Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about anarcho-primitivism. Primitivism can also refer to any philosophy which seeks to return to the roots of a larger movement, such as Muslims and Christians who seek to return to the first few centuries of Islam or Christianity. For the art movement, see Primitivism (art movement)
Primitivism, or anarcho-primitivism, is an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization. Primitivists argue that the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation. They advocate a return to non-civilized ways of life through deindustrialisation, abolition of division of labour or specialization, and abandonment of technology.
Many traditional anarchists reject such critique of civilization while some endorse it but do not consider themselves primitivists (eg. Wolfi Landstreicher). Anarcho-primitivists are often distinguished by their focus on the praxis of achieving a feral state through "rewilding".
Primitivists argue 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 precursor to 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." 
Primitivists hold that as a result of agriculture, societies became increasingly beholden to technological processes and abstract power structures arising from the division of labour and hierarchism. 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.
Despite its rejection of scientism, primitivism has drawn heavily on cultural anthropology and archaeology. Within the last half-century, societies once viewed as barbaric have been largely reevaluated by academics, many of whom now hold that early humans lived in relative peace and prosperity. For instance 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."(Kirkpatrick Sale, "Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision")
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." 
In the United States primitivism has been notably advocated by writer John Zerzan and to a lesser extent author Derrick Jensen. The 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 primitivism has been enthusiastically explored by Green Anarchy, Species Traitor, and occasionally Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Fifth Estate, and even CrimethInc..
Critics note that recent research indicates that certain hunter-gatherer societies actually had higher incidences of violence than societies with a state. . Other research also indicates that primitive societies like the !Kung were not as affluent as previously thought. The !Kung instead had a life expectancy of thirty years, high infant mortality, a workweek at least equal to that of today, and periodic starvation with marked decrease in body weight. . Many primitivists counter this by stating that although not all primitive societies live in anti-authoritarian ways, they take influence from the cultures and societies that did.
Other critics believe that solving social problems, e.g. oppression, torture, war, or disease would be more difficult without books, medical instruments (a form of technology), and the social structures of civilisation.
Some posit that it would be implausible or even impossible for a world population of over 6 billion to adapt to social organizations limited to tribal structures of 30-40 people. Even after a massive Nuclear holocaust it is hard for many to imagine that civilization would not quickly reorganise. This criticism against primitivism suggests that primitivism could only be attained temporarily, and under scenarios which most people would consider to be nightmarish dystopias.
Because some primitivists have extended their critique of symbolic culture to language itself, Georgetown University professor Mark Lance describes primitivism as "literally insane, for proper communication is necessary to create within the box a means to destroy the box." 
Michael Albert vs Primitivism
- Your near closing phrase "return to our wild roots" is eloquent. I commend you on style. But as to substantive analysis of the institutional causes of contemporary human suffering and unfreedom -- of things like markets, private ownership, patriarchy, racism, and even authoritarianism -- I don't see much here. As to descriptions of new social relations that we might strive for, I see some, but it seems to me to be so utterly self-defeating in ways that I have tried to illuminate as to be more problem than solution.
In another essay Michael Albert identifies Zerzan as being the "most visible advocate and exemplar" of "not so desirable anarchism" , that is, a strain of anarchist that rejects technology, social insitutions, and political reform.
Brian Sheppard vs. Primitivism
Brian Oliver Sheppard has written extensive critique of primitivism, most of which is available online at DavidGrenier.com. In The Bloody Side of Primitivism, Sheppard argues that:
- the most fanatic segments of the primitivist movement welcome human death. Though they do not practice Kaczynski-style homicide in mass numbers, they thrill at large-scale epidemics that might reduce the population of the earth. In a May 1, 1987 edition of the Earth First! paper, for example, "Miss Ann Thropy" argued that AIDS is a "good" thing, and said that if that "epidemic didnít exist, radical environmentalists would have to invent one." 
- by John Zerzan (Editor)
- Future Primitive by John Zerzan
- Running On Emptiness by John Zerzan
- Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski
- Ship of Fools by Ted Kacysinski
- My Name is Chellis and I'm In Recovery from Western Civilization by Chellis Glendinning
- The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul
- Against His-story, Against Leviathan by Fredy Perlman
- A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen
- Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen
- by John Moore
- Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
- Green Anarchy An Anti-Civilization Journal of Theory and Action
- Species Traitor An Insurrectionary Anarcho-Primitivist Journal
- Disorderly Conduct
- Fifth Estate
- People Without Government by Harold Barclay ISBN 0904564479
- Black and Green Network
- Coalition Against Civilization
- Green Anarchy
- A Primitivist Primer: What is Anarcho-Primitivism? by John Moore
- ZNet's Primitivism Debate, Michael Albert vs John Zerzan, Tony Blair and the Green Anarchy Collective
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