Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism

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Overview

Navigating the broad 'river of anarchy', from Taoism to Situationism, from Ranters to Punk rockers, from individualists to communists, from anarcho-syndicalists to anarcha-feminists, Demanding the Impossible is an authoritative and lively study of a widely misunderstood subject. It explores the key anarchist concepts of society and the state, freedom and equality, authority and power and investigates the successes and failure of the anarchist movements throughout the world. While remaining sympathetic to anarchism, it presents a balanced and critical account. It covers not only the classic anarchist thinkers, such as Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Reclus and Emma Goldman, but also other libertarian figures, such as Nietzsche, Camus, Gandhi, Foucault and Chomsky. No other book on anarchism covers so much so incisively.

In this updated edition, a new epilogue examines the most recent developments, including 'post-anarchism' and 'anarcho-primitivism' as well as the anarchist contribution to the peace, green and 'Global Justice' movements.

Demanding the Impossible is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand what anarchists stand for and what they have achieved. It will also appeal to those who want to discover how anarchism offers an inspiring and original body of ideas and practices which is more relevant than ever in the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The goal of an egalitarian, communal society has always united Marxists and leftist socialists, some of the latter (often if not always described as anarchists) refusing any truck with centralized power At various times, such ideas have found relatively wide appeal, and this era is one—expressed for instance in the antiglobalization movement’s emphases on local control and direct democracy—making Marshall’s comprehensive treatment a timely read. Newly revised and updated, this indispensable history of social libertarian thought now reaches into the 21st century—touching upon themes echoed in other recent titles, including Raj Patel’s The Value of Nothing. Marshall casts a wide net, gathering all traces of antiauthoritarian socialist thought in works from Lao Tzu through Noam Chomsky, social ecology, and the Zapatistas. Readers will be repeatedly rewarded by Marshall’s judiciousness and close readings of both the great names in anarchist history—Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Tolstoy—and less expected contributors—Rousseau, Swift, and Burke. Blowing away cobwebs of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, this is a stimulating portrait of a highly varied but distinctive political ideal, tradition, and practice arising from the enduring human impulse to be free. (June)
Time Out New York

Though this highly engaging book can certainly be read from start to finish, I expect that its ultimate role in the average reader's life will be as a reference; not like an encyclopedia but rather more like a favorite author's collected works or a Bible: a massive repository of wisdom and of histories that might be otherwise lost to us.

From the Publisher

"Blowing away cobwebs of misunderstanding and misrepresentation, this is a stimulating portrait of a highly varied but distinctive political ideal, tradition, and practice arising from the enduring human impulse to be free."  —Publishers Weekly

"[This is] the book I always recommend when asked—as I often am—for something on the history and ideas of anarchism."  —Noam Chomsky

"Large, labyrinthine, tentative: for me these are all adjectives of praise when applied to works of history, and [this book] meets all of them."  —George Woodcock, Independent

"Attractively written and fully referenced . . . bound to be the standard history."  Colin Ward, Times Educational Supplement

"Though this highly engaging book can certainly be read from start to finish, I expect that its ultimate role in the average reader's life will be as a reference; not like an encyclopedia but rather more like a favorite author' collected works or a Bible: a massive repository of wisdom and of histories that might be otherwise lost to us."  —Time Out New York

Colin Ward

Attractively written and fully referenced . . . bound to be the standard history.
Times Educational Supplement

Independent

Large, labyrinthine, tentative: for me these are all adjectives of praise when applied to works of history, and [this book] meets all of them.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781604860641
  • Publisher: PM Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 818
  • Sales rank: 945,260
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Peter Marshall is a philosopher, a historian, a poet, and the author of 15 books, including Nature's Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Introduction ix

Part 1 Anarchism in Theory

1 The River of Anarchy 3

2 Society and the State 12

3 Freedom and Equality 36

Part 2 Forerunners of Anarchism

4 Taoism and Buddhism 53

5 The Greeks 66

6 Christianity 74

7 The Middle Ages 86

8 The English Revolution 96

9 The French Renaissance and Enlightenment 108

10 The British Enlightenment 129

Part 3 Great Libertarians

11 French Libertarians 143

12 German Libertarians 153

13 British Libertarians 163

14 American Libertarians 181

Part 4 Classic Anarchist Thinkers

15 The Lover of Order William Godwin 191

16 The Conscious Egoist Max Stirner 220

17 The Philosopher of Poverty Pierre-Joseph Proudhon 234

18 The Fanatic of Freedom Michael Bakunin 263

19 The Revolutionary Evolutionist Peter Kropotkin 309

20 The Geographer of Liberty Elisée Reclus 339

21 The Electrician of Revolution Errico Malatesta 345

22 The Count of Peace Leo Tolstoy 362

23 American Individualists and Communists 384

24 The Most Dangerous Woman Emma Goldman 396

25 German Communists 410

26 The Gentle Revolutionary Mohandas Gandhi 422

Part 5 Anarchism in Action

27 France 431

28 Italy 446

29 Spain 453

30 Russia and the Ukraine 469

31 Northern Europe 479

32 United States 496

33 Latin America 504

34 Asia 519

Part 6 Modern Anarchism

35 The New Left and the Counter-culture 539

36 The New Right and Anarcho-capitalism 559

37 Modern Libertarians 566

38 Modern Anarchists 587

39 Murray Bookchin and the Ecology of Freedom 602

Part 7 The Legacy of Anarchism

40 Ends and Means 625

41 The Relevance of Anarchism 639

Epilogue 667

Reference Notes 707

Select Bibliography 759

Index 795

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Unreliable tome about a futile politics

    On p. 442, Marshall writes, "Georges Sorel, inspired by by Proudhon and the syndicalists, maintained in his Reflections on Violence (1908) that class war invigorates society. He opposed 'bourgeois force', arguing that the latter has a purifying effect that enables people to take possession of themselves. The general strike moreover is of value as a 'social myth', an article of faith which inspires the workers in their struggle. For Sorel, social myths are important since they are 'not descriptions of things, but expression of a determination to act'. Although he later influenced Lenin, Mussolini and Action Française, he did not object to acknowledging himself an anarchist since 'Parliamentary Socialism professes a contempt for morality' and the new ethic of the producers."
    Mr Marshall, as a historian of anarchism, seems to share their indifference to facts.
    Sorel did not influence Lenin. Lenin called Sorel 'the well-known advocate of confusion'. The Marxist historian of philosophy George Lukacs referred to Sorel's 'totally insubstantial theory of myth'. So it is a bit of a stretch for Marshall to write that Lenin was influenced by Sorel.
    This mistake is typical of this unreliable book. It is careless of the facts, even about its subject, and still more unreliable about any other politics.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 22, 2013

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