Sunday, July 19, 2009

Schweickart Interview

Rather than a full blown posting I'd like to post this link to a phone interview with David Schweickart by Tikkun magazine that took place on June 2nd, 2009. It’s a fascinating interview, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in Economic Democracy. You can hear it at the Tikkun web site.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Edward Carpenter

I thought I would post a brief biography of one of the most colorful and interesting advocates of cooperative economics in history: Edward Carpenter.

Carpenter was born on 8/29/1844 in Brighton, England. He was one of ten children raised in a middle-class family. Unlike the rest of his brothers, who all went into the military, Carpenter entered Cambridge in 1864 to start a career in academics. Carpenter excelled in studies and by 1867 had become a fellow of Trinity Hall.

A watershed moment for Carpenter was when he read the poems by Walt Whitman “Leaves of Grass.” Whitman’s socialist writings had a profound effect on Carpenter who, in 1873, decided he needed to leave his comfortable life and to join “the mass of the people and the manual workers.” He then stepped down from Cambridge and started working with the University Extension, which involved a travelling circuit concerning lectures on scientific matters. But Carpenter eventually tired of this and moved on.

After inheriting his parent’s wealth in 1883 he bought a home in Millthorpe near Sheffield. Carpenter lived at Millthorpe for forty years and developed his philosophy of a “simplification of life”. In that same year Carpenter published his landmark poem cycle “Towards Democracy” in which he moved beyond simple working class support, to openly working for socialist and co-operative causes.

Though Carpenter joined the Labour Party he later sided with William Morris and changed allegiances to the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1884. Carpenter leaned towards Anarchism more than Marxism in his socialism and supported the philosophical leanings of the SDF.

Though he was thought of as a crank by many at the time, Carpenter’s “simplification of life” philosophy would shock few people today. Carpenter advocated to reduce air pollution, opposed vivisection and was a vegetarian. In addition, he advocated the making and wearing of sandals, which was a fashion shock at that time. All of those today are considered mainstream. Even his advocacy of nudism isn’t shocking in a post-Woodstock era. Of everything it was the fact of Carpenter’s sexual orientation that shocked the Victorian world the most.

Though he first had a romantic relationship with a man at Cambridge it was after he moved into Millthorpe that he openly expressed his homosexuality. For a while he had a relationship with George Adams but later George Merrill moved in. From then on Merrill and Carpenter were lifelong partners until Merrill died in 1928 and Carpenter passed away in 1929.

Carpenter wrote numerous poems and books. Concerning homosexuality he wrote “Homogenic Love”, “Intermediate Sex”, and the “Intermediate Type among Primitive Folk.” But what he’s most famous for was the socialist hymn, “England Arise!” and of course for his support of the co-operative movement.