I just added another anti-primitivist text to the sidebar links. This one, Critiquing Primitivism, Anarcho-Primitivism, and General Anti-Civilizationalism, was written by a revolutionary socialist rather than an anarchist.

So if primitivism is such a completely absurd idea, why waste your time arguing against it and its adherents? It is after all an extremely fragile ideology once it is put to the microscope. My primary point of contention with the primitivist school of thought is how, both by implication and often in its calls, seeks to have its followers reject rationalism for pseudo-mysticism and “oneness” with nature. If we look back on history we see that they are far from the first irrational ecological movement to do so. A good third of the German Nazi party came from forest-worshipping cults and soil movements that sprung up in Germany in the aftermath of World War I.

Oppositional Views

April 5, 2009

bw1We used to have a link category on the right labeled “Oppositional Views,” which listed links for sites that we considered in direct opposition to anarcho-transhumanist views. These ranged from primitivists and bioconservatives to fascist “transhumanists” and counter-insurgency specialists. We linked to these sites for several reasons: to identify who our opposition was, to allow people to research both positions and decide for themselves, and to bookmark for our own references.

The problem with links, however, is that they boost the other side’s page rank in search engines. And while we don’t mind pitting our positions against our rivals, we also don’t really want to help them wage their own propaganda war.  So as of today I cut the links. Instead, I’m making this post to note who they are (and by mentioning them here, hopefully draw some searchers to this site rather than theirs). If you really want to look them up, it’s not too hard to google them.

The sites we had noted before were:

The Discovery Institute — This religious foundation is a major force behind intelligent design/creationism and similar anti-science campaigns. They are also a leading bioconservative forced opposed to transhumanist ideas and policies.

Global Guerrillas — The blog of former green beret and counter-insurgency expert John Robb. His ideas make for interesting reading and study.

Green Anarchy — The leading publication of anti-tech green anarchists and primitivists.

John Zerzan — The major thinker behind the primitivist ideology.

Transtopia — Fascist “transhumanists.” They do a good job of hiding their racialist and fascist politics behind the veneer of transhumanist ideas and tech fetishism, but when you delve deep their true colors become apparent.

The other issue we had with singling out these sites was that we were only listing polar opposites. It could be argued that there are many others that we should list as oppositional views, even though they are part of the transhumanist camp, whether those be free-market fetishizing extropians, pro-state technoprogressives, or authoritarian communists. The ideological battles we are fighting are not two-dimensional — we should be engaging and debating other anarchists and transhumanists as much as we should countering bioconservatives and fascists.

From Anarchist Studies Volume 16, Number 1 2008 – By CHARLES THORPE AND IAN WELSH


The authoritarian and ecologically destructive juggernaut of state-supported big science and technology in the twentieth century understandably fostered a deep pessimism and suspicion towards science and technology among many in the green, anarchist, and libertarian left milieu. This reaction has been crystallized in the “anti-civilization” primitivist anarchism of John Zerzan. In opposition to this drift towards primitivism, this paper argues that a vision of a liberatory and participative science and technology was an essential element of classical anarchism and that this vision remains vital to the development of liberatory political theory and praxis today. The paper suggests that an anarchist model of science and technology is implicit in the knowledge-producing and organizing activities of new social movements and is exemplified in recent developments in world, regional, and local social forums.


This article develops an anarchist political theory of science and technology that highlights the latent forms of anarchist praxis present within a diverse range of social movement engagements with contemporary techno-science. We argue that there is a marked congruence between contemporary social movement engagement and the key concepts and principles underpinning anarchist writing on science and technology from the nineteenth century onwards.

By exploring the tensions and ambivalences in established anarchist approaches towards science (cf. Restivo 1994) we demonstrate that classical nineteenth-century anarchism emphasised the centrality of socially accountable science within libertarian thinking. Elements of this tradition are discernible in the emphasis on liberatory technics by twentieth-century writers such as Lewis Mumford, Murray Bookchin, and Paul Goodman. This later work on liberatory technics developed during a period dominated by state-sponsored big science. The twenty-first century, however, is dominated by neo-liberal ascendancy characterised by the early transfer of “near market” science to the private sector. This transition to a neo-liberal era requires clarification of, and debate on, the relationship of anarchism to science. Further, such debate must address the global movement milieu in which traditionally conceived social movements combine with network movement actors to form an antagonistic and proactive social force emphasising autonomy.

Important features of this movement milieu are unqualified opposition to: the alignment of capitalist and state forces through global institutions such as the World Bank and IMF; the military sequestration of public corporate scientific research and development (R&D) budgets; the imposition of “market solutions” across all areas of “public provision” and the pursuit of modernisation agendas which simultaneously degrade ecological and human integrity. Global social movements also challenge the prevailing cognitive order by defining key knowledge stakes regarded as vital to “the other worlds that are possible”. The recognition and respect for difference is a central part of these linked political and epistemological objectives raising significant challenges for conceptions of science based on universal laws. Key questions explored here are what does the philosophical and political tradition of anarchism have to contribute to such contemporary challenges to dominant social-epistemic orders and is there a theory of science embedded in anarchist political thought that is relevant and applicable to contemporary struggles?

Given the continuing importance of science to modern states and the neo-liberal “global knowledge economy”, a critical anarchist theory of science and technology needs to overcome the limitations within various forms of “primitivism” exemplified by the writings of John Zerzan (1996). Zerzan’s criticisms of alienation in modern life and of the nihilism of contemporary technological culture are trenchant. But, from this critique, Zerzan leads his readers to a quasi-religious ideal of a return to a wild Eden (cf. Aufheben, 1995). Primitiism neglects the anarchist intellectual tradition examined here.

Rather than a return to simpler technics, we argue that the ideas and the epistemic practices of contemporary social movements constitute the basis for non-totalising forms of scientific knowledge and scientific practices resonating with anarchist emphases on decentralisation, horizontal structures, and diversity. This emergent anarchist or proto-anarchist politics of science and technology is necessary to transcend the limits of contemporary state-corporate science which has reached a “plateau” (Mumford 1934/1972) encountering “paradigm limits”, which can only be transcended through alternative epistemic practices consistent with the autonomous self-organization of society.

We deliberately re-emphasise the potential for the socially shaped and negotiated “democratic technics” advanced by Mumford (1964). As Bookchin argued, resistance to authoritarian science and technology makes the formulation of an alternative liberatory conceptualization of science a critical political task. Indeed, whilst many contemporary social struggles are perceived as against established science, they also contain liberatory promise and alternative epistemic practices and priorities. Such struggles hold out the promise of a liberatory science with an affinity toward anarchist modes of self-organization as an increasingly diverse range of citizens learn to combine observational, recording, and analytical capacities constituting a potential for proactive grassroots initiatives. An anarchistic organization of science requires such decentralized, network-ordered and bottom-up cognitive and material structures consistent with the political of anarchist(ic) social freedom.
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