Non primitivist anti-civilization thinkers?

Can anyone recommend any anti-civilization thinkers, other than primitivists, “back to the land”-types, and Terrance McKenna? I guess what I’m looking for is post-civilization thinking that doesn’t demonize the progress made during civilization. McKenna’s Archiac Revival concept seems the closest, but it’s too techno-utopian:

The future is going to be much more like the extremely distant past. It’s not that technology is going to disappear. It’s that technology is going to be much less obtrusive. I can imagine a future where the entire culture has been shrunk down and downloaded onto a pair of black contact lenses that you implant behind your eyelids. And you’re naked, tattooed, scarified, and wearing your penis sheath and so on. But when you close your eyes, there are menus dangling in mental space. You go into that and have the complete database of the Western Mind.

-Terrence McKenna, Mondo 2000 vol. 1, issue 10, 1993

I think I’m looking for something a little more political (materialist? Marxist?).


  1. Oswald Spengler? Neitzsche?

  2. While an assumption is often made regarding Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series as it pertains to primitivism, he includes a fair amount of encouragement in the later components of his series towards simply adopting a new tribalism without mandating a return to tree houses. If you’re not familiar w/ his works, I can’t recommend ’em enough (I’d probably even send you a free copy of the first book if you wanted it).

    That having been said, perhaps there’s a valid reason so many anti-civilisation books are primitivist in many respects? What concerns do you have with primitivism? What boundaries do you perceive within the movement?

    As for political movements, I personally find Ayn Rand’s objectivism and related libertarianism (especially as espoused in Atlas Shrugged) to be a useful model for a technological tribalism. Freedom and will can lead only to self-progress inspite of the presumed demands of culture.

  3. dunno if you’ve read Jeff Vail’s A Theory of Power, if you haven’t it might be worth checking out.

    Freud and Reich come to mind, as well.

  4. I just received my copy of Meaning from Amazon, As I mentioned before, Polanyi may be someone you might wanna check out.

    Also, what about some of the modern thinkers in libertarianism? Or Out of Control, by Wired‘s David Kelly?

    From the back of Meaning:

    “Establishing that science is an inherently normative form of knowledge and that society gives meaning to science instead of being given the “truth” by science, Polanyi contends here that the foundation of meaning is the creative imagination. Largely through metaphorical expression in poetry, art, myth, and religion, the imagination is used to synthesize the otherwise chaotic and disparate elements of life. To Polanyi these integrations stand with those of science as equally valid modes of knowledge. He hopes this view of the foundation of meaning will restore validity to the traditional ideas that were undercut by modern science. Polanyi also outlines the general conditions of a free society that encourage varied approaches to truth, and includes an illuminating discussion of how to restore, to modern minds, the possibility for the acceptance of religion.”

  5. Since you’re uncomfortable with McKenna, I’m not sure what precisely you are looking for. McKenna is a post-civilizationist and pro-technological advance advocate. He’s got it right from my perspective.

    Now, looked at from a countering perspective it can be argued that much of the progress we have, including almost all of the technology is so interdependent on the WHOLE thing called civilization, that to disconnect from civilization is impossible. And I don’t mean this just from technical-economic perspective, in which each tech toy needs other toys and more energy distribution nets to keep them maintained. I’m talking about the very nature in which these technologies emerged – not only there base operating systems, coded within and on top of large-scale entwine and “soul sick” corporations, but the very totalitarian cartesian science in which they were designed.

    So, can we gain the power of these technologies while letting go of all the rot that went into their making? Difficult question to see.

    Nanotech *could* be elegant, but so far its contruction is happening so in tune with corporate elite control agenda’s that I am not optimistic at the outcome.

  6. How about Daniel Pinchbeck?

  7. I\’m not uncomfortable with McKenna, in fact I really like his idea. But\’s not well fleshed out, especially with regards to how it would come about.

    I think I\’m abandoning this line of thinking though, because \”civilization\” is too slippery a concept. So I\’ll probably be thinking about this stuff in another context and with different terminology.

    BTW, here\’s a quote that I\’ve been thinking about for a couple years that I keep coming back to:

    \”Consider this; when nationality is a psychogeographical quality this implies that nationality is a shattered all over the place. This opens up the possibility that your nationality is an array of PML data that descibe places where you feel at home, or are at least attracted to. Once you have established you nationality like this (which of course can change over time both because the place changes & because the things you are attracted to change) you can locate your homeland abroad by matching your PML nationality to the existing datasets. Nationality as geocaching!\”


    (I just found this page in which the idea is returned to but I haven\’t taken a look at it yet)

    I have the feeling Deluze and Guattari address similar concepts but I haven\’t plunged into that stuff yet.

  8. there’s always Hakim Bey and all those TAZ fellows…

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