Anarcho-primitivist

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 population growth. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialization, abolition of the division of labour or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies.[1]

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".[2]

Historical background

Origins

Anarchism started to have an ecological view mainly in the writings of American individualist anarchist and transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. In his book Walden he advocates simple living and self-sufficiency among natural surroundings in resistance to the advancement of industrial civilization.[3] "Many have seen in Thoreau one of the precursors of ecologism and anarcho-primitivism represented today in John Zerzan. For George Woodcock this attitude can be also motivated by certain idea of resistance to progress and of rejection of the growing materialism which is the nature of American society in the mid-19th century."[3] Zerzan himself included the text "Excursions" (1863) by Thoreau in his edited compilation of anti-civilization writings called Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections from 1999.[4]

In the late 19th century Anarchist naturism appeared as the union of anarchist and naturist philosophies.[5][6] Mainly it had importance within individualist anarchist circles[7][8] in Spain,[5][6][7] France[7][9] and Portugal.[10] Important influences in it were Henry David Thoreau,[3] Leo Tolstoy[5] and Elisee Reclus.[11] Anarcho-naturism advocated vegetarianism, free love, nudism and an ecological world view within anarchist groups and outside them.[5][8]

Anarcho-naturism promoted an ecological worldview, small ecovillages, and most prominently nudism as a way to avoid the artificiality of the industrial mass society of modernity.[12] Naturist individualist anarchists saw the individual in his biological, physical and psychological aspects and avoided and tried to eliminate social determinations.[12] Important promoters of this were Henri Zisly and Emile Gravelle who collaborated in La Nouvelle Humanité followed by Le Naturien, Le Sauvage, L'Ordre Naturel, & La Vie Naturelle [13] Their ideas were important in individualist anarchist circles in France but also in Spain where Federico Urales (pseudonym of Joan Montseny), promotes the ideas of Gravelle and Zisly in La Revista Blanca (1898–1905).[14]

This tendency was strong enough as to call the attention of the CNTFAI in Spain. So Daniel Guérin in Anarchism: From Theory to Practice reports how "Spanish anarcho-syndicalism had long been concerned to safeguard the autonomy of what it called "affinity groups." There were many adepts of naturism and vegetarianism among its members, especially among the poor peasants of the south. Both these ways of living were considered suitable for the transformation of the human being in preparation for a stateless society. At the Zaragoza congress the members did not forget to consider the fate of groups of naturists and nudists, "unsuited to industrialization." As these groups would be unable to supply all their own needs, the congress anticipated that their delegates to the meetings of the confederation of communes would be able to negotiate special economic agreements with the other agricultural and industrial communes. On the eve of a vast, bloody, social transformation, the CNT did not think it foolish to try to meet the infinitely varied aspirations of individual human beings."[15]

Recent themes

Anarchists contribute to an anti-authoritarian push, which challenges all abstract power on a fundamental level, striving for truly egalitarian relationships and promoting communities based upon mutual aid. Primitivists, however, extend ideas of non-domination to all life, not just human life, going beyond the traditional anarchist's analysis. From anthropologists, primitivists are informed with a look at the origins of civilization, so as to understand what they are up against and how they got here, to help inform a change in direction. Inspired by the Luddites, primitivists rekindle an anti-technological/industrial direct action orientation. Insurrectionalists infuses a perspective which waits not for the fine-tuning of critique, but identifies and spontaneously attacks civilization's current institutions.

Primitivists may owe much to the Situationists, and their critique of the Spectacle and alienating commodity society. Deep ecology informs the primitivist perspective with an understanding that the well-being and flourishing of all life is linked to the awareness of the inherent worth and intrinsic value of the non-human world independent of its economic use value. Primitivists see deep ecology's appreciation for the richness and diversity of life as contributing to the realization that present human interference with the non-human world is coercive and excessive.

Bioregionalists bring the perspective of living within one's bioregion, and being intimately connected to the land, water, climate, plants, animals, and general patterns of their bioregion.

Some primitivists have been influenced by the various indigenous cultures and earth-based peoples throughout history and those who still currently exist. While primitivists attempt to learn and incorporate sustainable techniques for survival and healthier ways of interacting with life, they see it as important not to flatten or generalize native peoples and their cultures, and to respect and attempt to understand their diversity without co-opting cultural identities and characteristics. Primitivists also feel that it is important to understand that all humans have come from earth-based peoples forcibly removed from our connections with the earth, and therefore have a place within anti-colonial struggles.

Some are also inspired by the feral, those who have escaped domestication and have re-integrated with the wild. And, of course, primitivists honor the wild beings which make up the Earth. It is important to remember that, while many anarcho-primitivists draw influence from similar sources, anarcho-primitivism is something very personal to each individual who identifies or connects with these ideas and actions.

Thought and main concepts

Overview

"Anarchy is the order of the day among hunter-gatherers. Indeed, critics will ask why a small face-to-face group needs a government anyway. [...] If this is so we can go further and say that since the egalitarian hunting-gathering society is the oldest type of human society and prevailed for the longest period of time – over thousands of decades – then anarchy must be the oldest and one of the most enduring kinds of polity. Ten thousand years ago everyone was an anarchist."

Harold Barclay, American anthropologist[16]

Some anarcho-primitivists state that prior to the advent of agriculture, humans lived in small, nomadic bands which were socially, politically, and economically egalitarian. Being without hierarchy, these bands are sometimes viewed as embodying a form of anarchism. John Moore writes that anarcho-primitivism seeks "to expose, challenge and abolish all the multiple forms of power that structure the individual, social relations, and interrelations with the natural world."[17]

Primitivists hold that, following the emergence of agriculture, the growing masses of humanity subtly became evermore beholden to technological processes ("technoaddiction") [18] and abstract power structures arising from the division of labour and hierarchy. Primitivists disagree over what degree of horticulture might be present in an anarchist society, with some arguing that permaculture could have a role but others advocating a strictly hunter-gatherer subsistence.

Primitivism has drawn heavily upon cultural anthropology and archaeology. From the 1960's forward, societies once viewed as barbaric have been largely reevaluated by academics, some of whom now hold that early humans lived in relative peace and prosperity. Frank Hole, an early-agriculture specialist, and Kent Flannery, a specialist in Mesoamerican civilization, have noted that, "No group on earth has more leisure time than hunters and gatherers, who spend it primarily on games, conversation and relaxing."[19][20] Jared Diamond, in the article "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race",[21] said hunter-gatherers practice the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history, in contrast with agriculture which he described as a "mess" that has tumbled us, and it’s "unclear whether we can solve it". Based on the evidence that life expectancy has decreased with the adoption of agriculture, the anthropologist Mark Nathan Cohen, expert in the field of population growth and life expectancy, has called for the need to revise our traditional sense that civilization represents progress in human well-being.[22]

Scholars such as Karl Polanyi and Marshall Sahlins characterized primitive societies as gift economies with "goods valued for their utility or beauty rather than cost; commodities exchanged more on the basis of need than of exchange value; distribution to the society at large without regard to labor that members have invested; labor performed without the idea of a wage in return or individual benefit, indeed largely without the notion of 'work' at all."[23] Other scholars and thinkers such as Paul Shepard, influenced by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, have written of the "Evolutionary Principle" which roughly states that when a species is removed from its natural habitat its behaviors will become pathological. Shepard has written at length on ways in which the human species' natural "ontogeny", which developed through millions of years of evolution in a foraging mode of existence, has been disrupted due to a sedentary lifestyle caused by agriculture.[24]

Civilization and violence

Anarcho-primitivists view civilization as the logic, institution, and physical apparatus of domestication, control, and domination. They focus primarily on the question of origins. Civilization is seen as the underlying problem or root of oppression, and must therefore be dismantled or destroyed.

Anarcho-primitivists describe the rise of civilization as the shift over the past 10,000 years from an existence within and deeply connected to the web of life, to one psychologically separated from and attempting to control the rest of life. They state that prior to civilization there generally existed ample leisure time, considerable gender equality and social equality, a non-destructive and uncontrolling approach to the natural world, the absence of organized violence, no mediating or formal institutions, and strong health and robustness. Anarcho-primitivists state that civilization inaugurated mass warfare, the subjugation of women, population growth, busy work, concepts of property, entrenched hierarchies, as well as encouraging the spread of diseases. They claim that civilization begins with and relies on an enforced renunciation of instinctual freedom and that it is impossible to reform away such a renunciation.

Anarcho-primitivists,[25] based on several anthropological references,[26][27] state that hunter-gatherer societies, by their very nature are less susceptible to war, violence and diseases.[28][29][30] However, some, such as Jared Diamond, contest this previously held belief, citing that many clan and tribe based people are more prone to violence than developed states.[31][32]

Some authors have criticized the anarcho-primitivist argument that hierarchy and mass violence result from civilization, citing for example, the dominance and territorial struggles observed in chimpanzees.[33] Some thinkers within anarcho-primitivism such as Pierre Clastres offer an anthropological explanation of the necessity of a certain amount of violence, while embracing anarchy as the natural balance for primitive societies.[34]

Science and technology

Some primitivists reject modern science as a method of understanding the world with a view to changing it. Science is not considered to be neutral by many primitivists. It is seen as loaded with the motives and assumptions that come out of, and reinforce, civilization.

Modern scientific thought, according to primitivists, attempts to see the world as a collection of separate objects to be observed and understood. In order to accomplish this task, primitivists believe that scientists must distance themselves emotionally and physically, to have a one-way channel of information moving from the observed thing to the observer's self, which is defined as not a part of that thing.

Primitivists argue that this mechanistic worldview is tantamount to being the dominant religion of our time. Believing that science seeks to deal only with the quantitative, primitivists suggest that it does not admit subjective values or emotions. While primitivists perceive science as claiming that only those things that are reproducible, predictable, and the same for all observers are real and important, primitivists believe that reality itself is not reproducible, predictable, or the same for all observers.

Science is seen by primitivists as only partially considering reality, and is therefore guilty of putative reductionism. Observability, objectifiability, quantifiability, predictability, controllability, and uniformity are said to be the objects and means of science. This, say primitivists, leads to the world view that everything should be objectified, quantified, controlled, and in uniformity with everything and everyone else. Primitivists also see science as promoting the idea that anomalous experience, anomalous ideas, and anomalous people should be cast off or destroyed like imperfectly shaped machine components.

Primitivists also see modern science as another form of mediation between humans and the natural world, resulting in further alienation from their environment. Instead, primitivists believe that individual knowledge should be based on individual experience as far as possible, rather than accepting another's dogma as fact. For example, primitivists obviously do not deny the theory of gravitation since it is easy to observe everything in the world adhering to the theory of gravitation in our day to day lives. However, when the theory of gravitation becomes dogmatic and handed down from generation to generation as a social dogma, rather than relying on individuals to grow and realise the facts about their environment in their own terms, it alienates people from coming to conclusions about their environment by themselves, and stunts the natural ability of humans to investigate and adapt to their own environment.

Primitivists denounce modern technology completely, but some use modern technology on the basis that civilization has destroyed the normal social network and means of communicating and so they have no option but to compromise. Primitivists see technology as a complex system involving division of labor, resource extraction, and exploitation for the benefit of those who implement its process. Modern technology too, like science, is seen as not being value-neutral. The values and goals of those who produce and control technology are believed always to be embedded within it.

Modern technology is held by primitivists to be distinct from simple tools in many regards. A simple tool is considered a temporary usage of an element within our immediate surroundings, used for a specific task. Tools are not viewed as involving complex systems which alienate the user from the act. Primitivists claim that this separation is implicit in technology, which creates an unhealthy and mediated experience which leads to various forms of authority. Domination is said to increase every time a modern "time-saving" technology is created, as primitivists claim it necessitates the construction of more technology to support, fuel, maintain, and repair the original technology. It is argued by primitivists that this leads very rapidly to the establishment of a complex technological system that seems to have an existence independent of the humans who created it. Primitivists believe that this system methodically destroys, eliminates, or subordinates the natural world, constructing a world fit only for machines.

Domestication


Domestication, according to primitivists, is the process that civilization uses to control life according to civilization's ordered logic. Essentially, domestication is the tendency of civilization, as an orderly, predictable system, to attempt to assimilate the entire rest of the universe into itself, to make the whole world into one colossal orderly, predictable system. Domestication is a power-process begun by some groups of early humans who wished to reduce the uncertainties and dangers of life, attempting to manufacture a more safe and organized existence.

Primitivists also describe it (more specifically) as the process by which previously nomadic human populations shifted towards a sedentary or settled existence through agriculture and animal husbandry. They claim that this kind of domestication demands a totalitarian relationship with both the land and the plants and animals being domesticated—ultimately, it even requires a totalitarian relationship with humanity. They say that whereas, in a state of wildness, all life shares and competes for resources, domestication destroys this balance. The domesticated landscape (e.g. pastoral lands/agricultural fields and, to a lesser degree, horticulture and gardening) is seen to necessitate the end of open sharing of the resources that formerly existed; where once "this was everyone's," it is now "mine." Anarcho-primitivists state that this notion of ownership laid the foundation for social hierarchy as property and power emerged. It inevitably entailed the cultivation and exploitation of the surrounding environs and the creation of a simultaneous monopoly and monopsony by humans, and for humans—generating over time the value-based social structures we now know in which every conceivable physical thing from food to earth to genes to ideas are viewed as quantifiable assets, which are someone's private property. It also involved the destruction, enslavement, or assimilation of other groups of early people who did not attempt to make such a transition, or who were not as far along in the transition as the destroying, enslaving, and assimilating groups.

To primitivists, domestication not only changes the ecology from a free to a totalitarian order, it enslaves the species that are domesticated, as well as the domesticators themselves. According to primitivism, then, humans are nearing the beginning of the last phase of the domestication process as we are now experimenting with direct genetic engineering, and are making dramatic and frightening advances in the fields of psychology, anthropology, and sociology. This thereby allows us to quantify and objectify ourselves, until we too become commodities and property of no greater or lesser fundamental import than any other asset.

John Zerzan, defines domestication as "the will to dominate animals and plants", and says that domestication is "civilization's defining basis".[35]

Rewilding and reconnection

For most primitivist anarchists, rewilding and reconnecting with the earth is a life project. They state that it should not be limited to intellectual comprehension or the practice of primitive skills, but, instead, that it is a deep understanding of the pervasive ways in which we are domesticated, fractured, and dislocated from ourselves, each other, and the world. Rewilding is understood as having a physical component which involves reclaiming skills and developing methods for a sustainable co-existence, including how to feed, shelter, and heal ourselves with the plants, animals, and materials occurring naturally in our bioregions. It is also said to include the dismantling of the physical manifestations, apparatus, and infrastructure of civilization.

Rewilding is also described as having an emotional component, which involves healing ourselves and each other from what are perceived as 10,000-year-old wounds, learning how to live together in non-hierarchical and non-oppressive communities, and de-constructing the domesticating mindset in our social patterns. To the primitivist, "rewilding includes prioritizing direct experience and passion over mediation and alienation, re-thinking every dynamic and aspect of reality, connecting with our feral fury to defend our lives and to fight for a liberated existence, developing more trust in our intuition and being more connected to our instincts, and regaining the balance that has been virtually destroyed after thousands of years of patriarchal control and domestication. Rewilding is the process of becoming uncivilized."

Industrial capitalism

The industrial way of life leads to the industrial way of death. From Shiloh to Dachau, from Antietam to Stalingrad, from Hiroshima to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the great specialty of industry and technology has been the mass production of human corpses.
 

According to primitivists a key component of the modern techno-capitalist structure is industrialism, the mechanized system of production built on centralized power and the exploitation of people and nature. Industrialism cannot exist, they say, without genocide, ecocide, and colonialism. They further say that to maintain it, coercion, land evictions, forced labor, cultural destruction, assimilation, ecological devastation, and global trade are accepted as necessary, even benign. Primitivists claim industrialism's standardization of life objectifies and commodifies it, viewing all life as a potential resource. They see their critique of industrialism as a natural extension of the anarchist critique of the state because they see industrialism as inherently authoritarian.

The primitivist argument against industrialism is such: In order to maintain an industrial society, one must set out to conquer and colonize lands in order to unsustainably acquire (generally) non-renewable resources to construct, feed, fuel, and grease the machines. This colonialism is rationalized by racism, sexism, and cultural chauvinism. In the process of acquiring these resources, people must be forced off their land. Additionally, in order to make people work in the factories that produce the machines, they must be dispossessed, enslaved, made dependent, and otherwise subjected to the destructive, toxic, degrading industrial system.

Primitivists hold that industrialism cannot exist without massive centralization and specialization. Furthermore, they hold that industrialism demands that resources be shipped from all over the globe in order to perpetuate its existence, and this globalism, they say, undermines local autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Finally primitivists contend that an engineeric worldview is behind industrialism, and that this same world-view has justified slavery, genocide, ecocide, and the subjugation of women.

Consumerism and mass society

Most anarchists and revolutionaries spend a significant portion of their time developing schemes and mechanisms for production, distribution, adjudication, and communication between large numbers of people; in other words, the functioning of a complex society. Primitivists do not accept the premise of global (or even regional) social, political, and economic coordination and interdependence, or the organization needed for their administration. They reject mass society for practical and philosophical reasons. First, they reject the inherent governmental representation necessary for the functioning of situations outside the realm of direct experience (completely decentralized modes of existence). They do not wish to run society or organize a different society. They want a completely different frame of reference. They want a world where each group is autonomous and decides on its own terms how to live, with all interactions being non-coercive, based on affinity, freedom, and openness.

According to primitivists, mass society brutally collides not only with autonomy and the individual, but also with the earth and the network of ecological relationships which make up its living communities. They see it as simply not sustainable (in terms of the resource extraction, transportation, and communication systems necessary for any global economic system). It cannot continue indefinitely, nor is it possible to create alternative plans for a sustainable and humane mass society.

Brian Sheppard asserts that anarcho-primitivism is not a form of anarchism at all. In Anarchism Vs. Primitivism he says: "In recent decades, groups of quasi-religious mystics have begun equating the primitivism they advocate (rejection of science, rationality, and technology often lumped together under a blanket term "technology") with anarchism. In reality, the two have nothing to do with each other."[37]

Flood agrees with this assertion and points out that primitivism clashes with what he identifies as the fundamental goal of anarchism, "the creation of a free mass society".[38]

Primitivists do not believe that a "mass society" can be free. They believe industry and agriculture inevitably lead to hierarchy and alienation. They argue that the division of labor that techno-industrial societies require to function force people into reliance on factories and the labor of other specialists to produce their food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities and that this dependence forces them to remain a part of this society, whether they like it or not.[39]

On the other hand, some do not think of industrialization as a coercive force, and merely advocate a primitivist lifestyle for environmental reasons.

Patriarchy and feminism

Some anarcho-primitivists hold that toward the beginning in the shift to civilization, an early product of domestication is patriarchy: the formalization of male domination and the development of institutions which reinforce it. Such anarcho-primitivists thus argue that by creating false gender distinctions and divisions between men and women, civilization, again, creates an "other" that can be objectified, controlled, dominated, utilized, and commodified. They see this as running parallel to the domestication of plants for agriculture and animals for herding, in general dynamics, and also in the specifics like the control of reproduction. Primitivists say that as in other realms of social stratification, roles are assigned to women in order to establish a very rigid and predictable order, beneficial to hierarchy. They claim that women came to be seen as property, no different from the crops in the field or the sheep in the pasture. Primitivists state that ownership and absolute control, whether of land, plants, animals, slaves, children, or women, is part of the established dynamic of civilization.

Patriarchy, to these primitivists, demands the subjugation of the feminine and the usurpation of nature, propelling us toward total annihilation. They state further that it defines power, control and dominion over wildness, freedom and life. They say that patriarchal conditioning dictates all of our interactions: with ourselves, our sexuality, our relationships to each other, and our relationship to nature. They claim it severely limits the spectrum of possible experience.

Hierarchical organizations, division of labor, and bureaucracy

Anarcho-primitivists tend to see division of labor and specialization as fundamental and irreconcilable problems, decisive to social relationship within civilization. They see this disconnecting of the ability to care for ourselves and provide for our own needs as a technique of separation and dis-empowerment perpetuated by civilization. Specialization is seen as leading to inevitable inequalities of influence and undermining egalitarian relationships.

Primitivists state that organizational models only provide us with more of the same. While it is recognized by some primitivists that there might be an occasional good intention, the organizational model is seen as coming from an inherently paternalistic and distrusting mindset which they hold is contradictory to anarchy. Primitivists believe that true relationships of affinity come from a deep understanding of one another through intimate need-based relationships of day-to-day life, not relationships based on organizations, ideologies, or abstract ideas. They say that the organizational model suppresses individual needs and desires for "the good of the collective" as it attempts to standardize both resistance and vision. From parties, to platforms, to federations, primitivists argue that as the scale of projects increase, the meaning and relevance they have to an individual's own life decrease.

Rather than the familiar organizational model, primitivists advocate the use of informal, affinity-based associations that they claim tend to minimize alienation from decision-making processes, and reduce mediation between our desires and our actions.

Critique of mechanical time and symbolic culture

Some anarcho-primitivists view the shift towards an increasingly symbolic culture as highly problematic in the sense that it separates us from direct interaction. Often the response to this, by those who assume that it means that primitivists prefer to completely eliminate all forms of symbolic culture, is something to the effect of, "So, you just want to grunt?"[40]

However, typically the critique is regarding the problems inherent with a form of communication and comprehension that relies primarily on symbolic thought at the expense (and even exclusion) of other sensual and unmediated means of comprehension. The emphasis on the symbolic is a departure from direct experience into mediated experience in the form of language, art, number, time, etc.

Anarcho-primitivists state that symbolic culture filters our entire perception through formal and informal symbols and separates us from direct and unmediated contact with reality. It goes beyond just giving things names, and extends to having an indirect relationship with a distorted image of the world that has passed through the lens of representation. It is debatable whether humans are "hard-wired" for symbolic thought, or if it developed as a cultural change or adaptation, but, according to anarcho-primitivists, the symbolic mode of expression and understanding is limited and deceptive, and over-dependence upon it leads to objectification, alienation, and perceptual tunnel vision. Many anarcho-primitivists promote and practice getting back in touch with and rekindling dormant and/or underutilized methods of interaction and cognition, such as touch and smell, as well as experimenting with and developing unique and personal modes of comprehension and expression.

Because there are some primitivists who have extended their critique of symbolic culture to language itself, Georgetown University professor Mark Lance describes this particular theory of primitivism as "literally insane, for proper communication is necessary to create within the box a means to destroy the box."[41]

As a social movement

Organizations

In the United States anarcho-primitivism has been notably advocated by writers John Zerzan and Kevin Tucker. The anarcho-primitivist movement has connections to radical environmentalism, gaining some attention due to the ideas of Theodore Kaczynski ("the Unabomber") following his Luddite bombing campaign. Recently anarcho-primitivism has been enthusiastically explored by Green Anarchy, Species Traitor, and occasionally Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, and even CrimethInc. The current anarcho-primitivist movement originated in the journal Fifth Estate, and was developed over a series of years in the 1970s and 1980s by writers such as Fredy Perlman, David Watson, Bob Brubaker and John Zerzan. Vast theoretical differences between Watson's and Zerzan's forms of primitivism caused a split in the late 1980s.

During the 1990s the UK magazine Green Anarchist aligned itself with anarcho-primitivism, although there are many green anarchists who are not anarcho-primitivists.

Anti-civilization anarchists also organize groups in Spain, Israel, Turkey, Sweden, Finland, and India.

Anarcho-primitivism is associated with and has influenced the radical tendencies within Neo-Tribalism.

Revolution and reformism

Primitivists do not see themselves as part of the Left (see also post-left anarchy). Rather they view the socialist and liberal orientations as corrupt. Primitivists argue that the Left has proven itself to be a failure in its objectives. The Left, according to primitivists, is a general term and can roughly describe all socialist leanings (from social democrats and liberals to communists) which wish to re-socialize "the masses" into a more "progressive" agenda or the creation of political parties. While primitivists understand that the methods or extremes in implementation may differ, the overall push is seen as the same: the institution of a collectivized and monolithic world-view based on morality.

Some primitivists have been even more hostile towards modern leftism, with Ted Kaczynski's Industrial Society and Its Future dedicating whole sections to the problems with modern leftism.

As anarchists, primitivists are fundamentally opposed to government, and likewise, any sort of collaboration or mediation with the state (or any institution of hierarchy and control)—except as a matter of tactical expediency. This position determines a certain continuity or direction of strategy, historically referred to as revolution. By revolution, primitivists mean the ongoing struggle to alter the social and political landscape in a fundamental way. The word "revolution" is seen as dependent on the position from which it is directed, as well as what would be termed "revolutionary" activity. Again, for anarchists, this is activity which is aimed at the complete dissolution of abstract power.

Reform, on the other hand, is seen as entailing any activity or strategy aimed at adjusting, altering, or selectively maintaining elements of the current system, typically utilizing the methods or apparatus of that system. The goals and methods of revolution, it is argued, cannot be dictated by, nor performed within, the context of the system. For anarchists, revolution and reform invoke incompatible methods and aims, and despite the use of certain pragmatic expedient approaches, do not exist on a continuum.

For primitivists, revolutionary activity questions, challenges, and works to dismantle the entire set-up or paradigm of civilization. Revolution is not seen as a far-off or distant singular event which we build towards or prepare people for, but instead, a way of life, or a practice of approaching situations.

Criticisms

Notable critics of primitivism include Noam Chomsky, Derrick Jensen, Michael Albert, Brian Sheppard, Andrew Flood, Stewart Home, Dana Ward, Ken Knabb, Wolfi Landstreicher,[42] Jason McQuinn,[43] Ted Kaczynski,[44] and, especially, Murray Bookchin, as seen in his polemical work entitled Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism.

Name

Derrick Jensen's work is sometimes characterized as anarcho-primitivist,[45][46] although he has categorically rejected that label, describing primitivist as a "racist way to describe indigenous peoples." He prefers to be called "indigenist" or an "ally to the indigenous," because "indigenous peoples have had the only sustainable human social organizations, and... we need to recognize that we [colonizers] are all living on stolen land."[47]

Strategies and practices

A common criticism, which some believe suggests hypocrisy, is that people rejecting civilization continue to live a civilized lifestyle themselves. Jensen responds that this resort to ad hominem illustrates the weakness of the critic's opinion, as the critic has resorted to attacking the messenger only after failing to attack the message itself.[48] He further responds that although it is "vital to make lifestyle choices to mitigate damage caused by being a member of industrial civilization, ...to assign primary responsibility to oneself, and to focus primarily on making oneself better, is an immense copout, an abrogation of responsibility. With all the world at stake, it is self-indulgent, self-righteous, and self-important. It is also nearly ubiquitous. And it serves the interests of those in power by keeping our focus off them."[49]

John Zerzan admits that primitivist ideals are difficult even for the convinced to put into practice: "It's a huge challenge. You've got these great grandiose ideas, but the rubber has to hit the road somewhere, and we know that. I don’t know how that's going to work.… [W]e are a long way from connecting with that reality and we have to face that. You start off with questioning things and trying to enlarge the space where people can have dialogue and raise the questions that are not being raised anywhere else. But we don’t have blueprints as to what people should do."[50]

Use of media technology

One common criticism of primitivists is that in order to disseminate their views, they make use of print and internet publishing technologies. Such arguments have been employed to suggest that anarcho-primitivists are insincere or hypocritical for using modern technology.

John Zerzan[51] and many others [52] respond that using the Internet and print media are effective at spreading their beliefs, and less harmful than doing nothing to avoid seeming "hypocritical". They believe that by using effective tools that are already in place today anyway, they can hopefully create a society where those technologies are no longer produced or used.[48][52]

Idealization of primitive societies

Wolfi Landstreicher has criticized the "ascetic morality of sacrifice or of a mystical disintegration into a supposedly unalienated oneness with Nature,"[53] which appears in anarcho-primitivism and deep ecology. Jason McQuinn has criticized what he sees an ideological tendency in anarcho-primitivism when he says that "for most primitivists an idealized, hypostatized vision of primal societies tends to irresistibly displace the essential centrality of critical self-theory, whatever their occasional protestations to the contrary. The locus of critique quickly moves from the critical self-understanding of the social and natural world to the adoption of a preconceived ideal against which that world (and one's own life) is measured, an archetypally ideological stance. This nearly irresistible susceptibility to idealization is primitivism's greatest weakness."[54]

On the other hand Ted Kaczynski in an article called "The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarchoprimitivism"[44] said that "It seems obvious, for example, that the politically correct portrayal of hunter-gatherers is motivated in part by an impulse to construct an image of a pure and innocent world existing at the dawn of time, analogous to the Garden of Eden, but the basis of this impulse is not clear to me...They can’t deny altogether the existence of violence among hunter-gatherers, since the evidence for it is incontrovertible...Since Zerzan has read widely about hunter-gatherer societies, and the Australian Aborigines are among the best-known hunter-gatherers, I find it very difficult to believe that he has never come across any accounts of the Australians’ mistreatment of women. Yet he never mentions such accounts-not even for the purpose of refuting them...But this time it should be sufficiently clear to the reader that what the anarchoprimitivists (and many anthropologists) are up to has nothing to do with a rational search for the truth about primitive cultures. Instead, they have been developing a myth.[44]

See also

References

Notes

Bibliography

Further reading

  • Gagliano, Giuseppe,Il ritorno alla Madre Terra.L'utopia verde tra ecologia radicale e ecoterrorismo,Editrice Uniservice, 2010,p. 229 ISBN 978-88-6178-595-3
  • (The title essay is available online here)

Periodicals

  • Green Anarchy: An Anti-Civilization Journal of Theory and Action
  • Species Traitor: An Insurrectionary Anarcho-Primitivist Journal
  • Disorderly Conduct (journal)
  • Fifth Estate: An Anti-Authoritarian Magazine of Ideas and Action

Web

  • A Primitivist Primer", London: Green Anarchist (magazine).
  • Kaczynski, Ted (1999). "Ship of Fools", Binghamton, New York: OFF! Magazine (student zine at SUNY Binghamton).
  • Green Anarchy Collective; PDF)

External links

  • Archived)
  • Primitivism.com
  • Archived)
  • Archived)
  • Beyond the Symbolic and towards the Collapse—introduction to John Zerzan's conferences in Montreal by Layla AR
  • Resources for Green Anarchism and Christianity at Jesus Radicals
  • In the Land of the Living: a journal of anarcho-primitivism and christianity
  • John Moore
  • "What is anarcho-primitivism?" from the Anarchist FAQ – a critique of the ideology from an anarchist perspective
  • Archived 2006-02-07)—an anarcho-primitivist response to common criticisms

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