Support C4SS with Kevin Carson’s “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Kevin Carson’s “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand” that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Kevin Carson’s “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand”.

$2.00 for the first copy. $1.50 for every additional copy.

This essay, originally pub­lish­ed by Red Lion Press in 2001, was one of Carson’s first ground-breaking contributions to the revival of Mutualist ideas within today’s anarchist and libertarian milieus. It has been re-issued in a beautiful new printing by ALL Distro.

“Manorialism commonly, is recognized to have been founded by robbery and usurpation; a rul­ing class established itself by force, and then com­pel­led the peasantry to work for the profit of their lords. But no system of exploitation, including cap­it­al­ism, has ever been created by the action of a free market. Capitalism was founded on an act of rob­bery as massive as feudalism. It has been sus­tain­ed to the present by continual state inter­ven­tion to protect its system of privilege, with­out which its survival is unimaginable.

“The current structure of capital ownership and org­an­iz­ation of production in our so-called ‘market’ eco­n­omy, re­flects coercive state intervention prior to and ex­tra­n­e­ous to the market. From the outset of the industrial re­vol­ut­ion, what is nostalgically called ‘laissez-faire’ was in fact a sys­t­em of continuing state intervention to sub­sid­ize ac­cum­ulation, guar­ant­ee privilege, and maintain work discipline.

“A world in which peasants had held onto their land and property was widely distributed, capital was freely available to laborers through mutual banks, productive tech­nology was freely avail­able in every country without pat­ents, and every people was free to develop locally without col­on­ial robbery, is beyond our imagination. But it would have been a world of decentralized, small-scale production for local use, own­ed and controlled by those who did the work — as dif­fer­ent from our world as day from night, or freedom from slav­ery. . . .”

Kevin A. Carson is a contemporary mutualist author and a prolific writer on subjects including free-market anti-cap­it­al­ism, the in­div­idualist anarchist tradition, grassroots technology and radical unionism. He keeps a blog at and frequently publishes short columns and longer research reports for the Center for a Stateless Society (

Mutualism, as a variety of anarchism, goes back to P.-J. Proudhon in france and Josiah Warren in the u.s. It favors, to the extent possible, an evolutionary approach to creating a new society. It emphasizes the importance of peaceful activity in building alternative social institutions within the existing society, and strengthening those insti­tut­ions until they finally replace the existing statist system; doing whatever is possible (in the words of the Wobbly slogan) to “build the structure of the new society within the shell of the old” before we try to break the shell.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory