Political Influences: Part I

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Bob from Brockley asked a few bloggers (including yours truly) to list our five greatest political influences. It’s rather difficult for me to say as my politics have shifted over time from the extremes of the radical left to a more pragmatic centrism. It was very hard reducing the list to five but here they are:

1. Family. I’d be remiss (and a jerk) if I failed to mention my family. First, my mother taught me the value of compromise and being a good listener and negotiator. Second, my grandfather and his extensive library introduced me to the world of ideas at an early age. Last, but certainly not least, my brother (may he rest in peace) schooled me in the art of debate arguing.

2. Friends. I’ve been blessed with some remarkable friends over the years, many of whom never seem to tire of hashing and rehashing political quandaries, historical events, and old arguments. Without these intellectual comrades and allies I would not be the person I am today.

3. Paul Avrich. Historian and author of numerous books on the Russian and U.S. anarchist movements.

4. George Orwell.

5. Paolo Freire. Educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

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6 responses »

  1. Goof list. Demonstrates your ethical soundness (family and friends), your political soundness (Orwell) and your interestingness (Avrich). Paulo Freire is a great writer as well as a profound thinker, who doesn’t get read enough by non-academic leftists.

  2. P.S. I am an Avrich fan too, in case I didn’t make that clear. His historical work has been an important reference point for my own research, which is not something I blog about. It was sad when he died last year. The libertarian movement lost an important connection with the golden age of the Fraye Arbeter Shtime and Rudolf Rocker.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Bob.

    I would have posted this sooner but I was in California for a week and away from a computer.

    Freire was one of those authors who took me a while to digest but once I did he had a real impact on how I viewed efforts for social change. Now a teacher myself, I must admit that I do not use most of his pedagogical methods in my classes.

    Avrich is one of the main influences in my intellectual and academic development as a historian. I had an opportunity to meet him twice and he was always friendly and interested in my research (I don’t blog about my research either). It was quite sad when he passed. I attended his funeral in Manhattan and was really surprised to learn that he served with military intelligence (similar to Orwell). It was also touching to hear his wife and two daughters talk.

  4. A long answer…

    I had such a hard time making this list. It started when I began picking apart the meaning of political influence. Would I list individuals who I know or have known? That would easily be over ten people. Authors whose books I’ve read (Avrich, Orwell)? Again, easily over ten. How about political theories, worldviews, or ideologies? Soon my attempt to write a short list became a bunch of lists along these lines. The final five were chosen/condensed from these various lists.

    So what to do with these other lists? I don’t know. I might post one or another at some point but I’m not the biggest list guy.

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