Barbarians in the Agora

American Market Anarchism, 1945–2011

In the winter of 1949–1950 a handful of friends gathered in the home of Murray Newton Rothbard, a graduate student in economics at Columbia University and a proponent of limited government and laissez-faire. The relationship of Rothbard’s vision to the broader terrain of political thought has long caused trouble for the taxonomist of ideas. Anarchists have claimed as their own such early modern figures as Gerard Winstanley and William Godwin, but the first figure to use “anarchist” self-referentially was a radical book printer from Besançon named Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Proudhon’s thought, contrary to some conceptions, owed much to liberal bourgeois market ideals. Proudhon exercised a profound, if relatively short-lived, influence over the direction of radical politics in Europe, but in the United States his ideas made a longer-lasting impact. Greene’s Proudhonianism, however, was the only strain of anti-statist thought vying for the attention of American radicals.

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