? Don’t radical individualists do social theory too? Are you using the phrase “social theory” with some special nonstandard meaning?

      This is how the Left is continually bastardizing philosophy and changing definitions.

      Are you aware of the actual history of the term “capitalism”?

  8. Discussed at libertarianation.org

    Abbasso il capitalismo! Semanticamente… | libertariaNation:

    […] da Market not capitalism: individualist anarchism against bosses, inequality, corporate power and structural poverty, Chartier & Johnson. […]

  9. Discussed at www.agorist.dk

    Fredagslinks 30/10/11 | Agorist.dk:

    […] Johnson bringer udddrag fra bogen “Markets not Capitalism”, som han har udgivet sammen med Gary Chartier. Hvis ikke du har downloadet den gratis eller bestilt […]

· November 2011 ·

  1. Discussed at thinkingliberty.net

    Thinking Liberty » 2011-11-03:

    […] Gary Chartier and Charles “Radgeek” Johnson join us to speak about their new book,  Markets Not Capitalism!; the Racing Hall of Fame; Bosco chastises the chatroom; Gary and Charles speaks about education […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2011-11-28 – Markets Not Capitalism in the Gnu’s:

    […] I’m happy to say that Markets Not Capitalism is now available for sale on the shelves of my favorite bookstore, The Gnu’s Room, here in […]

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-01-26 – Rad Geek Speaks: Markets Not Capitalism in Austin, Texas (Feb. 4-5, 2012):

    […] am happy to announce that Markets Not Capitalism is coming to Austin, Texas next weekend. I will be appearing at Brave New Books near the UT campus, […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-02-03 – Markets Not Capitalism on tour!:

    […] and contributor Charles Johnson will be here for a discussion of his new book, Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Str… (Autonomedia, Nov. […]

  3. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-03-04 – Shameless Self-promotion Sunday: This Really is the Final Straw:

    […] a number of interviews out recently that Gary and I have done for Markets Not Capitalism. I’m going to do a fuller post collecting them later this evening, but in the meantime we […]

  4. Discussed at bastiat.mises.org

    Baiting-and-Switching the Left :: The Circle Bastiat:

    […] left-libertarians have wanted to redefine “capitalism” negatively for a while: basically to mean “corporatism.”  Now […]

  5. Discussed at ne.libertarianleft.org

    The Importance of Communication (Re-)Learned: ALL-oNE goes to the 6th NYC Anarchist Bookfair! | ALL-oNE:

    […] been laid out (in my opinion) by Gary Chartier here and here and of course in a much bigger way in Markets Not Capitalism (the PDF can be found here) so I’m not gonna try to duplicate what has already been done […]

  6. Discussed at notesandobservations.me

    Quotes of the Day | Notes & Observations:

    […] Sanchez: Many left-libertarians have wanted to redefine “capitalism” negatively for a while: basically to mean “corporatism.”  Now self-styled […]

  7. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2012-09-23 – Rad Geek Speaks: In which I join an Anti-Capitalist Mob at Libertopia:

    […] of a panel discussion on Markets Not Capitalism, together with my co-editor Gary Chartier, and contributors Roderick Long and Sheldon Richman. […]

  8. Discussed at bleedingheartlibertarians.com

    The Bold and the Desirable: A Prophecy and a Proposal | Bleeding Heart Libertarians:

    […] distinctionsat the drop of a hat. Most famously left-wing market anarchists insist that we defend ‘free markets’ but not ‘capitalism’ – insisting that these are not synonyms, and drawing a sharp analytic distinction between the […]

— 2013 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-03-23 – Toward A Really Social Safety Net:

    […] other regressive and repressive functions of government — that we prioritize. (On which, see Markets Not Capitalism, etc.) And, second, to insist on the essential importance of positive grassroots, community-based […]

  2. Discussed at commonsandeconomics.org

    Can we liberate the market through commons governance? | ECC 2013 – Communication Platform:

    […] then it would be a free market in its true sense. To refer to this concept, the editors of the book Markets, Not Capitalism use the term “freed markets”, in the sense that these markets would be freed or […]

  3. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-08-14 – Karl Hess on anarchocapitalism:

    […] you may know, I’ve got some opinions about capitalism, and about the idea of anarcho-capitalism. I think that anarcho-capitalism is an incoherent goal, […]

  4. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-09-11 – We Will: The Radical Possibilities of Freed-Market Social Activism:

    […] of the Five Pillars of left-wing market anarchism that Gary Chartier and I identify in the Introduction to Markets Not Capitalism is a commitment to the radical possibilities of market social […]

  5. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2013-12-12 – Markets Not Capitalism on the Air!:

    […] Chartier will be appearing on the John Stossel show on Fox Business Network, to discuss our book, Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Str…. We just got confirmation from the show that the segment would be airing tonight; here’s a […]

— 2014 —

  1. Discussed at www.blagnet.net

    Blagnet.net » Did he do a billion dollars’ worth of work?:

    […] his cold, dead hands out of my pockets. The rest is all details, as far as I’m concerned," and, "The centrifugal tendency of markets: market anarchists see freed markets, under conditions of free competition, as tending to diffuse […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-01-28 – Welcome, Reasoners:

    […] Introduction to Markets Not Capitalism (14 October 2011) […]

  3. Discussed at iadorepeople.wordpress.com

    four things about me | i adore people:

    […] should be abolished. my particular tendency, which could be pretty much summed up my reading the most awesome blog on the internet, means that i have sympathies with both the commie and cappie sides (are ancaps anarchists? i […]

  4. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2014-11-05 – Markets Not Capitalism lets threedom ring:

    […] remember the Fifth of November 2014 is the third anniversary of the publication of Markets Not Capitalism. Many happy returns; and countless thanks to my friend and co-editor Gary Chartier, and to our […]

— 2015 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People's Daily 2015-11-05 – Markets Not Capitalism’s Fourth Fifth:

    […] remember the Fifth of November 2015 is the fourth anniversary of the publication of Markets Not Capitalism. Many happy returns; and countless thanks to my friend and co-editor Gary Chartier, and to our […]

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