Monday, March 28, 2011

Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman

Concisely, I found this collection disappointing. I had hoped to learn more about the subject but I mainly acquired an understanding of Goldman’s position and presentation (which was lacking). To be fair, the work is quite old so that I have come across the ideas before isn’t surprising, nor is it just to criticize her for statements that related to a different time and social structure. My personal tastes run against hyperbole in writing and speech, a style that Goldman appears to enjoy and embrace. Many of the conditions she rallies against were (and are) indeed criminal but she wins no favours from me by using unqualified speech, though it was intermittently entertaining. I think she has a misunderstanding of human nature - a common complaint about anti-capitalists, and one less forgivable as the years since Darwin published Origin of Species increase.
Unfortunately, I cannot say I learned much, but I was reminded how terrible things were in factories a century ago (and might still be elsewhere in the world where our goods are made). An amusing factoid was Goldman’s exclamation of the rise of divorce from 1880-1909, where it was a staggering 1 in 12. I can only imagine what she would say now.
Worthwhile as history and exposure to different presentations of ideas, but not as useful as Chomsky discussing anarchism in 50-min interview available online.


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