Saturday, April 5, 2008
Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (April 17, 1854 – June 22, 1939) was the leading proponent of American individualist anarchism in the 19th century.
The Four Monopolies
Tucker did not have a utopian vision of anarchy where individuals would not coerce others.
Tucker's periodical also served as the main conduit of Stirnerite Egoism, of which Tucker became a proponent. This led to a split in American Individualism between the growing number of Egoists and the contemporary Spoonerian "Natural Lawyers". Both Egoists and Natural Law theorists rejected coercive authority, involuntary legislation, and the notion of a "social contract." However, they differed over the philosophical basis for their individualism: Natural Law theory derived it from a conception of a natural individual right to be free from coercion, whereas Egoism defended anarchism as a pragmatic compromise in a system where each individual sought only self-interest and where nothing was immoral. As a result of Tucker's egoist foundation, he began to favor consequentialism over deontological rules. For example, he believed that aggressing against other was justifiable if doing so led to a greater decrease in "aggregate pain" than refraining from doing so. He said:
the ultimate end of human endeavor is the minimum of pain. We aim to decrease invasion only because, as a rule, invasion increases the total of pain (meaning, of course, pain suffered by the ego, whether directly or through sympathy with others). But it is precisely my contention that this rule, despite the immense importance which I place upon it, is not absolute; that, on the contrary, there are exceptional cases where invasion--that is, coercion of the non-invasive--lessens the aggregate pain. Therefore coercion of the non-invasive, when justifiable at all, is to be justified on the ground that it secures, not a minimum of invasion, but a minimum of pain. . . . [T]o me [it is] axiomatic--that the ultimate end is the minimum of pain
Conversion to Egoist individualist anarchism
In 1908, a fire destroyed Tucker's uninsured printing equipment and his 30-year stock of books and pamphlets. Tucker's lover, Pearl Johnson — 25 years his junior — was pregnant with their daughter, Oriole Tucker. Six weeks after Oriole's birth, Tucker closed both Liberty and the book shop and retired with his family to France. In 1913, he came out of retirement for two years to contribute articles and letters to The New Freewoman which he called "the most important publication in existence."
Late in life, Tucker became much more pessimistic about the prospects for anarchism. In 1926, Vanguard Press published a selection of his writings entitled Individual Liberty, in which Tucker added a postscript to "State Socialism and Anarchism", which stated "Forty years ago, when the foregoing essay was written, the denial of competition had not yet effected the enormous concentration of wealth that now so gravely threatens social order. It was not yet too late to stem the current of accumulation by a reversal of the policy of monopoly. The Anarchistic remedy was still applicable." But, Tucker argued, "Today the way is not so clear. The four monopolies, unhindered, have made possible the modern development of the trust, and the trust is now a monster which I fear, even the freest banking, could it be instituted, would be unable to destroy. ... If this be true, then monopoly, which can be controlled permanently only for economic forces, has passed for the moment beyond their reach, and must be grappled with for a time solely by forces political or revolutionary. Until measures of forcible confiscation, through the State or in defiance of it, shall have abolished the concentrations that monopoly has created, the economic solution proposed by Anarchism and outlined in the forgoing pages – and there is no other solution – will remain a thing to be taught to the rising generation, that conditions may be favorable to its application after the great leveling. But education is a slow process, and may not come too quickly. Anarchists who endeavor to hasten it by joining in the propaganda of State Socialism or revolution make a sad mistake indeed. They help to so force the march of events that the people will not have time to find out, by the study of their experience, that their troubles have been due to the rejection of competition."
In private correspondence, he wrote: "Capitalism is at least tolerable, which cannot be said of Socialism or Communism"
Born April 17, 1854 in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts.
August 1881 to April 1908 — published the periodical, Liberty, "widely considered to be the finest individualist-anarchist periodical ever issued in the English language."
1872 — While a student at M.I.T., Tucker attended a convention of the New England Labor Reform League in Boston, chaired by William B. Greene, author of Mutual Banking (1850). At the convention, Tucker purchased Mutual Banking, True Civilization, and a set of Ezra Heywood's pamphlets. Furthermore, Free-love anarchist, Ezra Heywood introduced Tucker to William B. Greene and Josiah Warren, author of True Civilization (1869). He also started a relationship with Victoria Woodhull at this time, lasting for 3 years.
1876 — Tucker's debut into radical circles: Heywood published Tucker's English translation of Proudhon's classic work What is Property?.
1877-1878 — Published his original journal, Radical Review, which lasted four issues.
1892 — moved Liberty from Boston to New York
1906 — Opened Tucker's Unique Book Shop in New York City — promoting "Egoism in Philosophy, Anarchism in Politics, Iconoclasm in Art".
1908 — A fire destroyed Tucker's uninsured printing equipment and his 30-year stock of books and pamphlets. Tucker's lover, Pearl Johnson — 25 years his junior — was pregnant with their daughter, Oriole Tucker. Six weeks after Oriole's birth, Tucker closed both Liberty and the book shop and moved his family to France.
1913 — Tucker comes out of retirement for two years to contribute articles and letters to The New Freewoman which he called "the most important publication in existence"
1939 — Tucker died in Monaco, in the company of his lover Pearl Johnson and their daughter, Oriole, who reported, "Father's attitude towards communism never changed one whit, nor about religion.... In his last months he called in the French housekeeper. 'I want her,' he said, 'to be a witness that on my death bed I'm not recanting. I do not believe in God!" See also
Instead of a Book, by a Man Too Busy to Write One (1893, 1897)
Travelling in Liberty: a complete online archive of Tucker's journal Liberty (1881–1908)
Several works by Tucker at Anarchy Archives
Posted by gigihong07 at 9:47 AM