Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements

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Pickle Partners Publishing, Sep 3, 2018 - History - 388 pages
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“‘Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist,’ said Sebastien Faure. The definition is tempting in its simplicity, but simplicity is the first thing to guard against in writing a history of anarchism. Few doctrines or movements have been so confusedly understood in the public mind, and few have presented in their own variety of approach and action so much excuse for confusion.” These are the opening sentences of this book, which brilliantly effaces confusion by providing a critical history of anarchist thought and practice.

Mr. Woodcock traces the development of anarchism from its earliest appearances, and the rise and fall of anarchism as a movement aiming at practical social changes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He discusses the ideas of the principal anarchist thinkers—Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, among others—and explains the various forms—anarchist individualism, anarchist communism, anarcho-syndicalism—that anarchist proposals for change have taken. The development of anarchist organizations, the various forms (peaceful and violent) of anarchist political action in Europe and America, the reasons for the appeal of anarchism at certain periods and to certain people—all these are given full treatment in Mr. Woodcock’s comprehensive work, which closes with a discussion of the causes of anarchism’s failure as a movement and with a consideration of whether there are any elements in anarchist thought that—despite the failure of anarchism as a political panacea—may still be worth preserving in the modern world.

“The essential introduction to the classical anarchist thinkers.”—Mark Leier, Director, Centre for Labour Studies, Simon Fraser University

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User Review  - bookunin - LibraryThing

Actually, it would deserve a much better rating, if only it was possible to tell where he's inventing facts to suit his idea of what the anarchist movement ought to be. Clue: he's not very good on the Spanish movement, those nasty ruffians! Read full review

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User Review  - Fledgist - LibraryThing

A history of anarchism as ideology and political movement. Read full review


The Family Tree 21
The Man of Reason 35
International Endeavors 143
Anarchism in Spain 215
Anarchism in Russia 241
Anarchism in Latin America

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About the author (2018)

George Woodcock (May 8, 1912 - January 28, 1995) was a Canadian writer of political biography and history, an anarchist thinker, an essayist and literary critic. He was also a poet and published several volumes of travel writing. In 1959 he was the founding editor of the journal Canadian Literature, the first academic journal specifically dedicated to Canadian writing. He is most commonly known outside Canada for his book Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962).

Woodcock was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but moved with his parents to England at an early age, attending Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow and Morley College. His first job as a clerk at the Great Western Railway first piqued his interest in anarchism, and he was to remain an anarchist for the rest of his life, writing several books on the subject, as well as biographies of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, William Godwin, Oscar Wilde and Peter Kropotkin. His first published work was The White Island (1940), a collection of poetry.

He spent World War II working as a conscientious objector on a farm in Essex, and in 1949, moved to British Columbia. At Camp Angel in Oregon, a camp for conscientious objectors, he was a founder of the Untide Press, which sought to bring poetry to the public in an inexpensive but attractive format. Following the war, he returned to Canada, settling in Vancouver, British Columbia. In 1955, he took a post in the English department of the University of British Columbia, where he remained until the 1970s.

Towards the end of his life, Woodcock became increasingly interested in what he saw as the plight of Tibetans. He travelled to India, studied Buddhism, became friends with the Dalai Lama and established the Tibetan Refugee Aid Society. With his wife Inge, he established Canada India Village Aid, which sponsors self-help projects in rural India.

Woodcock died at in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1995, aged 82.

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