by Fredy Perlman, 1983
electronic edition 2007 by Badger Johnson
This book, Perlman's masterwork, is as likely to drive you insane as the fictional play that induces madness, "The King in Yellow," was said to have been.
How so? Perlman didn't just set out to teach history, or even to teach an alternate interpretation of history. Perlman set out, using a great deal of poetry and his own carefully constructed alternate vocabulary, to change the way that you think about history. In capsule summary, he attempted to show that when the first proto-Babylonian king enslaved the first nearby tribe, creating the first Bronze Age society, he accidentally created a living hive mind, a colony creature, the first Leviathan. In his narrative, what the rest of us call "the rise and expansion of civilization" he attempts to persuade you to see as first one, then two warring, hive minds struggling against each other, expanding not so much because of their unholy appetites but because of their need to eradicate or encapsulate any non-hierarchical (escapee) people that are near enough to the "skin" of a Leviathan to risk infecting the minds of those who make up creature.
With apologies, I would like to contradict the other reviewers by saying that if you think that Perlman's analysis of history is Marxist, you're not paying attention. His personal utopian vision is anarcho-primitivist. But even if you don't come away from this book a converted anarcho-primitivist (I didn't), you will come away from it equipped with a vocabulary and a set of concepts that render much of the world visible and explicable that are invisible and inexplicable to those who haven't read it, and that's a schizophrenia-like experience that is impossible to eradicate and difficult as all heck to spread.
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