Those Fabulous Dragon’s Teeth

Peter Linebaugh: We have the World to gain, the Earth to recuperate.

PETER LINEBAUGH: WE HAVE THE WORLD TO GAIN, THE EARTH TO RECUPERATE

On brief respite from our northerly peregrinations along the spine of the glacial moraine, we take note of an exceptionally timely “swan-honk”, sounding forth from the rich voice of historian Peter Linebaugh. The full text is worth careful consideration; we excerpt below the opening paragraphs, that focus on the transformation of American universities into “fog factories” and debt machines, beholden to their corporate masters.

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The Milton reference descends from the story of Cadmus, the carrier of literacy and civilization, and his slaying of a dragon that had been guarding an enchanted spring. Cadmus pierced the dragon’s heart by way of its throat and then, following the commands of an airborne voice, planted half of the dragon’s teeth. From each tooth sprang a warrior from the soil, five of whom would join Cadmus in the construction of Thebes.

Peter Linebaugh has planted numerous dragon’s teeth of his own over the course of his distinguished (however devalued) career as a historian “from below”, in the tradition of E.P. Thompson:  The London Hanged, (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.

An excellent interview regarding the legal and cultural legacy of Magna Carta dates from 2009, yet every word remains relevant five years later. Though he may have retired from the Fog Factory of Toledo, we are hopeful that Peter Linebaugh has a few more teeth to sow.

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