Drawing the Line Once Again
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99 pages

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Five years after his death in 1972, Paul Goodman was characterized by anarchist historian George Woodcock as “the only truly seminal libertarian thinker in our generation.” In this new PM Press initiative, Goodman’s literary executor Taylor Stoehr has gathered together nine core texts from his anarchist legacy to future generations.

Here will be found the “utopian essays and practical proposals” that inspired the dissident youth of the Sixties, influencing movement theory and practice so profoundly that they have become underlying assumptions of today’s radicalism. Goodman’s analyses of citizenship and civil disobedience, decentralism and the organized system, show him Drawing the Line Once Again, mindful of the long anarchist tradition, and especially of the Jeffersonian democracy that resonated strongly in his own political thought. This is a deeply American book, a potent antidote to US global imperialism and domestic anomie.



Publié par
Date de parution 21 juin 2010
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781604862737
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Drawing the Line Once Again
Paul Goodman’s Anarchist Writings
Paul Goodman
Edited by Taylor Stoehr
Drawing The Line Once Again: Paul Goodman’s Anarchist Writings Drawing The Line Once Again © 2010 by Sally Goodman Introduction © 2010 by Taylor Stoehr This edition © 2010 by PM Press All rights reserved. No part of this book may be transmitted by any means without permission in writing from the publisher.
ISBN: 978-1-60486-057-3 Library of Congress Control Number: 2009901375
Cover: John Yates Interior design by briandesign
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
PM Press PO Box 23912 Oakland, CA 94623 www.pmpress.org
Printed in the USA on recycled paper.
Preface by Taylor Stoehr
Sources of Texts
The May Pamphlet
Reflections on the Anarchist Principle
Freedom and Autonomy
Anarchism and Revolution
Some Prima Facie Objections to Decentralism
The Black Flag of Anarchism
The Limits of Local Liberty
Civil Disobedience
“Getting Into Power”: The Ambiguities of Pacifist Politics
W hen I met Paul Goodman in 1950 I was eighteen, and he was thirty-nine. I was a callow youth from the Midwest, much in need of mentoring, and he was a bohemian guru with a little band of disciples already following him around, and the author of many books, some of them still to be in print half a century later. I saw Goodman only five or six times that spring before going back to Omaha, but for the next ten years he did guide me, at first in a few crucial letters of advice, then only through his writings, which I began to collect and study in a way that I studied nothing else.
I say this to orient new readers of Goodman, some of whom I assume will be at the age I met him and perhaps as much in need of counsel as I was. Although it weighed heavily in my own case to have met him in the flesh, what ultimately counted most, both then and later in the 1960s when I reconnected with him, was not his physical presence but his lucidity and common sense. He used to say it was “the obvious” that people never seemed to notice, plain as the nose on your face. That was what was so irresistible about him. As if in dialogue with Socrates, you felt you were in touch with your own wisdom, like a kind of memory, for the very first time. Our mutual friend George Dennison once said that he was “an angel of mind whose feats of memory and analysis seemed like familiar descriptions of a much-loved home.”
Goodman had no charisma, whether face-to-face or in front of a faceless audience. But you soon forgot about the figure he cut, because his words lit up your own mind, you listened and you were thinking those thoughts yourself. They were rarely something you’d want to write down or memorize. For me and others who gathered round him in those days there was no lesson to be learned and stored away, rather an attitude toward life and the world. You could get it into your own bones. And because writing is a way of thinking, and he was a writer to the core, you could get it by reading his books. I have met many other people who had the same experience, including not a few who never laid eyes on him.
There are several avenues by which one might approach what I am calling Goodman’s attitude. It was the primary tendency in the Gestalt therapy he was just beginning to practice at the time I met him, and was also at the heart of the artist’s life he had chosen for himself. For me, however, Goodman’s anarchism best exemplifies this deep-going attitude. I have included two succinct summaries of it in the pages that follow — “The Anarchist Principle” and “Freedom and Autonomy” — but to get the feel of this habit of mind, which he sometimes called “the habit of freedom,” I suggest reading through the more expansive essays printed here. As he believed, character is revealed in a writer’s style, expressed in the very rhythms of speech, and of course character is the source of any deep-going attitude.
Curiously, one finds in these longer selections a number of passages where Goodman repeats himself, not merely in idea or attitude but verbatim , quoting himself without quotation marks, as if it couldn’t be said better than he had already said it — a trick he developed early in his career, along with footnotes referring readers to his other writings. In later years such cloning was helpful in meeting multiple demands on him from editors and publishers, but it also highlights what I’m trying to get across here: once we are familiar with his voice, everything Goodman says seems reminiscent of some other portion of his work. “Haven’t I read this paragraph before?” Goodman’s tone changed dramatically after 1960, once he was no longer writing only for his friends in the San Remo bar, but his “attitude” remained the same throughout the twenty-five years represented by these essays. Near the end of his life he said that he hadn’t changed his political ideas “since I was a boy.” This was true.
My own earliest encounter with the anarchist attitude came by reading “The May Pamphlet” side by side with its imagined spelling-out in The Dead of Spring , an expressionist novel he published in 1950. When Goodman gave me a copy, hot off Dave Dellinger’s Libertarian Press, I didn’t realize what a providential act that was to be. I was a baffled teenager stumbling through the rites of adulthood in the U.S.A. — smoking, driving, drinking, punching a clock, matriculating, marrying, and wearing a uniform — for me, in that order. The hero of The Dead of Spring was working his way through different rites of passage, but in the end he arrived at the same crisis, what Goodman called The Dilemma, formulated by the Prosecuting Attorney at Horatio’s trial for Treason Against the Sociolatry:

You have tried to live as if our society, the society of almost all of the people, did not exist.… [O]ur society is the only society that there is — in what society can you move if not in our society? … If one conforms to our society, he becomes sick in certain ways.… But if he does not conform, he becomes demented, because ours is the only society that there is.
In 1950, I was too naïve to truly comprehend what the opposite crime, treason against natural societies (as it was termed in “The May Pamphlet”), might mean for someone setting out on these paths, but what I did intuit, almost wordlessly, was that the world I was entering was founded on lies and hypocrisy. Much as I loved my home and the family friends, teachers, and neighbors I knew as a boy, I was aware that almost every adult I met was masked, and no matter how smiling a face might be put on it, their lives were venal and empty. In The Dead of Spring , Goodman had called their condition The Asphyxiation. I had gotten a strong whiff of that self-betrayal festering in my parents’ generation and was afraid that I, too, was infected.
Goodman amazed me because he did not live this way. As far as I could tell, he had no secrets, no reticence, no shame. Whatever scary implications such an open life might have for a shy and embarrassed young fellow like myself, it was better than suffocation in conformity and complacency. There was another way to live — one that presented something to believe in, pursuits to follow wholeheartedly, countering the fear that there was nothing worth doing.
I began by paying attention to how he behaved in his family, among his friends, in public spaces, and face-to-face with me, but it was not until I had returned to the Midwest and read “The May Pamphlet” and The Dead of Spring that I had any insight into what had bowled me over during our initial encounter. My misgivings about the adult world were embodied in what he called “treason against natural societies”: “every one knows moments in which he conforms against his nature, in which he suppresses his best spontaneous impulse, and cowardly takes leave of his heart.” It was precisely such moments of self-betrayal that had led to the great wars of the century, long prepared in the averted eyes and uneasy smiles of parents whose children would die in them.

The steps [we] take to habituation and unconsciousness are crimes which entail every subsequent evil of enslavement and mass murder.… We conform to institutions that up to a certain point give great natural satisfactions, food, learning and fellowship — and then suddenly we find that terrible crimes are committed and we are somehow the agents… . It is said that the system is guilty, but the system is its members coerced into the system. It is also true that the system itself exercises this coercion.
In 1950, I had little grasp of the overarching system he was talking about, but I knew what he meant about meaningless jobs or the smothering of sexual desire in the young, and I even had an inkling of how my own good-enough schooling stifled curiosity and killed the spirit. But I’m a slow learner and no matter how much you can take from good advice, you have to make your own mistakes. I had gone back home and done all the things I admired him for refusing to do, every one of the treasonous rites of passage I’ve listed above — even though I carried the truth along with me too, if not fully in consciousness yet alive in the books he had given me and continued to write.
By the next time I saw him, ten years later, I had begun to understand. His voice had been ringing in my head as I read Communitas , Gestalt Therapy , The Structure of Literature , and The Empire City . When I visited him in December 1959, Growing up Absurd was in page proofs on his dinner table, and when he came to visit me in Berkeley two months later, chapters of it were already being serialized in Commentary . A more receptive generation than my own, one that included his own son Mathew, was about to have its first taste of his anarchist attitu

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