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John Zerzan (/ ˈ z ɜːr z ə n / ZUR-zən; born August 10, 1943) is an American anarchist and primitivist ecophilosopher and author.His works criticize agricultural civilization as inherently oppressive, and advocates drawing upon the ways of life of hunter-gatherers as an inspiration for what a free society should look like.
Sep 04, 2018 · This is civilization – the old curse of Cain, first to till and kill, primal architect of cities, the father of that pathology known as ‘Progress’. If Anarchist John Zerzan has one wish in his new book, it is that we might wake from this nightmare of myth and History.
Sep 21, 2021 · Since the millennium change John Zerzan has been expressing his anti-civilization views on his one hour live radio show, "AnarchyRadio." By audio streaming ( KWVA 88.1 FM) you can listen to "AnarchyRadio" live each week on Tuesdays at 7pm PST and express your views by calling 541-346-0645 during the live broadcast.
- Early Life and Education
- Zerzan's Work
- Political Development
- Zerzan and The "Unabomber"
- Zerzan and Pacific Northwest Anarcho-Primitivism
- See Also
- External Links
Zerzan was born in Salem, Oregon to immigrants of Bohemian heritage. He studied as an undergraduate at Stanford University and later received a Master's degree in History from San Francisco State University. He completed his coursework towards a Ph.D. at the University of Southern California but dropped out before completing his dissertation.
Zerzan's theories draw on Theodor Adorno's concept of negative dialectics to construct a theory of civilization as the cumulative construction of alienation. According to Zerzan, original human societies in paleolithic times, and similar societies today such as the !Kung, Bushmen and Mbuti, live a non-alienated and non-oppressive form of life based on primitive abundance and closeness to nature. Constructing such societies as a kind of political ideal, or at least an instructive comparison against which to denounce contemporary (especially industrial) societies, Zerzan uses anthropological studies from such societies as the basis for a wide-ranging critique of aspects of modern life. He portrays contemporary society as a world of misery built on the psychological production of a sense of scarcity and lack. The history of civilisation is the history of renunciation; what stands against this is not progress but rather the Utopiawhich arises from its negation. Zerzan is an anarchist, a...
Template:RefimproveIn 1966, Zerzan was arrested while performing civil disobedience at a Berkeley anti-Vietnam War march and spent two weeks in the Contra Costa County Jail. He vowed after his release never again to be willingly arrested. He attended events organized by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and was involved with the psychedelic drug and music scene in San Francisco's Haight-Ashburyneighborhood. In the late 1960s he worked as a social worker for the city of San Francisco welfare department. He helped organize a social worker's union, the SSEU, and was elected vice president in 1968, and president in 1969. The local Situationist group Contradiction denounced him as a "leftist bureaucrat. He became progressively more radical as he dealt further with his and other unions. He was also a voracious reader of the Situationists, being particularly influenced by Guy Debord. In 1974, Black and Red Press published Unions Against Revolution by Spanish ultra-left theorist Grandizo M...
In the mid-1990s, Zerzan became a confidant to Theodore Kaczynski, the "Unabomber", after he read Industrial Society and Its Future, the so-called Unabomber Manifesto.Zerzan sat through the Unabomber trial and often conversed with Kaczynski during the proceedings. It was after becoming known as a friend of the Unabomber that the mainstream media became interested in Zerzan and his ideas. In Zerzan's essay "Whose Unabomber?" (1995), he signaled his support for the Kaczynski doctrine, but criticised the bombings: 1. ...the mailing of explosive devices intended for the agents who are engineering the present catastrophe is too random. Children, mail carriers, and others could easily be killed. Even if one granted the legitimacy of striking at the high-tech horror show by terrorizing its indispensable architects, collateral harmis not justifiable... However, Zerzan in the same essay offered a qualified defense of the Unabomber's actions: 1. The concept of justice should not be overlooked...
On May 7, 1995, a full-page interview with Zerzan was featured in The New York Times . Another significant event that shot Zerzan to celebrity philosopher status was his association with members of the Eugene, Oregon anarchist scene that later were the driving force behind the use of black bloc tactics at the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, Washington. Anarchists using black bloc tactics were thought to be chiefly responsible for the property destruction committed at numerous corporate storefronts and banks. News media coverage started a firestorm of controversy after the riots, and Zerzan was one of those that they turned to in order to explain the actions that some had taken at the demonstrations. After gaining this public notoriety, Zerzan began accepting speaking engagements and giving interviews around the world explaining anarcho-primitivism and the more general Global Justice Movement. Recently Zerzan has been involved with the Post-left anarchist tren...
- Friendship with The Unabomber
- External Links
Zerzan's early life seems to have been a case of joining up with progressively more sharply leftward groups in succession, each time ultimately rejecting them as having compromised with something he understood to be inherently oppressive and thus abominable. Somewhat reflective of this by looking like a case of rhetorical outbidding among anarchists, his writings are critical of all civilization, which he deems to be the root of all oppression, discrimination, hierarchy, and alienation. He lauds the life of hunter-gatherers, or at least, the absolute held-in-common core of the known ones. Taking the elements that are in common to all of them, he has constructed an idea of a primal human methodology that manages to have quite a bit in common with the archetypal noble savage, and that all of humanity — the current hunter-gatherers included — needs to regress to that point, if they are to be free of oppression and corruption. Most anarchists disagree with this, seeing it as dangerous b...
On postmodernism: On Star Trek: This, of course, disregards the crew beaming down to planets (usually in very "natural" environments) every freaking episode, spending time in very pastoral environments they always show great appreciation for.
Zerzan was friends (to a measure, anyway) with the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Or at least, the motivation of self-defense against civilization's encroachment; he doesn't approve of the means, on account of the severe risk of killing innocents. Curiously, Kaczynski is dismissive of leftward primitivism like that espoused by Zerzan; rather, he believes civilization is baleful to humanity because of its liberal and leftward qualities, obstructing what he sees as honest resolve, desire for might and splendor. In other words, unlike Zerzan, Kaczynski is a rugged individualism-primitivist, and regards civilization's errors as being based on succoring the weak and dragging down and obstructing the strong and proud in the process. Whether Zerzan has internalized this is open to debate. In 2008, Kaczynski published an essay called "The Truth About Primitive Life: A Critique of Anarchoprimitivism" that dissects the philosophy, showing its idiocy.Zerzan's work is the main target of the piece, i...
The Self-Proclaimed "Primitivist's" Official Website(Also contains a complete list of his radio and TV appearances, and links where one can purchase his merchandise. For someone who dislikes civili...
John Zerzan. 2002. Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization. Los Angeles: Feral House. ISBN 092291575X.
Elements of Refusal is regarded by many as the bible of anarcho-primativism, a spiritual call to dismantle domination and return to wilderness. In these technocratic, totalitarian times, Zerzan's profound critique of industrialism, capitalism, work and the machine itself is utterly life-changing and urgent.
- John Zerzan
Jul 17, 2021 · The piece on autism is the only piece of writing by Zerzan that has ever left me feeling utterly disgusted by him and I will not deny that it is offensive to try and save John some face. Zerzan attempts to make the argument that autism is a product of civilisation and contemporary domesticating-distance, and that Humanity is losing its ...