A Labyrinthine Plan of Research

Contr’un Revisited: There’s a remark in a later post—about the time I moved west, I think—about how the next reshuffling of priorities would leave some projects by the wayside, without anyone really noticing, since their moment and their likely audiences had moved on. To be honest, even I only have a faint memory of this particular proposal for a history of mutualism, so I probably wasn’t far off. We’ll see if What Mutualism Was, my current attempt at a short history of mutualism, manages to appear within its window of opportunity.

I’m in the process of finalizing plans for my mutualist history manuscript, tentatively titled Into the Libertarian Labyrinth. I’ve talked a bit about what I’m up to in various places, but it seems useful to make a kind of declaration of intent here.

This will not be the 10-volume authoritative History of Mutualism. Such a work might be worth doing — and, who knows, maybe I’ll take it on one day — but it’s certainly not the work I’m aiming at presently. Instead, I hope, in a couple of hundred pages, to produce a more-or-less adequate, roughly chronological account covering The American Mutualist Thread (that line of direct influence and personal connections from Josiah Warren into at least the mid-20th century) and as much of the surrounding fabric as I can coherently include. Trust me, that’s still going to involve serious work. The research process will involve a fairly massive re/reading program. This time, as I work my way through the material I plan to build up the content of the Libertarian Labyrinth site as I go. I’ll post reviews of the material and, where time allows, post e-texts of original documents. The major addition to the Labyrinth will be a year-by-year timeline of important events and publications. Obviously, all of this is going to be helpful in constructing my own manuscript, but i also intend it as a means for others to check my work and to engage in their own research. If all goes well, a couple years’ work ought to produce a useful general history and a collection of related texts and commentaries. That accomplished, I can actually turn to some much closer studies of individual figures.

What I hope to accomplish is to write a history a bit more inclusive than James Martin’s Men Against the State or Schuster’s Native American Anarchism. Every writer has their biases, but, in this instance, I am attempting to be biased towards openness, focusing on connections (even when they are complicating and disturbing). I’m hoping that, in this, my history of mutualism will be a mutualist history, in the sense that “I am a mutualist” seems to mean “I am an anarchist — and I’m willing to talk about the details.”

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.