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Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  323 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Against His-Story, Against Leviathan! is a 1983 book by Fredy Perlman, for which he is best known. It is a personal critical perspective on contemporary civilization and society. The work defined anarcho-primitivism for the first time, and was a major source of inspiration for anti-civilization perspectives in contemporary anarchism, most notably on the thought of ...more
Paperback, 302 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Black & Red (first published 1983)
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Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is likely the only historical survey of western civilization that I'll ever read with genuine excitement and interest, and my most naive wish after reading it was that it could become a standard introductory text for students of world history.

It goes without saying that Perlman's essay is not "objective". In other words, it is no candidate for perpetuating the business of progress, which is the unspoken agenda of "objectivity". This account of His-Story is openly disparaging of the He's
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Don’t be misled by the poetic and mythologizing tone with which Fredy Perlman renders his epic Against His-Story, Against Leviathan! This is an exhaustively researched book. It is also profoundly philosophical, asking questions and suggesting answers you won’t find anywhere else. The fact that it is beautifully written in an accessible manner is highly appropriate to its message, as you will see below. The book’s style is very much the opposite of dry scientific writing. I think if readers have ...more
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I'd been told by a lot of close friends with good book tastes that I should definitely read this at some point, and had tried two or three times before but couldn't get past the first few pages (Perlman quotes yeats and blake and all these other poets, and try as I might throughout the years I've never really been able to understand most poetry). So I just skipped the first three pages worth of poems, and got into it pretty fast.

Perlman does get a little heavey into
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is considered a "must read" by most anarcho-primitivists, and it's not hard to see why. Before you even open it up, it's got a very indie/anti-corporate/punk rock look to it. The writing itself is focused almost entirely on rebellion against authority. He also romanticizes indigenous cultures and oversimplifies the history, basically just telling his audience what they want to hear. The general theme isn't bad but even when I agree with his messages I feel like they're being presented ...more
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
if you want to understand the "splinter in your mind"---this is the red pill.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: resistance
You aren’t going to convince people like Fukuyama with this ranty screed. Jumping to conclusions as a way to show how the enemies of freedom — whatever that means — are also jumping to conclusions doesn’t impress me. Maybe in 1983 when this was written and we are on the brink of nuclear war because the greedheads were so ideological, maybe then but in the meantime I am sure there are better histories out there, more liberatory, more feminist, and definitely more accurate. I also have to say ...more
Bart Everson
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: radicals, anarchists, historians, earth-loving pagans, indigenous activists
A radical history of civilization. Basically, he's against it. No spoiler, that: it's right there in the title. For what is history, as we usually think of it, as we're usually taught it, if not a patriarchal story of conquest and domination in service of empire building? This author makes the case that most everything we laughingly call "civilization" is in fact systematized oppression of humanity and ecological rape of Mother Earth.

It's bracing worldview, to say the least. I think it's just
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
Such a frustrating work in so many ways. This is a work of impressive erudition and understanding regarding world history and civilization with a particularly strong focus on what laughingly used to be called "Western Civilization." Perlman has written an anarchist polemic, however, not a textbook or even a piece of critical theory, which is fine (I'm an anarchist and I agree with most of his perspectives throughout the essay), but the writing style is less stirring than navel gazing, is filled ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, anarchy
An odd overview of world history that doesn't take into consideration that primitives might not all have been nice people. It may initially come off as just another addition into the "all white men are racist" variety of historiography but there's a lot more worth criticizing here. This is definitely on the ground floor of the emerging hegemonic anti-civilizational pro-ethnic tribalism narrative.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Holy hell. This is a fucking wild romp.
Apr 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
It took me a year and a half but I finally finished Against His-Story!! Now I need to re-read it 3 times or so.
Ryan Mishap
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, anarchy
This anthropological/historical breakdown of Leviathan (power, control) is unique and amazing. Anarchist writing at its best.
Evelyn R
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Unfortunate disappointment. Still has a few solid ideas mixed into the dross, but I had a few huge issues:

1. A fetishization of purity and wholeness that never existed and cannot exist
2. Maternal metaphors for nature that align neatly with #1 and that are often used in a patronizing and Romantic way.
3. Central metaphors of Leviathan, etc., never really move beyond misty abstractions that make for engaging poetry here and there but don't succeed in making the point he wants to.

Read Haraway, read
Andrea Mastromatteo
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I only give this book 4 stars because not everyone appreciates looking up so many references. In my mind an alternative title could be "A People's History of The Occident and Middle East" It is truly enlightening, and will leave you hungry for more knowledgeable about past peoples, empires, & the origins of what we misguidedly call Western Civilization.
theodora nil
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A poetic anti-history, horrific at times, but offering an alternative mythos for our despondent world.
Matthew Read
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting take on everything you thought you knew about history.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will try to read this amzing book
Jan 27, 2008 added it
Most of the time I was reading this, I felt like I was just pulling myself through the text because I had told myself that I would finish it. By the time I did finish it, I didn't regret the time spent - but I put it down twice as I succumbed to the allure of books with more immediate intrigue (actually I put it down the first time almost nine years ago). Overall this was a haunting essay, but one that I at least appreciated for it's voice.

I've been trying to wrap my head around Perlman's text
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of those books that completely changes the way you conceptualize things, in this case the narrative of western civilization and progress which completely pervades our understanding of ourselves and our time. Perlman moves in a linear fashion through western history, beginning with the Sumerians and finishing with the eradication of the last free peoples in the Americas. Throughout, the focus is on the development of the monstrous Leviathan, which Perlman figures for civilization (after ...more
Apr 26, 2011 rated it liked it
The book unfolded for me in three distinct sections. First, the author examines concepts of wilderness, freedom, and existing in a "state of nature". He asserts definitions for these which gave me pause and made me examine my own notions about these concepts, and I arrived at different definitions than he did. So far so good; the best type of disagreement is the kind that prompts you to discover more about your own ideas. The book goes on to introduce the overriding metaphor which will frame the ...more
May 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: most intelligent people
Perlman retells history in terms of Hobbesian "leviathan," beginning in acient Sumer, going into serious detail about the various forms of assimilation of cultures into these Leviathans (e.g. nearly every ancient civilization you can think of, from the Hittites, Phoenecians, Assyrians, etc. through the Scythians, Romans, Arabs, etc.). Particular focus is on various outcast, maroon and pirate utopia societies which existed outside the domain of certain leviathans and governmental orders (e.g. the ...more
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written only a couple of years before Fredy Perlman’s death, ‘Against His-story…’ provides a simple account of the rise and fall of civilisations from the beginnings of recorded history until around the mid-19th century. With every new culture that emerges, something familiar (e.g. institutions, religion, art) appears in the world until we more or less end up with something resembling our current state. The whole narrative unfolds with a simplicity and logic that is quite tragic. However Perlman ...more
Arduous...satisfying. Dense, but textured and sensual...beautifully written, a vibrant panoptic account of civilization. Although centered in Eurasia, Perlman remembers to check in with how the east evolves. His heavily-researched story-line--which features constant demonstrations of historical counter-attacks to Leviathan,woven in with the mournful drama of gods, spirituality, art, and mythology--has creates a tangible that has recalibrated my sense of where I stand in the history ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So it's got no bibliography, and I can't say much for the layout. Get over it. This book was pretty rad. It's definately been awhile since I read it, so reviewing it is a tad hard. I don't think that necessarily any one person let alone group of peoples experiences can be compared, in fact I think that is a bit of a dangerous thing to do, but we can definately access similarities and patterns throughout. We can see the points at which this monster has accelerated and we can see the many and ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Anybody who knows me knows that this is my favorite book of all time. Yes, it has pretty serious problems (gender essentialism, romanticism for prelapsarian cultures, etc), but if you're willing to set that aside for a moment, this is one of the most singular and visceral tales of the rise of civilization. The scathing criticisms of Marxism, science, anthropology, religion, militarism and his-story are somehow both nuanced and extremely lucid. Most people I know have struggled to get this book ...more
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Absolutely one of my top 5 books of all time. This should be used as a supplement in high school or college-level world history courses, to give a different (often more accurate) interpretation of how the world developed. While I don't agree with every jot and tittle of Perlman's manifesto (particularly his Leviathanic interpretation of the Old Testament), he puts much of global his-storical development into a simple framework that allows the true reasons for it to "shine through" - that is, for ...more
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
i enjoyed this book, kind of. i think the imagery and style of writing, writing a stylized history in the vein of oral traditions, is an interesting idea. it is at times extremely laborious, but does include a blake lithograph at the beginning of each chapter, which at least proves good taste. if you arent already interested with this whole anti-civ argument, this probably is not the place to start. if you are, you may want to add it to your list.
Nov 17, 2007 rated it it was ok
Maybe I am not familiar enough with ancient civilizations to 'get' this book, but as far as i can tell, an argument against agriculture can be made in much less space. I found this to be poorly written and at times extremely dull. Anyone can go on and on about the problems that plague civilization and the modern world, but people who do it well do it with wit, something that this author seems incapable of. I never liked a guru and this guy is one of the worst.
Artnoose McMoose
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I can see why a lot of people I know couldn't get through this book. There are a lot of references to ancient history, and if you for example don't remember from high school history who the Etruscan were, or why there were at one time two Popes, or where the Byzantium Empire was, you might get lost.

If you've tried to read this and haven't finished, try again.
Jeffrey Bumiller
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
My only problem with this book is that it contains no references. What's up with that? It's a difficult book, unless you are an expert on ancient civilizations, and more importantly, those who resisted against them.
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Fredy Perlman (August 20, 1934 – July 26, 1985) was an author and publisher. His most popular work, the book Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!, is a major source of inspiration for anti-civilisation perspectives in contemporary anarchism.

Childhood and youth

Perlman was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia. He emigrated with parents to Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1938 just ahead of the Nazi takeover. The
“The Romans learn Art from their Greek slaves, but they learn reluctantly. They are almost Modern in their reluctance; they are almost ready to say that a killing machine is beautiful if it works. They are not quite that modern, and they let Greek craftsmen conceal the brutal militarism with Architecture, Sculpture and Painting. They learn Aesthetics, that strange ability to see in blood gushing from a wound only the beauty of the shape and color.” 3 likes
“The darkling plain is here. This is the waste land: England, America, Russia, China, Israel, France....

And we are here as victims, or as spectators, or as perpetrators of tortures, massacres, poisonings, manipulations, despoliation.”
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