Should Seeds Be Mere Commodities?

This is a segment from Laurie Johnson’s presentation in the first session of The Maurin Academy’s Fall 2022 short series on Agricultural Biotechnology and the Information Economy. She is guided by information from the first part of Jack Kloppenberg’s First the Seed. The short series with Laurie Johnson and Jakob Hanschu brings Kloppenberg’s scholarship to bear on McKenzie Wark’s The Hacker Manifesto, and vice versa.

Dustbowl Diatribes 6: What the Frack?

Our guest is Nik Gaffron talks to us about his personal experience fighting fracking on public lands in Pennsylvania. We learn a lot about the fracking process as well as the politics and economics, especially how it impacts people who live near a fracking operation. Why do public officials so easily consent to these large-scale industrial operations in or close to residential areas? Why is it so hard to fight fracking in an effort to protect not only public lands but private property and its value? What are the hidden costs financially and to our health?

Coming Up: Agricultural Biotechnology & the Information Economy

This Maurin Academy short series will run on Tuesdays from 7-8:30 p.m Central US time starting August 23 and ending September 20. Laurie Johnson and Jakob Hanschu will analyze the political economy of agricultural biotechnology using insights from critical studies of the information era. We invite participants to join us. If you would like to do so, please use Eventbrite to sign up (we’ve set it to any donation–see below. Through a juxtaposition of McKenzie Wark’s A Hacker Manifesto with Jack Kloppenburg’s First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000, we aim to produce a conceptually hybrid critical-theoretical approach to agricultural biotechnology and digital capitalism.

Registration Open for Agricultural Biotechnology Short Series

Register for our latest short series on Agricultural Biotechnology and the Information Economy on Eventbrite! We are requesting a donation of any amount for this five session series with Jakob Hanschu and Laurie Johnson.

This short series will analyze the political economy of agricultural biotechnology using insights from critical studies of the information era. Through a juxtaposition of McKenzie Wark’s A Hacker Manifesto with Jack Kloppenberg’s First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000, we aim to produce a conceptually hybrid critical-theoretical approach to agricultural biotechnology and digital capitalism. Key Questions: Can we understand seeds as information? What happens when they become intellectual property? Who should own the information to feed the world?

Dustbowl Diatribes 4: Talking Dustbowl Blues

History Ph.D. candidate Bryant Macfarlane joins Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson for a discussion of the conditions that made for the 1930’s Dustbowl and continue to operate today to deplete soil fertility and instigate climate change. Hannah Holleman’s book, Dustbowls of Empire is the subject of the first part of our conversation. Macfarlane later explains how Latin Common Law was practiced in the American Southwest prior to the Mexican-American War, and how practices that treated water as communal good rather than private property were eliminated by the advent of the English view of property. That began the era of accelerated metabolic rifts that led to the Dustbowl and our current dilemmas, such as ocean dead zones due to fertilizer runoff.

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Dustbowl Diatribes 2: The Spoils of Egypt

Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson talk about the “Spoils of Egypt” concept from Christian theology, how it has operated in the past, and what is keeping people from using it now. In the past, Christian theologians have often “plundered” secular theology for its riches, taking what was useful and true in light of Christian revelation, and leaving what was not. Today, much philosophy is left un-plundered because it is perceived to be “evil” and untouchable. This is certainly true of critical theory and Marxism.

But while much of the positive claims of Marxism, such as atheism and materialism, can and should be left behind, the deposit of negative theory regarding the abstract and impersonal domination of capital and the market ought to be carried off as spoils, because in order to get anything done we must understand our world accurately.

As an example, the “Benedict Option” Christians understand that liberalism has changed their world and needs to be rejected, but their response of cloistering in manufacturing towns and trying to please the capitalist owners indicates they do not yet understand the effects of the impersonal domination of the capitalist system. There is no easy compromise with the globalized capitalist system that will allow us to withdraw to little communities in peace.


Exodus 12:35-36

Ellen Wood, The Origins of Agrarian Capitalism

Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Milton Friedman, Free to Choose, PBS documentary

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To sign up for Dr. Johnson’s Summer 2022 Seminar on Christian Anarchism, start at

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Dorothy Day Guild

We are an institutional supporter and member of the Dorothy Day Guild, dedicated to the canonization of Catholic Worker Dorothy Day.

From the Guild website:

Dorothy Day has been called many things:  an activist, a journalist, a radical, a bohemian, a mother, a convert, a mystic, a prophet, a faithful daughter of the Church.  After her death in 1980, historian David O’Brien famously called her “the most important, interesting, and influential figure in the history of American Catholicism.”

And then there are the many who call her, quite simply, a saint. Years ago, Archdiocese of New York’s Cardinal John O’Connor wrote in Catholic New York,the archdiocesan newspaper, “Shortly after I announced the study of Cardinal Cooke’s life [as a candidate for sainthood], several people wrote to ask me:  ‘Why not Dorothy Day?’… It’s a good question.  Indeed, it’s an excellent question.” The Cardinal pondered the question aloud in a homily given at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on November 9, 1997, a day after the hundredth anniversary of Dorothy Day’s birth.  He recognized that some might object to his taking up the cause of canonization for Dorothy Day because “she was a protester against some things that people confuse with Americanism itself.”  Others, he said, might argue that she was already widely recognized as a saint and therefore formal canonization was not needed.  “Perhaps,” Cardinal O’Connor acknowledged, but went on to ask “Why does the Church canonize saints?  In part,”  he said, “so that their person, their works and their lives will become that much better known, and that they will encourage others to follow in their footsteps — and so the Church may say, ‘This is sanctity, this is the road to eternal life.’ ”

Registration Open for Introduction to Christian Anarchism Summer 2022 Seminar

Summer 2022: Laurie Johnson will offer a Seminar on Christian Anarchism. All proceeds from this course after fees are paid will go to support the mission of MORTC/Blue Valley Greens organic farm in Kansas City, MO.

To enroll in this course on MORTC’s in Kansas City’s store, go to their Square site. Friends of MORTC, use the coupon code CAEARLYBIRD to receive $25 off.

To enroll in this course using Eventbrite, go to the Intro Christian Anarchism page on Eventbrite. Friends of the Maurin Academy (everyone reading this), use coupon code PPHQ on Eventbrite to receive $25 off the ticket price.

This course will also be on sale soon at UFM (University for Man) in Manhattan, KS!

Not sure yet? To receive updates and invitations for this event in Summer 2022, please fill out this brief form!

Here is a brief description of the plan for the course:

Introduction to Christian Anarchism

This course will be taught live on Zoom on Saturdays 1-2:30 p.m. Central Time from May 28 to June 25. The five sessions will center on these themes: 1. basics of Christian anarchism, 2. Christian anarchism confronts the state, 3. the strategy of non-violence, 4. praxis 1: selected history of utopian Christian communities 5. praxis 2: Catholic Worker vs. the church. Students will receive a link to readings they can do ahead of class if they want to, but reading is not required. Some of the authors featured will be Peter Chelčický, Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Ellul, Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day,  William T. Cavanaugh, Eugene McCarraher, Nicolas Berdyaev, and selections from the Bible. Dr. Johnson will lecture for 45 minutes to an hour and leave at least a half hour for questions and discussion from participants. Participants can chat throughout and will also have the option to join a Slack group for further discussion with each other. Students who cannot make the live sessions will be provided access to recordings to watch at their leisure. 

Dr. Laurie M Johnson is a Professor of Political Science at K-State and runs the Political Philosophy YouTube channel. This is her second independent summer seminar (the first was on Distributism). For more information, visit and

Introducing Dustbowl Diatribes

Spencer Hess and I (Laurie Johnson) are getting ready to launch our new podcast, Dustbowl Diatribes, with a discussion of the US Dustbowl in the 1930’s in all its ramifications. But this isn’t a history podcast. The dustbowl symbolizes a slow moving disaster–environmental, economic, spiritual, political–which is materializing even now. We will be getting at this topic at first through an examination of Hannah Holleman’s Dustbowls of Empire, 2018.

The Dustbowl isn’t just a strange episode in environmental history in the US in the 20th Century–it is an ongoing phenomenon and a sign of things to come. We are here to help you get ready.

If all goes well, our first episode will come out at the end of March or in early April!