I’ve been slowly making my way through Peter Marshall‘s Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism . At the rate I’m going, and given the length of the book (841 pages), I figure I’ll finish it in 2025.
But don’t let my turtle approach mislead you: it’s very good. If you’re interested in knowing the anarchic impulses and thoughts of a host of thinkers, look no further. Even writers who should in no way be regarded as anarchic get ink. Edmund Burke, for instance. Russell Kirk would roll over in his grave to see Burke lumped in with anarchists, but Marshall doesn’t do that. He merely discusses some anarchic tendencies in his thought.
At points, the book has veered toward a staid, encyclopedia-like, description of authors’ ideas, which is probably partly the reason it’s taking me so long to plow through it (a guy can take only so much aridity before the reading fuel runs dry). But I like erudition, and Marshall shows himself to be extremely such (“Did he really read all those books,” I find myself asking, then remember reading someplace that he was born wealthy and probably has enjoyed a lot of disposable time).
Marshall has done us a service: He has shown that a political philosophy devoted to peace and lack of coercion is desirable and perhaps not entirely quixotic. Anarchism, at the very least, is worth thinking about, if only because it shows us how things could be.
Expect passages from the book as I progress through it.
In the meantime, here are two axioms that every person interested in political philosophy should memorize, one humorous observation, and one statement that every serious Catholic with an interest in political philosophy should understand:
“[O]nly a tiny minority of anarchists have practised terror as a revolutionary strategy . . .”.
“[H]istorically anarchism has been far less violent than other political creeds . . .”.
“When asked what would replace government, numerous anarchists have answered ‘What do you replace cancer with?'”
“[A]ll the classic anarchist thinkers except Stirner recognize the force of natural law as a way of achieving social cohesion in the absence of government and man-made laws . . .”.Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList