Is Primitivism anarchist?

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Steve Booth, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. Steve Booth

    Steve Booth Bourgeois apologist

    Hello everybody,
    Sorry if this question has been asked before:

    In what way (if any) is 'anarcho-Primitivism' anarchist?

    Any ideas?
    best wishes
    Steve Booth
  2. october_lost

    october_lost It's not hip any more...

    Is an internet message board the best place to debate this?

    *starts smoke signalling*
    Slo-mo likes this.
  3. neilh

    neilh └┴┬─├┼╔╩╣

    surely in the sense that if someone says they are anarcho primitive it means they are against both technology or civilisation or whatever, and against folk having power over others. personally, i thought the phrase was more or less self explanitory.
  4. gurrier

    gurrier Registered Abuser

    I think the 'deluded' adjective is enough and there's little point in spoiling its descriptive clarity by adding more labels. :)
  5. gawkrodger

    gawkrodger Well-Known Member

    it has fuck all to do with anarchism
  6. neilh

    neilh └┴┬─├┼╔╩╣

    surely it is a form of anarchism if it is about abolishing folks power over others and increasing freedom, whether you agree with it or not?
  7. kyser_soze

    kyser_soze Hawking's Angry Eyebrow

    All it refers to is a lifestyle choice to remove things like medcine, reliable food supply, IT...pretty much everything that makes life easier, increases lifespan etc, and NOT to some kind of mythical 'free' society where no-one has power over another.

    If you attached a (possibly) modern political idea like anarchism to it then yes, it would be anarchistic. Primitivism on it's own could lead to an horrendous level of oppression.
    Slo-mo likes this.
  8. 888


    Surely the original poster could answer this better than most? What are your views on it now, Steve?
  9. pilchardman

    pilchardman Dances With Penguins

    I'm too anti Primitivist to answer this dispassionately.
  10. Steve Booth

    Steve Booth Bourgeois apologist

    Hi there,
    I'm really trying to find out what other people think. Back in 2001 I wrote a booklet 'Primitivism: An Illusion With No Future' which was for a time on the web, but the site is long gone now. There are exerpts from it in various places.

    I was mulling the question at the top of this over and it came to me that I suspect nobody has ever really thought about this one. (of course I'm probably wrong on this - please put me straight if you know better) and yet it is a pretty obvious question. I suppose we all assumed that it was, because it called itself 'anarcho-primitivist'. But there are Primitivists out there who would not consider themselves anarchists.

    There is a kind of danger in anarchist discussions that people who don't like something which somebody stands for then they declare that the opponents are not anarchist as a way of dismissing them. The opposite of this is a kind of charitable principle which wouldn't ask the question 'are anarcho-primitivists anarchists?' but would just accept them on face value because they describe themselves as anarchist.

    Not everybody who calls themselves 'anarchist' is an anarchist. And some people who do not call themselves anarchist, are....

    I have got a feeling that they are not anarchist, because the programme which primitivism infers eg "Return to Croatan" or the Kalahari Bushmen type lifeways would severely restrict the freedom of other people to eg use painkillers in childbirth or to have sewage, the internet, live in houses etc. Pretty much knock down everything that there is in society. "For the destruction of civilization" is a really bad slogan because it takes away most of what defines people as people in their present lives. It is really anti- human. Hospitals are civilization, universities are civilization, internet sites .... How would primitivists deal with people who want to keep these things?

    A primitivist might well seek refuge in the John Moore style 'it is not a literal return to Croatan' defence. But that's a cop out.

    It is one of those bi-polar outcome things whereby increasing the capacity of the primitivists to deliver their wishes reduces the ability to deliver on the wishes of others.

    If Primitivism is an illusory postmodern programme intended in an ironic sense, it therefore doesn't offer a serious social programme to reduce or eventually eliminate the power of the state, which I suppose is one of the main things about the anarchist movement. I think in the long run something like Primitivism makes this all that much harder.

    Perhaps the best thing that could be said in its defence is that it is a meaningless proposal and so doesn't impede or advance anarchy either way.

    I've probably gone on too long. To answer your question, I think on balance they are not anarchists. But I really want to know what other people think.
    best wishes
  11. pilchardman

    pilchardman Dances With Penguins

    Right. That's true. And maybe I'm a bit grumpy, but isn't it a bit too obvious a set of propositions to have a real debate about?

    My problems with Primitivism are very similar to Bookchin's; it's anti human to expect us to forgo technology. And it is - by definition - authoritarian to ban or seek to ban technology.

    Furthermore, as a rationalist, I have a real problem with rejecting science and empiricism. To abandon those is to relinquish responsibility and hand it over to the supernatural. In my view, no anarchist should do that and expect to be considered truly libertarian. (Maybe I'm wrong, but higher beings are not excused from my dislike of hierarchy).
  12. Steve Booth

    Steve Booth Bourgeois apologist

    Trying to get down to the core of it

    Well, I thought that too when the question first hit me. But the more I thought about it the more I saw that it cuts to the very core of what Primitivism is and why it is wrong / useless.
  13. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    Surely Primitivism isn't anarchist and proclaim itself to be? It's just anti-civ/tech. You could easily combine very authoritarianism with being anti-civ (realistically I think you'd have to).

    Anarcho-Primitivism should be taken as what it says on the tin, against government and against civilisation. Whether or not you think it desirable makes it no less reasonable a use of the word anarchism. Those of us concerned with the association of our politics and theres should remember that for the most part we can distinguish ourselves by our behaviour, the struggles we engage in and honest criticism (as opposed to hysterical sectarianism).
  14. kyser_soze

    kyser_soze Hawking's Angry Eyebrow

    So it's completely acceptable to use the term anarcho-capitalism as well then.

    Given how precious some people are about the (mis)use of anarcho- as a prefix then accepting as reasonable the term anarcho primitivist means accepting the term anarcho-capitalist as well. IMV.
  15. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    Property is a form of authority ks, so capitalism and anarchism contradict one another in a way that anarchism and primitivism doesn't.
  16. 888


    Restricting technology is a form of authority too...

    In my opinion very moderate anarcho-primitivism can be considered a form of anarchism. However primitivism's association with anarchism is largely just a case of bad luck.
  17. neilh

    neilh └┴┬─├┼╔╩╣

    i suppose you could, though, (irrespective of how unlikely succeeding in this is), be anti-authorotarian, and personally believe that the only way we can be happy and fulfilled is in a primitive state without technology, and also not believe in having the right to ban folk from using it, but hope to convince them against it by spreading your ideas (which if youre against language as well may have to be done by example more as things progress/regress) in the same way that most more "mainstream" anarchists wouldn't want to "ban" folk saving money or trading or stuff, and someone who was a true anarchist who also believed technology would save us wouldn't want to ban someone from trying to personally lead a primitivist lifestyle. I'm sure there are some folk who call themselves anarchoprimitivists who dont take this approach, but mebbe some of them are actually just primitivists, and this doesn't change anything about the first group.

    Others still may think that whatever they do civilisation's going to collapse totally at some point, so try and prepare so that when primitivism comes around it will be anarchoprimitivism and not authoritarian.

    I'm not trying to say these views are right or wrong, so don't get into rippin it apart that way, just saying that folk like that could validly be called anarchoprimitivists cos of their beliefs.
  18. 888


    We wouldn't want to "ban" people from saving money or trading, we'd want to make it pointless, like stamp collecting. Before it became pointless, we would have to destroy the state and the ecomomy and replace it with communism. That revolution would involve the authority of the many against the few, so anarchism is authoritarian, but in a good way.
  19. In Bloom

    In Bloom Joyless and full of hate

    "Anarcho"-primitivism usually seems to come down to lifestylism (fuck off and die in the woods alone) or authoritarianism (make everybody else join you in shivering and starving), IME.
  20. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    Yes but you can be against something without wanting the authority to abolish it.
  21. WeTheYouth


    Primitivism has nothing in common with anarchism.
  22. kyser_soze

    kyser_soze Hawking's Angry Eyebrow

    Whoever said that primitivism and property ownership are mutually exclusive? My tribe and I might start getting very pissed off you start mooching around 'our' hunting ground...I'd also posit, as someone else has, that by enforcing lo-tech (which you'd have to - what if 10% of the population sensibly said 'Fuck that, we want our technology'? Are you going to force them to give it up and start living in the bush?

    I mean do you have some kind of Eden-esque view of what primitivism would be like? NO medcine, no complex music, no writing, nowthing like the diversity of artistic expression. Freesing cold, no guaranteed food supplies, no guaranteed serisouly think it's some kind of cave dwelling utopia? As a species we'd be back down to our most primal and violent instincts within a generation - if not sooner.

    So all this talk of 'we need to achieve a communist society first' think that after 2 or 3 bad winters or dry summers that people are still going to be some kind of supre happy hippy club? We'd be at each others throats over a fucking dog bone within 25 years.
  23. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    I think you're confusing me for a primitivist. I think a lo-tech society is a terrible idea.

    What I am saying is this:
    You can be a primitivist without it contradicting your anarchism.
    You cannot be a capitalist without it contradicting your anarchism.
    Also (in response to what you've written above):
    I made no comment on whether capitalism and primitivism contradicted one another (but I do not think that they do)

    In the situation outlined above, the anarcho-primitivist would have to find a way of not enforcing their beliefs onto the non-primo 10%, either through compromise or through seperating societies. Crap idea sure, but not logically coherent.
  24. kyser_soze

    kyser_soze Hawking's Angry Eyebrow

    Sorry sorry, it wasn't aimed specifically at you - I didn't think for a second you are moron!!

    It must've been someone else who made the point about property and capitalism...
  25. catch


    Kyser, capitalism is a systematic system of oppression, and hence incompatible with anarchist philosophy.

    Primitivism is a lifestyle choice, and hence not necessarily incompatible with anarchism. However, an international primitivist society, although it might technically operate "without government" could in no way come to fruition without the elimination of large sections of the human population. Hence, it's very difficult to reconcile with anarchism, and is more akin to various forms of millenarialism or survivalism.
  26. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    ta :D
  27. Buds and Spawn

    Buds and Spawn ...if I can't dance...

    Whether primitivism equates (or can be reconciled with) anarchism, boils down to semantics - i.e. there are few agreed definitions / understandings of 'anarchism' (e.g. dispute over possibility of 'anarcho-capitalism' - which to me is clearly oxymoronic, but unfortunately not so to many others).

    This in itself is amusing because primitivists (a la Zerzan) would presumably abandon the use of language along with technology when they head for the woods (presumably after wiping out most of the world's population), and consequently would struggle to engage in any such semantic debate. :p

    But seriously, despite knowing, and working with, many anarcho-primitivists (quite happily and productively) I think it's all a load of cobblers. I'm with Bookchin on this one, and generally against any anti-enlightenment project... Surely anarchism is fundamentally humanist AND ecological? Seperating one from the other is just plain daft...
  28. Steve Booth

    Steve Booth Bourgeois apologist

    Anarchism - definitions

    Back in February 1999 [ALB issue 25] I published a leaflet giving seven definitions of anarchism.

    The three most helpful on the question at hand were:

    "The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestrained by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary."
    Emma Goldman.

    "A system of social thought, aiming at fundamental changes in the structure of society, and particularly the replacement of the authoritarian state by some form of non-governmental co-operation between free individuals."
    George Woodcock.

    "A political movement advocating the abolition of the state and the replacement of all forms of governmental authority by free association and voluntary co-operation of individuals and groups."
    Leopold Labedz, 1977
    Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought

    The way forwards would be to put Primitivism up against these definitions and see how it measures up. What do you think?

    A supplementary question: (I think I must have missed out on this) What happened about the 'Wildfire Collective' Green and Black Bulletin in Freedom magazine? Does anybody know how many issues it went for? Did it just disappear?
  29. Buds and Spawn

    Buds and Spawn ...if I can't dance...

    That's a fair idea.

    Perhaps its worth adding that anarchism is NOT an ideology (i.e. false consciousness) and instead works on a common body of 'good' and 'bad' social principles (good being voluntary co-operation, mutual aid etc...; bad being authority, hierarchy etc..) around which people are free to do their own thing.

    From this perspective primitivism, and realted outlooks (e.g. Deep Ecology) are ideologies and therefore irreconcilable with anarchism. I would argue this is doubly so, because not only is primitivism a set doctrine, but a doctrine that necessarily requires (authoritarian?) imposition to work (i.e. lets destroy civilisation rather than transcend authority and hierarchy).

    There was an interesting 'tension' within RTS (in London) for many years between social v. deep ecological viewpoints. Maybe it's possible for anarchists to subscribe to primitivism in the same way many scientists subscribe to various religions. After all, no-one is immune from contradiction.

    Do or Die No.8 has an interesting (if 'work in progress') article on the contradictions of biocentrism.

    Right, back to maintaining some of my silicon technology - washing the windows one last time before winter :rolleyes:
  30. Sorry.

    Sorry. give it a rest

    AFAIK it was scheduled for a set number of issues and ceased to be at the end of that agreement. My involvement at the time was pretty marginal so I couldn't give you too much by way of the ins and outs, but I certainly recall it was an acrimonious departure on both sides (Icepick might have more details if you're really interested) - on Freedom's part because I think the editors inherited the agreement and had little interest in pursuing it further, an on the Wildfire Collective's part because they thought their copy was being subtly mocked in terms of the editorial presentation - as they outlined in their final (flounce-ridden) bulletin.

    (and it's Freedom Newspaper rather than Freedom magazine btw ;) )

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice