Freethinkers: The Anarchist Imagination in America

By Michael J. Kramer

The recent turn in the historical field toward studying conservatism, including libertarianism, has masked a more subversive but less well-documented radical anarchist sensibility in American life. Typically feared in the United States as a sign of chaos and social breakdown, anarchy also has a deep and rich intellectual, aesthetic, and cultural lineage in the country. From Emma Goldman to the African-American anarchist thinking of Lucy Parsons and Hubert Harrison to mid-twentieth century anarchists such as Paul Goodman, Kenneth Rexroth, and Grace Paley to the deep ecology anarchism of Murray Bookchin to the impact of Anglo punk culture in the US to more recent anarchist thought and culture found in the work of Ursula La Guin, Rebecca Solnit, and among cyberpunk writers and early Internet enthusiasts, even on a recent television show such as the motorcycle gang melodrama Sons of Anarchy, anarchy lives at once on the margins of American culture, but also, perhaps, in less articulated but compelling ways, close to the nation’s ideological core.