God and the State

God and the State (called by its author The Historical Sophisms of the Doctrinaire School of Communism) is an unfinished manuscript by the Russian anarchist philosopher Mikhail Bakunin, published posthumously in 1882. The work criticises Christianity and the then-burgeoning technocracy movement from a materialist, anarchist and individualist perspective. Early editions contained rewrites by Carlo Cafiero and Élisée Reclus in order to make the work more poetic in the translated French and due to misreadings, but later translations have attempted to remain more faithful to the original text. It has gone on to become Bakunin's most widely read and praised work.

God and the State
Dieu et l'état.jpg
The cover of the first print in 1882.
AuthorMikhail Bakunin
Original titleDieu et l'état
TranslatorCarlo Cafiero and Élisée Reclus
LanguageEnglish, translated from French
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages89 p. (Dover Paperback Edition)
ISBN978-0-486-22483-1 (Dover Paperback Edition)
335/.83 19
LC ClassHX833 .B313 1970
Preceded byFounding of the First International 
Followed byThe Immorality of the State 


God and the State was written in February and March 1871. It was originally written as Part II of a greater work that was going to be called The Knouto-Germanic Empire and the Social Revolution.[1] Part I was to deal with the background of the Franco-Prussian War and a general history of European resistance to imperialism. God and the State, like most of Bakunin's work, is unfinished and disjointed. When Bakunin was criticized on this he said, "My life is a fragment." God and the State is indeed a fragment; the book has paragraphs that drop out and pick up in mid-sentence, footnotes that are four or five paragraphs long, and the book itself stops abruptly in mid-sentence.

Discovery and publication historyEdit

God and the State was discovered by Carlo Cafiero and Élisée Reclus, two prominent anarchists at the time, and close friends of Bakunin around the time of his death. The two looked tirelessly for the missing parts of the book, but had no success. They translated the book into French and distributed it as a pamphlet in Geneva in 1882. Cafiero and Reclus titled the book Dieu et l'état (God and the State) although Bakunin originally titled the book The Historical Sophisms of the Doctrinaire School of Communism. The book's original title was not discovered in Bakunin's diary until after Cafiero and Reclus's deaths.

In 1883, the American anarchist Benjamin Tucker translated the book into English and distributed it in pamphlet form throughout Boston. He ran into many problems, however, because when Cafiero and Reclus translated the original manuscript into French, they sometimes changed words around to give the French a more literary quality, and often misread Bakunin's handwriting.[citation needed] The first number of The Anarchist published in 1885 in London by Henry Seymour held an announcement of a translation into English by Marie Le Compte.[2] The International Publishing Company announced that the profits would go to the Red Cross of the Russian Revolutionary Party.[3]

A correct French translation was released in 1908, and a new English edition was released in London in 1910. In 1916, the Lithuanian-born anarchist Emma Goldman released a re-print of the 1910 London edition for the radical journal Mother Earth. Since God and the State's first publication it has been one of Bakunin's greatest known works. It has been translated into many languages including English, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Greek, Czech, Georgian Romanian, Turkish and Yiddish.

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