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Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism Paperback – 19 Nov 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New edition edition (19 Nov. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006862454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006862451
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

About the Author

Peter Marshall is a historian, philosopher, biographer and travel writer. He has written fifteen books, has taught at several British universities and occasionally works in broadcasting. He lives in Devon.


Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
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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