Sunday, July 26, 2015

Antonio Gramsci Libertarians

I continue on my exploratory journey of various hyphenated libertarians.  Working through all that was required to write my most recent post on this topic was most helpful to me in this regard.

I offer again my summary thoughts from this post, regarding self-identified “left-libertarians”:

This social agenda need not be embraced by all who carry the name “libertarian.”  It is perfectly “libertarian” to peacefully picket for either the gay couple or for the baker.  Libertarian theory and the NAP does not offer guidance beyond the respect for property.

When push comes to shove, however, I contend that all libertarians must fall on the side of property rights.  Absent property rights, there is no NAP; absent the NAP and you can remove the word “libertarian” from “left-libertarian.”  Recalling the history of the movement, you end up with the Marxist strain.

Keep that in mind when you are told by a so-called libertarian about the social causes you must support.

I know that there are libertarians who hold what would be described as conservative or traditional cultural views – to include what would be described as traditional Christian views.  On many topics of culture, I am one of these; needless to say, I come to these outside of and apart from anything derived via libertarian theory.

The individual of who I am most aware within the libertarian community who writes rather strongly about such cultural aspects is Hans Herman Hoppe.  To my knowledge, he does not mandate or suggest that individuals must or should adopt these views as libertarians.  I have read and heard him speak of such things via practical / logical arguments.  In any case, if he conflates his cultural views with libertarian theory, I would disagree with the connection.

To be fair, I haven’t read much of Hoppe’s work on this subject, however.  So I went poking around, and look what I found:

What’s with the socially conservative strain of anarcho-capitalism coming out of the Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe?

It is a brief post at the Center for a Stateless Society site – the same site that I visited for my above-mentioned post regarding left-libertarian thinking!

If you’re an outsider to the libertarian tradition you might be baffled by some of the positions of some of the libertarian anarchists like Hans-Hermann Hoppe at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

I would only be baffled by this if I thought that libertarian theory had anything to say regarding such cultural questions.  Libertarian theory does not; it merely addresses the proper use of force.

Liberty is about the emancipation of humans from oppressive forms of organization, so what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks queer influence is a net negative for society?

I will avoid for today digging into whatever might be meant here by the phrase “oppressive forms of organization.”  As to the rest – imagine any of the following:

…what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks a high rate of divorce is a net negative for society?

…what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks children born out of wedlock is a net negative for society?

…what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks use of recreational drugs is a net negative for society?

…what is the deal with someone who claims to support liberty but thinks alcoholism is a net negative for society?

There is no “deal.”  As a libertarian, any of the four could be reasonable concerns, and to hold any of these as concerns does not violate libertarian theory.  Of course, the same is true regarding “queer influence.”

Don’t believe me?  Ask C4SS…from the same post:

Imagine anti-authoritarian politics as consisting of two levels: at the foundational/methodological level we are all unified by a commitment to create space for diverse decentralized communities to make value decisions for themselves. Above this foundational level are the ideological preferences of the community one would like to be a part of.

“Diverse decentralized communities” making “value decisions for themselves.”  This is an idea fully compatible with libertarian theory – precisely because libertarian theory does not pretend to address the infinite number of “value decisions” that individuals will make in order to find a place of comfort.  This is identified as “foundational.”

As Ross Kenyon writes, “Some communities will operate within the gender binary, be strictly vegan, be members of a certain religion, be different or no degrees of collectivized, allow or disallow firearm possession amongst countless other value decisions. This is the beauty of the voluntary association principle enacted: no one person or group of people has all the information necessary to coordinate everyone else.

It’s in the same post (and I know I am repeating myself, and now even yelling).  It seems every type of community experiment is acceptable within the libertarian framework of C4SS except for the “socially conservative strain…coming out of the Mises Institute and Hans-Hermann Hoppe” that considers “queer influence” to be a net negative for society.

It sounds more like an agenda than a wholly consistent theory.

So what does any of this have to do with what’s his name…Antonio Gramsci?

Antonio Gramsci; 22 January 1891 – 27 April 1937) was an Italian Marxist theoretician and politician. He wrote on political theory, sociology and linguistics. He was a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime. Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies.

Now don’t get all worked up in an angry sweat; I am not saying that left-libertarians are Marxists or anything like that.  After all, Gramsci was no Marxist (from Gary North):

Original Marxist theory placed the mode of production at the center of social development throughout history. Virtually all forms of socialism, whether Marxist or non-Marxist, have adopted this basic idea. The one major exception to this was the supposedly Marxist Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, who in fact was the most important anti-Marxist theorist ever to come out of the Marxist movement.

Gramsci in the 1930s acknowledged that Western society was deeply religious, and that the only way to achieve a proletarian revolution would be to break the faith of the masses of Western voters in Christianity and the moral system derived from Christianity. He placed religion and culture at the base of the pyramid.

Gramsci argued, and the Frankfurt School followed his lead, that the way for Marxists to transform the West was through cultural revolution: the idea of cultural relativism. The argument was correct, but the argument was not Marxist. The argument was Hegelian.

Instead of “Cultural Marxism,” it seems the proper terms to use would be “Cultural Gramsci-ism.”

While firmly committed to global Communism, [Gramsci] knew that that violence would fail to win the West. American workers (proletariat) would never declare war on their middle class neighbors as long as they shared common Christian values. So the Italian communist -- a contemporary of Lenin -- wrote an alternative plan for a silent revolution. The main weapons would be deception, manipulation and infiltration. Hiding their Marxist ideology, the new Communist warriors would seek positions of influence in seminaries, government, communities, and the media.

Gramsci himself rejected Christianity and all its transcendent claims. Nevertheless, he knew Christian culture existed.... For that was the force binding all the classes... into a single, homogeneous culture. It was a specifically Christian culture, in which individual men and women understood that the most important things about human life transcended the material conditions in which they lived out their mortal lives.

Gramsci was open to alliances with all leftists:

The first phase in achieving "cultural hegemony" over a nation is the undermining of all elements of traditional culture.

Whereas conventional Marxist-Leninists were hostile towards the non-Communist Left, Gramsci argued that alliances with a broad spectrum of leftist groups would prove essential to Communist victory. In Gramsci's time these included, among others, various "anti-fascist" organizations, trade unions, and socialist political groups. In our time, alliances with the Left would include radical feminists, extremist environmentalists, "civil rights" movements, anti-police associations, internationalists, ultra-liberal church groups, and so forth. These organizations, along with open Communists, together create a united front working for the transformation of the old Christian culture.

So what does Gramsci have to do with left-libertarians as presented by Kevin Carson?  From his post, What is Left Libertarianism?, a quick refresher:

Any left-libertarian agenda worthy of the name must also include a concern for social justice and combating structural oppression. That means, obviously, an end to all state-enforced discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But it means much more.

True, as libertarians we oppose all legal restrictions on freedom of association, including laws against discrimination by private businesses. But we should enthusiastically support direct action to combat injustice in the social realm.

Paying special concern to the intersectional needs of the least privileged comrades in each justice movement — women and people of color in the working class; poor and working women, women of color, transgender women and sex workers within feminism; women and poor and working people within the racial justice movement; etc. — does not divide these movements.

Carson, like Gramsci, actively proposes the breakdown of traditional cultural views; both are on the left and Gramsci welcomes broad alliances with other, non-communist, leftist organizations.

“Oh, bionic, you are just making all of this up, inventing connections where none exist.”

Well, let’s see what Kevin Carson has to say (emphasis added):

The best strands of recent Marxist thought, on the other hand — like for example autonomism — all involve the idea of prefigurative politics and “exodus.” That is, they see the transition to a post-capitalist society not as some sudden and large-scale event in which all the powerful institutions are captured and put under new management. They see it as a prolonged transition from one historical epoch to another like that from feudalism to capitalism, in which the successor society grows out of a whole host of seeds within the old system.

This is an approach that coincides in many ways with that of the free market Left. Like libertarian communists, we envision a society in which new technologies of abundance and liberation render state’s artificial property rights and artificial scarcities — and the capitalist rents on them — unenforceable.

At the same time, the interesting and truly progressive forms of Marxism are centered on the idea of exodus…. This, too, is an idea that the free market left shares with libertarian communists.

“Yeah, bionic…Kevin might have said ‘Marxist’ but he never said ‘Gramsci.’”

Look, how explicit do you expect Carson to make this? 


The combination of prefigurative politics and exodus is in many ways similar to Gramsci’s “war of position,” in which the workers’ movement achieves victory not by storming the ramparts of the old system (a “war of maneuver” in his terminology), but within the larger culture and economy itself. Only after we have shifted the overall correlation of forces in society at large can we launch the final assault on the institutional commanding heights of the old system.

I would add emphasis, but it would pretty much cover the entire paragraph.

At least you doubters in the audience can have one thing to hold on to….

But our approach differs from Gramsci’s in one important respect: we don’t ever need to launch that final assault.

In Carson’s case, once traditional socially-conservative culture is destroyed, the pieces will fall into place for his diverse communities of economically ignorant left-libertarians.  Of course, Gramsci believed it would usher in communism.

So, I label this strain of left-libertarians as Antonio Gramsci libertarians.  They share the objective of destroying traditional culture. 

I wish I could end it there.  But it gets better…or worse, I guess.  Returning to the original C4SS post (emphasis added):

In short, not everyone will share one’s values in a free society. Some people are going to retain traditional values with regard to the family, sexuality, religion, etc. So long as they don’t purposefully constrict their offspring so that they are unable to make value decisions regarding how to live (possibly providing a rumspringa, etc.) we should essentially respect the discovery process inherent in decentralization while encouraging those we view as oppressed to reject the social relations they are participating in.

I think this statement requires no comment.


  1. Some (values) are more equal than others

  2. " But we should enthusiastically support direct action to combat injustice in the social realm."

    Direct action??? Direct action as I understand it is basically running riot. So if a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay couple his shop gets smashed up and his legs get broken.

    So basically these leftists are saying that violations of the NAP is fine as long as a violent mob is doing it and not the state.

    It is possible that what is meant is allegedly non violent forms of direct action. However almost all the so called non violent direct action violates the NAP.

    "Examples of non-violent direct action (also known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance) can include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, hacktivism, etc."

    4 out of the 5 examples of non violent direct actions are NAP violations. What a mess.

    1. Matt

      You raise appropriate concerns - more directly and plainly than did I. I prefaced that any action taken must respect property rights.

    2. Matt, thanks for digging into what the lefties are explicitly saying rather than extrapolating into presumptions. From the definition you link:

      "Direct action occurs when a group takes an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. This can include nonviolent and less often violent activities...Examples of non-violent direct action (also known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance) can include sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, blockades, hacktivism, etc."

      The first part of the definition sounds innocuous and the examples not innocuous. We simply must have the lefties clarify exactly what they mean by "direct action." We cannot fill in the blanks here.

      But accordingly with this lack of clarity we cannot grant them the title of libertarians. Only those who explicitly avow the NAP as the sole overriding principle of their philosophy can be libertarians. But, all Kevin Carson would have to do is say that, in one sentence, and I can still see how all his mealy mouthed gobbledygook about social order is compatible. If he's only talking voluntary means then rock on Kevin, be as pinko as you want to be in your canton of voluntarily agreeing private property owners.

    3. I am in agreement with much of this conversation (including the comments below), but I take issue with this statement which is presented as rock-hard fact.

      Anonymous said that, "Only those who explicitly avow the NAP as the sole overriding principle of their philosophy can be libertarians." To which I respond, "Why is this true? And are you the determiner of what are the conditions of libertarian membership?"

      After 60+ years, I find that the philosophy which is gradually gaining the upper hand in my life is not the NAP, but " your neighbor as yourself." In theory, these MIGHT mean the same, but the NAP is negative, while "love your neighbor" is positive.

      If I don't unilaterally use aggression against my neighbor, then I in conformance to the NAP. It doesn't say anything about me except that I am leaving my neighbor alone to live his life as he pleases. As far as that goes, I could be a cold, heartless person who doesn't give a damn about my neighbor. I just leave him alone.

      Loving my neighbor as I love myself, however, is completely different. If I follow this principle, I not only adhere to the NAP, but also care deeply about him. I can leave him alone, but I am there when he needs me and, hopefully, this situation is reciprocated.

      To say that no one can be libertarian unless they worship the NAP is like saying that "Christians can not be anarchists", as Jim Davies has done ( and which Bionic Mosquito has recently addressed quite adequately. (

      I am Christian, libertarian, and anarchist in my beliefs. As far as I'm concerned, there is no conflict. While I think the NAP is good theory and we should practice it where we can, I also have some serious doubts about its limitations. I am quite hesitant to order my life according to it. I think there is a higher principle which the NAP is part of.

  3. The “war of position” tactic sounds a lot like Fabianism. It seems to be working well on the easy part, i.e. tearing down cultural norms. But where the existing cultural infrastructure has been dismantled as in the Arab Spring, the follow on hasn’t been exactly aggression free.

  4. I think the non-aggression principle also applies to attempts to change society via government force, aka social engineering. It is a clear form of aggression against both individuals and society as a whole to use coercion to impose social changes via the government. Leftist causes almost by definition call for the application of governmental force to impose their views on individuals and society. Left-libertarianism is an oxymoron and people calling themselves left-libertarians are not consistently applying the NAP.

  5. Hoppe struggles for thick right libertarianism against left AND thin libertarianism.. so why only leftist are a problem?

    Here his words..

    "You cannot be a consistent left-libertarian, because the left-libertarian doctrine, even if unintended, promotes Statist, i.e., un-libertarian, ends. From this, many libertarians have drawn the conclusion that libertarianism is neither Left nor Right. That it is just “thin” libertarianism. I do not accept this conclusion. Nor, apparently, did Murray Rothbard, when he ended the initially presented quote saying: “but psychologically, sociologically, and in practice, it simply doesn’t work that way.” Indeed, I consider myself a right-libertarian – or, if that may sound more appealing, a realistic or commonsensical libertarian – and a consistent one at that."

    "In light of this, as a right-libertarian, I would of course first say to my children and students: always respect and do not invade others’ private property rights and recognize the State as an enemy and indeed the very anti-thesis of private property. But I would not leave it at that. I would not say (or silently imply) that once you have satisfied this requirement “anything goes.” Which is pretty much what ‘thin’ libertarians appear to be saying! I would not be a cultural relativist as most “thin” libertarians at least implicitly are. Instead, I would add (at a minimum): be and do whatever makes you happy, but always keep in mind that as long as you are an integral part of the worldwide division of labor, your existence and well-being depends decisively on the continued existence of others, and especially on the continued existence of white heterosexual male dominated societies, their patriarchic family structures, and their bourgeois or aristocratic lifestyle and conduct. Hence, even if you do not want to have any part in that, recognize that you are nonetheless a beneficiary of this standard “Western” model of social organization and hence, for your own sake, do nothing to undermine it but instead be supportive of it as something to be respected and protected."

    what of the big tent?

    1. Anonymous wrote with regard to Hoppe's rejection of "left libertarians":
      >what of the big tent?

      Well... some of us who are merely ordinary middle-class Americans but who have interacted with "left libertarians" have decided we simply do not want these people in our homes, we do not enjoy associating with them, and, indeed, we would rather they do not know where we ourselves live.

      "Big tents" are for circuses. For human beings, a bit of choice and discretion is helpful.

      Dave Miller in Sacramento

    2. "what of the big tent?"

      To belong in the left-libertarian tent, I must embrace every civil-society destroying norm ever invented. Yet you question Hoppe?

      In any case, no room in my tent for enemies of liberty.

  6. Not every "left-libertarian" is in agreement with C4SS re: "social justice." However, I would be fairly confident that most "left-libertarians" probably share the view of Hoppe as a "crank."

    I derive left-libertarianism from the french radical liberal tradition, a tradition that (1) places class theory at the core of any analytical method and (2) culturally dismisses the puritan ethic. In short, to me "left-libertarianism" is just another name for "laissez-faire." But the use of the "left" adjective is a conscious differentiation from the influence of american conservatism/puritanism on american libertarianism.

    It is true that libertarianism places no impersonal duties on having particular moral judgements regarding tastes/views in music, religion, culture, etc. But the line is crossed when you begin to, say, fashion a view of a property rights regime that attempts to reinforce your cultural views.

    As an example, this critique of Hoppe:


    1. "the french radical liberal tradition"

      Would this be the French radical liberal tradition that resulted in the revolution and guillotine?

  7. Only Richman and leftists are helping to corrupt the message? I think Hoppe is helping too, and in broad daylight. He ask libertarians to be "realistic", and to acknowleedge that in reality (that is the only place we can be, so it includes all) libertarianism must coincide with right libertarianism and not be "thin"..

    And if we want to talk about homosexuality, there is this Hoppe VS Block controversy.. Hoppe expresses this idea that homosexuals (and many other he dislike) must be banned from a libertarian society (not from his most favorite society, or from an hoppeian society, but from a libertarian society) and Block answer that this is too difficult to consider libertarian..

    Here Block's world:

    "Consider the following statement from Hoppe (2001) where he calls for homosexuals and others to be banned from polite society:
    “Naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society. Likewise, in a covenant founded for the purpose of protecting family and kin, there can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They -- the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism -- will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.”
    Say what you will in support of this statement – it is stark, it is well written, it is radical, it gives a well deserved intellectual kick to the teeth to some groups who richly deserve it -- it is still exceedingly difficult to reconcile it with libertarianism."

    Hoppe seems's to me the perfect example of someone who is diverting the libertarian message. I don't know why you are worried only about leftists..

    1. Why do you provides quotes and no links?

      Via this snippet provided, it is difficult to reconcile with thin libertarian theory. It is not so difficult to reconcile with maintaining a "libertarian order." It is maintaining the libertarian order to which Hoppe is writing.

    2. so to mantain the libertarian order we have to do things that are difficult to reconcile with libertarian theory (euphemism).. amazing.. so what Hoppe is telling us are that gay, gay-friendly people, and people that don't want to ban gay are incompatible with libertarian society.. waht of the big tent? for Hoppe "big tent" equal "nihilism"!

      His message is "only who is hostile to gay can be a libertarian". If he isn't deverting the message, the message of libertarianism is no more liberty and self ownership, but eterosexuality and hostility for homosexuality.

      The Block-Hoppe thing is from "Libertarianism is Unique and Belongs Neither to the Right nor the Left: A Critique of the Views of Long, Holcombe, and Baden on the Left, Hoppe, Feser, and Paul of the Right"

      thanks for your previous answerl!

    3. I am working on a post regarding Hoppe. In my reading, I find certain of Block's criticisms to be based on his reading Hoppe out of context, or just plain not reading Hoppe - for example, Hoppe spells out clearly what he means by the word "conservative" and contrasts this to the definition commonly understood today. Yet Block ignores this and assigns to Hoppe the definition as commonly understood today.

      " to mantain the libertarian order we have to do things that are difficult to reconcile with libertarian theory (euphemism)..."

      I read Hoppe as offering a roadmap to maintain libertarian order. In the context of tens-of-thousand unique libertarian communities in the world (an idea I believe Hoppe advocates), not every community need follow his cultural roadmap.

      But I will go into this further in my post.

    4. bionic, you may enjoy my article about Hoppe here:

    5. My thoughts, corresponding to your points in the referenced post:

      1) So why do you spend time counting angels?

      2) There is quite a bit of discussion that “property” (which inherently includes life) is the bedrock; in order to not aggress, what exactly is not being aggressed? In any case, without spending too much time to think about it, I am not sure the difference is relevant to Hoppe’s argument.

      3) That it is difficult to prove without any doubt does not invalidate the principle. I suppose you are free to suggest a more libertarian method. Throwing dice, perhaps? Flipping quarters?

      4) What do you propose? A class-based restitution?

      5) I found the more convincing part of his argument on this topic to be that of property.

    6. 2) I went looking for peoples' definitions of libertarianism and was surprised at the lack of unanimity about NAP vs property rights - which is most basic. See for example
      Wikipedia, at least, says, "The Non-aggression Principle (NAP) is the foundation of most present-day right-libertarian philosophies."
      Not that that is much support. I guess it is unsettled then.

      I generally avoid any rights based discussions because they appear religious to me. That's why I prefer NAP as the basis.

      3) That a principle is valid does not mean it has any application to human affairs. I'd be happy to grant you the primacy of first use, if you can find any square inch of earth to apply it to. Good luck hanging on to it.

      In practice I doubt I differ much from Hoppe, as to proof of ownership of property. I just don't think it is necessary to cook up fanciful justifications that don't really apply anywhere.

      He seems to be satisfied with "oldest use", which is funny because even a single case of aggression invalidates the chain of ownership. Whistling past the graveyard...

      4) I don't propose anything. That the Cheyenne had property stolen from them is indisputable; that they stole it themselves from the previous owners is also indisputable. In the end, property belongs to whoever can hang onto it. This is not to say they shouldn't press some claim anyway; they may well convince others to surrender at least some of it if (for example) social pressure is strong enough or personal opinion of the current property owner points that way. Again, legalistic arguments are not very important to the picture, except perhaps to the extent they modify such things as social pressure (which I suspect is very little).

      5) I suppose it depends on whether one is a minarchist or anarchist libertarian. The latter of course cannot go along with borders at all. Anyway most of Hoppe's arguments seem to be on the utilitarian end here; he just sounds like a conservative in this one, somebody who is depending on government.

  8. They still do the Chapman stick thing?
    Emmet Chapman was a commie, so you lose this time, Mosquito.

    1. I don't lose. That's the nice thing about free markets; we almost never even think about the race, gender, sexual preference, nationality, height, weight, or politics of the counter-party.

      There is no better system of diplomacy.