Anarchoprimitivism: what is it and what are its political proposals?
This type of anarchism advocates the abandonment of life in civilization.
Despite the fact that technology, living in democratic societies and all kinds of cultural progress are considered by the vast majority as something inherently positive, a source of well-being and security for humanity, there are those who disagree very strongly.
There are people whose vision of civilization, as we live it today, is seen in such a crude way that they advocate a return to a primordial state, to the lifestyle of our prehistoric human ancestors.
Anarcho-primitivism has as its hallmark the defense of this idea.. It considers that the inequalities between people are due, fundamentally, to the abandonment of a nomadic lifestyle to move to a sedentary and, progressively, more complex one. Let's take a closer look at what this peculiar current of thought consists of.
What is anarchoprimitivism?
Primitivist anarchism, shortened to anarcho-primitivism, is a current within individualist anarchism that criticizes a current within individualist anarchism that criticizes the origins and progress of civilization.. This way of thinking is included within radical ecologism and ecocentrism, that is to say, it puts as the main objective of its ideology the conservation of the environment at all costs.
Within anarchoprimitivism it is held that one of the main historical facts that meant a great advance for humanity, the passage from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian and sedentary one, gave rise to injustices among human beings, manifesting itself in the form of social stratification. This stratification would be both the beginning of the idea of civilization and the beginning of power dynamics within humanity, with dominators and dominated.
Primitivists advocate returning humanity to a primordial state, a "non-civilized" era through deindustrialization.a "non-civilized" era through deindustrialization, abolition of the division of labor or specialization in professions. They also advocate an abandonment of technology, although, since the idea behind this term is very broad, anarcho-primitivist positions range from the abandonment of electronics to the complete abandonment of any human-made product, no matter how simple it may be.
It must be said that within this current of thought several causes are pointed to as the evils of civilization: the industrial revolution, the invention of monotheism, writing, patriarchy, the use of metal tools... Whatever these causes of inequality may be, what all anarcho-primitivists share, as we said, is the desire to return to a simpler state of humanity, a pre-civilization era, with some advocating a return to nudism and "resavajization".
Anarcho-primitivism has its origins in the most original anarchism, only with changes in its conception and the way of understanding the need for the human being to live without depending on the organization of a state or political hierarchy.
This current of thought began to take a more ecological approach thanks to the figure of Henry David Thoreau, an American individualist anarchist. In his best known book, "Walden" (1854) (not to be confused with "Walden 2" by B. F. Skinner) Thoreau defends the idea of living simply and self-sufficiently, in natural environments, as a way of resisting the advance of industrial civilization. It is for this reason that, although in the book he does not defend the idea of returning to prehistory, Thoreau is considered a precursor of ecologism and anarchoprimitivism.
Nowadays, the main representative of the anarcho-primitivist movement is John Zerzan, who, although he does not defend such a radical idea as the one advocated by certain characters and violent groups, he does defend the idea of returning to a world in which technology does not monopolize our lives, and it is almost better to avoid its use. Zerzan maintains that, eventually, humanity will see this return to its most primordial state as plausible.
As for the more radical and dangerous sector of the movement, there is the figure of Theodore Kaczynski, alias "Unabomber", and eco-extremist groups such as Individuals Tending the Wild.and eco-extremist groups such as Individuals Tending to the Wild. Although Kaczynski is not an anarcho-crimitivist per se, some of his thinking could be considered as such. Ted Kaczynski's name is known for having perpetrated several terrorist attacks between 1978 and 1995, sending parcel bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others.
The main idea behind anarchoprimitivism is that before the advent of agriculture, humans lived in nomadic tribes. In these tribes, individuals were not organized in hierarchies or in relations of submission-domination; they all lived socially, politically and economically on an equal footing.. In fact, the more general anarchist movement itself sees in this type of tribes a precursor form of a properly anarchist society.
Primitivists see in the emergence of agriculture the beginning of a greater dependence on technological development, which has been aggravated with the passage of time. Parallel to this greater need for the benefits of technology, society has been fostering an increasingly unjust power structure, based on the division of labor and the creation of social hierarchies.
However, despite the shift from nomadic to sedentary societies based on agriculture, there are conflicting views within the movement on the need to reject horticulture altogether. While some defend that agriculture, to a greater or lesser extent, is necessary, understanding its risks in that some individuals may have more than others, other anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to a strictly hunter-gatherer society..
Rejection of civilization
Within anarcho-primitivism the idea of civilization is considered as a physical and institutional apparatus which is the origin of domestication, control and domination, both over other animals and over human beings themselves. Civilization is the root of oppression and the ultimate goal of anarchoprimitivists is its destruction.
The emergence of the first civilizations, some 10,000 years ago, was the beginning of a disconnection from nature and from other humans which culminated in an individualistic lifestyle, separated from the rest, but in which every aspect of our lives is tightly controlled.
Before civilization, individuals had ample leisure time, gender autonomy and social equality. They had no greater needs than the basics: food, rest, reproduction, contact with others....
Since they did not need many things to live, human beings lived in peace and harmony. Being sedentary societies, there was no idea that a land belonged to one tribe or another and, therefore, there were no territorial conflicts that ended in the form of war.
But with the advent of civilization this changed. The creation of this type of society is associated with the emergence of war, the oppression of women, population growth, labor injustices, the oppression of women and the injustices of labor.The creation of this type of society is associated with the emergence of war, the oppression of women, population growth, labor injustices, the idea of property and, eventually, capitalism.
2. Criticism of symbolic culture
The anarchoprimitivists criticize one of the greatest, if not the greatest, advance of the human species: symbolic culture. That is to say, they are critical of the idea of language, be it oral or written.
One of the questions that is usually asked in the face of this particular critique is that how do anarcho-primitivists intend to communicate with the human species?. It is impossible not to think of the stereotyped figure of prehistoric man, who, in order to make himself understood, grunted and gestured.
According to anarcho-primitivism, and in the mouth of John Zerzan himself, is the idea that prehistoric humans got along so well was because there was no language, that they communicated in a more direct way.
It must be said that, although they are critical of the idea of the symbolic, they have not yet given a solid argument that allows us to understand why language is a bad communication tool or what alternative exists that is better.
3. Domestication of life
Within the logic of anarcho-primitivism, domestication is understood as a process that has served to control life in accordance with the designs of civilization..
The mechanisms involved in this process are various, and are applicable to both animals and human beings (eugenics could be considered one of them): breeding, taming, genetic modification, caging, educating, governing, enslaving, murdering....
These mechanisms are imposed by means of institutions, customs and rituals, be they apparently harmless.
4. Rejection of science and technology
Primitivists reject modern science, especially that which involves the constant use of new technologies in our daily lives.. They defend the idea that science, as it develops, is not neutral: there are interests, both commercial and dominant, behind each technological development.
They have a very cold view of science, seeing it as something that has distanced itself from human values and emotions, being extremely quantitative. The scientific implies a mechanical way of looking at life and sometimes behaves as if it were the dominant religion of our time.
As for technology, they see it as an element that fosters the alienation of the human being, and diminish meaningful interactions between people.. This is especially evident with the media, which offers a distorted and partial form of reality.
Criticism of anarchoprimitivism
Given the radical nature of the anarcho-primitivist foundations, it was only a matter of time before strong criticism of the movement emerged.
The main criticism of anarcho-primitivists is that they maintain an incoherent attitude.. They criticize the idea of civilization, but most of them continue to live a properly civilized lifestyle, often Western. Another idea is that, despite rejecting technology, they make use of mobile devices, offer interviews by Skype, sell books in both physical and digital format....
However, it must be said that considering the defenders of this current hypocrites for defending the abandonment of technology and society as it is organized today, without them taking the first step, is a very simplistic criticism. These are "ad hominem" arguments, which instead of criticizing the ideas they defend are limited to criticizing the lifestyle of those who put them forward.
In the same way that they defend a gradual abandonment of civilization, anarcho-primitivists are aware that it is very difficult to abandon the current way of life.. If a catastrophe were to occur that would force humanity to organize itself into nomadic societies, it is very likely that the apocalypse would be near, and this, authors like Zerzan, know.
- Kaczynski, T. (1996). The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future (3rd ed.). Berkeley: Jolly Roger Press. ISBN 0-9634205-2-6.
- Jensen, D. (2000). A Language Older Than Words. New York: Context Books. ISBN 1-893956-03-2.
- Zerzan, J. (1999). Elements of refusal. Columbia, MO: C.A.L. Press/Paleo Editions. ISBN 9781890532017.
- Gagliano, G. (2010). Il ritorno alla Madre Terra. L'utopia verde tra ecologia radicale e ecoterrorismo. Editrice Uniservice. p. 229. ISBN 978-88-6178-595-3.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)