Josiah Warren
Photograph by Frank Rowell, Studio, 25 Winter St. Boston, Mass., U.S.
BornJune 26, 1798[1]
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 1874(1874-04-14) (aged 75)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Burial placeMount Auburn Cemetery,[2] Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
SpouseCaroline Catter
ChildrenGeorge William Warren

Philosophy career
Era19th century
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
The individual, economics, intentional communities
Notable ideas
Sovereignty of the individual, Labor for Labor (equal pay)
Writing career
SubjectSocial philosophy, Political philosophy
Notable worksEquitable Commerce (1846), True Civilization (1863)
Academic career
School or
ContributionsCost the limit of price, Labor voucher

Josiah Warren (/ˈwɒrən/; June 26, 1798 – April 14, 1874) was an American utopian socialist, American individualist anarchist,[4] individualist philosopher, polymath, social reformer, inventor, musician, printer and author. He is regarded by anarchist historians like James J. Martin and Peter Marshall among others as the first American anarchist[5][6][7][8] (although Warren never used the term anarchism himself) and the four-page weekly paper he edited during 1833, The Peaceful Revolutionist, the first anarchist periodical published,[9] was an enterprise for which he built his own printing press, cast his own type, and made his own printing plates.[9]


Josiah Warren at the age of 17.

Warren was born June 26, 1798.[1] He moved from Boston to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked as a music teacher and orchestra leader.[10] They had two children, Caroline (1820–1850) and George (1826–1902), and George wrote a remembrance of his father that can be found in the Labadie Library at the University of Michigan. He invented a tallow-burning lamp in 1821 and manufactured his invention for a number of years in Cincinnati.[11]

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.[12] A Cincinnati colony was attempted without Warren's involvement, but failed.[13]

Cincinnati and Utopia

Main article: Cincinnati Time Store

He put his theories to the test by establishing an experimental "labor for labor store" called the Cincinnati Time Store in downtown Cincinnati, which facilitated trade by notes backed by a promise to perform labor. This was the first store to use a labor-for-labor note.[14]

Between 1827 and 1830,[15] the store proved successful. Warren closed the store to pursue establishing colonies based on economic mutualism,[16] including "Utopia" and "Modern Times."

Modern Times

Main article: Utopian Community of Modern Times

Modern Times, which was located in what is now Brentwood, New York, lasted from approximately 1851 to 1864.[17] It was Josiah Warren's last attempt to put his ideas of Equitable Commerce and sovereignty of the individual,[18] which he had developed over a lifetime of study and experimentation, into action. In 1850, Warren came back to Boston from the Midwest and began searching for an area near a major city, with low land prices, to establish a utopian community.[19] The inexpensive land enabled Warren to be able to implement his plan to provide homes for families that had never owned one before.[20] The Pine Barrens of long Island where Modern Times was located had an undeserved reputation as having poor soil[21] so he was able to purchase 400 acres at $2.75 an acre with a very small down payment.[22] Modern Times was a town with neither government nor money nor laws and can accurately be described as anarchistic,[22] yet there was no crime and very little commotion.[23] The citizens of Modern Times although eschewing the profit motive, were not socialistic in their attitude toward ownership of property or the means of production.[24] According to author Roger Wunderlich, "On 7 September 1864 the name of the village was changed to Brentwood."[25]

Later life and death

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.[26]

Warren died on April 14, 1874, in Charlestown at the home of a friend after developing edema.[26][27][28]


Like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Warren chose the libertarian socialist path of anarchism, individualism, and mutualism.[29] Warren has been considered the "American Proudhon"[30] due to his belief in his labor theory of value "cost the limit of price" in a free-market socialist system [31] in addition to his support for mutualism through encouraging Mutualist Banks:

“In a letter to John Sullivan Dwight, Greene, writing in January, 1850, mentioned a petition to the Massachusetts General Court for permission to establish a mutual bank, which was signed by Warren, among others.”[29]

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."[32] Warren is notable for expounding the idea of "sovereignty of the individual".

In his Manifesto,[33] Warren writes:

[T]he forming of societies or any other artificial combinations IS the first, greatest, and most fatal mistake ever committed by legislators and by reformers. That all these combinations require the surrender of the natural sovereignty of the INDIVIDUAL over her or his person, time, property and responsibilities, to the government of the combination. That this tends to prostrate the individual—To reduce him to a mere piece of a machine; involving others in responsibility for his acts, and being involved in responsibilities for the acts and sentiments of his associates; he lives & acts, without proper control over his own affairs, without certainty as to the results of his actions, and almost without brains that he dares to use on his own account; and consequently never realizes the great objects for which society is professedly formed.

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 [34] including Warren's belief that employers should pay their employees the full value of their labor according to the cost principle.[35] Warren's theory of value places him within the tradition of free-market socialism. William Bailie states:

The outcome of Warren's theory of value, of Cost the Limit of Price, was to place him squarely in line with the cardinal doctrine of all other schools of modern socialism. He believed that labor was robbed through rent, interest, and profit and his aim, like that of the Socialists, was to prevent these modes of exploitation.[31]

Ethics of pricing

In 1827, Warren conceived the idea of labor notes, a scheme which was later practised in socialist Owenite labour exchanges in the mid-1830s.[36]

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.[37] 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.

Sample labor for labor note for the Cincinnati Time Store scanned from Equitable Commerce (1846) by Warren

They could exchange the notes at local time stores for goods that took the same amount of time to produce."[5] To charge more labor for something that entailed less labor was "cannibalism," according to him.[38] 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:

If cost is made the limit of price, every one becomes interested in reducing COST, by bringing in all the economies, all the facilities to their aid. But, on the contrary, if cost does not govern the price, but every thing is priced at what it will bring, there are no such co-operating interests. If I am to have my supply of flour at cost, then, any facility I can afford to the wheat grower, reduces the cost to me, and it does the same for all who have any portion of the wheat, I am promoting all their interests while pursuing my own ... Now if the wheat were NOT TO BE SOLD TO us AT COST, but at "whatever it would bring" according to our necessities, then none of us would have any interest in affording facilities, repairing breaches, nor in any other way co-operating with the producer of it. The same motive would act in the production, preservation, and use of every thing.[39]


Josiah Warren is the inventor of the first rotary press.[40][41][42][43][44] Warren began working on the idea in 1830, but he did not patent the invention, it was "simply given to the public."[45] A few years after exhibiting the invention in New York, Hoe and Company[46] was reaping large sums of money marketing an identical press, one that would revolutionize printing toward the end of the 19th century.[47]

Josiah Warren's printing press


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.[48] In the United States 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, author of On Liberty, 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."[49] Warren's principle of the "sovereignty of the individual" was later taken up by Mill and Herbert Spencer.[50]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Josiah Warren index card, Notes by Wilbur David Peat about Josiah Warren". Archived from the original on September 30, 2021. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  2. ^ "Josiah Warren – Remember My Journey". Remember My Journey. Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  3. ^ Modrzejewska, Magdalena (2016). Josiah Warren – The First American Anarchist: "A remarkable American". Księgarnia Akademicka. p. 49. ISBN 978-8376388083. Archived from the original on March 25, 2022. Retrieved September 30, 2021.
  4. ^ William, Bailie. Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist, Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist University of California Libraries: San Bernardino, CA 2017. pp viii.
  5. ^ a b Palmer, Brian (2010-12-29) What do anarchists want from us? Archived September 1, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,
  6. ^ James J. Martin, Men Against the State. Ralph Myles Publisher Inc. 1970. p. 4.
  7. ^ Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. PM Press: Oakland, CA. 2010. p. 23. ISBN 978-1604860641.
  8. ^ William Bailie. Josiah Warren, The First American Anarchist. Small, Maynard & Company. 1906.
  9. ^ a b William Bailie, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2013.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Josiah Warren: The First American Anarchist – A Sociological Study, Boston: Small, Maynard & Co., 1906, p. 20
  10. ^ Howlett, Charles F. (February 1, 2005). "Warren, Josiah (c. 1798–14 April 1874), social reformer, inventor, musician, and America's first philosophical anarchist". American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1101217. Archived from the original on August 13, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  11. ^ William Bailie, Josiah Warren; George Warren, "Josiah Warren"; "Weekly Summary," The Plough Boy, and Journal of the Board of Agriculture, 2, 52 (May 26, 1821), 415.
  12. ^ Josiah Warren, "The Motives for Communism – How It Worked and What It Led To," Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, IV, 14 (Feb. 17, 1872), 5.
  13. ^ Josiah Warren, "The Motives for Communism – How It Worked and What It Led To – Article II," Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, IV, 15 (Feb. 24, 1872).
  14. ^ Wunderlich, Roger (1992). Low Living and High Thinking at Modern Times, New York. Paul Avrich Collection, Library of Congress. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0815625544. Archived from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  15. ^ Martin 1958, p. 13.
  16. ^ Martin, James J. Men Against the State. Ralph Myles Publisher, Inc. Colorado Springs. 1970. p. 44
  17. ^ Wunderlich, Roger, Low living and High Thinking at Modern Times 1851–1864, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992, p. 185.[ISBN missing]
  18. ^ Dyson, Vern, A Fleeting Moment in History, Modern Times, [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], [between 2000 and 2009?], retrieved from Archived 2012-08-10 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Wunderlich 1992, p. 22
  20. ^ Wunderlich 1992, p. 10
  21. ^ Wunderlich 1992, p. 6
  22. ^ a b Wunderlich 1992, pp. 9–10
  23. ^ Bailie, William, Josiah Warren: The First American Anarchist A Sociological Study, Boston, MA.:Small, Maynard & Company,1906, Retrieved from
  24. ^ Wunderlich 1992, p. 133
  25. ^ Wunderlich 1992, p. 183
  26. ^ a b Martin, James J. (1958). Men Against the State. Ludwig von Mises Institute. pp. 94–102. ISBN 978-1610161756. Archived from the original on June 27, 2014. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  27. ^ William Bailie, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 4, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2013.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) op.cit., p. 35
  28. ^ "Josiah Warren death notice". The Boston Daily Globe. April 16, 1874. p. 7. Archived from the original on May 18, 2021. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  29. ^ a b James J. Martin, Men Against the State. Ralph Myles Publisher Inc. 1970. p. 65.
  30. ^ Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism. PM Press. Oakland, CA. 2010. p. 385. ISBN 978-1604860641
  31. ^ a b William Bailie. Josiah Warren, The First American Anarchist. University of California Libraries. San Bernardino, CA. 2017. pp. 111–112.[ISBN missing]
  32. ^ Butler, Ann Caldwell. "Josiah Warren and the Sovereignty of the Individual Archived March 27, 2014, at the Wayback Machine". Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. IV, No. 4 (Fall 1980)
  33. ^ "Josiah Warren Manifesto". Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  34. ^ Charles A. Madison. "Anarchism in the United States". Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 6, No. 1. (Jan., 1945), p. 53
  35. ^ Stephen Pearl Andrews. The Science of Society. Leopold Classic Library. Middletown, DE. 2016. p. 233
  36. ^ Gregory Claeys (2018). Marx and Marxism. Pelican Books. pp. 94–96. ISBN 978-0141983486.
  37. ^ "A watch has a cost and a value. The COST consists of the amount of labor bestowed on the mineral or natural wealth, in converting it into metals ...". Warren, Josiah. Equitable Commerce
  38. ^ "If a priest is required to get a soul out of purgatory, he sets his price according to the value which the relatives set upon his prayers, instead of their cost to the priest. This, again, is cannibalism. The same amount of labor equally disagreeable, with equal wear and tear, performed by his customers, would be a just remuneration". Warren, Josiah. Equitable Commerce
  39. ^ Warren, Josiah. Equitable Commerce. pp. 77–78
  40. ^ Bailie, William (1906). "X. Inventions in Printing". Josiah Warren, the First American Anarchist: A Sociological Study. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company.
  41. ^ Butler, Ann (1978). "Josiah Warren, peaceful revolutionist". Virtual Press. Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  42. ^ "16. Josiah Warren". Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  43. ^ Wilbur, Shawn P. (July 20, 2017). "Josiah Warren, "Reduction in the Cost of Printing Apparatus" (1830)". The Libertarian Labyrinth. Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  44. ^ "Josiah Warren's Universal Typography". Archived from the original on September 29, 2021. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  45. ^ Reece, Erik (2016). "A Simple Act of Moral Commerce". Utopia Drive: A Road Trip through America's Most Radical Idea (1st ed.). New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-10657-7. LCCN 2015041553. Archived from the original on March 25, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  46. ^ US3687A, "Improvement in printing-presses", issued 1844-07-30  Archived September 29, 2021, at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ Reece, Erik (2016). "A Simple Act of Moral Commerce". Utopia Drive: A Road Trip through America's Most Radical Idea. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-10657-7. LCCN 2015041553. Archived from the original on March 25, 2022. Retrieved March 25, 2022.
  48. ^ Xavier Diez. L'anarquisme Individualista a Espanya 1923–1938 Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine p. 42
  49. ^ Mill, John Stuart. Autobiography (1873), Oxford University Press, World's Classics edition (1935), p. 217
  50. ^ Harvey Wish. "Stephen Pearl Andrews, American Pioneer Sociologist". Social Forces, Vol. 19, No. 4. (May, 1941), p. 481