The Idealist

The Idealist
Aaron Schwartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet
Justin Peters
Price: £
  • Hardback
23 Mar 2017
  • Biography & Memoir
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The life story of Aaron Swartz, hacktivist and founding developer of Reddit, Creative Commons and – as well as a smart, lively, history of the free culture movement and its effects on society.

Aaron Swartz was a zealous young advocate for the free exchange of information and creative content online. He committed suicide in 2013 after being indicted by the US government for illegally downloading millions of academic articles from an online database. From the age of fifteen, when Swartz, a computer prodigy, worked with Lawrence Lessig to launch Creative Commons, to his years as a fighter for copyright reform and open information, to his work leading the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act, to his posthumous status as a cultural icon. Justin Peters examines Swartz's life in the context of 200 years of struggle over the control of information.

The Idealist situates Swartz in the context of other ‘data moralists’ past and present, from lexicographer Noah Webster to eBook pioneer Michael Hart to NSA whistle blower Chelsea Manning. A moving biography and an essential look at the impact of the free culture movement on our daily lives and on generations to come.



'Peters captures Swartz flawlessly’ The New York Times

‘What [The Idealist] does—and does very well—is put Swartz’s work in context. The book gives an engaging, if knowingly incomplete, account of the history of intellectual property and copyright law, the archaic roots (and current implications) of cyberlaw, and some key players in the ongoing fight between open-data philosophy and the federal government’ New Republic

‘This impressively nimble and engrossing big-picture biography... presents a colourful history of American publishing, public libraries, censorship, and copyright law’ Booklist, Starred Review

‘An exceptionally crafted story about the life of Aaron Swartz [and] a bold and important history of information policy in the Internet age… everyone should read The IdealistAdam Clark Estes, Senior Writer at Gizmodo

‘Justin Peters is an immensely talented storyteller and The Idealist is an uncommonly good book – an ambitious, erudite, meticulously crafted work on a pivotal and tragic figure’ Evan Ratliff, Contributing Editor at Wired

‘Peters is somehow able to pinpoint the complex questions that our culture has to answer if we are to move forward into the future without forgetting our past’ Lisa Rein, Cofounder of Creative Commons and Aaron Swartz Day

‘Masterfully narrates the story of Aaron Swartz, who abdicated a life of privilege and convenience by choosing the path of fiercely principled activism’ Gabriella Coleman, author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous

‘A compelling sketch of a genius with real trouble’ Kirkus

‘Thought-provoking’ Publishers Weekly

‘Invites readers to consider how society values access to information, as suggested by Swartz’s life’ Library Journal

‘In powerful, clear-eyed prose, Justin Peters recounts Aaron Swartz’s life story and astutely explains why that story continues to matter today. The Idealist should be required reading for anyone who has ever – or has never – shared a file on the Internet’ David Segal, Executive Director of Demand Progres

‘Riveting....Peters' book is a fascinating look not only at one of the Internet's most beloved whiz kids but also at the way copyright works and doesn't work in America today’ Los Angeles Times

‘In The Idealist, Justin Peters sets out to explain not only why Swartz’s death was an unnecessary tragedy caused in large part by the state’s determination to hound him, but also the history and the rationale of the ideas he was fighting for in the first place… this book is probably the single most important one I’ll read all year in terms of informing and challenging my ideas about power, information, and how technology should be used’ Elle Thinks (Blog)

Justin Peters

About Justin Peters

Justin Peters graduated from Cornell University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is a correspondent for Slate. He has written for various publications, including The New York Times and Washington Monthly.