Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

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Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

#1  Postby dimples5 » Dec 02, 2011 10:32 pm

Was civilization a mistake?

From Wikipedia:

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, and alienation. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialisation, abolition of the division of labour or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies. There are other non-anarchist forms of primitivism, and not all primitivists point to the same phenomenon as the source of modern, civilized problems.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-primitivism

This is purely anecdotal so I don't know how soundly I can generalize, but it seems as though I've been encountering this philosophy more and more both in my personal life and online. When I've heard people utter these "primitivist" beliefs they seem to come from a place of true fervour.

First of all, ignoring this radical minority, I think that many of the beliefs that comprise this philosophy are quite popular nowadays, and have been growing in popularity since probably the 1990s and have existed in other forms for far longer. Mistrust of industry, all things "natural" as an unbeatable ideal, climate change hysterics (there's a difference between taking a problem seriously and inviting people to start "saving the world", and the latter rubs me the wrong way, though I guess framing the issue that way might be what is required to incite action). These things are deeply embedded in popular consciousness. Personally, I find some of the criticisms of society on the part of primitivists to be completely legitimate and valid. Anomie, decreasing leisure time, decreasing fulfillment and happiness, the limits of science and technology, "the myth of progress", etcetera.

However primitivism as a solution seems to me to be a highly emotional reaction to the troubles of modern society. It seems to play on that universal myth of a "lost paradise". It invokes an image of individuals as powerful, independent, heroic beings as opposed to redundant cubicle workers. It provides a clear-cut scapegoat for all of life's disappointments. It's surfaced in a time of economic difficulty that is far enough removed from pre-WWII life that it reduces the scope of perspective. I can see why it is so psychologically seductive.

First of all, it is likely impossible to achieve save some sort of catastrophe, and even then, some form of civilization would be likely to re-emerge. My intuition tells me that this attribute of being totally out of reach only adds to the appeal. Second, this philosophy seems to deny those unique human qualities that lead to what we call "progress" and have endowed us with a relatively sophisticated understanding of our universe. Under this philosophy, the extension of human lifespan, the curbing of mortality and the resulting growth in our knowledge has not been worth the cost.

Anyway, this has only been a brief overview. I hope to hear other views on the subject.
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Re: Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

#2  Postby Lance » Dec 07, 2011 2:47 am

Hi.

A suitable topic for my first post.
Have you read Stephen Pinker's work on the history of violence? If not, check the following.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

What his research has shown is that violence, and deaths from violence, whether homicides or from war, decrease as humans progress into what we call civilisation. Primitive tribes involve inter-tribal conflict and anything from 5% to 80% of the males of any particular primitive society may die from this violence. A great aid to polygamy!

So my answer is a resounding yes!!! Let's hear it for civilisation.
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Re: Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

#3  Postby mindhack » Dec 28, 2011 3:28 pm

dimples5 wrote:Was civilization a mistake?

From Wikipedia:

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, and alienation. Anarcho-primitivists advocate a return to non-"civilized" ways of life through deindustrialisation, abolition of the division of labour or specialization, and abandonment of large-scale organization technologies. There are other non-anarchist forms of primitivism, and not all primitivists point to the same phenomenon as the source of modern, civilized problems.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-primitivism

This is purely anecdotal so I don't know how soundly I can generalize, but it seems as though I've been encountering this philosophy more and more both in my personal life and online. When I've heard people utter these "primitivist" beliefs they seem to come from a place of true fervour.

First of all, ignoring this radical minority, I think that many of the beliefs that comprise this philosophy are quite popular nowadays, and have been growing in popularity since probably the 1990s and have existed in other forms for far longer. Mistrust of industry, all things "natural" as an unbeatable ideal, climate change hysterics (there's a difference between taking a problem seriously and inviting people to start "saving the world", and the latter rubs me the wrong way, though I guess framing the issue that way might be what is required to incite action). These things are deeply embedded in popular consciousness. Personally, I find some of the criticisms of society on the part of primitivists to be completely legitimate and valid. Anomie, decreasing leisure time, decreasing fulfillment and happiness, the limits of science and technology, "the myth of progress", etcetera.

However primitivism as a solution seems to me to be a highly emotional reaction to the troubles of modern society. It seems to play on that universal myth of a "lost paradise". It invokes an image of individuals as powerful, independent, heroic beings as opposed to redundant cubicle workers. It provides a clear-cut scapegoat for all of life's disappointments. It's surfaced in a time of economic difficulty that is far enough removed from pre-WWII life that it reduces the scope of perspective. I can see why it is so psychologically seductive.

First of all, it is likely impossible to achieve save some sort of catastrophe, and even then, some form of civilization would be likely to re-emerge. My intuition tells me that this attribute of being totally out of reach only adds to the appeal. Second, this philosophy seems to deny those unique human qualities that lead to what we call "progress" and have endowed us with a relatively sophisticated understanding of our universe. Under this philosophy, the extension of human lifespan, the curbing of mortality and the resulting growth in our knowledge has not been worth the cost.

Anyway, this has only been a brief overview. I hope to hear other views on the subject.

Wicked doodles, I've missed this thread. Good post dimples5 :)

Some thoughts to add.

about anarcho-primitivism:

(1) I think it's a bit of a stretch to state that "the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural subsistence gave rise to social stratification, coercion, and alienation". Here's why:

(A) social stratification is an inherent feature of social animals living in packs. When there is a leader there implicitly exists social stratification. Civilization just added layers of complexity through the process of specialization of labor.
(B) Coercion as well, is inherent, as it is a consequence of parenting and socialization. The methods that result in coercion may vary, as well as what is deemed acceptable or wishful.
(C) Alienation is a tricky concept. I feel this is because it has to do about what people percieve, and what it is coming from. Weber for example described how a proces called rationalization resulted in an increased sense of alienation from working in, or depending on, increasingly rationally organised organizations (bureaucracy). This made people feel detached from them. The proces of civilization may or may not have resulted in more widespread feelings of alienation. I for one am completely alienated from religion, though I don't see this as a problem.

If what I said in [1,a,b,c] is true, thus are legitimate critiques on the premises of anarcho-primitivism, then I don't think it's advisable to ascribe to it, as it's more akin with sentiment and ideology.

[2] Anarcho-primitivism seems to be a school of thought critical of contemporary society. Much like Romanticism in the 19th century as a counter movement to Realism.

abolition of the division of labour or specialization

This statement in particular seems very unrealistic. There has always been some degree of division. Just imagine yourself with friends setting up a camp in the wildernis for example. Naturally, people do different tasks to reach the intended goal more efficiently. The degree of division on a macro level varies over time, and has increased over time most notably due to globalization, but this is somewhat tricky. Don't be surprised when the globally organized economy as it exists today will prove to be unfeasable in the future. A proces of localization and despecialization might kick in. Some say this has already started. But an abolishment completely?

Personally, I find some of the criticisms of society on the part of primitivists to be completely legitimate and valid. Anomie, decreasing leisure time, decreasing fulfillment and happiness, the limits of science and technology, "the myth of progress", etcetera.

I agree on the basis of sentiment. I'm rather displeased by how many things are going now. Predominantly I regards the erosion of social democracy and the rise of capitalist jungle-laws harmful and degrading. I'm pessimistic about the future because the world is more crowded then ever, with fewer and fewer nonrenewable resources to share, and an inability to make the shift to a more sustainable society.

However, I regard anomie a byproduct of a lazy mind. Nobody should have to suffer from it, independently from place, time and other conditions. Leisure time, fulfillment and happiness all have to do, to some degree, with priorities and personal choices. Regrettably, many choices are not true choices in the sense that the choices made are made as a result of socialization and confirmation pressure. Hmmm, it's difficult.

I'll leave it here for now, but end with:
However primitivism as a solution seems to me to be a highly emotional reaction to the troubles of modern society. It seems to play on that universal myth of a "lost paradise". It invokes an image of individuals as powerful, independent, heroic beings as opposed to redundant cubicle workers. It provides a clear-cut scapegoat for all of life's disappointments. It's surfaced in a time of economic difficulty that is far enough removed from pre-WWII life that it reduces the scope of perspective. I can see why it is so psychologically seductive.

I couldn't agree more. :)
(Ignorance --> Mystery) < (Knowledge --> Awe)
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Re: Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

#4  Postby Lance » Dec 28, 2011 9:10 pm

As a New Zealander, I have a little knowledge of what it is to look at primitives. Our native people, the Maori, were living a tribal stone age existence until the coming of Europeans and their introduced civilisation. Maori primitive life included such lovely things as cannibalism, slavery, frequent inter-tribal warfare, rampant killings, and subjugation of women.

I have also spent time in Papua New Guinea, and seen the way of life of their stone age peoples, now painfully adapting to a better way of life. Again we see the tribalism. There, it is so bad, that for much of the population, the definition of 'person' equals fellow tribal member. Anyone not of the same tribe is a 'non-person', and to harm non persons is not a moral crime. To kill non persons, rape them, assault them, steal from them or whatever is perfectly OK by tribal mores.

As I said before, three cheers for civilisation, and a big boo for primitivism.
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Re: Anarcho-primitivism, legitimate or not?

#5  Postby Doubtdispelled » Dec 28, 2011 9:24 pm

Lance wrote:As a New Zealander, I have a little knowledge of what it is to look at primitives. Our native people, the Maori, were living a tribal stone age existence until the coming of Europeans and their introduced civilisation. Maori primitive life included such lovely things as cannibalism, slavery, frequent inter-tribal warfare, rampant killings, and subjugation of women.

I think you need to look again, Lance.
http://www.waikato.ac.nz/law/research/waikato_law_review/volume_2_1994/7
evidence abounds which refutes the notion that traditional Maori society attached greater significance to male roles than to female roles

When the missionaries and early settlers arrived in Aotearoa, they brought with them their culturally specific understandings of the role and status of women. Jenkins describes the conflict in values and the British reaction as follows:
Western civilisation when it arrived on Aotearoa's shore, did not allow its womenfolk any power at all - they were merely chattels in some cases less worthy than the men's horses. What the colonizer found was a land of noble savages narrating ... stories of the wonder of women. Their myths and beliefs had to be reshaped and retold. The missionaries were hell-bent (heaven-bent) on destroying their pagan ways. Hence, in the re-telling of our myths, by Maori male informants to Pakeha male writers who lacked the understanding and significance of Maori cultural beliefs, Maori women find their mana wahine destroyed.

http://www.swaraj.org/shikshantar/ls3_jessica.htm
Pre-colonisation, Maori women were active decision-making participants in all aspects of Maori life. Colonisation has seen Maori society adopt a patriarchal system, which has negated the role of Maori women as decision-makers
Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

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