questions for Chris Sciabarra

Chris Matthew Sciabarra cms10 at
Thu Aug 26 14:14:18 MDT 1999

Thanks, Jim for your response.  First, let me say that the mere mention of
Ayn Rand often elicits this kind of response.  I have had to deal with the
cultists on one end, who believe that the woman came out of Zeus's head
fully formed, and the critics on the other end, who dismiss everything she
ever said.  So, it is difficult carving a niche, so-to-speak, and I don't
fault you for your knee-jerk reactions at my self-described libertarian label.
The debates are fun; the dialogue on lists can be fun.  But ultimately,
changing the world is very serious business.  I do believe that that is my
ultimate goal.  And insofar as I share much with my Marxist colleagues, in
terms of the critique of the status quo, I have been able to build bridges
to the left.  As for a dialectical synthesis with libertarianism, my book
goes a long way toward recovering the meaning of dialectics from the
ancient period to today, seeking to show that dialectical thinking is not a
monopoly of the left's, and that it is essential to any radical project
worth its salt.
You're certainly under no obligation to read my work; I'm just happy that
you're willing to qualify your comments and place them in a larger context.
 I hope we can all exchange ideas fruitfully.

At 11:51 AM 8/26/99 -0700, you wrote:
>Well, I'm glad to see we have such driving curiosity here!  If this is my
>greeting, what's the departure like?
>The only thing I can say, James is this:  Take a look at my work before you
>pass judgment on it.  Your response is no different than those in the
>Randian cult who have dismissed me as a Marxist.  I have been as critical
>of libertarians as I have of Marxists, but I have drawn from both
>traditions, and have had fun with colleagues on the left and the right.
>Well Chris, that is a fair comment if indeed I were commenting on your work
>which I have obviously not read. But my comments were about the notion of
>some kind of productive "ecclectic" synthesis of dialectics and
>libertarianism (typically ultra-positivist, ultra-reductionist, linear);
>further, my comments were about the possibility of some kind of productive
>and honest "left libertarianism" which I categorically reject; further, my
>comments were about the notion of anything positive about Ayn Rand whose
>scribblings I have read extensively and find to be proto-fascist, elitist
>and a bit anal-retentive; and finally, my comments were based on extensive
>experience with self-described libertarians inserting themselves into lists
>based on paradigms and forms/levels of activism they are clearly intent on
>wrecking or diverting focus.
>As for reading your work, well you know the concept of "opportunity cost". I
>live and work in a world in which genocide is going on daily (Indian
>Country) and we don't have much FUN; it is not much FUN sitting in an Indian
>Health Clinic watching a mother, with a hollow and distant stare in her
>eyes, holding a child going through horrible seizures caused by lead of
>toxic waste poisoning, caused by a  company that has located on the
>reservation, driven by Ayn Randist "axioms" and led by creatures totally
>enthralled with the likes of Ayn Rand, so they can avoid nasty Federal Regs
>and associated costs, and driven by the "Unkown Ideal" of ultra-capitalism.
>No, Chris, I do not have much FUN nor do the victims of "The Virtue of
>Selfishness" and "Capitalism the Unknown Ideal".
>As for your work, your self-identification as a libertarian and
>self-professed enthrallment with scum like Ayn Rand means that the
>opportunity costs--diverted attention and reading time better spent on
>matters of possible substance--of doing so are simply too much. As for your
>approval or any need to review your work for some possible pearls, I just
>don't need it.
>As for your comment about having FUN with people on the left and right, well
>as I said, those in love with their own rhetoric and postures/posturing and
>who love to debate, build CVs and market-niches (very clever market niche I
>must say) in academia, well have at it. But why mess with people who are
>actually trying to DO something more than scribbling and CV building?
>Have a nice life and please, do have FUN debating the esoteric.
>Jim Craven

Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar
NYU Department of Politics
715 Broadway
New York, New York  10003-6806
Dialectics and Liberty Website:
Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand:

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