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Elisée Reclus

 

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Elisée Reclus (1830–1905) was a renowned French geographer, writer, and anarchist. He produced his 19-volume masterwork La Nouvelle Géographie universelle, la terre et les hommes ("Universal Geography"), over a period of nearly 20 years (1875–1894). In 1892 he was awarded the prestigious Gold Medal of the Paris Geographical Society for this work, despite having been banished from France because of his political activism.

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Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus
Author: Elisée Reclus
Edited by John P. Clark and Camille Martin
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-429-8
Published: 10/01/2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 304 Pages
Subjects: Philosophy-Anarchism/Social Science-Geography
$22.95

Anarchy, Geography, Modernity is the first comprehensive introduction to the thought of Elisée Reclus, the great anarchist geographer and political theorist. It shows him to be an extraordinary figure for his age. Not only an anarchist but also a radical feminist, anti-racist, ecologist, animal rights advocate, cultural radical, nudist, and vegetarian. Not only a major social thinker but also a dedicated revolutionary.

The work analyzes Reclus' greatest achievement, a sweeping historical and theoretical synthesis recounting the story of the earth and humanity as an epochal struggle between freedom and domination. It presents his groundbreaking critique of all forms of domination: not only capitalism, the state, and authoritarian religion, but also patriarchy, racism, technological domination, and the domination of nature. His crucial insights on the interrelation between personal and small-group transformation, broader cultural change, and large-scale social organization are explored. Reclus’ ideas are presented both through detailed exposition and analysis, and in extensive translations of key texts, most appearing in English for the first time.

Praise:

"For far too long Elisée Reclus has stood in the shadow of Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman. Now John Clark has pulled Reclus forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with Anarchism's cynosures. Reclus' light brought into anarchism's compass not only a focus on ecology, but a struggle against both patriarchy and racism, contributions which can now be fully appreciated thanks to John Clark's exegesis and [his and Camille Martin's] translations of works previously unavailable in English. No serious reader can afford to neglect this book."
—Dana Ward, Pitzer College

"Finally! A century after his death, the great French geographer and anarchist Elisée Reclus has been honored by a vibrant selection of his writings expertly translated into English."
—Kent Mathewson, Louisiana State University

"Maintaining an appropriately scholarly style, marked by deep background knowledge, nuanced argument, and careful qualifications, Clark and Martin nevertheless reveal a passionate love for their subject and adopt a stance of political engagement that they hope does justice to Reclus' own commitments."
Historical Geography

"Clark and Martin have opened the door, through their deep introduction and selected reprints, to one of the great thinkers of 19th century anarchist thought."
Anarchy

"This inspiring analysis and anthology does an excellent job of placing Reclus in his anarchist and social context.”
Anarchist Studies

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What Others Are Saying...


Anarchy, Geography, and Modernity: A Glimpse into the Depth of Anarchism
By Sasha
Earth First! Newswire
October 18th, 2014

"A new edition of Elisée Reclus’s works, Anarchy, Geography, Modernity, edited by the illustrious duo of John Clark and Camille Martin, provides a captivating introduction to the great anarchist’s life and works. This book will drive its readers into the most solitary spaces of reflection—whether the ocean’s rocky shoreline, the forest’s wild expanse, or the deepest reaches of the imagination. It provides a vital touchstone of time and place, a refraction that sheds light on our own ways of seeing the world.

Reclus has long been an understudied figure in the history of anarchism, so the first part of the book, taken up by Clark’s biography of Reclus, seems a welcome first step..."

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Green Pioneer: Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus: A Review
by Duncan Bowie
The Chartist
July/August 2014

"Elisee Reclus has been due for greater recognition. He was a leading French anarchist and one of the founders of human geography. Unlike his friend and fellow anarchist geographer, Petr Kropotkin, most of his works have never been trans- lated into English (though I do have an 1871 translation of his first major study- The Earth and a Bellamy library edition of his 1891 pamphlet Evolution and Revolution) and this new collection provides for the first time substantial extracts from his major political and geographical works. The editors, academics in New Orleans and Mississippi, also provide a 100 page introduction to Reclus’ thought, which complements Marie Fleming’s 1979 biography - The Anarchist Way to Socialism, which to my knowledge is the only previous substantive work on Reclus in English..."

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Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus: A Review
Publishers Weekly
February 2014

This collection, edited by theorist and activist Clark (The Impossible Community) and poet Martin (Looms and Sonnets), focuses on Reclus (1830–1905), the largely-forgotten French writer, geographer, and anarchist, author of the 19-volume tome, The Earth and Its Inhabitants. The first section summarizes Reclus's life and thought, while the second contains excerpts from his writings, many of which appear here for the first time in English. Having spent time in a Louisiana plantation, Reclus witnessed the brutality of slavery first-hand, which resolved his feelings towards racism and "strengthened his belief in the inhumanity of capitalism." After returning to Europe, he dedicated himself to political writing and activism, becoming well-known in anarchist circles. Despite his new fame, he rejected the idea of taking a position of superiority, and advocated for "complete justice and equality" for women. Railing against "all forms of the state," he held that anyone who gains power in the state, even if it is with the intention of improving conditions, inevitably becomes corrupted by its mechanisms. This illuminating, extensive collection provides a worthwhile introduction to a progressive thinker who was ahead of his time.

Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus: A Review
By Federico Ferretti
Antipode: A Radical Journal of Georgraphy
December 2013

On the one side, it is clear that there is a high risk of anachronism in associating, like Clark and Martin do, an author who lived between 1830 and 1905 to very present concepts and problems like ‘ecofeminism’ (p.vii), ‘resilience’ (p.viii) or ‘climate change’ (p.viii): problems, categories and concepts simply did not existed, or conceived in a radically different way, in Reclus’ time. Nevertheless, considering the wide circulation of Reclus’ ideas, during his lifetime as well as more recently, beyond both the disciplinary borders of geography and the political borders of anarchism, I agree with the picture Clark paints of him as “a significant figure in modern European social and political theory in general” (p.73), whose ideas are still useful (and, indeed, used) in several urgent debates on present problems. Clark and Martin’s collection deserves praise, to my mind, for making available in the Anglophone world important texts by Elisée Reclus.

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