Demanding the Impossible
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Demanding the Impossible

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  428 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Updated edition with a new eplogue that examines the most recent developments, including 'post-anarchism' and 'anarcho-primitivism' as well as the anarchist contributions to the contemporary peace, green and global justice movements.
Paperback, Revised American edition, 818 pages
Published 2010 (first published 1992)
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عبدالرحمن ابوذكري
Neither do you have to finish reading this book to rate it, nor do you have to be an anarchist to love it. Peter Marshall is really a hell of a good writer. His profound account of anarchism is rare and almost unique. I was not that much enthusiastic about the book in the beginning, when Professor Chomsky recommended it among some others as essential readings on Anarchism, but after I read almost 150 pages out of the 700, I would be mistaken if not recommending it to whoever may be concerned. It...more
Tim Pendry
This is a fairly substantial and worthy account of the history of anarchism, largely built around review chapters of prominent figures and historical reviews of anarchism in action. It takes a broad view by including writers and thinkers who might better or equally be considered liberal or libertarian, although Marshall is always at pains to show their differences from classical anarchist thought.

It has to be said that it can be a little dull at times and there is a lack of a sustained overview,...more
Steven Peterson
This is a wide ranging overview of the political theory of anarchism. In that endeavor, it is similar in scope to Woodcock's esteemed volume. The work begins by defining the subject. The second part explores forerunners of anarchism--from the east to the Greeks and so on. The third part considers leading exponents of the theory from France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Part 4? Classic anarchist thinkers, such as Godwin, Stirner, Proudhon, Bakunin, and so on. Part five focuses o...more
Nicolas Garcia
dense! rich! after I read this I got into a debate with an anarchist . . . anarchists need to brush up on the history of their political theory . . .
Meghan Fidler
Marshall is impressive in his attempt to cover a wide breadth of people, religions, regions and governments, but the manuscript is also weak because of it, unable to give full depictions of any topic broached (it is lamentable, for example, that the majority of women activists are submerged as 'lovers' of the featured men. Covering everyone is impossible, but Marshall made the attempt, so his choices for inclusion are political commentaries in and of themselves).
This is more of a reference man...more
Billie Pritchett
Peter Marshall's Demanding the Impossible is a wonderful expose of anarchism. Marshall painstakingly examines the major figures and their biographies, the history of anarchism, and the core ideas that underly this '-ism.' "Anarchism" is an awfully scary word but the basic principle is a suspicion of centralized government. You can compare it to what is sometimes called "libertarianism." Libertarianism advocates that we should have the most minimal government possible. Anarchism goes a step furth...more
Very well written and researched so far. Wouldn't quite agree with his glowing endorsement of Taoism, Buddhism, and some Greek philosophy though. The chapter on Bakunin was very interesting, I'm not sure whether it counts as a hatchet job or a balanced appraisal of the man though. I'm inclined to lean towards the latter as Marshall is consistently balanced and generous, he certainly doesn't lean to the fanatical attacks of other writers on Bakunin.
Jan 21, 2011 Erin marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
I had wanted this book for a long time and they had it at Pages Coffee Bar and Used Bookstore in Conway, MA. What an amazing little bookstore!!! Highly recommend it if you are in the area, it made me happy to patronize them.
Jose Palafox
This is a 800-page book. The re-print edition by PM Press is a "chop and scan", which means that it makes the actual reading of the book a bit difficult (i.e., words are blurry etc). Nevertheless, a great title. Highly recommend it.
Remarkable and well-read history of the many facets of anarcho-syndicalism, discussing their roots in everything from Ancient China to Kropotkin, Bakunin, Thoreau, the Situationists, Gandhi and Wilde.
This is a behemoth book of mammoth proportions. Peter Marshall has written the definitive critical history of anarchism, developing a survey of the forerunners of anarchism leading up to current anarchist movements and present day anarchist thinkers.

With chapters covering Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Godwin, Stirner, and numerous others, this book is a must-have for anyone interested in the subject of anarchism, or anyone who takes radical social change seriously.

I would say this is more of a r...more
Konstantinos Chatzigeorgiou
This is the definitive history of Anarchism as a cultural movement, sociopolitical phenomenon and lastly, a fairly coherent political philosophy with its own analyses, solutions, trends and debates within its own framework.

Peter Marshall delivers a very impressive book, both in depth and scope. In it, one can find pieces from a lucid array of thinkers that range from Taoism to contemporary right wing libertarianism, as well as lessons in history and some political and ethical theory to compleme...more
Woah! All this time studying has actually allowed me to think like a 17th century thinker (Well at least the ones that were published!). Freaky. I have so many parallels with the modern (like 17th century) critics of 'government' and society'. And that's not to say I have any answers or my truth is more poignant than anyone else s but it certainly does address the big problems that still plague society. And you know what, a nice blend of anarchism and libertarianism would actually fix climate ch...more
Blake Keno
Cleared up everything about the history of anarchism for me.
Dana Garrett
Demanding the Impossible is a tour de force. It is clearly the authoritative text on the history of anarchism. It covers all of the major and most of the minor figures in anarchism as well as anarchism's ideological patrimony in other traditions. The author takes great pains to be as objective as possible in the body of the text and only reserves a clear but brief presentation of his own views at the end. The book is well sourced and contains a helpful bibliography. I cannot recommend this book...more
Everyone agrees that there's such a thing as too much government. But how much is too much? Anarchists say that any government is too much. Not surprisingly, those who have advocated this extreme position have included some colorful characters, so there are entertaining anecdotes in Peter Marshall's book.

A good overview of anarchist history up to the Cold War.
Highly informative history. I added a lot of the books mentioned to my reading list throughout. Extremely weak grasp of anarchist 'capitalism', however this is an insignificant portion of the book.
Throughout the reading of this book you are constantly reminded of the fact that the author is not an anarchist and has many reservations about anarchism as an ideology or philosophy. Quite a bit of sloppy research and the patronizing attitude of the author which is quite evident throughout the book.
I tend to agree with another person's review of this book "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."
The end of the book was too focused on middle/upper/intellectual class anarchism & its connections with environmentalism, don't know if this means that anarchism is no longer a working class movement or if the author is just not aware of it.
I read the first bit of this and skimmed a bunch of it. Another volume that I can't wait to get my own copy of for some deeper perusal. Really REALLY good collection. I like Marshall's style as well.
Panashe M.
Absolutely authoritative book, I don't see how there could be a more comprehensive history of the subject. I learnt so much, and it was certainly an engaging read.
I loved the author's lively (and slightly biased) style. Overall, the book is rather (if not the most) comprehensive overview of various flavours of anarchist thought.
Good historical overview of anarchist thought. Lost 1 star for being too biased toward anarco-communism and an unfair treatment of individualist anarchism.
Leon Del canto
Excellent historic reference and great connections with the great Eastern traditions and the Socialist humanism to understand fully this movement
Sean Gardner
A must for anyone interested in Anarchism and it's history! Highly recommended! For the seasoned as much as for the curious...
Excellent resource for the future. Of course, this book feels alarmingly like a text book.
It was very thorough and a good read, but at points it could be very dry and hard to get through.
This is a really dense and long book. It is full of facts and info but it's pretty dry.
Willie Whelan
Easy to read, comprehensive history of Anarchist thought.
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Peter Marshall (born 23 August 1946, Bognor Regis, England) is an English philosopher, historian, biographer, travel writer and poet. He has written fifteen books which are being translated into fourteen different languages. He wrote, presented and partly filmed the 6-part HTV series 'Voyage Around Africa', first shown in 1994. He also wrote and presented the two-part series 'Celtic Gold: A Voyage...more
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“The continued appeal of anarchism can probably be attributed to its enduring affinity with both the rational and emotional impulses lying deep within us. It is an attitude, a way of life as well as a social philosophy. It presents a telling analysis of existing institutions and practices, and at the same time offers the prospect of a radically transformed society.” 2 likes
“Whatever its future success as a historical movement, anarchism will remain a fundamental part of human experience, for the drive for freedom is one of our deepest needs and the vision of a free society is one of our oldest dreams. Neither can ever be fully repressed; both will outlive all rulers and their States.” 1 likes
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