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Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  365 ratings  ·  50 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 philosop ...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 whi
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 the-world-was-a-wonderful-uto
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
Hank Chill
Dec 11, 2020 rated it did not like it
i’d burn this book
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 r
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. ...more
Benjamin Fasching-Gray
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 ther ...more
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
Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pol
I get what Perlman was trying to do here, history is problematic, those who wrote it even more so, men, white men, bloodthirsty empire worshipping men most of the time who saw everything through the lense of the Leviathan i.e the state, the king, the leader. I also appreciate his poetic approach, as whimsical and confusing his prose can get he really does redeem it with some nice displays of lyricism that are welcome, as well as his subjective take on history deserves its praise for its playful, ...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. ...more
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.
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.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Seriously one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. Big ideas and an essential read for a critical take on human history.
Feb 11, 2021 rated it did not like it
"And so the problem remained; lots of people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.
Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans."
--Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Round about the three quarters mark, Fredy Perlman states that he's sick of writing this book an
Jul 12, 2020 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
An anti-history that reads like it's being told to you by some weird guy you met at a party, who won't stop talking until the sun rises, who speaks without taking a breath. How much of it actually gets into your head is unclear, but something has. Something has changed in how you look at the world and how we got here. In lieu of trying to talk about this any further, I'll just post the excerpt that convinced me to read it in the first place:

The final destruction of Carthage has no precedent in t
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
imma just put the quotes here cuz the feelings i have towards this book are hard to explain. i would give it five stars if only it didn't literally shatter some of the core beliefs i had. it really made more sense on the second read. anyways, what a book.

"Levithan has neither life nor soul. I ti is that it is. İt is its own sole goal. It is Death, unmitigated, unjustified, unexplained."

"Yet how many pages will be devoted to the greatness of Rome! And how many pages to the technological ingenuit
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. ...more
Victor Desario
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really wanted to give this five stars, but can't wrap my head around some of Perlman's most important premises, particularly the absolute idealization of the natural in contrast with the corrupt (bordering on noble savage). Still a stunning alternative view of civilization and world history as a regression rather than a progression. ...more
Jan 01, 2021 rated it did not like it
If Ted Kaczynski was much, much dumber and liked David Thoreau. Earnestly thinking that being in a hunter-gatherer society lets you be free from work so you can focus on the self doesn't make you an anprim, it makes you a dumbass. ...more
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.
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Deep history with poetic and philosophic sensitivity. A true epic of anarchist thought. Maybe a bit too primitivist.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What can I say? This is one of the books that I’ll remember as having changed my life. That I was waiting for. I know I’ll come back to it again and again, I’ve already referenced it so many times. The undead carcass is more visible to me now, more nameable, more tangible than it ever was before Fredy Perlman gave me the language I needed to feel its tendrils around me, described its body. Described us all as the animators within it. That resonates with something so deep inside of me.
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 f
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 Hobbe ...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
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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 Pe

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