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Customer Review

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive but poor understanding of anarchism, 26 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (Paperback)
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 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Flame-Revolutionary-Syndicalism-Counter-Power/dp/190485916X) 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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Apr 2011 19:14:17 BDT
Dave Jackson says:
I love this book and its definition of Anarchism . Who is in charge of the definitions anyway .

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2011 12:16:26 BDT
dee says:
Who's in charge of definitions? Well, obviously meaning is partly defined by how words are used, and partly - in the case of a a political worldview anyway - by its historical origins and so on. So that's what's 'in charge' of definitions...
Like I said in my review, it's definition of 'anarchism' is anything which has a vaguely anti-authoritarian impulse. But, anarchism as a historical movement arose out of class struggle and the workers' and socialist movement. Surely even the broadest definition of anarchism must take that into account. Also, many of the people and ideas he writes about in his book are pro-state or pro-capitalism (or both), and totally authoritarian and elitist. If you define anarchism in such a way that it includes all those ideas then what use does that word have?
Again, really recommend Black Flame for a counter to Marshall's book. And also, again, Marshall's book is good at what it does, but it's also good at obscuring anarchism and reducing it to an impotent, vague meaningless term, rather than the tool for radically changing the world that it is.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Apr 2011 16:33:22 BDT
Dave Jackson says:
Good answer dee. I'll look out the Black flame book. I get wound up by the common dismissive attitude which equates anarchism with some sort of violent nihilism. I liked this book because it introduced me to thinkers who had philosophies which rang with my experience which could be summed up as its hard enough building socialism in your own household.Murray Bookchin's The Ecology of freedom influenced a lot when it came out.
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