Bakunin: The Creative Passion

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Macmillan, Apr 1, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 368 pages
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"The passion for destruction is a creative passion," wrote the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin in 1842. Since then, the popular image of anarchism has been one of violence and terror. But this picture is wildly misleading, and the media has done more to obscure anarchism than to explain it. Focusing on the street fighting and confrontations with police, mainstream commentators are unable to understand what anarchism is or why a philosophy with roots in the nineteenth century has resurfaced with such power at the dawn of the new millennium. To understand anarchism, it is necessary to go beyond the caricature presented by the media. In this new biography of Mikhail Bakunin, Mark Leier traces the life and ideas of anarchism's first major thinker, and in the process revealing the origins of the movement.
There was little in Bakunin's background to suggest that he would grow up to be anything other than a loyal subject of the Russian Empire. Instead, he became one the most notorious radicals of the nineteenth century, devoting his life to the destruction of the tsar and feudalism, capitalism, the state, even God. In the process, he became a historical actor and political thinker whose ideas continue to influence world events.
Bakunin is of keen interest these days, though the attention paid to his image continues to obscure the man and his ideas. Using archival sources and the most recent scholarship, Leier corrects many of the popular misconceptions about Bakunin and his ideas, offering a fresh interpretation of Bakunin's life and thoughts of use to those interested in understanding anarchism and social change. Arguing for the relevance and importance of anarchism to our present world, Leier sheds light on the nineteenth century, as well as on today's headlines, as he examines a political philosophy that has inspired mass movements and contemporary social critics.
Mark Leier shows that the "passion for destruction" is a call to build a new world free of oppression, not a cult of violence. He argues that anarchism is a philosophy of morality and solidarity, based not on wishful thinking or na´ve beliefs about the goodness of humanity but on a practical, radical critique of wealth and power. By studying Bakunin, we can learn a great deal about our own time and begin to recover a world of possibility and promise. It is often said that we are all anarchists at heart. This book explains why.

 

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Bakunin: the creative passion

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While not as well known as Marx or Engels to those not trained as historians, Mikhail Bakunin, a.k.a. the Founding Father of Anarchism, is probably just as important to Russian political theory. For ... Read full review

Contents

1 Werewolves Nobles and the Idyll of Priamukhino
1
2 War Slavery and Service
15
3 Rules Rebellion and Romance
35
4 Shooting Blanks
49
5 The Main Illness of Our Generation
67
6 Contradiction Is the Source of Movement
83
7 The Passion for Destruction Is a Creative Passion
93
8 Gay Paris
109
11 Liberty Without Socialism Is Injustice Socialism Without Liberty Is Slavery
177
12 The Revolutionary Is a Doomed Man
201
13 Hermaphrodite Man Versus Carbuncle Boy in the First International
225
14 The Only Liberty Deserving of the Name
251
15 We Detest All Power
271
Conclusion
293
Bibliographic Guide
301
Notes
305

9 Barricades Piled Up Like Mountains
131
10 Without Organization We Will Never Gain Victory
153

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About the author (2007)

MARK LEIER teaches at Simon Fraser University, where he is the director of the Center for Labour Studies. He is the author or co-author of four books on labor history. He lives in North Vancouver, Canada.

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