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Kirkpatrick Sale

Kirkpatrick Sale
Born (1937-06-27) June 27, 1937
Ithaca, New York
Nationality United States
Alma mater Cornell University (B.A., History, 1958)
Occupation Author
Spouse(s) Faith Apfelbaum (1958–1999; her death)

Kirkpatrick Sale (born June 27, 1937) is an independent scholar and author who has written prolifically about political decentralism, environmentalism, luddism and technology. He has been described as having 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]


  • Life and work 1
  • Views 2
    • History 2.1
    • Technology 2.2
    • Secession 2.3
  • Books 3
  • Writings on-line 4
  • Interviews 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Life and work

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. 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, who later worked as an editor with Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and Amy Tan. Faith died in 1999.[9]

Sale worked initially in 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] Sale has donated 16 boxes of materials—typescripts, galley proofs, correspondence, etc.—for each one of his books to the archives at Cornell University (2BKroch Library, Cornell, Ithaca, 14853), where they are available for public inspection.



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 Hardy 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." However, McNeill also declares Sale's work to be "unhistorical, in the sense that [it] selects from the often cloudy record of Columbus's actual motives and deeds what suits the researcher's 20th-century purposes." In McNeill's opinion, Columbus' advocates and detractors present a "sort of history [that] caricatures the complexity of human reality by turning Columbus into either a bloody ogre or a plaster saint, as the case may be."[19]


Sale "has written extensively and skeptically about technology," and has said he is "a great admirer" of anarchoprimitivist John Zerzan.[20] He has described personal computers as "the devil's work"[4] and in the past opened personal appearances by smashing one.[2] 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".[21]

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 his left activist days in 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 a convergence of 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][22]


Sale has been described as "one of the intellectual godfathers of the secessionist movement."[23] 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. Some on both left and right call for smaller, less powerful government.[4]

In 2004, Sale and members of the American Civil War. Delegates issued a statement of principles of secession which they presented as the Burlington Declaration.[24]

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][25] The convention received worldwide media attention.[26][27][28]

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."[26][27] The Southern Poverty Law Center later criticized the New York Times' October 2007 Peter Applebombe interview of Sale for not covering its allegations.[29]

Sale wrote the foreword to Thomas Naylor's 2008 book Secession: How Vermont and all the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire.[30] Sale, Thomas Naylor and four others issued "The Montpelier Manifesto" in September, 2012.[31]


  • 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
  • Emancipation Hell: The Tragedy Wrought by the Emancipation Proclamation 150 Years Ago, self published, 2012. ISBN 9781480285224

Writings on-line

  • links Sale articles as updated at Middlebury Institute, including "Breakdown of Nations," "Small Is Powerful," "Lessons of 9/11," "Things Fall Apart," "Seeing Red - and Seeing Blue," "The Case for American Secession," as well as videos featuring Sale.
  • The Sesquicentennial Is Upon Us,, April 19, 2011.
  • Are Anarchists Revolting?, The American Conservative, July 1, 2010.
  • An Enemy of the State, The American Conservative, November 6, 2006.
  • Sale contribution in The American Conservative magazine to the topic What is Left? What is Right? Does it matter?, August 28, 2006.
  • Blue State Secession, The Nation, December 13, 2005.
  • Imperial Entropy: Collapse of the American Empire, CounterPunch, February 22, 2005.
  • An End to the Israeli Experiment? Unmaking a Grievous Error, CounterPunch, March 3, 2003.
  • the Fire of His Genius, Robert Fulton and the American Dream, summary and first chapter of Sale’s book.
  • Unabomber's Secret Treatise: Is There Method In His Madness?, printed at Electronic Frontier Foundation web site.
  • The Imposition of Technology
  • Five Facets of a Myth
  • An Overview of Decentralism, Keynote Remarks at E. F. Schumacher Society Decentralist Conference, June 28–30, 1996.
  • The Columbian Legacy and the Ecosterian Response, E. F. Schumacher Society Third Annual Lecture, October 1990.
  • Mother of All: An Introduction to Bioregionalism, E. F. Schumacher Society Third Annual Lecture, October 1983.


  • Interview at
  • Interview on Luddism at
  • Luddism in the New Millennium, David Kupfer interview
  • Kevin Kelly interview (WiReD), 2004.
  • The Bioregionalist Vision, Julie A. Wortman interview
  • Apostle of Catastrophe, Derek Turner interview, Quarterly Review, 2007 (PDF).
  • A Vision of a Nation No Longer in the U.S., Peter Applebaum interview, New York Times, 2007.
  • Secession Is the Future, interview with Kayhan International newspaper of Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2009. (Also at PressTV.Ir.)
  • Interview with Arthur Versluis, "Interview with Kirkpatrick Sale." Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 2:2 (2009), pp. 133–145 [1]

See also


  1. ^ John F. Mongillo, Bibi Booth, Editors, Environmental activists, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 245, 2001, ISBN 0-313-30884-5, ISBN 978-0-313-30884-0
  2. ^ a b c Kevin Kelly, Interview with the Luddite, Wired Magazine, 1995.
  3. ^ a b c Schwenkler, John (2008-11-03) Untied States, The American Conservative
  4. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ a b Thinkquest Biography Kirkpatrick Sale.
  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. ^ a b c d e Hunter, Jack (2011-06-16) Radical Kirk, 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, Mother Jones (September/October 1996)
  13. ^ Archive of Sale's articles at The American Conservative
  14. ^ Sale, Kirkpatrick (2005-02-22) Imperial Entropy: Collapse of the American Empire, 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. ^ WBAI Folio from the Pacifica Radio Archives, November, 1982.
  18. ^ Radio appearances include Alternative Views, 1992; The Southern Avenger, 2009; The Political Cesspool; One Radio Network; Kevin Barrett show, 2010.
  19. ^ William H. McNeill, The Conquest of ParadiseReview of Kirkpatrick Sale's , New York Times, October 7, 1990.
  20. ^ Noble, Kenneth (1995-05-07) Prominent Anarchist Finds Unsought Ally in Serial Bomber, New York Times
  21. ^ Kirkpatrick Sale-Steven Levy Debate At New Jersey Institute of Technology Will Address Merits of Technology, February 1998.
  22. ^ FX Claim NLud (Claim NLud - Neo-Luddite K. Sale wins bet), The Foresight Exchange Prediction Marke web site.
  23. ^ Chris Hedges, The New Secessionists, (also at, April 26, 2010.
  24. ^ Information on the 2006 secession convention and Burlington Declaration at
  25. ^ Information on the 2007 Secession convention at
  26. ^ a b Bill Poovey, Secessionists Meeting in Tennessee, Associated Press, October 3, 2007.
  27. ^ a b Leonard Doyle, Anger over Iraq and Bush prompts calls for secession from the US, The Independent, UK, October 4, 2007.
  28. ^ WDEF News 12 Video report on Secessionist Convention on YouTube, WDEF YouTube Channel, October 3, 2007.
  29. ^ Mark Potok, New York Times Feature on Sale Left Out a Fact or Two, October 23, 2007.
  30. ^ Secession: How Vermont and all the Other States Can Save Themselves from the Empire, Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2008.
  31. ^ Thomas H. Naylor, Kirkpatrick Sale, James Starkey, Chellis Glendinning, Carolyn Chute and Charles Keil, The Montpelier Manifesto], at Second Vermont Republic website, September, 2012.

External links

  • Prof. Martin Ryder's page on Luddites and neo-Luddites with information on Kirkpatrick Sale - University of Colorado at Denver, School of Education
  • , November 25, 2001.The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream interview with Sale on Booknotes
  • Book review, Jan. 23, 2012 issue of Vermont Commons, of Kirkpatrick Sale’s Why America Failed
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