Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God and the State

God and the State, Mikhail Bakunin's dissection of the church, government and socialism, is standard in any anarchist's library.  I know plenty of atheists and political science majors who have read it, as well.

At this stage in the game of life, you would think most people with any sort of governmental mistrust and those who question the authority of religion would have at least given this a glance.  Yes, it's incomplete (Bakunin died before he could finish it, and it is published that way), but it is one of the more influential books on the subject.  The foundations of the current anarchist movement are laid here.  The argument against the church is made clearly ... more clearly than a lot of the atheist movement's own literature (which, in its fervor, gives organized religion more power credence than it has on its own).

In other words, this should be standard reading for those who question the status quo.  What I have found is that it is not.

I can't really blame "free thinkers" for not knowing about the book, let alone reading it.  While referenced in plenty of other books on political history and theory, it is far from a household name.  You would really only have a working knowledge of it if you read a lot of anarchist history or read a lot of political theory.  Most of the people I know who question the order of things get their knowledge through The Daily Show.  (Which is on par with those who only get their knowledge through Fox.)  Few seek out anything really in-depth.  Fewer still seek out books published in 1882.  That doesn't make it any less historically important, however, and not just to anarchists.

 With America becoming even more polarized (something that seemed almost unimaginable six years ago), this book's message could not be more timely.  It teaches one how to critically challenge those in authority, and it sets the basis for the not only the current anarchist movement, but for every current movement that professes a desire to be free from government (including the Tea Party, the members of which would probably gasp if they read it).  Will it change the world?  I'd say it already has.

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