Kirkpatrick Sale

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Kirkpatrick Sale
Born (1937-06-27) June 27, 1937 (age 85)
Alma materCornell University
OccupationJournalist, scholar, and author

Kirkpatrick Sale (born in Ithaca, New York, June 27, 1937) is an independent scholar and author who has written about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism and technology. People say he has a "philosophy unified by decentralism"[1] and as being "a leader of the Neo-Luddites,",[2] an "anti-globalization leftist,"[3] and "the theoretician for a new secessionist movement."[4]

Early life and career[change | change source]

Sale grew up in Cayuga Heights, Ithaca, New York, and would later say of the village that he "spent most of my first twenty years there, and that has made an imprint on me–on my philosophy, social attitudes, certainly on my politics–that has lasted powerfully for the rest of my life."[5] He graduated from Cornell University, majoring in history, in 1958.[6][7]

He served as editor of the student-owned and managed newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun. Sale was one of the leaders of the May 23, 1958 protest against university policies forbidding male and female students fraternizing and its in loco parentis policy.[Note 1] Sale and his friend and roommate Richard Farina, and three others, were charged by Cornell. The protest was described in Farina's 1966 novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me.[4]

In 1958 he collaborated with Thomas Pynchon on an unproduced futuristic musical called "Minstrel Island."[8]

Upon graduating in 1958, Sale married Faith Apfelbaum. She later worked as an editor with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and Amy Tan. Faith died in 1999.[9]

Sale worked initially in journalism for the leftist journal New Leader, "a magazine founded in 1924 in part by socialists Norman Thomas and Eugene Debs,"[10] and the New York Times Magazine. He then became a freelance journalist. He spent time in Ghana and wrote his first book about it. His second book, SDS, was about the radical 1960s group Students for a Democratic Society, of which he was a founder.[3] The book "is still considered one of the best sources on the youth activist organization that helped define 1960s radicalism."[10] In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[11]

Subsequent books explored radical decentralism, bioregionalism,[12] environmentalism, the Luddites and similar themes.[7] He "has been a regular contributor to progressive magazines like Mother Jones and The Nation for the better part of his writing career,"[10] and has continued to write for those publications,[3] as well as for The American Conservative,[13] CounterPunch,[14] The New York Review of Books,[15] and the Utne Reader.[16] Sale presented public affairs programming for WBAI in the early 1980s[17] and has made appearances on alternative radio over the years.[18]

Views[change | change source]

History[change | change source]

In his 1990 book, The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, Sale argued that Christopher Columbus was an imperialist bent on conquest from his first voyage. In a New York Times book review, historian and member of the Christopher Columbus Quincentenary Jubilee Committee William H. McNeill wrote about Sale: "he has set out to destroy the heroic image that earlier writers have transmitted to us. Mr. Sale makes Columbus out to be cruel, greedy and incompetent (even as a sailor), and a man who was perversely intent on abusing the natural paradise on which he intruded."[19] The book Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History presents a debate between Sale and Robert Royal, vice president for research at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who insisted that Columbus was a courageous risk-taker who advanced knowledge about other parts of the world.[20]

Technology[change | change source]

Sale "has written extensively and skeptically about technology," and has said he is "a great admirer" of anarchoprimitivist John Zerzan.[21] He has described personal computers as "the devil's work"[4] and in the past started public speeches by smashing one.[22] During promotion of his 1995 book Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution, Sale debated with Newsweek Magazine senior editor and technology columnist Steven Levy "about the relative merits of the communications age".[23]

Sale has said that he does not "care much for popular music outside some of the Tin Pan Alley era tunes of the early 20th century."[10] For example, "he once heard a 'racket' in a nightclub during ... the 1960s from some 'young man' everyone told him was a 'big deal.' That 'young man' turned out to be Bob Dylan." Kirk recalls that "he’d never heard anything so awful in his life."[10]

In 1995, Sale agreed to a public bet with Kevin Kelly that by the year 2020, there would be three disasters: global currency collapse, significant warfare between rich and poor, and environmental disasters of some significant size. The bet was turned into a claim on the FX prediction market, where the probability has hovered around 25%.[2][24]

Secession[change | change source]

Sale believes that people should be able to break apart large nation-states into small pieces (secession). Sale has been called "one of the intellectual godfathers of the secessionist movement."[25] He argues that the major theme of contemporary history, from the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the expansion of United Nations membership from 51 in 1945 to 193 nations today, is the breakup of great empires. People on both left and right call for smaller, less powerful government.[4]

In 2004, Sale and members of the Second Vermont Republic formed the Middlebury Institute which is dedicated to the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination. Sale is director of the institute. In 2006, Middlebury sponsored the First North American Secessionist Convention, which attracted 40 participants from 16 secessionist organizations and was described as the first gathering of secessionists since the American Civil War. Delegates issued a statement of principles of secession which they presented as the "Burlington Declaration".[26]

In October 2007, the New York Times interviewed Sale about the Second North American Secessionist Convention, co-hosted by the Middlebury Institute. Sale told the interviewer, "The virtue of small government is that the mistakes are small as well." He went on to say, "If you want to leave a nation you think is corrupt, inefficient, militaristic, oppressive, repressive, but you don't want to move to Canada or France, what do you do? Well, the way is through secession, where you could stay home and be where you want to be.”[4][27] The convention received worldwide media attention.[28][29][30]

News stories about the Second North American Secessionist Convention in 2007 mentioned the controversial Southern Poverty Law Center's allegations that the other co-sponsor, The League of the South, was a "racist hate group." Sale responded, "They call everybody racists. There are, no doubt, racists in the League of the South, and there are, no doubt, racists everywhere."[28][29] The Southern Poverty Law Center later criticized the New York Times' October 2007 Peter Applebombe interview of Sale for not covering its allegations.[31]

Sale wrote the foreword to Thomas Naylor's 2008 book Secession: How Vermont and all the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire.[32] Sale continues to speak on secession and other issues around the nation.[33]

Books[change | change source]

  • The Land and People of Ghana, Lippincott, 1963, 1972.
  • SDS, Random House, 1973. Vintage Books edition (paperback) 1974. ISBN 0-394-47889-4
  • Power Shift: The Rise of the Southern Rim and Its Challenge to the Eastern Establishment. New York: Random House, 1975.
  • Human Scale. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1980. ISBN 0-698-11013-7
  • Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985. ISBN 0-87156-847-0
  • The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, Knopf, 1990.
  • The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1992, Hill and Wang, 1993.
  • Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age, Addison Wesley, 1995.
  • Why the Sea Is Salt: Poems of Love and Loss, iuniverse, 2001.
  • The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream, Free Press, 2001.
  • After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination, Duke University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8223-3938-0

Writings on-line[change | change source]

Interviews[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. The protest arrived at the home of President Deane Waldo Malott just as he was hosting a dinner for John L. Collyer the Chairman of the Board and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Collyer stood behind Malott as students threw eggs at him. A few days later, the board met to vote to grant degrees to the graduating class. Normally, one vote is taken for all graduating students, but Sale was singled out for a separate debate.

References[change | change source]

  1. John F. Mongillo, Bibi Booth, Editors, Environmental activists, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 245, 2001, ISBN 0313308845, 9780313308840
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kevin Kelly, Interview with the Luddite, Wired Magazine, 1995.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Schwenkler, John (2008-11-03) Untied States Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine, The American Conservative
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Peter Applebombe, A Vision of a Nation No Longer in the U.S., New York Times, October 18, 2007.
  5. Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Importance of Growing Up Village, Front Porch Republic
  6. Richard and Mimi Farina "fan site".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Thinkquest Biography Kirkpatrick Sale". Archived from the original on 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  8. Thomas Pynchon: An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
  9. Bruce Weber, Obituary: Faith Sale, 63, a Fiction Editor Known as a Writers' Advocate, New York Times, December 13, 1999.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Hunter, Jack (2011-06-16) Radical Kirk Archived 2011-08-27 at the Wayback Machine, The American Conservative
  11. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  12. Anderson, Walter Truett. There's no going back to nature Archived 2012-05-29 at, Mother Jones (September/October 1996)
  13. Archive Archived 2010-12-27 at the Wayback Machine of Sale's articles at The American Conservative
  14. Sale, Kirkpatrick (2005-02-22) Imperial Entropy: Collapse of the American Empire Archived 2005-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, CounterPunch
  15. Sale, Kirkpatrick (1973-05-03) The World Behind Watergate, New York Review of Books
  16. Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Secession Solution, Utne Reader (January-February 2011)
  17. Wolio from the Pacifica Radio Archives, November, 1982.
  18. Radio appearances include Alternative Views, 1992; The Southern Avenger Archived 2009-12-23 at the Wayback Machine, 2009; The Political Cesspool Archived 2012-02-22 at the Wayback Machine; One Radio Network Archived 2009-07-26 at the Wayback Machine; Kevin Barrett show, 2010.
  19. William H. McNeill, Review of Kirkpatrick Sale's The Conquest of Paradise, New York Times, October 7, 1990.
  20. Larry Madaras & James M. SoRelle (eds.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American History, Vol. I (10th ed.), McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2002, ISBN 0-07-813940-6.
  21. Noble, Kenneth (1995-05-07) Prominent Anarchist Finds Unsought Ally in Serial Bomber, New York Times
  22. Wired editor Kevin Kelly's interview with Sale, June 1995
  23. Kirkpatrick Sale-Steven Levy Debate At New Jersey Institute of Technology Will Address Merits of Technology Archived 2008-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, February 1998.
  24. FX Claim NLud (Claim NLud - Neo-Luddite K. Sale wins bet), The Foresight Exchange Prediction Market web site. Retrieved January 1, 2012.
  25. Chris Hedges, The New Secessionists, also at, April 26, 2010.
  26. Information on the 2006 secession convention Archived 2013-01-21 at the Wayback Machine and Burlington Declaration Archived 2015-11-01 at the Wayback Machine at Archived 2012-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  27. Information on the 2007 Secession convention[permanent dead link] at Archived 2012-01-14 at the Wayback Machine
  28. 28.0 28.1 Bill Poovey, Secessionists Meeting in Tennessee[permanent dead link], Associated Press, October 3, 2007.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Leonard Doyle, Anger over Iraq and Bush prompts calls for secession from the US Archived 2008-01-17 at the Wayback Machine, Independent, UK, October 4, 2007.
  30. WDEF News 12 Video report on Secessionist Convention Archived 2007-10-11 at the Wayback Machine, October 3, 2007.
  31. Mark Potok, New York Times Feature on Sale Left Out a Fact or Two, October 23, 2007.
  32. Secession: How Vermont and all the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire, Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2008.
  33. Asheville Mountain Express, April 2010; Mountain Express, April 2010.

Other websites[change | change source]