Monday, August 27, 2007

A New History of Leviathan online

A favorite long-out-of-print classic of historical scholarship is now online as a free PDF eBook: A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State, edited by Ronald Radosh and Murray Rothbard. This is a left libertarian favorite that's little known outside of that circle, but it's easy to see why it's so well remembered.

Turning the mainstream view of the political spectrum inside out, the collection features a tag team from the radical Left and Right taking on the historical mythology of the corporate center. As the introduction by the two editors puts it, one editor, Rothbard, "is one of the intellectual leaders of the new 'right-wing libertarian movement' ... a firm believer in laissez-faire capitalism ... a free-market economist, a former contributor to National Review ... [who] favors removing the privileges of the large corporations and returning to laissez-faire"; the other, Radosh, "emerges from the ranks of the New Left ... he was an active member of the Wisconsin Socialist Club, and functioned as an associate editor of the radical journal, Studies on the Left ... a libertarian socialist ... a firm believer in the necessity of socialist revolution ... [who] favors a decentralized socialist economy". Similarly with the other contributors: for instance, William Appleman Williams and Martin J. Sklar on the New Left, and Leonard Liggio on the libertarian side.

So, what could possibly draw these extremists together? As the introduction says, "each, because of his critique of liberal ideology and concepts, has been able in his own work to transcend the ideological myths that enable the large corporations to mask their hegemony over American society." Both ideologies include an emphasis on spontaneity, voluntarism and decentralism, as well as a deep-seated and genuine opposition to corporatism -- not only to the overt power of corporations and the immediate harm they do, but to the more subtle political and ideological forms of corporate influence (which are often disguised, ironically, by anti-corporate rhetoric) and the historical roots of how they arose. And so, both groups of contributors dissent form a "Leviathan Corporate State" that is driven by an exaltation of stability and control, and which combines leftist rhetoric about helping the weak and restraining the power of business with a reality of indirect subsidies and priviliges towards corporations that cement their dominance of the economy. And so, each side takes on its own sacred cows: Radosh has the essay debunking "The Myth of the New Deal" and Rothbard trashes Herbert Hoover's "Myth of Laissez-Faire".

Now that this book is freely available, let's hope that it finally reaches a wider audience and gets both leftists and rightists to rethink their assumptions about American history and ideology.

1 comment:

Aakash said...

Thank you for sharing these resources.

Incidentally, I am currently working on annotating Dr. Rothbard's famous Presidential Address to the John Randolph Club, in January 1992. Here's what I have so far. It still has a way to go, reference -link-wise, but I will hopefully have that updated, before long.

I wish Dr. Rothbard were still alive, to be providing witty, insightful - and humorous! - commentary and speeches, on contemporary affairs.

Oh, he would have so much to say about what's going on today.