1798 - April
Josiah Warren was an individualist anarchist, inventor, musician, and author in the United
States. He is regarded by some as the first American anarchist,and the four-page weekly paper he edited during 1833, The Peaceful Revolutionist, was the first anarchist periodical published,an enterprise for
which he built his own printing press, cast his own type, and made his own printing plates.
Warren was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1798.He showed an early talent for music and was a member of the "Old Boston Brigade Band" at an early age. He may have married at age 20 and then moved
to Cincinnati, Ohio where
he worked as a music teacher and orchestra leader.He invented a tallow-burning lamp in
1821 and manufactured his invention for a number of years in Cincinnati.
In 1825, Warren became aware of the "social system" of Robert Owen and began to talk with others in Cincinnati about founding a communist colony.When this group failed to come to agreement about the form and goals of their proposed community, Warren "sold
his factory after only two years of operation, packed up his young family, and took his place as one of 900 or so Owenites who had decided to become part of the founding population of New Harmony, Indiana."The Cincinnati colony was attempted without Warren's involvement, but failed.Warren traveled by flat-boat from Cincinnati, arriving in New Harmony in early May, 1825. By 1827, he had returned to Cincinnati, convinced that the complete individualization of interests was necessary to cooperation. He
considered Owen's experiment "communism," which he rejected in no uncertain terms,
but he developed a warm and lasting respect for Robert Owen and his sons. One of his earliest writings, published in The March of Mind in 1827, attests
to this, as do later writings.
Warren later returned to the Boston area. From 1864 to 1869, he resided in Cliftondale, Massachusetts, where he twice attempted to establish a mutual town. He then moved back to Boston, where he remained
until his death.
Warren died on April 14, 1874 in Charlestown at the
home of a friend after developing edema.
Warren, like Proudhon, chose the path of anarchism and individualism. Benjamin Tucker dedicated his collection of essays, Instead
of a Book, to the memory of Warren, "my friend and master...whose teachings were my first source of light". Tucker credits Warren with being "the first man to expound and formulate the doctrine now known as Anarchism."John Stuart Mill said Warren's philosophy, "though being a superficial resemblance to some of the project of the Socialists, is diametrically opposed to them in principle, since
it recognizes no authority whatever in Society, over the individual, except to enforce equal freedom of development for all individuals."Warren's principle of the "sovereignty of the individual" was later taken up by Mill and Herbert Spencer.
Warren's individualistic philosophy arose out
of his rejection of Robert Owen's
cooperative movement, of which he was an early participant, witnessing in person the failure of Owen's New Harmony commune. Of it, he wrote: "It seemed that the difference of opinion, tastes, and purposes increased just in proportion to the demand for conformity […] It
appeared that it was nature's own inherent law of diversity that had conquered us […] our 'united interests' were directly at war with the individualities of persons and circumstances and the instinct of self-preservation". According to Warren, there
should be absolutely no community of property; all property should be individualized, and "those who advocated any type of communism with connected property, interests, and responsibilities were doomed to failure because of the individuality of the persons
involved in such an experiment."Warren is notable for expounding the idea of "sovereignty of the individual".
In his Manifesto Josiah Warren writes:
Josiah Warren termed the phrase "cost the limit of price," with "cost" here referring not to monetary price paid but the labor one exerted to produce an item.This understanding of cost is congruent with that of the classical economist Adam Smith who said "The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire
it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it," though Warren reached different conclusions. He believed that goods and services should trade according to how much labor was exerted to produce them and bring them to market, instead of according to how individuals
believed them to be subjectively
worth. Therefore, he "proposed a system to pay people with certificates indicating how many hours of work they did. They could exchange the notes at local time stores for goods that took the same amount of time to produce."To charge more labor for something that entailed less labor was "cannibalism," according to him.Moreover, he believed that trading according to "cost the limit of price" would promote increasing efficiency
in an economy, as he explains in Equitable Commerce:
He put his theories to the test by establishing an experimental "labor for labor
store" called the Cincinnati Time Store at
the corner of 5th and Elm Streets in what is now downtown Cincinnati, where trade was facilitated by notes backed by a promise to perform labor. "All the goods offered for sale in Warren's store were offered at the same price the merchant himself had paid
for them, plus a small surcharge, in the neighborhood of 4 to 7 percent, to cover store overhead."The store proved successful and operated for three years after which it was closed so that Warren could pursue establishing colonies based on mutualism. These included "Utopia" and "Modern Times." Warren said that Stephen Pearl Andrews' The Science of Society, published in 1852, was the most lucid and complete exposition of Warren's own theories.
Catalan historian Xavier Diez reports that the intentional communal experiments pioneered by Warren were influential in European individualist anarchists of
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such as Émile Armand and the intentional communities started by them.