Categories
Intellectual history Think Piece

Romanticism before Romanticism?: Anglo-Rioplatense Cultural Encounters in the Early Nineteenth-Century (1806-1834)

By Daniela Paolini

Chronologies do not necessarily match among different societies, and the variation in Romantic periods across the globe is a good example of that. We could say that Britain, along with Germany, was the birthplace of Romanticism, an aesthetic tendency that emerged at the end of the 18th century, spread through Europe during the first decades of the next century, until it reached the Río de la Plata region –most of which would become present-day Argentina and Uruguay– thanks to the poet Esteban Echeverría, who brought the literary novelties from his trip to Paris. Thus, influenced by French Romanticism, Echeverría published Los consuelos, usually considered the first Rioplatense romantic work, in 1834, at a time when British Romanticism was extinguishing. This is a general but well-established approach to the diffusion of Romanticism as a literary movement, which goes from the center of Western culture to its margins with a certain delay, as if the “denial of coevalness” –the distancing in time of contemporary cultures made by the anthropological observer– could also be applied to processes of transculturation. However, before the alleged incorporation of French Romanticism via Echeverría, the creole elite of the Río de la Plata saw Britain as a desirable ally and model for the future nation; furthermore, economic, political, and cultural relations were frequent between the two during Britain’s Romantic period. Is it possible then to think that the cultural practices and discourses of Romanticism could have had an earlier impact in this part of Latin America, through the bonds that Rioplatenses and Britons forged in the first third of the 19th century?

This question is the starting point of my research on the cultural encounters between Great Britain and the Río de la Plata between 1806 and 1834, in which I consider the synchrony of these encounters with the rising of British Romanticism. Taking this into account, I turn to the analysis of periodicals, letters, poems, memoirs, biographies, historical essays, and travel narratives that deal with these Anglo-Rioplatense networks and that indicate changes in Río de la Plata’s ways of perceiving, understanding, and feeling, which can be related to the cultural sensibility emerging in Britain during the Romantic age. The chronological frame covers the period of British Romanticism’s major activity and ends up before the rise of the avowedly Romantic 1837 Generation, a group of young intellectuals led by Echeverría, whose literary and political programs would be tied to the fight against the second government of Juan Manuel de Rosas (1835-1852). Prioritizing direct encounters –i.e., those that occur by in situ contacts through wars, travels and settlements– and readings that are not mediated by other cultures –in English and in Spanish, or in translations between these two–, I focus on four contact zones: the British occupations of Buenos Aires and Montevideo (1806-1807), the diplomatic journeys to London during the revolutionary years (1810-1816), the British residences in Río de la Plata since the British Invasions until the beginning of Rosas’s second government (1806-1835), and Rudolph Ackermann’s publications for Latin America, which circulated in Rioplatense society through this period (1823-1829).

The British invasions into the Río de la Plata marks a first contact zone, a concept that emphasizes the interactive, unforeseen, and mutually significant aspects of cultural encounters, even if they are determined by asymmetrical relations. While Britain turned its imperial ambitions to this part of Spanish America –conceiving the capture of Buenos Aires on the 27th of June 1806 as a chivalric enterprise, part of its crusade against Napoleonic expansion– the Rioplatenses experienced the loss of the Viceroyalty’s capital as a shock of modernity that disrupted the peaceful and stable course of colonial life. After forty-six days in which Buenos Aires belonged to the British Crown, the locals gathered in newly formed militias that recaptured the city on the 12th of August, a victory that infused, in the words of the British Major Alexander Gillespie, a “new spirit of chivalry” (Gleanings and Remarks, 1818) among the Rioplatenses, so initiating a militarization process that would later be crucial in the emancipation of the Spanish American colonies. In this sense, the war with the Britons modified the self-perception of the people of Buenos Aires as patriots and warriors, in a similar way as how Romantic Britain saw its fight in the Napoleonic wars through an imaginary recovery of Medieval values, like bravery, honor, and spiritual devotion. The second British attempt to take Buenos Aires over in July 1807, made while seizing control of Montevideo, brought with it a new media and visual experience, expressed in the circulation of British propaganda and of a bilingual periodical, The Southern Star (1807), which inaugurated the print culture of the Banda Oriental (present-day Uruguay). These materials politicized the Rioplatense public sphere by spreading ideas of free trade, freedom of expression and religious tolerance that advocated for new ways of living and engaging with the world, challenging the foundations of the colonial system.

After this frustrated enterprise, Britain became an important supporter of Spanish American emancipation, which was a means to expand its commercial and political power through alliance rather than formal imperial dominance. During the revolutionary years that led towards independence in the Río de la Plata (1810-1816), London was a key destination –and lieu of the second contact zone– as a negotiation center to open the local economy to the British and international markets, as a place of mediation in the disputes between the former colonies and the metropolis, and as a meeting point with other Spanish-American revolutionaries. However, far from being an ideal scenario, the English capital presented a complex situation, because the British government was trying to appear neutral in the conflict between Spain and its colonies, among other circumstances that hindered diplomatic relations. In this context, Rioplatenses envoys like Manuel Moreno and Vicente Pazos Kanki found another way to fulfill their missions through their insertion in the London periodical press and book market, partaking in the same cultural scene in which the British Romantics intervened. After the failure of the mission assigned to Mariano Moreno, who died at sea before reaching London, his brother Manuel Moreno had to find other means to fulfill the trip’s purpose and vindicate the memory of Mariano, accused by his opponents of being a Rioplatense version of Robespierre. With that in mind, he wrote and published in London the biography of his brother, Vida y memorias del Dr. Don Mariano Moreno (1812), where he depicts a moderate concept of the 1810 May Revolution more attractive to the conservative British eye, and an image of the deceased revolutionary that consecrates him as a civic hero, who sacrificed himself for an ideal. For Vicente Pazos Silva, the London experience meant an identity transformation, because during his stay he converted to Anglicanism, and on his return to Buenos Aires he adopted his mother’s indigenous name, replacing “Silva” for “Kanki”. This transformation can be linked with his future role as a cultural organizer in the Rioplatense press and with his way of recovering the past, customs, and languages of the Native-Americans in his Letters on the United Provinces of South America (1819), which manifests his interest in historical reconstruction to better understand the contemporary situation of the South American countries. Thus, Moreno’s and Pazos’s literary operations can be associated to the formation of Romantic culture in Britain, characterized by the disenchantment with concrete political action, the propagation of nationalist sentiments and historicist discourses, and the construction of the Romantic hero as a misunderstood and sacrificed genius.

In the 1820s, British interest in Spanish America began to increase as a result of invitations to emigrate and to invest economically in the promising new republics. In the Río de la Plata, the Minister of Government in Buenos Aires, Bernardino Rivadavia, applied a modernization plan that encouraged a considerable number of British foreigners to reside and establish their businesses in the region, whose residences shaped the third contact zone of this research. A group of them, including Santiago Spencer Wilde, financed the creation of a park inspired by London’s Vauxhall Garden, the Parque Argentino, where people could promenade in an environment adorned with exotic plants and be entertained by theatrical and circus performances. British merchants influenced the acquisition of a local taste for foreign commodities, popularizing tableware patterns with rural and exotic motifs, which embodied the feeling of romantic nostalgia in the face of advancing industrialization. The social ties between Britons like John and William Parish Robertson (Letters on South America, 1843) and members of the Rioplatense elite like Ignacio Núñez (Noticias Históricas de la República Argentina, 1857)and Mariquita Sánchez de Thompson (Recuerdos de la Buenos Aires Virreinal, c.1860) inspired the adoption of new habits and manners, such as greeting each other at the table with a glass or walking arm in arm, practices that are associated with the shape of a more modern and liberal society. These changes in customs and fashions and in ways of inhabiting the land which separates work and leisure, public and private, rural and urban spaces are sustained by a romantic experience of the visual, leading to a gradual awareness that the visible depends as much on the perceptible as on the imagined.

Rudolph Ackermann’s cultural project for Latin America is the last contact zone of this series. The German publisher, bookseller, inventor, and businessman, settled in London since 1787, was a relevant figure that contributed to the shaping of middle-class culture in Early 19th century Britain. He saw works of art as commodities that could facilitate the democratization of good taste, and his colorful plates and engravings, magazines, and other publications meant to teach cultural literacy to their audience. This type of undertaking attracted the attention of Spanish-American representatives in London that wanted to civilize their countries through the dissemination of enlightened knowledge, like Rivadavia, who attended Ackermann’s literary meetings in the 1810s. Rivadavia, who later became the first president of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (1826-1827), arranged with the businessman the importation of magazines (e.g. Variedades o el mensajero de Londres, 1823-1825), books (e.g. Spanish Translation of Ivanhoe, 1825), literary annuals (No me olvides, 1824-1829), and secular catechisms made by a group of liberal Spaniards exiled in London, among them José María Blanco White and José Joaquín de Mora. These writers –often included in what is called Transatlantic Romanticism– managed to use Ackermann’s publications to disseminate their aesthetic and ideological interests, which contrasted with what they considered “frivolous” aspects of sections dedicated to fashion or picturesque travel. Such contrasts materialized the disputes at stake in Romantic era Britain, transmitting tensions between high culture and mass culture, knowledge and entertainment, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, to the Rioplatense reading public.  

These encounters between Great Britain and the Río de la Plata show the many forms in which cultural connections can be manifested, such as through sociability, intervention in the public sphere, taste acquisition, or cultural ventures. This way, we seek to detect unexpected phenomena of transculturation, that are affected by an emerging state of new experiences –which we can critically described as “romantic”– in a period of Argentine and Uruguayan cultural history considered predominantly Neoclassical. By looking for transformations in sensibility –changes in ideas and concepts, but also in emotions, beliefs, values, and perceptions that are not necessarily defined or rationalized at the moment they are experienced– we can explore how contact with British culture prepared the sociocultural setting of the Río de la Plata for the assimilation of Romantic sensibility at a time prior to its appearance as a literary movement.


Daniela Paolini is a doctoral candidate at the Universidad de Buenos Aires working on cultural encounters between the Río de la Plata area and Great Britain during Britain’s Romantic Period. Currently, she also teaches 19th century Argentine Literature at this university and, as a doctoral fellow, she develops her research at the Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana. She has published an article on Mariano Moreno’s biography in Cuadernos de Ilustración y Romanticismo and a chapter in a book on Gothic Fiction in Argentine Literature, both in open access.

Edited by Pablo Martínez Gramuglia.

Featured Image: La Reconquista de Buenos Aires (1909) by Charles Fouqueray. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Categories
Intellectual history

Classes and Masses in the History of Political Thought: 13th Annual London Graduate Conference

By David Klemperer


The history of ideas has something of a reputational issue. Within the world of historical scholarship, it is all too commonly seen as irredeemably elitist and idealist – narrowly focused on small groups of canonical intellectuals and ignoring the broader social reality of their eras. With these criticisms in mind, the London political thought graduate committee chose “Classes and Masses” as the theme for our 2022 annual conference: we wanted to bring social context and mass politics into the foreground of the history of political thought. We also wanted to bring in contributions from students outside of the history of political thought as traditionally conceived – those who might not see themselves as intellectual historians but whose research nonetheless engages with the formation, articulation, and diffusion of political ideas.

The result was a conference that featured an impressive array of disciplines, approaches, and methodologies – ranging from political theory and ideology studies, through “Cambridge-school” intellectual history and “new” political history, to social history, cultural history, and subaltern studies. Notably, the presentations drew on a highly diverse range of sources – not just the usual books, journals, articles, and letters, but also sociological research archives, prisoner manifestos, pedagogical manuals, and police reports of pub conversations. Although varying widely in geographic and temporal scope, many papers addressed some shared core themes: examining how ideas and intellectuals operate within mass politics; showing how ideas have been shaped by social context; and exploring the different languages through which class and other social divisions have been expressed.

***

This was certainly no return to crude socio-economic determinism. After opening the conference with Manic Street Preachers song “The masses against the classes” – the title of which is a quotation from William Gladstone – Gareth Stedman-Jones used his wide-ranging introductory address to lay out how the interplay of class division and mass participation was central to nineteenth-century politics. His argument, however, was that class conflict was more about constitutional doctrines than capitalism, with the proletariat defined by political exclusion rather than economic exploitation. Likewise, in her address on the mass politics of Garveyism, keynote speaker Adom Getachew drew on Adam Przeworksi to insist that both classes and races must be understood as effects, not causes, of political struggle. She argued the task of historians is to investigate how these categories were constructed intellectually and through cultural practice.

Ideas then, are not epiphenomenal. But nor do they constitute a sphere apart. What both speakers provided was an insistence that ideas are central to politics, and that they must be studied as part-and-parcel of its rough-and-tumble. Ideas operate at all levels of society, and not merely through an elite standing above it.

***

Indeed, a key theme that emerged from the conference was the idea that we can and should approach political thought as a mass phenomenon. Perhaps most notable in this regard was Rebecca Goldsmith’s paper on vernacular languages of class in the English town of Bolton in the interwar period. Arguing that we can and should “place official political language and everyday speech in the same analytical frame,” she drew on Mass Observation archives to reconstruct the “informal political thought of the masses” as related to class politics. At the same time, there was a distinct lack of emphasis across the papers on traditional canonical figures: to give one arresting example, although several presenters addressed Marxism, not one focused on Marx himself: instead, participants discussed the ideas that emerged from Marxist mass movements.

Successive speakers creatively engaged with issues of how ideas were transmitted within political movements, and how these processes of transmission reshaped them: Emily Evans called our attention to the importance of political pedagogy, arguing that Rosa Luxemburg’s experience at the German Social Democratic Party’s cadre-school shaped her intellectual project, and that her economics textbooks should be accorded a central place in her corpus; Edoardo Vaccari’s paper on 1930s Italian socialism emphasized how exile journals functioned as sites of intellectual collaboration for decentralized underground resistance networks; Molly Carlin showed how manifestos smuggled between prisons came to provide the foundations for the “incarcerated class” as a political identity in the post-war United States. Most explicitly, Julia Damphouse used her presentation on anti-colonial attitudes within the German Empire’s working classes to challenge the notion that such ideas were purely the product of downwards transmission from intellectual elites.

Some papers honed in directly on this question of how intellectuals related to political movements: Tanroop Sandhu’s discussion of Shapurji Saklatvala and Rajani Palme Dutt explored how these anti-colonial Marxist activists exiled in London conceived of their place both within the broader struggle for Indian independence, and within international communism; Nick Garland meanwhile examined how Labour Party-aligned intellectuals in 1970s and 1980s Britain imagined the “radical intelligentsia,” demonstrating how both social democratic revisionists and the New Left ultimately ended up sharing a similar conception of progressive politics – one in which an educated middle-class strata would provide leadership to a mass working class base.

***

Beyond mass movements, several participants highlighted how concrete socio-economic context can be key to making sense of intellectual constructs. For instance, Sam Harrison’s brilliant dissection of the constitutional distinction between “active” and “passive” citizens in the French Revolution demonstrated the importance of understanding the internal economic migration, and the concurrent changes to the social composition of France’s urban centers, that occurred over the eighteenth century; by examining precisely who was and was not included in various Revolution-era franchises, he made a boldly revisionist case for seeing suffrage restrictions on so-called “passive citizens” as based not on horror of poverty, but on suspicion of the geographically mobile. Similarly, by showing how François Guizot’s liberalism was rooted in a unique historical analysis of how France’s social structure had evolved, Madeleine Rouot’s paper successfully presented the nineteenth-century politician as more anti-authoritarian than traditionally assumed.

Perhaps most striking in this regard was Matteo Rossi’s paper on the famous and influential idea of the United States as a “classless society.” Tracing the origins of this notion to the writings of political economists in 1820s and 1830s Philadelphia, he reconstructed the social and political context of the city in the era to show how it was developed as a specific political response – to the egalitarian claims of radical agitators in a period of heightened labor unrest. The concept of “classlessness” was thus a product of intense class conflict, and we should therefore see it not as a neutral term of analysis, but as a deliberate ideological weapon in the hands of the opponents of the nascent trade union movement.

***

A final key theme of the conference was that many papers explored the different rhetorical means through which social divisions have been expressed – the various “languages of class” (as Gareth Stedman-Jones entitled his 1983 book). Joan O’Bryan and Madeleine Rouot both emphasized the significance of (often speculative) historical “origin stories”: the former in the case of second-wave American feminists who provided creative accounts of humanity’s division into sex-classes; the latter in the case of François Guizot, who sought to explain the historical significance of the aristocracy. More surprisingly, Rida Vaquas set out how twentieth-century German catholic socialist Walter Dirks developed a concept of the proletariat that was above all theological, and largely expressed through a Christian language of suffering.

Importantly, several papers drew attention to how ethnic or place-based identities frequently served as an ideological proxy for class, and to the political impacts that this could have. Adom Getachew’s keynote discussed how Marcus Garvey assigned Africans the status of the “universal race,” essentially taking over the role of the “universal class” assigned by Marx to the proletariat. Rebecca Goldsmith meanwhile showed how in 1930s Bolton, rhetoric of local experience and regional identity proved to be the most politically effective languages of class politics for the local Labour Party; crucially, they proved to have far more electoral resonance than overt appeals to economic status. Most dramatically, Tom Musgrove’s account of British responses to the Macedonian “Folk War” in the early 1900s showed how socialist “experts” on the Balkans came to equate a national conflict between Greeks and Bulgarians with urban-rural class struggle, ultimately leading them to justify ethnic cleansing as progressive.

Taken together, the papers at the conference (of which those discussed here are only some!) highlighted the historical plurality of how class has been articulated and the persistent importance of social divisions to political thought. They also showed the value of engaging with social context, and the utility of considering how ideas function within the framework of mass politics. But perhaps most importantly, this conference demonstrated the importance of an outward-facing approach to the history of political thought.  The most productive conversations are to be had through looking beyond our disciplinary boundaries, and by engaging with the wider historical community to put different methodologies and focuses into dialogue. This conference has served as an example of what can achieved when we do so.


David Klemperer is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London, researching the political and intellectual history of interwar French socialism. He is a member of the Organising Committee for the Annual London Graduate Conference in the History of Political Thought, and a Contributing Editor at Tocqueville21. He writes here in a personal capacity. He can be found on Twitter at @dmk1793.

Edited by Tom Furse

Featured Image: 13th Annual London Graduate Conference poster.

Categories
Think Piece

Listening to Geese: The Non-Human, Art, and The Possibilities of Global Thought (Part I)

By Nina Fouilloux

One of the most prevalent issues in Canada today, that has dominated media coverage, the Supreme Court, scholarship, and activism, is the concession of land in Canada to its Indigenous peoples. Countless court cases have been held over decades, where judges and Indigenous advocates are left to interpret the vague land claims in Canadian law. Although many successes have been achieved, notably the creation of section 35 in the Constitution Act which grants Indigenous peoples land claims, the more court cases arise, the more the court is left to interpret what exactly these land claims entail: R. v. Sioui (1990) left the court wondering whether or not land agreements made in the eighteenth century were still valid in contemporary times, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997) left judges debating whether or not oral history could be used as evidence for a land claim, and Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia (2014) highlighted whether a land claim required regular occupation of the land in question. This large disconnect between what the law addresses and what cases are actually being brought forward is emblematic of the competing theories at stake when it comes to managing land in Canada: there is Indigenous land theory, which has been given little to no authority for centuries, and Euro-Canadian theory, which has dominated and structured all of Canada since its colonization period. Reconciling these theories has proven to be a highly emotional and contentious affair, worsening national division, and echoing issues of land, belonging and borders across Turtle Island and the world. What I propose in this study is a mediation to this debate, an encouragement to broaden our use of theory, and a uniquely Canadian solution: listening to geese.

We all have memories of them, whether it be getting pecked in the park or discovering a flock in a corner of the Earth you never thought possible, every Canadian remembers looking up at the sky in bewilderment at a large “V” formation, with its sporadic loud cackle drifting away in the wind. The beaver may be the national animal of Canada, and the polar bear may be its rarest sight, but the Canadian goose is truly Canada’s national symbol. My mother used to point to them in the sky when I was young and cup her hands to yell: “You’re flying the wrong way, Mexico is that way!”. Despite her comedic attempts, the geese were most likely flying the right way. In fact, geese have a strict migratory pattern determined by the seasons: in colder months, they fly down south to escape the chill and find food, and in warmer months, they fly back north to reproduce. Due to this, Canadian geese can be found in most parts of North America and have a unique reputation for not respecting boundaries: geese are often considered pests for nesting on private properties like golf courses and will even be culled in areas where they are deemed unwanted. Despite this, the geese do not cease; they are not interested in performing border politics, they cannot differentiate private property from public, and they interact differently with land than most humans do.

In response to the debate mentioned above and the theoretical limitations that exist, I will attempt to demonstrate how considering an undervalued theoretical angle: that of the non-human, can help broaden our use of theory to find solutions to global and complex issues. On top of this, I will vow for the use of creative art in helping provide theoretical framework in which to conceptualize global theory. In relying on the framework set out by researcher Thom van Dooren on human and non-human relationships, this study will find that theorizing the movement and behavior of Canadian geese allows for the exploration of concepts related to land, such as borders and private property, in a broader way that creates a dialectical process between the human and non-human, which in turn, participates in the creation of a more holistic approach to theory.

Known for his pioneering research on crows around the world, Professor Thom van Dooren is an advocate of “field philosophy”, a type of philosophy which emphasizes a hands-on approach to theorizing the world, a method which van Dooren utilizes heavily in his study of the non-human. It is out of this that van Dooren elaborates his theory on “multispecies ethics” which operates on the basis that it is possible to live in harmony with other species when considering different world views around an issue, for example, climate change and its effects on humans and crows. Therefore, in studying different crow groups around the world, van Dooren was able to create a “two-species ethics” for how crows and humans can interact with their environment; he does so by outlining how each group interacts differently or similarly with concepts such as hope, community, and sacrifice. The main aspect of van Dooren’s research that is relevant to us is his push to “think with others”, which he describes as a “philosophy that is engaged and committed, interdisciplinary and experimental, grounded in collaboratively imagining, understanding, and crafting better possibilities for life.” It is within this push to “think with others” that I propose to “listen to geese”. Listening to geese is similar to thinking with crows: it does not entail extracting how the non-human thinks about an issue and then attempting to respond in that exact same way, but rather it is about broadening our philosophical landscape, collecting data from different sources in order to find solutions that cater to a larger group. Therefore, the first concept Canadian geese and their interactions with land allows us to reflect on in that of borders.

For Canadian geese, borders are determined by physiological changes in their bodies, not by politics. Studies in goose migration find that there are several physiological reactions that make geese know when and where to migrate, including sun positioning, olfactory stimuli, and magnetoception. All of these methods give Canadian geese somewhat of an internal compass, but it remains difficult for scientists to explain exactly why geese know where to return to the same places every year. Nonetheless, since geese must travel and follow their internal signal to ensure their survival, they naturally cross borders without question: geese can be found all over Canada, the United States and in northern Mexico. Beyond North America, the geese have been introduced in Europe in countries such as the United Kingdom, Finland, and Sweden, but also in places such as New Zealand, Chile, and Japan. It is this seeming boundlessness and global citizenship that has made the goose a symbol of freedom and a sort of challenge to the idea of nationally constructed borders. Here, we see the idea of borders themselves as challenged by the goose’s movement: they cannot respect politically determined borders as they simply do not see them and cannot respect them at the risk of their livelihood. Thus, by considering that the non-human, in this case, geese, do not see borders and thus cannot follow border politics adequately, we are then capable of putting the notion of borders into question and considering their fluidity and potential to change, as well as the potential for territory to be shared throughout different seasons and between different species and people. However, goose theory can go much further.

Another concept that Canadian geese compel us to think about in relation to land is that of “private property”, notably due to the fact that geese are considered pests when they are on “human property”. In fact, in areas where they are considered pests, hunting will be increased. In New Zealand in 2011, farmers who deemed Canadian geese as damaging to their crops successfully lobbied the government in order to have the geese be considered as abundant hunting game, putting them on the same scale as sparrows and pigeons, considerably increasing their risk of being killed. On the other hand, in 2018, the West Essex Golf Club in England, employed hunters in order to control the number of Canadian geese on their courses which they deemed got in the way of player’s shot’s. If we consider the point made earlier, that geese do not perform borders like we do, it is easy to see how, when putting the non-human and human in relation to each other, some ideas, here, that of private property, simply cannot coexist, compelling us to remember that the concept itself is a Western European construct that is not necessarily incontestable.

On top of these lessons which rely mostly on the freedom of the goose’s movement, there are many we can learn from their compromise as well. In fact, despite its seaming boundlessness, the Canada goose does know the “here” from the “there”: even if it does not understand crossing borders in the way we do, it still physiologically recognizes when it is in breeding grounds versus its feeding grounds, in some way meaning it can conceptualize borders similarly to how humans do. Thus, the Canada goose’s unconditional defiance of borders might actually not be much to romanticize. In fact, it has been shown that border walls, such as the U.S. – Mexico border can confuse Canadian geese during their migration, due to things like noise and light pollution, making them unable to migrate adequately, therefore putting their populations at risk. Similarly, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl has actually been shown to not be able to cross the U.S. – Mexico border walls, thus affecting its livelihood. Here, we see the emergence of an interesting dialectic between the human and non-human: it is not just that we as humans must “listen to geese” in order to find inter-human solutions, but that we must also create interspecies dialogue in order to mediate the negative effects that inter-human debates have on animals. Essentially, this requires reflecting on the concept of coexistence, something van Dooren places at the center of his multispecies ethics. Thus, when considering land and borders, it is relevant to explore what these concepts mean to all species involved. In doing this, dialogue on the need to reevaluate the ethos of borders can be created to mediate land debates in Canada. Moreover, this type of dialogue can go beyond the idea of borders and private property but can perhaps also allow for the revaluation of concepts such as land value, tradition, and community, which affects Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, but also the non-human.

When it comes to the land debate in Canada and similar debates around the world, there is no catch-all solution: Canadian geese themselves are not the answer, and exclusively theorizing the non-human is not the theoretical push needed to breach the limitations presented by the land debate. However, by listening to geese, we can remember to think, because in doing so, one can deconstruct ideas such as that of borders, challenge them, meditate on their meaning, which in turn, has the potential to change in order to promote harmony. It is this reevaluation of borders, through the lens of something that views them drastically differently than we do and is affected by them differently, that will help us enrich our global thought.  

Theorizing the non-human to discuss concepts of land may be novel, but in some ways, this theorization has already been occurring for decades in the works of Canadian artists, who’s creations are rarely ever considered as intellectual material with the potential to participate in the creation of theory. Part II will discuss how artists have been “listening to geese” for centuries and how art can pose as valued theoretical material.


Nina Fouilloux is a MA student at the University of St Andrews in Global Social and Political Thought. Her primary research interests revolve around Canadian politics and Indigenous studies, specifically Indigenous political thought and intellectual history, reconciliation, and decolonization. She holds a BA from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, with a double major in Political Science and Art History.

Edited by Shuvatri Dasgupta

Featured Image: Geese Family in Dowtown Toronto, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Categories
Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Jacob Jensen on Repurposing Mises: Murray Rothbard and the Birth of Anarchocapitalism



Jacob Jensen is an historian of modern America with special interests in the intellectual history of the public sector. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the Saxo Institute of the University of Copenhagen. His fellowship is part of the “Key Actors – Peopling the Neoliberal Economy” project, which examines how imaginary characters like the consumer, the entrepreneur, the investor, and the debtor have been articulated as role models of social behavior to legitimize the neoliberal economy.

He spoke to Elsa Costa a contributing editor about his essay, “Repurposing Mises: Murray Rothbard and the Birth of Anarchocapitalism,” which appeared in the JHI (83.2).


***


Elsa Costa: The “myth of the American frontier” occupies an ever greater position in Rothbard’s imagination over the course of his career. I was reminded, while reading your account, of recent journalism and scholarship on the connections between Rose Wilder Lane, who co-wrote the Little House on the Prairiebook series with her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the libertarian right. Wilder Lane has even been called one of the “founding mothers” of libertarianism along with Ayn Rand, with whom she corresponded for about a decade. The association between the pioneer era and radical libertarianism is, in other words, larger than just Rothbard, and appears to have been circulating as early as the 1930s, when Wilder Lane wrote her Credo, and certainly by the 1950s. Yet Rothbard does not appear to have settled on homesteading as the central image of his philosophy until much later. Instead, your piece speaks of a sustained engagement with the highly cosmopolitan Mises and, in the era of Left and Right, a tendency to focus on urban issues. Did Rothbard’s interest in homesteading predate the manifesto of 1973? And how do you think he came to see it as reconcilable with Mises?

Jacob Jensen: This is a terrific question. As you point out, the myth of the frontier serves an important ideological purpose within libertarian thought. Rose Wilder Lane is an important early example. The current libertarian fascination with seasteading is a more recent one. Libertarianism is a very American body of thought in the sense that it relies so heavily on an idealized image of rugged individualist settlers. This also points to an important difference between neoliberalism and libertarianism. Neoliberals emphasize entrepreneurship and universalized conceptions of entrepreneurship, meaning that everyone has the potential for innovation. Their concern is with market processes and their extension to all spheres of life. Libertarians rely on a more heroic vision of homesteaders claiming their land. Their concern is not really with markets. They are concerned with property rights – to individuals’ right to possession of land and material goods, on the one hand, and to individuals’ right to their own body, on the other. Property rights were also a cornerstone in Mises’s work, but for a very different purpose. Mises responded to interwar Viennese debates about the collective ownership of the means of production. Though they overlapped in their concern with property rights, Mises’s intention was to prove the superiority of free enterprise compared to public production. By contrast, Rothbard came to homesteading in the early 1970s in response to the egalitarian thrust of the New Left. Whereas he was enthusiastic about Black Nationalism, the anti-war movement, and aspects of the counter-culture (especially the call for free drugs), he despised the egalitarianism of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement. These movements sought a leveling of social hierarchies that went against Rothbard’s biological individualism. He believed that nature determined inequality. This emphasis on nature, I think, ultimately led him to homesteading as the core expression of individual property rights. It allowed him to isolate the individual in an unregulated frontier setting where only the strongest would survive.

EC: Following up on my first question, you clearly show the degree to which Rothbard’s commitments stayed substantially unmoved following his conversion to libertarian anarchism around 1950. However, there seems to be some internal tension in Rothbard’s belief system, as well as those of his successors, between the individual or family unit and the community unit, as well as some ambiguity in how the latter is circumscribed. The racially-defined community shows up early in Rothbard’s thought, in his approbation for both the Black Panthers and for the white power movements which opposed them. Rothbard appeared to believe that both movements were hardly political movements at all, but were rather accessing a simple truth about the human tendency to assort into self-governing ethnic communities. However, at other times, Rothbard seems to have imagined the community in terms of neighborhood governance rather than racial movements, which is a different heuristic, however much the two may have seemed compatible during Norman Mailer’s 1969 bid for Mayor of New York. Both conceptions of community, the racial and the hyperlocal, also appear to clash with the family unit in the ‘homesteading’ model, which has very little patience for community. How did Rothbard, and how do his intellectual heirs, deal with that tension?

JJ: I think this reflects a general, and very productive, tension within liberal thought. Recall Margaret Thatcher’s infamous refrain about society: “There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families.” Similarly, Melinda Cooper’s groundbreaking work shows the affinities between neoliberalism and the new social conservatism in their concern with family values. Rothbard and his heirs did not really deal with this tension. I think it speaks more to the different contexts in which his thought developed. In the 1960s, his hopes were high for neighborhood governance, which would allow ethnic communities to regulate their own affairs free from government interference. But as the 1960s came to a close, he became ever more concerned with the civil rights, women’s, and gay movements’ calls for egalitarianism. Whereas he saw in Black Nationalism a call for segregation similar to his own, the call for leveling social hierarchies was a direct challenge to his conception of individualism. That is why, I think, he went from emphasizing the isolation of the individual in ethnically defined nations, or communities, to emphasizing the isolation of the individual within the parameters of the household. Against the women’s rights movement, the man reigned supreme in this oikos.

EC: If I read it correctly, The article concludes that Rothbard was in large part responsible for the tendency of modern radical libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and members of the alt-right to substitute the “covenant” among members of a small, ethnically linked community for the traditional institutions of society: law, government, and even perhaps for the market itself. “Covenant” is here a secularized religious term and also recalls the Mayflower Compact, as well as the charters of the joint-stock companies, such as the Massachusetts Bay Company, which first colonized New England. Arguably, these early modern corporations were in turn economized versions of medieval corporate forms such as the confraternity or religious order. Rothbard’s persistent interest in communities and the ties which bind them, over and against the state, is often reminiscent of a neo-medieval corporatism, with race or ethnicity substituted for religious affiliation (for example, a confraternity’s devotion to a particular saint). This would explain his fascination with the Black Panthers. Yet this conflation of community ties with racial ties is far from natural or intuitive, and it is unclear how Rothbard would circumscribe ethnic identification (going by the simple black-white divide, the ensuing communities would be impossibly large). Nor does race seem to have any intuitive link with individualism, despite Rothbard’s insistence on deriving the latter from biological inequality. Can you speak a little on how Rothbard’s beliefs came to be so heavily racially inflected?

JJ: The point about the similarities between the libertarian covenant and neo-medieval corporatism is brilliant. As you point out, the intellectual origins of the covenant spring from the myth of the American frontier. In the absence of a state, the covenant becomes a crucial element in the maintenance of order. This seems like an odd position for a thinker who barely left New York because of an anxiety disorder. But I think it was a reflection of the very racially divided neighborhoods of that city, and the urban riots of the 1960s led him to the conclusion that the best thing would be for communities to divide along racial lines and govern their own affairs. Rather than having the central, or city, government intervene, he saw segregation as the way forward. His emphasis on biological inequality reinforced this position. The resort to biology is quite common among economic liberals, and it reflects the paradox of competition. On the one hand, for competition to work, competitors need to start from the same position. On the other hand, competition needs to result in an unequal outcome. Some liberals recognize that government intervention is necessary to level the playing field to make competition meaningful. Others, like Rothbard, simply point to spurious theories of biology to avoid opening the Pandora’s Box of government action. In that sense, they do not really care about competition. That is why he ends up emphasizing the frontier where land, in his idiosyncratic version of history, was plentiful and unused (sidestepping, or perhaps even celebrating, the violent appropriation of native land). In this vision, homesteaders banded together in contractually binding communities to protect their property. It is a vision that only makes sense against the background of the myth of the American frontier.


Elsa Costa is a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University, where she also received her Ph.D in 2021. Her research focuses on the evolution of theories of sovereignty in the early modern Ibero-American world, and she has published on a range of topics in the history of European and Latin American philosophy. She begins as Assistant Professor in Atlantic history at Fulbright University Vietnam in 2022.

Edited by Tom Furse

Featured Image: Murray Rothbard. GNU Free Documentation License

Categories
Virtual Issues

NonHuman Intellectual History—On the Treatment of Animals: Virtual Issue 1.2

Over its more than 80 years in print, the Journal of the History of Ideas has accumulated a pretty large archive. Oftentimes, that archive is representative of the history of intellectual history—its trends, priorities, methods. Sometimes, it involves scholarship that, by virtue of appearing once-in-a-while, cannot quite get either the visibility or the relevant context in which to be seen. 

With the Virtual Issues initiative on the JHIBlog, we propose to recall earlier articles from the JHI that fit with a particular subject or theme, and to place them in a new and current context. We do not pretend that the JHI could ever be comprehensive on these themes, and we are well aware of the limits of the journal’s success in addressing particular subjects. But as with every archive, all sorts of surprises await. With Virtual Issues, we bring out work that has some connection to current concerns, and to recall ways in which authors engaged a particular theme, including ways that may now be out of fashion but that are suggestive of past trends. Each Virtual Issue—the first being Nonhumans in Intellectual History, to appear in several installments—features an introduction that resituates these articles. Anyone interested in curating such an issue together with us should contact the lead JHIBlog editors with a proposal and a list of relevant articles. 

      — Stefanos Geroulanos, on behalf of the Executive Editors


The second installment of our Virtual Issue feature on Nonhuman Intellectual History provides a selection of articles from the Journal of History of Ideas which have focussed broadly on one central question: how have texts discussed the ‘treatment of animals’? Or to make the anthropocentrism clear, how have humans historically conceptualized animals, their behavioral patterns and their cognitive capacities, and treated them based on that? All the articles in the list below, curated by the executive editor of the JHI, Stefanos Geroulanos, and introduced here by the JHI blog’s primary editor Shuvatri Dasgupta, are inspiring in their own ways. Whilst some focus on Darwin, Aristotle, and similar canonical thinkers to understand ways in which animals were conceptualized, others focus on histories of objects, and also consider encyclopedias as sources for nonhuman knowledge and history. Through these virtual issues on the JHI blog, we hope to provide some methodological indications of what nonhuman intellectual history may look like, and what its stakes would be. 

  • Copenhaver, Brian P. “A Tale of Two Fishes: Magical Objects in Natural History from Antiquity Through the Scientific Revolution.” Journal of the History of Ideas 52, no. 3 (1991): 373-98. doi:10.2307/2710043.
  • Guerrini, Anita. “The Ethics of Animal Experimentation in Seventeenth-Century England.” Journal of the History of Ideas 50, no. 3 (1989): 391-407. doi:10.2307/2709568.
  • Margócsy, Dániel. “Refer to Folio and Number”: Encyclopedias, the Exchange of Curiosities, and Practices of Identification before Linnaeus.” Journal of the History of Ideas 71, no. 1 (2010): 63-89. doi:10.1353/jhi.0.0069.
  • McCalla, Arthur. “Palingenesie Philosophique to Palingenesie Sociale: From a Scientific Ideology to a Historical Ideology.” Journal of the History of Ideas 55, no. 3 (1994): 421-39. doi:10.2307/2709848.

As I mentioned before, it is better to acknowledge at the outset, the anthropocentrism that the question of ‘treatment of animals’ itself is laden with. It is related to the scarcity of intellectual histories which can potentially engage with the ways in which animals have treated each other. In order to address this, it is imperative to move beyond the text as the sole source for intellectual history writing, and open the doors for interdisciplinary methods inspired by biology, anthropology, and feminist theory. This is not to reject the textuality altogether, but rather to suggest that reading texts such as Aristotle on the behavior of bees, alongside works of biologists like Thomas D. Seeley provides a crucial indication of the ways in which we can address this question. In this regard, pioneering work of Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlika titled ‘Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights’ provides some methodological indications on how the discipline of political thought might consider animals as actors within their own sovereign and self-sustaining communities. Through that the authors place animals at the heart of political theory and construct the nonhuman subject as a rights bearing political actor. Anthropologists and biologists have observed animal behavior towards one another which have enriched us with crucial insights on animal labor theory, socio-political organization, nonhuman kinship and care, and mutual interdependence

The other methodological stake which calls for discussion within the context of these groundbreaking articles from the JHI archive is the question of Eurocentrism, and how that shapes the field of nonhuman intellectual history. Buddhist and Jain political theologies in South and Southeast Asia were sustained on a foundation of animal ethics and morality. In recent times scholars have devised creative methodologies for thinking about the nonhuman in non Eurocentric ways. Sugata Roy’s innovative work ‘Climate Change and the Art of Devotion’ shows how manuscripts and their illustrations can be thought of as sources for an art history of climate change, animal treatment and habitat. Sumana Roy’s fantastic work ‘How I Became a Tree’ engages with approaches towards trees and animals in literary texts and thinkers from within and beyond South Asia. 

Illustrations from the Manuscript of Baburnama, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is much to be done in terms of thinking about animals as meaning-makers.  It would require posing questions which elude easy answers such as: where and how can we locate animal agency within anthropocentric archives, which have their own set of violent hierarchies (of class, race, gender, caste, and ethnicity)? It would require methodological innovations such as considering observational studies, and oral histories, alongside canonical and non-canonical textual sources. At times, it would need moving beyond textual sources, and taking into account visual archives. Moreover, it would need intellectual historians to rethink the species divide. The methodology for thinking about nonhuman intellectual history focusing on animals would need to be based on an ethics of care-giving as a means to move beyond anthropocentrism. Within that framework, caring for the nonhuman would place them as agents of their own narrative. Caring would also enable historians to move beyond their authorial subjectivities as chroniclers of these animal intellectual histories, and account for the implicit epistemic hierarchies embedded within archives. Thus, it would allow their subjects to articulate their stories, and this caring methodology would therefore manifest as letting the nonhuman speak in ways that it has always desired!


Shuvatri Dasgupta received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in History from Presidency University, Kolkata, India. She was also an exchange student and Charpak Fellow at Sciences Po Paris (Reims campus), studying for a certificate programme in European Affairs and B1 French. She is the editor of the Journal of History of Ideas blog, and a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, funded by the Cambridge Trust and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Fellowship. Her doctoral dissertation is tentatively titled “A History of Conjugality: On Patriarchy, Caste, and Capital, in the British Empire c.1872-1947”. Her general research interests include global history, gender history, intellectual history and political thought, histories of empire, histories of capitalism, Marxist and Marxist-Feminist theory, and critical theory. For the academic year of 2021-22 she is the convenor of the research network ‘Grammars of Marriage and Desire’ (GoMAD) supported by CRASSH, Cambridge, and the Histories of Race Graduate Workshop, at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge.

Featured Image: Wash drawing of a sculptured post from the railing of the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya, by Markham Kittoe, 19th Century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Categories
Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Niklas Olsen and Quinn Slobodian on Locating Ludwig von Mises

Niklas Olsen is Professor of the History of Political Thought at the SAXO-Institute, at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Among his publications are The Sovereign Consumer: A New Intellectual History of Neoliberalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and History in the Plural: An Introduction to the Work of Reinhart Koselleck (Berghahn, 2012). He has edited volumes about themes such as the memory of ‘68’ in Denmark, twentieth century German intellectuals, the challenge posed to Danish Universities by National Socialism in the 1930s and 1940s, critical theories of crisis in Europe and Scandinavian knowledge societies.

Quinn Slobodian is the Marion Butler MacLean Associate Professor of the History of Ideas at Wellesley College. His most recent book is Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (Harvard University Press, 2018). He is also the author of Foreign Front: Third World Politics in Sixties West Germany (Duke University Press, 2012), and has edited and co-edited volumes on race in East Germany, the intellectual and moral breadth of neoliberalism, and neoliberalism’s proselytizers in Eastern Europe and the Global South. His new book, on capitalist exit fantasies, will appear in 2023.

Olsen and Slobodian spoke with contributing editor Nuala P. Caomhánach about their introductory essay “Locating Ludwig von Mises: Introduction,” which has appeared in the current issue of the JHI (83.2).

***


Nuala P. Caomhánach: In your introduction to this fascinating and generative cluster of essays on “Locating Ludwig von Mises,” you explain the inherent contradiction about Mises and his liberalism— as a historical figure, a historiographical conundrum, and his contemporary status in politics today. What collaborative process led to this decision to explore Mises, and what is at stake here? You note that Mises is virtually absent from the substantial historiography on liberalism (footnote 12) and I was curious about who and how this “cult of personality” was constructed and through what means of legitimacy?

Quinn Slobodian and Niklas Olsen: Ludwig von Mises (born in Lviv, Austria-Hungary in 1881 and deceased in New York City in 1973) is a curious character because so far he has really only been taken seriously by people who see themselves as self-consciously working inside of his intellectual tradition. From the outside, Mises is often rendered in caricature as simply staked out at the most extreme end of libertarianism. A commonly repeated anecdote is how when Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, George Stigler and others gathered in Switzerland to form the Mont Pelerin Society, the flagship organization of the neoliberal intellectual movement, Mises supposedly left the room angry at some point shouting “you’re all a bunch of socialists!”

Anecdotes like this have been used to dismiss Mises as a relic of a superseded 19th century version of laissez-faire liberalism not worthy of closer attention. His failure to secure a regular position in U.S. academia as an émigré is implicitly taken to confirm his irrelevance. At the same time, within the world of the so-called Austrian School of Economics, especially in the United States, Mises has an almost godlike status. His big book, Human Action, published in 1949, is treated with reverence and granted the annotations and exegeses worthy of a masterpiece. The creation of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama in 1982 as a self-consciously more radical think tank than the Beltway counterparts like the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, and the subsequent establishment of copycat Mises Institutes worldwide since 2008 has served as the institutional basis for the lionized version of Mises.


Our collection was trying to follow the recent comprehensive work of the historian Janek Wasserman to find a middle space between these two extremes. We think that Mises is underrated as a thinker on his own terms and offers a crucial bridge between the so-called Socialist Calculation Debate of the 1920s and the broader conversations within the neoliberal movement that picked up steam at mid-century. We are also fascinated by the diverse appropriations of Mises, from the engagement with his writing in China during the time of reform and opening described in this issue by Isabella Weber, his influence on postwar development debates in Mexico explored in the unfortunately still untranslated book by María Eugenia Romero Sotelo, and the influence of his writings in the recent right-wing libertarianism of Brazil outlined by scholars like Camila Rocha. As scholars working to historicize the diversity and the depth of the neoliberal movement, we find it worthwhile to expand the canon, as it were, and take seriously thinkers who may have had traction for reasons not yet understood.

NC: This cluster of essays offer three methodological starting points to form a novel foundation from which future analytical studies in the field could commence from. Where do you think the field is going, or needs to go?

QS & NO: So, to paint with a broad brush, there has been a tendency in the field to write separate histories of different strands of liberalism – of social liberalism, classical liberalism, neoliberalism, libertarianism etc. – and to ascribe to each a unique canon of key thinkers, ideational features, and events and contexts. These histories are all somewhat exclusionary in terms of neglecting protagonists that do not fit easily into the respective canons.

Mises, who rejects easy categorization, is a case in point. His liberal thought and the reception of it has never been explored in depth in any of the mentioned literatures. We think there is a need to bring discussions, contexts, and protagonists from the various strands of scholarship into conversation with each other not only to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding Mises, but of liberalism more generally. What our cluster of essays shows is that liberalism ought to be regarded as a complex set of dynamic discourses that constantly change in time and place, as the historical actors, who articulate them, encounter new political challenges, institutional contexts, and social networks. It also shows that we should be open to the idea that thinkers, or movements for that matter, can straddle and move between different liberal languages. So, our plea is for a truly historical approach that resists easy classifications of a complex past, analyses the formation of ideas within multiple contexts, and acknowledges that ideas are continuously being reworked and recalibrated to address new problems. Having said that, we do think the field is currently moving towards more historical approaches to liberalism – and hopefully our essays can be read as a small contribution to this change. One of the stories that is yet to be written by scholars in the field is a synthesis of twentieth liberalism conceptualized along these lines. Here lies one of several challenges, or opportunities, for further research.

NC: Reading the introduction and the essays left me curious about the category of gender across multiple registers with the (1) authors of the cluster, (2) historical actors under analysis, and (3) historiographical sources being predominantly male. Does this inadvertently signal the need to explore gendering principles across all of these registers? Additionally, appropriating Mises seems to mobilize masculinity as technology, in what ways does the canon create exclusions or on the other hand impede inclusions? Does this highlight the challenges of analyzing the relationship between neoliberalism, femininity, masculinity, and the capitalist economy?

QS & NO: This is a great question. It offers a chance to mention one of the particularities of the Austrian school of economics that Mises is closely associated with. Austrian economics is focused on the question of the individual. For the most part, one has to read in questions of gender and the family through their absence. A recent book by a leading Austrian scholar began by noting that in all of the thousands of pages from work in his own field, one would be hard-pressed to find more than a few mentions of gender in the family. This stands in contrast to other schools of thought within the neoliberal tradition. In the Chicago school for example, Gary Becker, Richard Epstein and others have explicitly sought to use an economic lens to understand choices people make in marriages and as children and parents. We can thank the work of the Australian sociologist Melinda Cooper above all for laying out in detail the intellectual movements and the political projects of social conservatism at free-market neoliberalism are reconciled precisely in the space of the heteronormative nuclear family onto which state financial obligations can be offloaded onto intergenerational debt and unpaid labor.


It is worth mentioning in this context that one of the misconceptions about Austrian economic thought and indeed libertarianism in general is that it seeks to universalize the commodity relation by putting a price tag on everything on earth. This is not quite right—at least looked at from within the ideology itself. It is more correct to say that Austrian libertarians seek to universalize the contract relation—and make all human relations freely chosen by supposedly autonomous free-thinking agents. This follows through to the framing of marriage which is advocated as a contractual arrangement. Obviously this construct reaches its limits with matters of childbirth and childrearing. For his part, Mises affirmed the idea that mothering and childrearing remained an essential and inextricable biological obligation of women. This passage from Socialism (1922) is telling:


“Just as the pseudo-democratic movement endeavours by decrees to efface natural and socially conditioned inequalities, just as it wants to make the strong equal to the weak, the talented to the untalented, and the healthy to the sick, so the radical wing of the women’s movement seeks to make women the equal of men… But the difference between sexual character and sexual destiny can no more be decreed away than other inequalities of mankind. It is not marriage which keeps woman inwardly unfree, but the fact that her sexual character demands surrender to a man and that her love for husband and children consumes her best energies.”


Mises saw the attempt to collectivize childrearing as one of the missteps of socialism and a damaging application of egalitarianism. Some later thinkers working self-consciously in Mises’s intellectual tradition, namely Murray Rothbard and Hans-Hermann Hoppe, have clung to Mises’s idea of the biological basis of inequality also to embrace a race science of group differences in aptitude, especially intelligence. As described by Jacob Jensen in his contribution to this special issue, the so-called paleolibertarianism of the Mises Institute was expressly designed to reconcile conservative social values, including anti-feminism, with anarcho-capitalism. In that sense, the resistance to (and silence around) claims of gender equality in Austrian School discussions is a feature — not a bug, and may help account for the limited representation of female scholars within the orbit of Mises-derived scholarship.


Nuala P. Caomhánach is a doctoral student in the Department of History at New York University and evolutionary biologist at the American Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on the concept, meaning, and construction of biological Time and Space across three bodies of scientific knowledge—Ecological, Malagasy, and Phylogenetic—as applied to conservation ideology and policy from the late nineteenth century to present day. In short, her dissertation aims to understand how Madagascar became the botanical museum to save all of nature (and thus, humankind).

Edited by: Tom Furse

Featured Image: Ludwig von Mises in his later years. Creative Commons.