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Proposed Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism & Syndicalism Paperback – 20 Feb 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: ARC Manor (20 Feb. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604500964
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604500967
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rerevisionist on 10 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
The correct title was 'Roads to Freedom' - 'Proposed' was added without his permission by the American publisher. The seed for this book was the First World War, which Russell correctly perceived as a disaster. In the 50s and 60s this book was available in bookshops (in the UK, published by the now-defunct Allen and Unwin) - the other reviewer presumably remembers this.

As with H G Wells, Russell wanted to consider reconstructing the world ('Principles of Social Reconstruction' was his book on that). His main limitation in my view was his impracticality in a physical sense: he knew little about food and water and buildings and population, and was therefore rather ungrounded - like many people he was overimpressed by verbosity, possibly a Christian heritage - all the material quoted is bookish stuff. (His first book, 'German Social Democracy', had the same fault). Russell admired Marx, regarding him as a first-rate thinker - Russell wasn't the only person to be lured by the novelty of the then-new immigration of Jewish 'intellectuals'. Russell liked Bakunin, and also had hopes for the trade union movement, which within living memory had been illegal. Looking back, I personally think that movement was compromised right from the start, so that 'socialism' mutated into various horrors.

The book isn't too long and I recommend it both for its enthusiasm, but also for mulling over and contemplating the traps lurking in wait for reformers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By nastyone on 22 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I think this is a very nice little book and I believe more people should read it.
I am not an anarcho-syndicalist ( which is in the end the best road to freedom according to Bertrand Russell) but I don't believe this book to be of the propagandistic kind that might have "unhealthy" results upon "society" (tongue-in-cheek here!); on the contrary I think it will induce people to think through their good intentions to the effects upon our freedom and the practicality of any millenarianistic political program.
Let's just say that I am not an anarcho-syndicalist because I found holes in my doctrine after BR taught me to look more thoroughly into it. :)
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lark TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is brilliant to find this early political tract back in print once more, this edition includes a contents and index, has on the cover a picture of an angelic statue and the back a very early picture of Russell and is categorised as Philosophy / Social Commentary by the publishers [...]

Divided into two parts with an introduction, Part 1 is historical broken into 1. Marx and Socialist Doctrine, 2. Bakunin and Anarchism, 3. The Syndicalist Revolt and Part 2 labelled Problems of The Future is broken into 4. Work and Pay, 5. Government and Law, 6. International Relations, 7. Science and Art Under Socialism, 8. The World as it Could be Made.

The book is very well indexed and the reader can browse it with easy and quickly refer to chapter and verse for easy of reading or study (if you're looking for an accessible text to write an essay its a safe bet).

This book would probably prove to be an embarrassment for those who are attempting to reclaim Russell as a spokesperson for classical liberalism, the moderate alternative to militants like Hayek or Mise, because Russell staunchly affirms a variety of socialism.

The work is not an economic treatise by any stretch really, more of a political or philosophical work Russell considers Marxism, and is very perturbed by the idea of replacing the evils of capitalist monopolies with a single state monopoly, then anarchist criticism, with which he appears sympathetic but ultimately considers to be aristocratic, and then discusses syndicalism, the unions being a source of political thinking and organising at that time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not complete. 7 Dec. 2012
By SG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Here is a fairly short, interesting book, but one which has limited usefulness to us today. I had enjoyed "the Problems of Philosophy" and think one has to respect Russell's intellect.

This book is a systematic comparison, defense and criticism of the ideas of Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism. It has its high points, surely, but the book is far too limited in the scope of its ideas to be what I was looking for. I think that his approach, to begin with Marx and Bakunin and trace the foundations of their disagreement, was a good place to start. It is there that we still must return, if we want to understand these ideas, even if they have developed greatly in the last 150 years.

On Socialism, Russell chooses the Marxist flavor for his analysis and, like any Marxists, I would quibble with his understanding of Marx, or at least his emphasis, but overall, I think he strikes a good balance and the discussion of the problems of Marx's ideas and all the negative tendencies of Marxists themselves are, I think, right on. I certainly saw myself and those I know in his criticism.

On Syndicalism, of which he chooses, mostly, the ideas of the IWW to analyze, I think, he seems right on. Of the three ideas, here is the one I am least read on, but I have, I believe, a fairly solid understanding of the movement and I didn't find anything in this work that sounded mistaken.

On Anarchism, perhaps, is where the book falls down most. Russell chooses a school of Anarchism (the Anarcho-Communism of Kropotkin) that is well in the minority today, and thus, from my point of view, the book fails to do justice to the comparison. I am not sure why he chose to do this, and it is the book's biggest disappointments for me. I had picked it up hoping to understand things that were beyond its scope to provide.

He states in his introduction to Anarchism that schools such as Individualist or Mutualist Anarchism were so small as to not be worth analysis. This was, so far as I can tell, not even true in his own time. Writers like De Clyre were expanding the ideas of Anarchism and working to define and explain the schools in Russell's time and from what I take from her writings, there was a lot more to the movement than the Anarcho-Communists.

It is possible that he suffered from living in England and not in the US, where much of the growth of Anarchism was taking place. It is also possible that he simply took a shortcut to get to his thesis. Today, 100 years later, schools like Mutualism and Individualism, and their child Anarcho-Capitalism are, in my estimation, the most influential schools in the movement and what I really came here to see discussed.

The primary problem with this book, however, is not the limited view of Anarchism, but that its goal is only to compare the end-result worlds of these philosophies, through the application of their ideas. The book does not have much to say on the question of how each school proposes to bring about the revolution. This, of course, is a very important piece of the puzzle. I know many revolutionaries who are far less concerned with the specifics of the world after the revolution, than with the strategies to organize and bring it about in the first place.

Another weakness of the book is the fact that is was written in 1918 and Russell was a prisoner of his British Empire worldview. Although he speaks of internationalism and the class war, his understanding of these ideas is so limited as to be useless to us today. In several cases, he reveals a terrible racism. He would, later in life, do much back-peddling and excuse-making for this. Russell simply accepts, uncritically, the idea that the white race is superior. For a philosopher, especially one as prominent as Russell, this is a very great error.

The high points of the book, I think, are Russell's insights on the labor movement, which he predicts will end exactly where it has (in league with the Bourgeoisie), and in predicting the future form of Soviet society, as it relates to the troubles that would exist. This latter was a good piece of analysis, given the nation was just being born when this book was written. Stalin, to Russell's mind, was not needed to find Stalinism in Marx. Since this is an idea we still confront, reading Russell on the issue is instructive.

Note: Russell would, a year or so after this book was written, go to Russia and meet Lenin personally. That meeting confirmed, to him, his reservations about Marxist ideas as they relate to liberty, and more especially, his ideas about what sort of traps Marxists fall into in terms of thought and behavior.

In the end, if you want to understand the foundational ideas of Anarchism and Marxism, as they are found in Marx and Bakunin, and their rivalry, this is a good book to have on your shelf. If you are a Marxist and want to be challenged on the struggle of Socialism with Liberty, this is a good read. If, however, you are looking for relevance to today's world, or to understand the actual "roads to" part of this title (how do we get there) this is probably not the best choice.
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