Item description for Orgasms of History: 3000 Years of Spontaneous Insurrection by Guillaume Keynia Ives Fremion...
Every now and then, things explode. Riots, uprisings, revolutions, new and bizarre social groups spring up seemingly from nowhere. Our standard histories tend to treat these as oddities, if treated at all, or as misguided responses to hard times, limited by lack of responsible leadership. Here's a People's History to puncture that balloon. From the Cynics & Spartacus through the Levelers, Diggers & Ranters to the Revolution of the Carnation, the San Francisco Diggers, Red Guard of Shenwulian, Brethren of the Free Spirit, Guevara, the Provos & the Metropolitan Indians. Nearly 100 episodes of revolt and utopia which popped up without a plan or a leader from the ancient Greeks to the present.
Fremion lives in Paris where he participated in the May '68 orgasm.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.55" Weight: 0.81 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 2002
Publisher AK Press
ISBN 1902593340 ISBN13 9781902593340
Reviews - What do customers think about Orgasms of History: 3000 Years of Spontaneous Insurrection?
some interesting information marred by poor writing Apr 25, 2005
I was excited to read this book, and I did learn about some historical movements and events that I hadn't encountered before, but I feel the need to caution potential readers about the significant shortcomings of this book.
Most glaringly, as has already been mentioned by R. Hucek, the prose is terrible. No, strike that; it's *abysmal*. I will give the author the benefit of the doubt that the original French is far more readable, although I suspect he shares some blame for the leaden tone of the book. This is a real disappointment, especially because the topic should engender effusive enthusiasm.
I also take issue with Fremion's political assumptions and methods. He at least insinuates that he is writing from an anarchist perspective, but the book is rife with leftist apologetics and applause for various "reforms" secured by the described insurrections. I suppose this isn't surprising coming from an author whose main claim to fame seems to be some level of involvement in the Paris 68 uprising, which was a thoroughly Marxist affair with some cosmetic New Left overtones. He quotes Situationists like DeBord and Vaneigem often, but seems to be more interested in their technological and organizational fetishism than their more insightful and liberatory cultural theory.
Granted, he explicitly acknowledges his subjectivity, but I think he should have given more transparency vis-a-vis his personal ideological bent, because it certainly colors his presentation of the various insurrectionary case studies. He glorifies workers to the exclusion of other oppressed groups and seems very keen on work itself, so long as it is under the auspices of a worker's council. His politics seem to straddle anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian communism; he delivers constant paeons to the wonders of federalism and government from below. (Never mind that political representationalism is not anarchistic, no matter how temporary or democratically ratified.)
Fremion takes great pleasure in old left anachronisms, such as referring to all forms of authoritarianism as "Stalinism" and any self-managing social group as a "soviet". He also downplays or ignores glaring instances of hierarchy within the movements he describes, particularly male domination. Despite the occasional acknowledgement of these shortcomings, and an uncharacteristic awareness of the oppression of children (at least when a white male anarchist saves the day by setting up a school for them), Fremion seems to think sociocultural domination is fine as long as it isn't imposed by the bourgeois state. Indeed, although the book touts itself as a "people's history", it reads like a standard historical account wherein the almost exclusively male and predominantly white leaders are the primary actors. This is a total contradiction of his supposed goal of illustrating spontaneous revolts which crystallized without a set program or leader.
It's also worth noting that there is only one example in the entire book from a non-EuroAmerican culture: The Iroquois League. Even this example is perplexing, because other than praising the League for working just like a (you guessed it) "soviet" and lauding their unwritten charter as the forerunner of the U.S. Constitution (what an anarchist, eh?), he characterizes the League as an expansionist and often war-like political entity which was on the verge of becoming a native imperial force when the Europeans decimated it. Well, so much for non-whites achieving authentic libertarianism.
Ultimately this book was more problematic than helpful, although it helped me solidify some of my critiques of the workerist and hyperorganizational strands of the contemporary anarchist milieu personified by AK Press (they also publish some very good material, but this is mostly because they are something of a monopoly in the anarchist publishing world and thus feel compelled to cater to interests outside of their pet causes like rehashing the Spanish Civil War ad nauseum). Incidentally, the illustrations by Volny are quite good and are probably the main reason why I didn't give this book one star. "The Souvenir Album of Buenaventura Durruti" is particularly cool and made me wish the whole book was done in a similar comic book fashion.
THIS IS A FUN BOOK Dec 24, 2004
This book can be really funny while it is very interesting. It is full of many short stories about important movements that you most likely wont hear about other places. The chapters are short and easy to read. It is a great refrence book because you can jump around in it for brief discriptions.
Conversation with an Old French Radical Nov 17, 2002
An unpretentious history of mass revolt, covering everything from the Diggers to the Iroquois League to anarchistic Red Guards in the Chinese Cultural revolution. The first thing you'll notice about this brief survey of spontaneous radical insurrections is the translation: it's bad. It's very very bad. Thoughts detour into meaningless exclamations, phrases are unclear and clunky. The second thing you'll notice is the subjective approach to history: Fremion picks favorites. Comrade X is only mentioned to be dismissed as a "turd," Comrade Y "had a good head on her shoulders"-- those sort of vagueries. The combined effect of these two attributes is that the book reads like an intimate conversation with an old French radical. His English is good but not great, he twists your ear a bit and his breath stinks of wine, but he also manages to make you feel as if you were present at every event he chronicles. Clashes, names, and faces fly out of history at you, only to disappear, in a rush that approximates the rushb that the actual participants of these struggles must have felt. Fremion makes you want to read more about the many insurrections he touches on-- to try to sort out the heroes and villains (or "Stalinists" as Fremion labels them) for yourself. Pick it up!