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Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism Paperback – November 2, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


Total Freedom is a treat: a scholarly tour de force that successfully integrates seemingly disparate intellectual traditions, while providing a feast of valuable insights whose assimilation promises to raise libertarian theory to new heights of sophistication, flexibility, and theoretical power.”
—Roderick T. Long, Journal of Ayn Rand Studies

Total Freedom marks out a unique, and philosophically and intellectually sophisticated argument for libertarianism. A short review focused on the Austrian elements in the book cannot [do] justice to the breadth and depth of Sciabarra’s scholarship, nor to the subtlety of his arguments. For those whose interests encompass both Austrian economics and political philosophy, as well as those doing Hayek scholarship, this book is a must-read, even if the historical work on dialectics in the first half is somewhat abstract and slow-going. Sciabarra’s understanding of Austrian economics is first-rate and this path-breaking application of those ideas to both dialectical philosophy and a new set of foundations for libertarian political philosophy is a perspective that will demand our attention in the years to come.”
—Steven Horwitz, Review of Austrian Economics

Total Freedom offers a convincing demonstration of how crucial a role dialectics has played in the work of many of our greatest philosophers. No one interested in dialectics—or in the problems of change and interaction on which it centers—can afford to miss Sciabarra’s scholarly and surprisingly lucid history of dialectical thinking.”
—Bertell Ollman, Author of Alienation and Dialectical Investigations

“Chris Sciabarra’s Total Freedom is an astonishing work, astonishing in the depth and breadth of its scholarship, in its evidence of the use of the dialectic process by philosophers such as Aristotle, in its discovery of dialectics in the work of economists such as Murray Rothbard, and—most of all—in the firsthandedness of its author. Unlike so many other scholars and historians, Sciabarra looks at the history of philosophy through his own eyes and his own understanding. As a result, this beautifully and clearly written book will make the reader reexamine the history of philosophy and the history of dialectics by means of a new epistemological perspective: the perspective of dialectics. Total Freedom is a landmark in philosophical studies and interpretation.”
—Barbara Branden

Total Freedom is a first-rate contribution to social theory and the enduring political project of a free and humane society.”
—Peter Boettke, Author of Why Perestroika Failed: The Politics and Economics of Socialist Transformation

From the Publisher

Penn State Press has also published Sciabarra's AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL (1995), and his co-edited volume with Mimi Reisel Gladstein, FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND (1999). --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press (November 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271020490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271020495
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,373,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By The Independent Review on February 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Since the early nineteenth century, Hegelians of the left and the right have accused classical liberals and libertarians of advocating "abstract" and "ahistorical" conceptions of liberty, rights, and capitalism. We are assured, however, that if only liberals' and libertarians' thinking were more "dialectical"-if only they would look at liberty, rights, and capitalism as dynamic elements of a larger social whole-then they would see the wisdom of the paternalistic state and of the regulation (if not outright abolition) of the market economy...
...Chris Matthew Sciabarra's Total Freedom is a splendid and ambitious defense of an original and surprising thesis: that a dialectical libertarianism is not a contradiction in terms. Sciabarra argues that libertarians too can think dialectically while still remaining libertarians...
...Total Freedom comprises nine chapters that fall into two parts: "Dialectics: History and Meaning" (chapters 1-4) and "Libertarian Crossroads: The Case of Murray Rothbard" (chapters 5-9)...
...I recommend that after reading the introduction, one begin with chapter 4, "Defining Dialectics," which provides the necessary context for making sense of the first three chapters. Sciabarra treats dialectic as a methodological category and defines it in contradistinction to two pairs of rival methodological orientations: strict atomism versus strict organicism and dualism versus monism. He also defines dialectic as a "dynamic" and "historical" method, as opposed to a static and ahistorical one...
...Total Freedom is obligatory reading for libertarian philosophers and social scientists who are concerned with methodological issues.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peter Jaworski on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
As it so happens, I was expecting a long sojourn from civilization into the farmland abyss which is my parents' home. It is the holiday's, after all, and you should visit your folks, even if that means utter isolation and being quartered in by about 40 cm's of snow. So I stocked up on books, including Sciabarra's, for those moments when political conversation with my parents and sister got stale. The gems in this particular book left me half breathless and more than eager to open the dialogue on politics with anyone and everyone.
Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism is a stunning accomplishment on the part of this young, prolific and fascinating author. It's depth and scholarship is hardly matched and, for those who choose to take up this challenge (and it is a challenge), the rewards are there for the taking.
Sciabarra's project in this book can be seen as two-fold: the first part of the book explores the history of dialectics from figures like Plato and Aristotle, to Hegel and Kierkegaard, while the second part focuses on the use of dialectics within libertarian philosophy using Murray Rothbard as the perennial backdrop. Implicit throughout the book is Sciabarra's desire to shift the methodological orientation of libertarians and others toward the use of dialectics. Indeed, the 'ability to make interconnections amongst seemingly disparate things within a context' (a loose definition of dialectics), is precisely the task Sciabarra sets out for future scholars.
The topic itself is unbearably difficult. I had an incredibly difficult time getting through the first part with satisfactory understanding, reading and re-reading certain sections which simply escaped immediate comprehension. Sciabarra insists to also place an inordinate amount of footnotes on each page.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Sciabarra on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
The book truly is a breathtaking tour de force of the history of philosophy -- going from the pre-Socratics to Ayn Rand, with stops along the way especially for Aristotle, Hegel, and some great classical liberal thinkers like Menger, Mises, and Hayek.
Sciabarra defines dialectics as "the art of context-keeping" and takes us on a journey in which this method is conjoined with libertarian political philosophy -- which, in and of itself, is quite an achievement, considering that the Left has monopolized "dialectics" for years and years. No longer... this book and the other books in Sciabarra's trilogy promise to topple the left-wing monopoly on dialectical method.
A must read for anyone interested in radical politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Fanatic TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book represents a scholarly achievement by the author Chris Matthew Sciabarra. This is not an easy book but it is worth the effort. This book is NOT a defense of the Libertarian philosophy, although there is a lot of explanation of that philosophy and quotes from Murray Rothbard and others that are defending it. This book is about using a dialectical method of examining and developing a Libertarian philosophy.

The first half of this book examines the history of the dialectical method and the second half applies this to Libertarian thinkers, primarily Murray Rothbard. This book is not for the faint of heart but if you are serious about the subject I recommend you give it a look.
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