Anarcho-primitivism is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. According to anarcho-primitivism, the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification , coercion , alienation , and overpopulation. Many traditional anarchists reject the critique of civilization while some, such as Wolfi Landstreicher, endorse the critique but do not consider themselves anarcho-primitivists. Anarcho-primitivists are often distinguished by their focus on the praxis of achieving a feral state of being through " rewilding ".
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Influences and Precedents. Works Cited. Anarcho-primitivists comprise a subculture and political movement that, generally, advocates hunting and gathering as the ideal human subsistence method from the point of view of sustainable resource use and the band as the ideal human social structure for its features of egalitarianism.
While the goal may seem improbable, a primitivist would contend that more modest goals are either undesirable or unachievable within the system. It is multi-faceted, drawing on several traditions of thought. These include the nineteenth century social speculators, anthropology of hunter-gatherers, situationism, anarchism, radical deep ecology, and anti-technological philosophy.
The direction of that change is the focus of anarcho-primitivist interest. Anarcho-primitivism is subtly influencing society in several ways.
Primitivists were among the protesters participating in window-smashing, spray-painting, and other vandalism at the Seattle WTO protests in December The popular novel Fight Club , which became a feature film, portrayed a group of alienated young men who reject consumerist culture and attempt to bring it to an end through massive sabotage.
While anarcho-primitivism may not seem worthy of much thought or attention because it falls far outside the mainstream of political discourse, it ought not to be dismissed. It merits substantial attention solely on the basis of its harmonious integration of several historically disparate lines of thought.
This means that primitivists reject even forms of production based on collective management and ownership because any production exceeding immediate subsistence needs is seen as incompatible with long-term sustainability. Derrick Jensen explains:. Make no mistake, our economic system can do no other than destroy everything it encounters.
That conversion, from living trees to lumber, schools of cod to fish sticks, and onward to numbers on a ledger, is the central process of our economic system. The oldest and most pervasive of these is the romantic idea of the noble savage. This idea, popularized in the eighteenth century by Rousseau , has persisted ever since recall the Iron Eyes Cody anti-litter advertising campaign. This romanticism was adopted by the nineteenth century transcendentalists like Emerson, Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller Pearce — The most prominent of these was Morgan who outlined the progression from savagery to barbarism to civilization.
These stages were defined by increasing technological progress originating with stone-age hunter-gatherers resulting in a corresponding decrease in reliance on nature and the increasing opportunity for managerial and artistic pursuits Bettinger , but only for an elite class. He concluded that hunter-gatherers of the most mobile sort could be characterized as affluent on the basis that their few and simple wants were easily met.
Since Man the Hunter, there has been no shift in the scholarly literature back toward the negative stereotypes of hunter-gatherers. A shift away from stereotypes in general is an obvious trend, however.
Participants in this revolution of hunter-gatherer studies certainly were and are aware of the romantic stereotype of the noble savage, and, if only unconsciously, they had brought it up-to-date with modern scholarship, giving it significant credibility.
This primitivist trend attracted many to the study of hunter gatherers, and certainly formed a foundation for the appearance of anarcho-primitivism in the ensuing decades. Debord was part of a revolutionary French art movement of the s, Situationism, which rejected the substitution of representation for direct experience.
Like previous art movements had done, Situationsists sought to bridge the divide between art and everyday life. In lamenting the loss of a perceived past in which direct experience was universal, he paved the way for anarcho-primitivism, which would paint a clearer picture of that implicit alternative. Among these was anarchism. At the end of the nineteenth century, it was taking hold in the US and Europe among organized laborers.
It was at this time that the stereotype of the bomb-throwing anarchist was born, fueled by events such as the Haymarket Affair Bose , However this stereotype does injustice to the idealistic motives of anarchists as explicated by its numerous philosophical proponents. As Howard Zinn explains,. It is these conditions that anarchists have wanted to end: to bring a kind of order to the world for the first time.
We have never listened to them carefully, except through the hearing aids supplied by the guardians of disorder — the national government leaders, whether capitalist or socialist. The ultimate aim of anarchists is hardly different than that of other idealists throughout history.
These primitivist themes began to appear in anarchist publications in the s, and they explicitly referenced the s anthropology of hunter-gatherers e. Sahlins ; the egalitarian band structure seemed to exemplify the anarchist solution to social disorder. The environmental movement also flourished into the s, and this is reflected in the anarchist-leaning fiction of Edward Abbey.
They are sympathetically portrayed as the underdogs in a country where political power is held by no-good despoilers of nature. The value of non-human life forms is independent of the usefulness these may have for narrow human purposes.
The radical environmental movement was compatible with primitivist ideas, as the popular portrayal of Indians as ecologists demonstrates. He continues,. That Indian peoples had cared well for this land, had conserved its biodiversity, is also undeniable.
Sixteen mailed bombs were sent by Kaczynski, resulting in the deaths of three and injuring 23 more Goldberg This tendency to aggressively challenge technological innovation can be traced back to early eighteenth-century England when advances in textile manufacturing technology threatened to make obsolete centuries of tradition. These detractors of technology, popularly called Luddites, from to sabotaged this new machinery creating an uproar in English society Sale a.
Their name derives from the mythological figure, Ned Ludd, whose name served as a pseudonym in their letters of threat of and explanation for their vandalism Sale a— The difference between neo-Luddites and their predecessors is that, in the nineteenth century, new technologies were only a social threat, whereas today technology threatens the biological systems that form the basis of human existence Sale a— A final pillar supporting the primitivist ethos demonstrates the unsustainability of industrial society.
This body of work refutes those arguments that claim science will provide the solutions necessary to sustain current First World living standards in the face of massive resource degradation and depletion.
More than a decade of environmentalism still had not popularly integrated ubiquitous environmental problems into a coherent message for public consumption. LTG offered a satisfying, yet disturbing complete picture. The research group reached this conclusion through the use of a computer model which was able to factor in multiple variables and the interaction between them.
LTG was the first attempt to present the environmental crisis as a whole and show that it required a systematic response Kassiola Resource shortages have become a serious concern in recent years among limits-to-growth theorists.
By far, the most popular and far-reaching of the theories of resource depletion concerns petroleum. From that moment on, supply begins to drop while demand persists. This phenomenon has been observed for decades, but the global economy has been able to sufficiently redistribute oil to regions where the supply has long been exhausted e.
Anything and everything that depends on oil try imagining some aspect of out society that does not will become increasingly expensive, and eventually industrial society will grind to a halt.
The key writers, including John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, and Daniel Quinn, all come from different backgrounds — the labor movement, the environmental movement, or entirely non-political — but they each synthesize elements of the above influences and add their own unique contributions.
John Zerzan , adds the most academic voice to the chorus. While his writing style is the least accessible, his critique is by far the deepest. He seeks the root of all domination, and this path leads him deeper into prehistory than even the origins of agriculture.
For him, each of those serves to mediate humans from the direct experience of the world that Guy Debord elegized. It is a novel that revolves around a Socratic-style dialogue in which the reader learns how civilization came to be and what humanity has forgotten as a result. Derrick Jensen provides a uniquely psychological analysis of modern civilization, drawing on the work of R. Laing and Erich Fromm.
He uses his own experience of child abuse to show how the same types of relationships are manifested on a larger scale throughout society He also assesses the psychology of hate groups in terms of its relationship the dominant culture All of these individuals agree that civilization was a mistake that has had disastrous consequences for human and non-human life, and it will continue to wreak havoc until people decide to stop it or until it collapses under it own weight.
After one of these events occurs, the planet will finally be able to begin recovering from 10, years of human domestication. Picture yourself planting radishes and seed potatoes on the fifteenth green of a forgotten golf course. Palaniuk — The above quotation from the popular novel Fight Club is a vivid description some might say caricature of a world in which industrial civilization has been survived by the kinds of small-scale societies to which anarcho-primitivists aspire.
There are two modes of thought on how people can affect this outcome. However, this strategy has been criticized for a lack of urgency. Derrick Jensen conveys this urgency well:. Many perceive the pain of denuded forests and extirpated salmon directly in their bodies: part of their personal identities includes their habitat — their human and nonhuman surroundings. Thus they are not working to save something out there, but responding in defense of their own lives.
The more common response among primitivists reflects this urgency and calls for direct action that will bring an end to the destruction wrought by industrial technology as quickly as possible. A legitimate objection to destruction of the infrastructure of industrial society is that it would inevitably lead to the deaths of millions. Aside from the high probability that such a scenario will eventually occur, if current trends continue, without any help from saboteurs Meadows, et.
Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require expensive, high-tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Kaczynski It generally agreed that cancer is a disease caused primarily by the lifestyle of Western Civilization Moss n.
This begs the question of which is more important, quantity or quality of life. The consequences of modern technology are certainly far greater for nonhumans, as they are not its intended beneficiaries. The present global rate of extinction is estimated between and times the normal background rate Levin and Levin As a result of large-scale logging, less than two percent of U. Every introductory environmental science textbook describes in detail the seemingly endless atrocities perpetrated against the natural world.
Fisheries are being harvested at rates far in excess of the maxim sustainable yield. The same chemicals responsible for the human cancer epidemic transform diverse productive land and water habitats into barren waste dumps.
Anarcho-primitivism seeks a return to a wild life free from the culture that seems to be doing its best to destroy the planet, a life that humanity successfully realized for nearly all of our time on this planet Rosman and Rubel What this entails in the modern context is a small scale society that is independent from the global industrial economy, but said society would also not be restricted by the modern constraints of property and imaginary borders.
It would be self-sufficient, subsisting successfully on the local land as well as any scraps which civilization or what is left of it provides.
What is Anarcho-Primitivism?