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Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism : Be Realistic! Demand the Impossible! [Kindle Edition]

Peter Marshall
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A fascinating and comprehensive history, 'Demanding the Impossible' is a challenging and thought-provoking exploration of anarchist ideas and actions from ancient times to the present day.

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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'Massive, scholarly, genuinely internationalist and highly enjoyable.’ David Widgery, Observer

'An exhaustive and authoritative study which is bound to become the standard account.’ John Gray, The Times

'Indispensable.' Richard Boston, Guardian

'This is the most comprehensive account of anarchist thought ever written. Marshall's knowledge is formidable and his enthusiasm engaging.' J.P. Pick, Scotsman

'Large, labyrinthine, tentative: for me these are all adjectives of praise when applied to works of history, and Demanding the Impossible meets all of them.’ George Woodcock, Independent

The Times

'An exhaustive and authoritative study which is bound to become the standard account.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3096 KB
  • Print Length: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (10 July 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008GOBQ5A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,789 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive but poor understanding of anarchism 26 Feb. 2011
By dee
This book covers a variety of thought, ranging from Taoism and the Stoics through to the anti-globalisation 'movement'.
For what it does, it is very good. But what it does is provide a broad-ranging survey of everybody who has a vaguely anti-authoritarian impulse. And so it includes people who upheld class society, who support the state and capitalism, whose politics are really just moralistic and focussed on living 'better' lives rather than changing society, etc.

If you are looking for a history of anarchism, rather than a mismatch of things vaguely enthused with a libertarian spirit (which is that Demanding the Impossible offers), then I highly recommend Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism. This book ( charts anarchism as a coherent political and economic movement originating from within the First International, as well as challenging the view that it was only in Spain that anarchism flourished.

However, this book is good and I found it very interesting, but really its definition of anarchism is one that renders the word practically meaningless - much to the frustration of anarchists like myself.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the Brave 2 Jun. 2010
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
The definitive guide to a river of thought running as an alternative to the vast swathe of pressure placed on the individual to adhere to mass belief. Peter Marshall distils the thoughts of various Asian, European thinkers and doers including De Sade, Nietzsche, Stirner, Bakunin, Proudhon, Godwin, Kropotkin. All the heavyweights thematised into a collection sidestepping Wiki. He also gazes into Taoism and Christianity providing alternative readings.

Anarchist thought penetrates far deeper than mere political economy. It provides a different viewpoint on near enough every aspect of being human. The book ranges from the libertarian left to the capitalist right in scope, the whole panoply. It provides a hugely entertaining and insightful overview of each carefully combed strand of thought. It never veers into "academese", the lurching obtuse, opaque, syntax, (beloved of Althusser, Deleuze, Guattari, Lyotard) so anyone can enter the porthole. The thoughts may be abstract and require reflection, but the language is clear, concise and simple.

The usual riposte of "anarchism" will never work as a mass movement is parried here. The individual against the world synopsis details the ultimate requirement for a society of young gods/godesses, the unfolding of genius, rather than the coercion of the huddled masses into utopia, like it or not.

Thought provoking, extremely well researched, covering the whole spectrum, the beginning point for social, political, psychological and most importantly, self knowledge to be based upon.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
I always lend people my favourite books and this is one of them. I love this book. Not only is it brilliant on anarchism, but it's an excellent, passionately argued history book too. I think it should be on the reading list of every politics and philosophy student in the country. Of course, anarchists are self-defining but most of all we've got a better sense of humour than our socialist friends (although most of time we morph into them on inappropriate ocassions).

If I had to criticise, and this is a criticism of every anarchist book I've ever read, it's a bit low on economic theory. The philosophy could also be explored further - eg secular idealism as a form of anarchist thought. Love, for example.

I love it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, Vast, Inspiring 23 July 2009
Peter Marshall covers the history and pre-history of anarchism from the ideology and spiritual teachings of the Taoist masters and the Stoics and Cynics of ancient Greece right up until modern day thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Murray Bookchin, encompassing everything inbetween from William Godwin to Peter Kropotkin, from the Diggers of the English Revolution to Emma Goldman in the first part of the last century.

Marshall shows how anarchism has been with us since the dawn of civilisation and even before, as the State is a relatively modern invention. He demonstrates how many of the revolutions in the past few hundred years, from the Mexican to the Spanish, from the Cuban to the Russian, have had anarchist undertones and aspirations. He covers libertarian thinkers like Rosseau, Oscar Wilde, Aldous Huxley and Edmund Burke, and many more.

Not only this, but Marshall explores the anarchist roots of the counter-culture movement of the sixties and seventies, the French Situationists, the Provos and Kabouters of Holland and the Sarvodaya movement in India, and covers the modern anarchist movements and thinkers in China, Japan and Korea. This book is truly comprehensive, written for the most part in an impartial, unbiased tone utilising many quotations from the writers and activists themselves.

This is a compendium of anarchism throughout the ages, and will leave the reader with much material to research. Excellent for those with more than a casual interest in anarchism and still highly useful for those long-acquainted, this book has something for everyone. For a short introduction to anarchism however, I would still recommend Malatesta's pamphlet, 'Anarchy.'
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic history of anarchist thought
Fantastic history of anarchist thought. I'd meant to get hold of a copy years ago, but oddly the size of this book put me off in paperback. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Richard M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book and arrived on time.
Published 9 months ago by Lucia D. Maltez
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
as advertised
Published 10 months ago by Mel_Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars Black flag , top marks
Book in excellent condition. Had previously failed to find it in any shops. Worth studying and written in an approachable way.
Published 14 months ago by Damian Banks
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and informative
It's a really good book but the print is way too small. This is why it's better to check out stuff in bookshop first
Published 17 months ago by katharine barrucand
5.0 out of 5 stars The anarchists bible
As far as I am concerned – and I know I’m not the only one – this book is the bible of anarchism, a mind-boggling achievement that can’t help but leave the reader with an awesome... Read more
Published on 1 Aug. 2013 by Holtman
1.0 out of 5 stars A reactionary analysis of Anarchism
Peter Marshall offers a reactionary analysis of anarchism.

Just to give you an example at page 299 it examines Bakunin's statement of "everyone shall work, and everyone... Read more
Published on 21 Jun. 2013 by Marco
4.0 out of 5 stars All you ever wanted to know about Anarchism
This is a history of anarchism (albeit sometimes defining anarchism in a fairly broad way) and anarchist thought from the origins of Taoism to the present day, but concentrating on... Read more
Published on 17 Mar. 2012 by Woolgatherer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great reference book
Hard going at times with sometimes overly long pieces on various anarchist thinkers. That said if you can't read it in one go, and I could not, I found it great for dipping into... Read more
Published on 4 Aug. 2010 by Matt Beeson
3.0 out of 5 stars Broad and overlong in places.
A good read for anyone interested in radical history, however... did we really need such long chapters on Murray Bookchin, Leo Tolstoy et al? Read more
Published on 28 July 2010 by G. J. Marsh
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