Post-left anarchy

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Post-left anarchy is a recent current in anarchist thought that promotes a critique of anarchism's relationship to traditional leftism. Some post-leftists seek to escape the confines of ideology in general also presenting a critique of organizations and morality[1]. Post-left anarchy is marked by a focus on social insurrection and a rejection of leftist social organisation.[2] influenced by the work of Max Stirner[1] and by the Situationist International[1].

The magazines Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Green Anarchy and Fifth Estate have been involved in developing post-left anarchy. Individual writers associated with the tendency are Hakim Bey, Bob Black, John Zerzan, Jason McQuinn, Fredy Perlman, Lawrence Jarach and Wolfi Landstreicher. The contemporary network of collectives CrimethInc. is an exponent of post-left anarchist views.




The left, even the revolutionary left, post-leftists argue, is anachronistic and incapable of creating change. Post-left anarchy offers critiques of radical strategies and tactics which it considers antiquated: the demonstration, class-oriented struggle, focus on tradition, and the inability to escape the confines of history. The book Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs, for example, criticizes traditional leftist ideas and classical anarchism while calling for a rejuvenated anarchist movement. The CrimethInc. essay "Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck" is another critique of "leftist" movements:

Why has the oppressed proletariat not come to its senses and joined you in your fight for world liberation? ... [Because] they know that your antiquated styles of protest – your marches, hand held signs, and gatherings – are now powerless to effect real change because they have become such a predictable part of the status quo. They know that your post-Marxist jargon is off-putting because it really is a language of mere academic dispute, not a weapon capable of undermining systems of control…

—Nadia C., "Your Politics Are Boring as Fuck"[3]

Some post-anarchists have come to similar conclusions, if for different reasons:

There is a certain litany of oppressions which most radical theories are obliged to pay homage to. Why is it when someone is asked to talk about radical politics today one inevitably refers to this same tired, old list of struggles and identities? Why are we so unimaginative politically that we cannot think outside of this 'shopping list' of oppressions?

Saul Newman, From Bakunin to Lacan, p. 171[4]


Theory & Critique of Organization

Jason McQuinn describes the left wing organizational tendency of "“transmission-belt” structure with an explicit division between leaders and led, along with provisions to discipline rank and file members while shielding leaders from responsibility to those being led, more than a few people wise up to the con game and reject it".[5] For him there are 4 results out of such structure:

To counter these tendencies post-left anarchy advocates Individual and Group Autonomy with Free Initiative, Free Association, Refusal of Political Authority, and thus of Ideology, Small, Simple, Informal, Transparent and Temporary Organization, and Decentralized, Federal Organization with Direct Decision-Making and Respect for Minorities[1].

The critique of ideology(ies)

Post left anarchy adheres to a critique of ideology that "dates from the work of Max Stirner"[1]. For Jason McQuinn "All ideology in essence involves the substitution of alien (or incomplete) concepts or images for human subjectivity. Ideologies are systems of false consciousness in which people no longer see themselves directly as subjects in their relation to their world. Instead they conceive of themselves in some manner as subordinate to one type or another of abstract entity or entities which are mistaken as the real subjects or actors in their world." "Whether the abstraction is God, the State, the Party, the Organization, Technology, the Family, Humanity, Peace, Ecology, Nature, Work, Love, or even Freedom; if it is conceived and presented as if it is an active subject with a being of its own which makes demands of us, then it is the center of an ideology."[1]

The rejection of morality

Morality is also a target of post-left anarchy just as it was in Stirner[1] and in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. For McQuinn "Morality is a system of reified values—abstract values which are taken out of any context, set in stone, and converted into unquestionable beliefs to be applied regardless of a person's actual desires, thoughts or goals, and regardless of the situation in which a person finds him- or herself. Moralism is the practice of not only reducing living values to reified morals, but of considering oneself better than others because one has subjected oneself to morality (self-righteousness), and of proselytizing for the adoption of morality as a tool of social change."[1] Living up to morality means sacrificing certain desires and temptations (regardless of the actual situation you might find yourself in) in favor of the rewards of virtue.[1]

So "Rejecting Morality involves constructing a critical theory of one's self and society (always self-critical, provisional and never totalistic) in which a clear goal of ending one's social alienation is never confused with reified partial goals. It involves emphasiz­ing what people have to gain from radical critique and solidarity rather than what people must sacrifice or give up in order to live virtuous lives of politically correct morality."[1]

Critique of identity politics

Post-left anarchy tends to criticize what it sees as the partial victimizing views of identity politics. Feral Faun thus writes in "The ideology of victimization" that there´s a "feminist version of the ideology of victimization- an ideology which promotes fear, individual weakness (and subsequently dependence on ideologically based support groups and paternalistic protection from the authorities)"[6] But in the end "Like all ideologies, the varieties of the ideology of victimization are forms of fake consciousness. Accepting the social role of victim—in whatever one of its many forms—is choosing to not even create one's life for oneself or to explore one's real relationships to the social structures. All of the partial liberation movements--feminism, gay liberation, racial liberation, workers´ movements and so on—define individuals in terms of their social roles. Because of this, these movements not only do not include a reversal of perspectives which breaks down social roles and allows individuals to create a praxis built on their own passions and desires; they actually work against such a reversal of perspective. The 'liberation' of a social role to which the individual remains subject."[6]

The refusal of work

The issues of work, the division of labor and the refusal of work has been an important issue in post-left anarchy[7][8]. Bob Black in "The Abolition of Work" calls for the abolition of the producer- and consumer-based society, where, Black contends, all of life is devoted to the production and consumption of commodities[9]. Attacking Marxist state socialism as much as market capitalism, Black argues that the only way for humans to be free is to reclaim their time from jobs and employment, instead turning necessary subsistence tasks into free play done voluntarily - an approach referred to as "ludic". The essay argues that "no-one should ever work", because work - defined as compulsory productive activity enforced by economic or political means - is the source of most of the misery in the world.[9] Most workers, he states, are dissatisfied with work (as evidenced by petty deviance on the job), so that what he says should be uncontroversial; however, it is controversial only because people are too close to the work-system to see its flaws[9].

Play, in contrast, is not necessarily rule-governed, and is performed voluntarily, in complete freedom, as a gift economy. He points out that hunter-gatherer societies are typified by play, a view he backs up with the work of Marshall Sahlins; he recounts the rise of hierarchal societies, through which work is cumulatively imposed, so that the compulsive work of today would seem incomprehensibly oppressive even to ancients and medieval peasants.[9] He responds to the view that "work," if not simply effort or energy, is necessary to get important but unpleasant tasks done, by claiming that first of all, most important tasks can be rendered ludic, or "salvaged" by being turned into game-like and craft-like activities, and secondly that the vast majority of work does not need doing at all.[9] The latter tasks are unnecessary because they only serve functions of commerce and social control that exist only to maintain the work-system as a whole. As for what is left, he advocates Charles Fourier's approach of arranging activities so that people will want to do them.[9] He is also skeptical but open-minded about the possibility of eliminating work through labour-saving technologies. He feels the left cannot go far enough in its critiques because of its attachment to building its power on the category of workers, which requires a valorization of work.[9]


Post-left anarchists reject all ideologies in favor of the individual and communal construction of self-theory[1]. Individual self-theory is theory in which the integral individual-in-context (in all her or his relationships, with all her or his history, desires, and projects, etc.) is always the subjective center of perception, understanding and action[1]. Communal self-theory is similarly based on the group as subject, but always with an underlying awareness of the individuals (and their own self-theories) which make up the group or organization[1]. For McQuinn "Non-ideological, anarchist organizations (or informal groups) are always explicitly based upon the autonomy of the individuals who construct them, quite unlike leftist organizations which require the surrender of personal autonomy as a prerequisite for membership".[1]

Daily life, creation of situations and immediatism

For Wolfi Landstreicher "The reappropriation of life on the social level, as well as its full reappropriation on the individual level, can only occur when we stop identifying ourselves essentially in terms of our social identities."[10] So "The recognition that this trajectory must be brought to an end and new ways of living and relating developed if we are to achieve full autonomy and freedom."[11] So relationships with others are not seen anymore as in activism in which the goal is "to seek followers who accept one’s position"[12] but instead "comrades and accomplices with which to carry on one’s explorations".[13]

So Hakim Bey advocates not having to "wait for the revolution" and inmmediately start "looking for "spaces" (geographic, social, cultural, imaginal) with potential to flower as autonomous zones--and we are looking for times in which these spaces are relatively open, either through neglect on the part of the State or because they have somehow escaped notice by the mapmakers, or for whatever reason."[14] Ultimately "face-to-face, a group of humans synergize their efforts to realize mutual desires, whether for good food and cheer, dance, conversation, the arts of life; perhaps even for erotic pleasure, or to create a communal artwork, or to attain the very transport of bliss-- in short, a "union of egoists" (as Stirner put it) in its simplest form--or else, in Kropotkin's terms, a basic biological drive to "mutual aid." [15]

Relationship with other tendencies within anarchism

Post-left anarchism has been critical of more classical schools of anarchism such as platformism[16] and anarcho-syndicalism[17]. A certain close relationship exists between post-left anarchy and anarcho-primitivism, individualist anarchism[18][19] and insurrectionary anarchism. Nevertheless post-left anarchists Wolfi Landstreicher[20] and Jason McQuinn[21] have distanced themselves from and criticized anarcho-primitivism as "ideological".


On platformism Bob Black has said that "It attests to the ideological bankruptcy of the organizational anarchists today that they should exhume (not resurrect) a manifesto which was already obsolete when promulgated in 1926. The Organizational Platform enjoys an imperishable permanence: untimely then, untimely now, untimely forever. Intended to persuade, it elicited attacks from almost every prominent anarchist of its time. Intended to organize, it provoked splits. Intended to restate the anarchist alternative to Marxism, it restated the Leninist alternative to anarchism. Intended to make history, it barely made it into the history books."[22] For Black "The result is yet another sect."[23]


Feral Faun has stated that "The anarcho-syndicalists may talk of abolishing the state, but they will have to reproduce every one of its functions to guarantee the smooth running of their society." So "Anarcho-syndicalism does not make a radical break with the present society. It merely seeks to extend this society´s values so they dominate us more fully in our daily lives." Thus "the bourgeois liberal is content to get rid of priests and kings, and the anarcho-syndicalist throws in presidents and bosses. But the factories remain intact, the stores remain intact (though the syndicalists may call them distribution centers), the family remains intact — the entire social system remains intact. If our daily activity has not significantly changed — and the anarcho-syndicalists give no indication of wanting to change it beyond adding the burden of managing the factories to that of managing the factories to that of working in them — then what difference does it make if there are no bosses? — We're still slaves!"[24]

The issue of "lifestyle anarchism"

Beginning in 1997, Bob Black became involved in a debate sparked by the work of anarchist and founder of the Institute for Social Ecology Murray Bookchin, an outspoken critic of the post-left anarchist tendency. Bookchin wrote and published Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, labeling post-left anarchists and others as "lifestyle anarchists" - thus following up a theme developed in his Philosophy of Social Ecology. Though he does not refer directly to Black's work (an omission which Black interprets as symptomatic), Bookchin clearly has Black's rejection of work as an implicit target when he criticises authors such as John Zerzan and Dave Watson, whom he controversially labels part of the same tendency.

For Bookchin, "lifestyle anarchism" is individualistic and childish. "Lifestyle anarchists" demand "anarchy now", imagining they can create a new society through individual lifestyle changes. In his view this is a kind of fake-dissident consumerism which ultimately has no impact on the functioning of capitalism because it fails to recognise the realities of the present. He grounds this polemic in a social-realist critique of relativism, which he associates with lifestyle anarchism as well as postmodernism (to which he claims it is related). Ludic approaches, he claims, lead to social indifference and egotism similar to that of capitalism. Against this approach, he advocates a variety of anarchism in which social struggles take precedence over individual actions, with the evolution of the struggle emerging dialectically as in classical Marxist theory. The unbridgeable chasm of the book's title is between individual "autonomy" - which for Bookchin is a bourgeois illusion - and social "freedom", which implies direct democracy, municipalism, and leftist concerns with social opportunities. In practice his agenda takes the form of a combination of elements of anarchist communism with a support for local-government and NGO initiatives which he refers to as Libertarian Municipalism. He claims that "lifestyle anarchism" goes against the fundamental tenets of anarchism, accusing it of being "decadent" and "petty-bourgeois" and an outgrowth of American decadence and a period of declining struggle, and speaks in nostalgic terms of "the Left that was" as, for all its flaws, vastly superior to what has come since.

In response, Black published Anarchy After Leftism which later became a seminal post-left work.[25] The text is a combination of point-by-point, almost legalistic dissection of Bookchin's argument, with bitter theoretical polemic, and even personal insult against Bookchin (whom he refers to as "the Dean" throughout). Black accuses Bookchin of moralism, which in post-left anarchism, refers to the imposition of abstract categories on reality in ways which twist and repress desires (as distinct from "ethics", which is an ethos of living similar to Friedrich Nietzsche's call for an ethic "beyond good and evil"), and of "puritanism", a variant of this. He attacks Bookchin for his Stalinist origins, and his failure to renounce his own past affiliations with what he himself had denounced as "lifestylist" themes (such as the slogans of May 1968). He claims that the categories of "lifestyle anarchism" and "individualist anarchism" are straw-men. He alleges that Bookchin adopts a "work ethic", and that his favored themes, such as the denunciation of Yuppies, actually repeat themes in mass consumer culture, and that he fails to analyze the social basis of capitalist "selfishness"; instead, Black calls for an enlightened "selfishness" which is simultaneously social, as in Max Stirner's work.

Bookchin, Black claims, has misunderstood the critique of work as asocial, when in fact it proposes non-compulsive social relations. He argues that Bookchin believes labour to be essential to humans, and thus is opposed to the abolition of work. And he takes him to case for ignoring Black's own writings on work, for idealizing technology, and for misunderstanding the history of work.

He denounces Bookchin's alleged failure to form links with the leftist groups he now praises, and for denouncing others for failings (such as not having a mass audience, and receiving favourable reviews from "yuppie" magazines) of which he is himself guilty. He accuses Bookchin of self-contradiction, such as calling the same people "bourgeois" and "lumpen", or "individualist" and "fascist". He alleges that Bookchin's "social freedom" is "metaphorical" and has no real content of freedom. He criticizes Bookchin's appropriation of the anarchist tradition, arguing against his dismissal of authors such as Stirner and Paul Goodman, rebuking Bookchin for implicitly identifying such authors with anarcho-capitalism, and defending what he calls an "epistemic break" made by the likes of Stirner and Nietzsche. He alleges that the post-left "disdain for theory" is simply Bookchin's way of saying they ignore his own theories. He offers a detailed response to Bookchin's accusation of an association of eco-anarchism with fascism via a supposed common root in German romanticism, criticising both the derivation of the link (which he terms "McCarthyist") and the portrayal of romanticism itself, suggesting that Bookchin's sources such as Mikhail Bakunin are no more politically correct than those he denounces, and accusing him of echoing fascist rhetoric and propaganda. He provides evidence to dispute Bookchin's association of "terrorism" with individualist rather than social anarchism. He points to carnivalesque aspects of the Spanish Revolution to undermine Bookchin's dualism.

Black then rehearses the post-left critique of organization, drawing on his knowledge of anarchist history in an attempt to rebut Bookchin's accusation that anti-organizationalism is based in ignorance. He claims among other things that direct democracy is impossible in urban settings, that it degenerates into bureaucracy, and that organizationalist anarchists such as the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo sold out to state power. He argues that Bookchin is not an anarchist at all, but rather, a "municipal statist" or "city-statist" committed to local government by a local state - smattering his discussion with further point-by-point objections (for instance, over whether New York is an "organic community" given the alleged high crime-rate and whether confederated municipalities are compatible with direct democracy). He also takes up Bookchin's opposition to relativism, arguing that this is confirmed by science, especially anthropology - proceeding to produce evidence that Bookchin's work has received hostile reviews in social-science journals, thus attacking his scientific credentials, and to denounce dialectics as unscientific. He then argues point-by-point with Bookchin's criticisms of primitivism, debating issues such as life-expectancy statistics and alleged ecological destruction by hunter-gatherers. And he concludes with a clarion-call for an anarchist paradigm-shift based on post-left themes, celebrating this as the "anarchy after leftism" of the title.

Bookchin never replied to Black's critiques, which he continued in such essays as "Withered Anarchism," "An American in Paris," and "Murray Bookchin and the Witch-Doctors." Bookchin later repudiated anarchism in favor of a form of direct democracy he called "communalism".


A certain close relationship exists between post-left anarchy and anarcho-primitivism since anarcho-primitivists such as John Zerzan and the magazine Green Anarchy have adhered and contributed to the post-left anarchy perspective. Nevertheless post-left anarchists such as Jason McQuinn and Feral Faun/Wolfi Landstreicher[26] have distanced themselves from and have criticized anarcho-primitivism.

Wolfi Landstreicher has criticized the "ascetic morality of sacrifice or of a mystical disintegration into a supposedly unalienated oneness with Nature,"[27] which appears in anarcho-primitivism and deep ecology. Jason McQuinn has criticized what he sees an ideological tendency in anarcho-primitivism when he says that "for most primitivists an idealized, hypostatized vision of primal societies tends to irresistibly displace the essential centrality of critical self-theory, whatever their occasional protestations to the contrary. The locus of critique quickly moves from the critical self-understanding of the social and natural world to the adoption of a preconceived ideal against which that world (and one's own life) is measured, an archetypally ideological stance. This nearly irresistible susceptibility to idealization is primitivism's greatest weakness."[28]

Individualist anarchism

Murray Bookchin has identified post-left anarchy as a form of individualist anarchism in Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm where he says he identifies "a shift among Euro-American anarchists away from social anarchism and toward individualist or lifestyle anarchism. Indeed, lifestyle anarchism today is finding its principal expression in spray-can graffiti, post-modernist nihilism, antirationalism, neoprimitivism, anti-technologism, neo-Situationist `cultural terrorism,' mysticism, and a `practice' of staging Foucauldian `personal insurrections.'"[29]

A strong relationship does exist with post-left anarchism and the work of individualist anarchist Max Stirner. Jason McQuinn says that "when I (and other anti-ideological anarchists) criticize ideology, it is always from a specifically critical, anarchist perspective rooted in both the skeptical, individualist-anarchist philosophy of Max Stirner[19]. Also Bob Black and Feral Faun/Wolfi Landstreicher strongly adhere to stirnerist egoist anarchism. Bob Black has humorously suggested the idea of "marxist stirnerism"[30]. Hakim Bey has said "From Stirner's "Union of Self-Owning Ones" we proceed to Nietzsche's circle of "Free Spirits" and thence to Charles Fourier's "Passional Series", doubling and redoubling ourselves even as the Other multiplies itself in the eros of the group."[19]

As far as posterior individualist anarchists Jason McQuinn for some time used the pseudonym Lev Chernyi in honor of the Russian individualist anarchist of the same name while Feral Faun has quoted Italian individualist anarchist Renzo Novatore[31] and has translated both Novatore[32] and the young Italian individualist anarchist Bruno Filippi[33].


Recently the anarcho-primitivist anarcha-feminist Lilith has published writings from a post-left anarchist perspective[34]. In "Gender Disobedience: Antifeminism and Insurrectionist Non-dialogue" (2009) she has criticized Wolfi Landstreicher position on feminism saying "I feel that an anarchist critique of feminism may be valuable and illuminating. What I do not wish for is more of the same anti-intellectualism and non-thought that seems to be the lot of post-Leftist critiques of feminist theory."[35] She along with other authors published BLOODLUST: a feminist journal against civilization[36]

Insurrectionary anarchism

Feral Faun (later writing as Wolfi Landstreicher) gained notoriety as he wrote articles that appeared in the post-left anarchy magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed. Post-left anarchy has held similar critiques of organization as insurrectionary anarchism as can be seen in the work of Wolfi Landstreicher and Alfredo Maria Bonanno. John Zerzan has said when speaking of Italian insurrectionary anarchist Alfredo Maria Bonanno that "Maybe insurrectionalism is less an ideology than an undefined tendency, part left and part anti-left but generally anarchist."[37]

Relationships with schools of thought outside anarchism

McQuinn has said that "Those seeking to promote the synthesis have been primarily influenced by both the classical anarchist movement up to the Spanish Revolution on the one hand, and several of the most promising critiques and modes of intervention developed since the 60s. The most important critiques involved include those of everyday life and the spectacle, of ideology and morality, of industrial technology, of work and of civilization. Modes of intervention focus on the concrete deployment of direct action in all facets of life."[1] Thus the thought of the Situationist International is very important within post-left anarchist thought. [38]. Other thinkers outsiede anarchism that have taken relevance in post-left anarchy writings include Charles Fourier, the Frankfurt School, and antropologists such as Marshall Sahlins.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Post-Left Anarchy: Leaving the Left Behind Prologue to Post-Left Anarchy" by Jason McQuinn
  2. ^ Macphee, Josh (2007). Realizing the Impossible. Stirling: AK Press. ISBN 1904859321. 
  3. ^ Nadia C.. "Your Politics Are Boring As Fuck". CrimethInc. Selected Primary Texts. 
  4. ^ Newman, Saul (2001). From Bakunin to Lacan. Lexington: Lexington Books. p. 171. ISBN 0739102400. 
  5. ^ "Against Organizationalism: Anarchism as both Theory and Critique of Organization" by Jason McQuinn
  6. ^ a b "The ideology of victimization" by Feral Faun
  7. ^ [ DIVISION OF LABOR By John Zerzan]
  8. ^ "Work: The Theft of Life" by Wolfi Landstreicher
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "The Abolition of Work"
  10. ^ [ "FROM POLITICS TO LIFE:Ridding anarchy of the leftist millstone" By Wolfi Landstreicher]
  11. ^ [ "FROM POLITICS TO LIFE:Ridding anarchy of the leftist millstone" By Wolfi Landstreicher]
  12. ^ [ "FROM POLITICS TO LIFE:Ridding anarchy of the leftist millstone" By Wolfi Landstreicher]
  13. ^ [ "FROM POLITICS TO LIFE:Ridding anarchy of the leftist millstone" By Wolfi Landstreicher]
  16. ^ ["Wooden Shoes or Platform Shoes?: On the “Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists”" by Bob Black]
  17. ^ "The Bourgeois Roots of Anarcho Syndicalism" by Feral Faun
  18. ^ [[[Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm]] by Murray Bookchin]
  19. ^ a b c "What is Ideology?" by Jason McQuinn
  20. ^ "The Network of Domination" by Wolfi Landstreicher
  21. ^ ["Why I am not a Primitivist" by Jason McQuinn]
  22. ^ ["Wooden Shoes or Platform Shoes?: On the “Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists”" by Bob Black]
  23. ^ ["Wooden Shoes or Platform Shoes?: On the “Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists”" by Bob Black]
  24. ^ "The Bourgeois Roots of Anarcho Syndicalism" by Feral Faun
  25. ^ Thomas, Kenn (1999). Cyberculture Counterconspiracy. Book Tree. ISBN 1585091251. 
  26. ^ "The Network of Domination" by Wolfi Landstreicher
  27. ^ "The Network of Domination" by Wolfi Landstreicher
  28. ^ ["Why I am not a Primitivist" by Jason McQuinn]
  29. ^ [[[Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm]] by Murray Bookchin]
  30. ^ "Theses on Groucho Marxism" by Bob Black
  31. ^ [ "Whither now? Some thoughts on creating anarchy" by Feral Faun]
  32. ^ Towards the creative nothing and other writings by Renzo Novatore
  33. ^ "The rebel's dark laughter: the writings of Bruno Filippi". 
  34. ^ Gender Disobedience: Antifeminism and Insurrectionist Non-dialogue
  35. ^ Gender Disobedience: Antifeminism and Insurrectionist Non-dialogue
  36. ^ "BLOODLUST: a feminist journal against civilization #1: Out Now"
  37. ^ "The Left Today" by John Zerzan
  38. ^ "some situationist-inspired writers are Bob Black, Hakim Bey...the...two are best defined as neo-situationists, in line with the publication "Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed"'s "About the Situationist International

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Max Stirner

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Johann Kaspar Schmidt

Max Stirner, as portrayed by Friedrich Engels
Full name Johann Kaspar Schmidt
Born October 25, 1806
Bayreuth, Bavaria
Died June 26, 1856 (aged 49)
Berlin, Prussia
Era 19th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Categorised historically as a Young Hegelian. Precursor to Existentialism, individualist feminism, Nihilism, Individualist anarchism, Post-Modernism, Post-structuralism.
Main interests Ethics, Politics, Property, Value theory
Notable ideas Egoist anarchism

Johann Kaspar Schmidt (October 25, 1806 – June 26, 1856), better known as Max Stirner (the nom de plume he adopted from a schoolyard nickname he had acquired as a child because of his high brow, in German 'Stirn'), was a German philosopher, who ranks as one of the literary fathers of nihilism, existentialism, post-modernism and anarchism, especially of individualist anarchism. Stirner's main work is The Ego and Its Own, also known as The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum in German, which translates literally as The Only One and his Property). This work was first published in 1844 in Leipzig, and has since appeared in numerous editions and translations.




Max Stirner's birthplace in Bayreuth

Stirner was born in Bayreuth, Bavaria. What little is known of his life is mostly due to the Scottish born German writer John Henry Mackay, who wrote a biography of Stirner (Max Stirner - sein Leben und sein Werk), published in German in 1898 (enlarged 1910, 1914), and translated into English in 2005.

Stirner was the only child of Albert Christian Heinrich Schmidt (1769–1807) and Sophia Elenora Reinlein (1778–1839). His father died of tuberculosis on the April 19, 1807 at the age of 37. [2] In 1809 his mother remarried to Heinrich Ballerstedt, a pharmacist, and settled in West Prussian Kulm (now Chełmno, Poland).

When Stirner turned 20, he attended the University of Berlin,[2] where he studied Philology, Philosophy and Theology. He attended the lectures of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who was to become a source of inspiration for his thinking.[3] While in Berlin in 1841, Stirner participated in discussions with a group of young philosophers called "Die Freien" ("The Free"), and whom historians have subsequently categorized as the Young Hegelians. Some of the best known names in 19th century literature and philosophy were members of this discussion group, including Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Arnold Ruge. While some of the Young Hegelians were eager subscribers to Hegel's dialectical method, and attempted to apply dialectical approaches to Hegel's conclusions, the left wing members of the group broke with Hegel. Feuerbach and Bauer led this charge.

Frequently the debates would take place at Hippel's, a wine bar in Friedrichstraße, attended by, among others, the young Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, at that time still adherents of Feuerbach. Stirner met Engels many times and Engels even recalled that they were "great friends",[4] but it is still unclear whether Marx and Stirner ever met. It does not appear that Stirner contributed much to the discussions but was a faithful member of the club and an attentive listener. [5]

Cover of Max Stirner - His Life and Work (English translation) by John Henry Mackay.

The most-often reproduced portrait of Stirner is a cartoon by Engels, drawn 40 years later from memory on the request of Stirner's biographer, John Henry Mackay.

Stirner worked as a schoolteacher in a gymnasium for young girls owned by Madame Gropius [6] when he wrote his major work, The Ego and Its Own, which in part is a polemic against the leading Young Hegelians Ludwig Feuerbach and Bruno Bauer, but also against communists such as Wilhelm Weitling and the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. He resigned from his teaching position in anticipation of the controversy arising from his major work's publication in October 1844.

Stirner married twice; his first wife was a household servant, with whom he fell in love at an early age. Soon after their marriage, she died due to complications with pregnancy in 1838. In 1843 he married Marie Dähnhardt, an intellectual associated with Die Freien. They divorced in 1846. The Ego and Its Own was dedicated "to my sweetheart Marie Dähnhardt". Marie later converted to Catholicism and died in 1902 in London. Stirner planned and financed (with Marie's inheritance) an attempt by some Young Hegelians to own and operate a milk-shop on co-operative principles. This enterprise failed partly because the dairy farmers were suspicious of these well-dressed intellectuals. The milk shop was also so well decorated that most of the potential customers felt too poorly dressed to buy their milk there.

After The Ego and Its Own, Stirner wrote Stirner's Critics and translated Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Jean-Baptiste Say's Traite d'Economie Politique into German, to little financial gain. He also wrote a compilation of texts titled History of Reaction in 1852. Stirner died in 1856 in Berlin from an infected insect bite; it is said that Bruno Bauer was the only Young Hegelian present at his funeral, which was held at the Friedhof II der Sophiengemeinde Berlin.


Caricature of Max Stirner taken from a sketch by Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895) of the meetings of "Die Freien".

Stirner's claim that the state is an illegitimate institution has made him an influence upon the anarchist tradition; his thought is often seen as a form of individualist anarchism. Stirner however does not identify himself as an anarchist, and includes anarchists among the parties subject to his criticism.

Stirner mocks revolution in the traditional sense as tacitly statist. David Leopold's conclusion (in his introduction to the Cambridge University Press edition) is that Stirner "...saw humankind as 'fretted in dark superstition' but denied that he sought their enlightenment and welfare" (Ibidem, p. xxxii).

As with the Classical Skeptics, Stirner's method of self-liberation is opposed to faith or belief; life is free from "dogmatic presuppositions" [7] or any "fixed standpoint". [8] It is not merely Christian dogma but also a variety of European atheist ideologies that are condemned as crypto-Christian for putting ideas in an equivalent role.

What Stirner proposes is not that concepts should rule people, but that people should rule concepts. The denial of absolute truth is rooted in Stirner's the "nothingness" of the self. Stirner presents a detached life of non-dogmatic, open-minded engagement with the world "as it is" (unpolluted by "faith", Christian or humanist), coupled with the awareness that there is no soul, no personal essence of any kind.

Because I cannot grasp the moon, is it therefore sacred to me, an Astarte? If I could only grasp you, I surely would, and, if I could only find a means to get up to you, you shall not frighten me! You inapprehensible one, you shall remain inapprehensible to me only until I have acquired the might for apprehension and call you my own; I do not give myself up before you, but only bide my time. Even if for the present I put up with my inability to touch you, I yet remember it against you.

Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own

Hegel's influence

Scholars such as Karl Löwith and Lawrence Stepelevich have argued that Hegel was a major influence on The Ego and Its Own.[citation needed] Stepelevich argues that while The Ego and its Own evidently has an "un-Hegelian structure and tone to the work as a whole", as well as being fundamentally hostile to Hegel's conclusions about the self and the world, this does not mean that Hegel had no effect on Stirner.

To go beyond and against Hegel in true dialectical fashion is in some way continuing Hegel's project, and Stepelevich argues that this effort of Stirner's is, in fact, a completion of Hegel's project[citation needed]. Stepelevich concludes his argument referring to Jean Hyppolite, who in summing up the intention of Hegel's Phenomenology, stated: "The history of the world is finished; all that is needed is for the specific individual to rediscover it in himself."


The False Principle of our Education

In 1842 Das unwahre Prinzip unserer Erziehung (The False Principle of our Education) or Humanism and Realism, was published in Rheinische Zeitung, which was edited by Marx at the time.[9] Written as a reaction to Otto Friedrich Theodor Heinsius' treatise Humanism vs. Realism. Stirner explains that education in either the classical humanist method or the practical realist method still lacks true value. Education is fulfilled in aiding the individual in becoming an individual.

Art and Religion

Art and Religion was also Published in Rheinische Zeitung in 1842 while Marx was editor. It addresses Bauer and his publication against Hegel called Hegel's doctrine of religion and art judged from the standpoint of faith.

The Ego and Its Own

Stirner's main work is The Ego and Its Own (org. 'Der Einzige und sein Eigentum'; according to the contemporary German spelling 'Der Einzige und sein Eigenthum'), which appeared in Leipzig in 1845, with as year of publication mentioned "1844". In The Ego and Its Own, Stirner launches a radical anti-authoritarian and individualist critique of contemporary Prussian society, and modern western society as such. He offers an approach to human existence which depicts the self as a creative non-entity, beyond language and reality.

The book proclaims that all religions and ideologies rest on empty concepts. The same holds true for society's institutions, that claim authority over the individual, be it the state, legislation, the church, or the systems of education such as Universities.

Stirner's argument explores and extends the limits of Hegelian criticism, aiming his critique especially at those of his contemporaries, particularly Ludwig Feuerbach. And popular ideologies, including nationalism, statism, liberalism, socialism, communism and humanism.

In the time of spirits thoughts grew till they overtopped my head, whose offspring they yet were; they hovered about me and convulsed me like fever-phantasies — an awful power. The thoughts had become corporeal on their own account, were ghosts, e. g. God, Emperor, Pope, Fatherland, etc. If I destroy their corporeity, then I take them back into mine, and say: "I alone am corporeal." And now I take the world as what it is to me, as mine, as my property; I refer all to myself.

Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own, p 15.

Stirner's Critics

Recensenten Stirners (Stirner's Critics) was published in September 1845 in Wigands Vierteljahrsschrift. It is a response to three critical reviews of The Ego and its Own by Moses Hess in Die letzten Philosophen (The Last Philosophers), by a certain „Szeliga“ in an article in the journal Norddeutsche Blätter, and by Feuerbach anonymously in an article called Über 'Das Wesen des Christentums' in Beziehung auf Stirners 'Der Einzige und sein Eigentum' (On 'The Essence of Christianity' in Relation to Stirner's 'The Ego and its Own' ) in Wigands Vierteljahrsschrift.

History of Reaction

Geschichte der Reaction (History of Reaction) was published in two volumes in 1851 by Allgemeine Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt and immediately banned in Austria.[2] It was written in the context of the recent 1848 revolutions in German states and is mainly a collection of the works of others selected and translated by Stirner. The introduction and some additional passages were Stirner's work. Edmund Burke and Auguste Comte are quoted to show two opposing views of revolution.

Critical reception

Stirner's work did not go unnoticed among his contemporaries. Stirner's attacks on ideology — in particular Feuerbach's humanism — forced Feuerbach into print. Moses Hess (at that time close to Marx) and Szeliga (pseudonym of Franz Zychlin von Zychlinski, an adherent of Bruno Bauer) also replied to Stirner. Stirner answered the criticism in a German periodical, in the article Stirner's Critics (org. Recensenten Stirners, September 1845), which clarifies several points of interest to readers of the book—especially in relation to Feuerbach.

While The German Ideology so assured The Ego and Its Own a place of curious interest among Marxist readers, Marx's ridicule of Stirner has played a significant role in the subsequent marginalization of Stirner's work, in popular and academic discourse.


While Der Einzige was a critical success and attracted much reaction from famous philosophers after publication, it was out of print and the notoriety it had provoked had faded many years before Stirner's death.[10] Stirner had a destructive impact on left-Hegelianism, though his philosophy was a significant influence on Marx and his magnum opus became a founding text of individualist anarchism.[10] Edmund Husserl once warned a small audience about the "seducing power" of Der Einzige, but never mentioned it in his writing.[11] As the art critic and Stirner admirer Herbert Read observed, the book has remained "stuck in the gizzard" of Western culture since it first appeared. [12]

Many thinkers have read, and been affected by The Ego and Its Own in their youth including Rudolf Steiner, Gustav Landauer, Victor Serge[13], Carl Schmitt and Jürgen Habermas. Few openly admit any influence on their own thinking. [14] Ernst Jünger's book Eumeswil, had the character of the "Anarch", based on Stirner's "Einzige." [15] Several other authors, philosophers and artists have cited, quoted or otherwise referred to Max Stirner. They include Albert Camus in The Rebel (the section on Stirner is omitted from the majority of English editions including Penguin's) , Benjamin Tucker, James Huneker, [16] Dora Marsden, Renzo Novatore, Emma Goldman,[17] Georg Brandes, John Cowper Powys,[18] Martin Buber, [19],Sidney Hook[20], Robert Anton Wilson, Italian individualist anarchist Frank Brand, Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand,[21] the notorious antiartist Marcel Duchamp, several writers of the Situationist International, and Max Ernst, who titled a 1925 painting L'unique et sa propriété. Years before rising to power, Benito Mussolini was inspired by Stirner, and made several references to him in his newspaper articles. The similarities in style between The Ego and Its Own and Oscar Wilde's The Soul of Man Under Socialism have caused some historians to speculate that Wilde (who could read German) was familiar with the book.[22]

Since its appearance in 1844, The Ego and Its Own has seen periodic revivals of popular, political and academic interest, based around widely divergent translations and interpretations — some psychological, others political in their emphasis. Today, many ideas associated with post-left anarchy's criticism of ideology and uncompromising individualism are clearly related to Stirner's. He has also been regarded as pioneering individualist feminism, since his objection to any absolute concept also clearly counts gender roles as "spooks". His ideas were also adopted by post-anarchism, with Saul Newman largely in agreement with many of Stirner's criticisms of classical anarchism, including his rejection of revolution and essentialism.

Marx and Engels

Caricature by Friedrich Engels (1820 - 1895) of the meetings of "Die Freien"

Engels commented on Stirner in poetry at the time of Die Freien:

Look at Stirner, look at him, the peaceful enemy of all constraint.
For the moment, he is still drinking beer,
Soon he will be drinking blood as though it were water.
When others cry savagely "down with the kings"
Stirner immediately supplements "down with the laws also."
Stirner full of dignity proclaims;
You bend your willpower and you dare to call yourselves free.
You become accustomed to slavery
Down with dogmatism, down with law.[23]

He once even recalled at how they were "great friends (Duzbrüder)".[4] In November 1844, Engels wrote a letter to Marx. He reported first on a visit to Moses Hess in Cologne, and then went on to note that during this visit Hess had given him a press copy of a new book by Max Stirner, Der Einzige und Sein Eigenthum. In his letter to Marx, Engels promised to send a copy of Der Einzige to him, for it certainly deserved their attention, as Stirner: "had obviously, among the 'Free Ones', the most talent, independence and diligence".[4] To begin with Engels was enthusiastic about the book, and expressed his opinions freely in letters to Marx:

But what is true in his principle, we, too, must accept. And what is true is that before we can be active in any cause we must make it our own, egoistic cause-and that in this sense, quite aside from any material expectations, we are communists in virtue of our egoism, that out of egoism we want to be human beings and not merely individuals."[24]

Later, Marx and Engels wrote a major criticism of Stirner's work. The number of pages Marx and Engels devote to attacking Stirner in (the unexpurgated text of) The German Ideology exceeds the total of Stirner's written works. As Isaiah Berlin has described it, Stirner "is pursued through five hundred pages of heavy-handed mockery and insult".[25] The book was written in 1845–1846, but not published until 1932. Marx's lengthy, ferocious polemic against Stirner has since been considered an important turning point in Marx's intellectual development from idealism to materialism.

Stirner and post-structuralism

Saul Newman calls Stirner a proto-poststructuralist who on the one hand had essentially anticipated modern post-structuralists such as Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, and Derrida, but on the other had already transcended them, thus providing what they were unable to: a ground for a non-essentialist critique of present liberal capitalist society. This is particularly evident in Stirner's identification of the self with a "creative nothing", a thing that cannot be bound by ideology, inaccessible to representation in language.

Possible influence on Nietzsche

The ideas of Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche have often been compared, and many authors have discussed apparent similarities in their writings, sometimes raising the question of influence.[26] In Germany, during the early years of Nietzsche's emergence as a well-known figure, the only thinker discussed in connection with his ideas more often than Stirner was Schopenhauer.[27] It is certain that Nietzsche read about Stirner's most important book The Ego and Its Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum), which was mentioned in Lange's History of Materialism and Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious, both of which Nietzsche knew well.[28] However, there is no indication that he actually read it, as no mention of Stirner is known to exist anywhere in Nietzsche's publications, papers or correspondence.[29] Recently a biographical discovery made it probable that Nietzsche had encountered Stirner's ideas before he read Hartmann and Lange, in October 1865, when he met with Eduard Mushacke, an old friend of Stirner's during the 1840s. [30]

And yet as soon as Nietzsche's work began to reach a wider audience the question of whether or not he owed a debt of influence to Stirner was raised. As early as 1891 (while Nietzsche was still alive, though incapacitated by mental illness) Eduard von Hartmann went so far as to suggest that he had plagiarized Stirner.[31] By the turn of the century the belief that Nietzsche had been influenced by Stirner was so widespread that it became something of a commonplace, at least in Germany, prompting one observer to note in 1907 "Stirner's influence in modern Germany has assumed astonishing proportions, and moves in general parallel with that of Nietzsche. The two thinkers are regarded as exponents of essentially the same philosophy."[32]

Nevertheless, from the very beginning of what was characterized as "great debate"[33] regarding Stirner's possible positive influence on Nietzsche, serious problems with the idea were noted.[34] By the middle of the 20th century, if Stirner was mentioned at all in works on Nietzsche, the idea of influence was often dismissed outright or abandoned as unanswerable.[35]

But the idea that Nietzsche was influenced in some way by Stirner continues to attract a significant minority, perhaps because it seems necessary to explain in some reasonable fashion the often-noted (though arguably superficial) similarities in their writings.[36] In any case, the most significant problems with the theory of possible Stirner influence on Nietzsche are not limited to the difficulty in establishing whether the one man knew of or read the other. They also consist in establishing precisely how and why Stirner in particular might have been a meaningful influence on a man as widely read as Nietzsche.[37]

Rudolf Steiner

The individualist-anarchist orientation of Rudolf Steiner's early philosophy – before he turned to theosophy around 1900 – has strong parallels to, and was admittedly influenced by Stirner's conception of the ego, for which Steiner claimed to have provided a philosophical foundation.[38]


Stirner´s philosophy is important in anarchism. Usually Stirner within anarchism is associated with individualist anarchism but he found admiration in mainstream social anarchists such as anarcha-feminists Emma Goldman and Federica Montseny (both also admired Friedrich Nietzsche). As such in european individualist anarchism he influenced its main proponents after him such as Emile Armand, Han Ryner, Renzo Novatore, John Henry Mackay, Miguel Giménez Igualada and Lev Chernyi.

In american individualist anarchism he found adherence in Benjamin Tucker and his magazine Liberty while these abandoned natural rights positions for egoism[39]. "Several periodicals were undoubtedly influenced by Liberty's presentation of egoism. They included: I published by C.L. Swartz, edited by W.E. Gordak and J.W. Lloyd (all associates of Liberty); The Ego and The Egoist, both of which were edited by Edward H. Fulton. Among the egoist papers that Tucker followed were the German Der Eigene, edited by Adolf Brand, and The Eagle and The Serpent, issued from London. The latter, the most prominent English-language egoist journal, was published from 1898 to 1900 with the subtitle “A Journal of Egoistic Philosophy and Sociology”"[39]. Other american egoist anarchists around the early 20th century include James L. Walker, George Schumm and John Beverley Robinson, Steven T. Byington and E.H. Fulton[39].

In the United Kingdom Herbert Read was influenced by Stirner. Later in the 1960s Daniel Guerin in Anarchism: From Theory to Practice says that Stirner "rehabilitated the individual at a time when the philosophical field was dominated by Hegelian anti-individualism and most reformers in the social field had been led by the misdeeds of bourgeois egotism to stress its opposite" and pointed to "the boldness and scope of his thought."[40] In the seventies an american situationist collective called For Ourselves published a book called The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything in which they advocate a "communist egoism" basing themselves on Stirner[41].

Later in the USA emerged the tendency of post-left anarchy which was influenced profundly by Stirner in aspects such as the critique of ideology. Jason McQuinn says that "when I (and other anti-ideological anarchists) criticize ideology, it is always from a specifically critical, anarchist perspective rooted in both the skeptical, individualist-anarchist philosophy of Max Stirner[42]. Also Bob Black and Feral Faun/Wolfi Landstreicher strongly adhere to stirnerist egoism. In the hybrid of post-structuralism and Anarchism called post-anarchism Saul Newman has written on Stirner and his similarities to post-structuralism. Insurrectionary anarchism also has an important relationship with Stirner as can be seen in the work of Wolfi Landstreicher and Alfredo Bonanno who has also written on him in works such as Max Stirner and "Max Stirner und der Anarchismus"[43]

Comments by contemporaries

Twenty years after the appearance of Stirner's book, the author Friedrich Albert Lange wrote the following:

Stirner went so far in his notorious work, 'Der Einzige und Sein Eigenthum' (1845), as to reject all moral ideas. Everything that in any way, whether it be external force, belief, or mere idea, places itself above the individual and his caprice, Stirner rejects as a hateful limitation of himself. What a pity that to this book — the extremest that we know anywhere — a second positive part was not added. It would have been easier than in the case of Schelling's philosophy; for out of the unlimited Ego I can again beget every kind of Idealism as my will and my idea. Stirner lays so much stress upon the will, in fact, that it appears as the root force of human nature. It may remind us of Schopenhauer.

History of Materialism, ii. 256 (1865)

Some people think that, in a sense, a "second positive part" was soon to be added, though not by Stirner, but by Friedrich Nietzsche. The relationship between Nietzsche and Stirner seems to be much more complicated. [44] According to George J. Stack's Lange and Nietzsche[45], Nietzsche read Lange's History of Materialism "again and again" and was therefore very familiar with the passage regarding Stirner.


  1. ^ The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volume 8, The Macmillan Company and The Free Press, New York 1967.
  2. ^ a b c John Henry Mackay: Max Stirner -- Sein Leben und sein Werk p.28
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, volume 8, The Macmillan Company and The Free Press, New York 1967.
  4. ^ a b c Lawrence L Stepelevich, The revival of Max Stirner
  5. ^ Gide, Charles & Rist, Charles. A History of Economic Doctrines from the Time of the Physiocrats to the Present Day. Harrap 1956, p. 612
  6. ^ The Encyclopedia of Philsosophy, volume 8, The Macmillan Company and The Free Press, New York 1967
  7. ^ p. 135, 309
  8. ^ p. 295
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, The Macmillan company Press, New York, 1967
  10. ^ a b "Max Stirner" article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  11. ^ Max Stirner, a durable dissident - in a nutshell
  12. ^ Quoted in Read’s book, “The Contrary Experience”, Faber and Faber, 1963.
  13. ^ See Memoirs of a revolutionary, 1901-1941 by Victor Serge. Publisher Oxford U.P., 1967
  14. ^ See Bernd A. Laska: Ein dauerhafter Dissident. Nürnberg: LSR-Verlag 1996 (online)
  15. ^ See Bernd A. Laska: Katechon und Anarch. Nürnberg: LSR-Verlag 1997 (online)
  16. ^ Huneker's book Egoists, a Book of Supermen (1909)contains an essay on Stirner.
  17. ^ See Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays, p. 50.
  18. ^ World of books - Telegraph
  19. ^ Between Man and Man by Martin Buber,Beacon Press, 1955.
  20. ^ From Hegel to Marx by Sidney Hook, London, 1936.
  21. ^ See "The Letters of Ayn Rand," pg. 176, Dutton, 1995.
  22. ^ David Goodway, Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow, Liverpool University Press, 2006 (pg.75).
  23. ^ Henri Arvon, Aux sources de 1'existentialisme Max Stirner (Paris, 1954), p. 14
  24. ^ Zwischen 18 and 25, pp. 237-238.
  25. ^ I. Berlin, Karl Marx (New York, 1963), 143.
  26. ^ Albert Levy, Stirner and Nietzsche, Paris, 1904; Robert Schellwien, Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche, 1892; H.L. Mencken, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1908; K. Löwith, From Hegel To Nietzsche New York, 1964, p187; R.A. Nicholls, "Beginnings of the Nietzsche Vogue in Germany", in Modern Philology, Vol. 56, No. 1, Aug., 1958, pp. 24-37; T. A. Riley, "Anti-Statism in German Literature, as Exemplified by the Work of John Henry Mackay", in PMLA, Vol. 62, No. 3, Sep., 1947, pp. 828-843; Seth Taylor, Left Wing Nietzscheans, The Politics of German Expressionism 1910-1920, p144, 1990, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York; Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche et la Philosophy, Presses Universitaires de France, 1962; R. C. Solomon & K. M. Higgins, The Age of German Idealism, p300, Routledge, 1993
  27. ^ While discussion of possible influence has never ceased entirely, the period of most intense discussion occurred between 1892 and 1900 in the German-speaking world. During this time, the most comprehensive account of Nietzsche's reception in the German language, the 4 volume work of Richard Frank Krummel: Nietzsche und der deutsche Geist indicates 83 entries discussing Stirner and Nietzsche. The only thinker more frequently discussed in connection with Nietzsche during this time is Schopenhauer, with about twice the number of entries. Discussion steadily declines thereafter, but is still significant. Nietzsche and Stirner show 58 entries between 1901 and 1918. From 1919 to 1945 there are 28 entries regarding Nietzsche and Stirner.
  28. ^ "Apart from the information which can be gained from the annotations, the library (and the books Nietzsche read) shows us the extent, and the bias, of Nietzsche's knowledge of many fields, such as evolution and cosmology. Still more obvious, the library shows us the extent and the bias of Nietzsche's knowledge about many persons to whom he so often refers with ad hominem statements in his published works. This includes not only such important figures a Mill, Kant, and Pascal but also such minor ones (for Nietzsche) as Max Stirner and William James who are both discussed in books Nietzsche read." T. H. Brobjer, "Nietzsche's Reading and Private Library", 1885-1889, in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 58, No. 4, Oct., 1997, pp. 663-693; Stack believes it is doubtful that Nietzsche read Stirner, but notes "he was familiar with the summary of his theory he found in Lange's history." George J. Stack, Lange and Nietzsche, Walter de Gruyter, 1983, p 276
  29. ^ Albert Levy, Stirner and Nietzsche, Paris, 1904
  30. ^ Bernd A. Laska: Nietzsche's initial crisis. In: Germanic Notes and Reviews, vol. 33, n. 2, fall/Herbst 2002, pp. 109-133
  31. ^ Eduard von Hartmann, Nietzsches "neue Moral", in Preussische Jahrbücher, 67. Jg., Heft 5, Mai 1891, S. 501-521; augmented version with more express reproach of plagiarism in: Ethische Studien, Leipzig, Haacke 1898, pp. 34-69
  32. ^ This author believes that one should be careful in comparing the two men. However, he notes: "It is this intensive nuance of individualism that appeared to point from Nietzsche to Max Stirner, the author of the remarkable work Der Einzige und sein Eigentum. Stirner's influence in modern Germany has assumed astonishing proportions, and moves in general parallel with that of Nietzsche. The two thinkers are regarded as exponents of essentially the same philosophy." O. Ewald, "German Philosophy in 1907", in The Philosophical Review, Vol. 17, No. 4, Jul., 1908, pp. 400-426
  33. ^ [in the last years of the 19th century] "The question of whether Nietzsche had read Stirner was the subject of great debate" R.A. Nicholls, "Beginnings of the Nietzsche Vogue in Germany", in Modern Philology, Vol. 56, No. 1, Aug., 1958, pp. 29-30
  34. ^ Levy pointed out in 1904 that the similarities in the writing of the two men appeared superficial. Albert Levy, Stirner and Nietzsche, Paris, 1904
  35. ^ R.A. Nicholls, "Beginnings of the Nietzsche Vogue in Germany", in Modern Philology, Vol. 56, No. 1, Aug., 1958, pp. 24-37
  36. ^ "Stirner, like Nietzsche, who was clearly influenced by him, has been interpreted in many different ways", Saul Newman, From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power, Lexington Books, 2001, p 56; "We do not even know for sure that Nietzsche had read Stirner. Yet, the similarities are too striking to be explained away." R. A. Samek, The Meta Phenomenon, p70, New York, 1981; Tom Goyens, (referring to Stirner's book The Ego and His Own) "The book influenced Friedrich Nietzsche, and even Marx and Engels devoted some attention to it." T. Goyens, Beer and Revolution: The German Anarchist Movement In New York City, p197, Illinois, 2007
  37. ^ "We have every reason to suppose that Nietzsche had a profound knowledge of the Hegelian movement, from Hegel to Stirner himself. The philosophical learning of an author is not assessed by the number of quotations, nor by the always fanciful and conjectural check lists of libraries, but by the apologetic or polemical directions of his work itself." Gilles Deleuze (translated by Hugh Tomlinson), Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1962 (2006 reprint, pp. 153-154)
  38. ^ Guido Giacomo Preparata, "Perishable Money in a Threefold Commenwealth: Rudolf Steiner and the Social Economics of an Anarchist Utopia". Review of Radical Economics 38/4 (Fall 2006). Pp. 619-648
  39. ^ a b c "Only the influence of the German philosopher of egoism, Max Stirner (nè Johann Kaspar Schmidt, 1806–1856), as expressed through The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum) compared with that of Proudhon. In adopting Stirnerite egoism (1886), Tucker rejected natural rights which had long been considered the foundation of libertarianism. This rejection galvanized the movement into fierce debates, with the natural rights proponents accusing the egoists of destroying libertarianism itself. So bitter was the conflict that a number of natural rights proponents withdrew from the pages of Liberty in protest even though they had hitherto been among its frequent contributors. Thereafter, Liberty championed egoism although its general content did not change significantly."Wendy Mcelroy. "Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, & Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order"
  40. ^ Daniel Guerin,Anarchism: From Theory to Practice
  41. ^ Four Ourselves, The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything
  42. ^ "What is Ideology?" by Jason McQuinn
  43. ^ BONANNO, Alfredo Maria
  44. ^ See Bernd A. Laska: Nietzsche's initial crisis. In: Germanic Notes and Reviews, vol. 33, n. 2, fall/Herbst 2002, pp. 109-133
  45. ^ George J. Stack, Lange and Nietzsche, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, 1983, p. 12, ISBN 3-11-00866-5

See also


Further reading

External links


Relationship with other philosophers


Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed

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Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed
Anarchy magazine logo
Type Political philosophy
Format bi-annual
Publisher Columbia Anarchist League
Editor Jason McQuinn
Founded 1980
Political alignment Anarchism
Language English
Headquarters Berkeley, California
ISSN 1044-1387
OCLC 11733794
Official website

Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed is a North American anarchist magazine, and is one of the most popular anarchist publications in North America. It could be described as a general interest and critical, non-ideological anarchist journal. It was founded by members of the Columbia Anarchist League of Columbia, Missouri, and continued to be published there for nearly fifteen years, eventually under the sole editorial control of Jason McQuinn (who initially used the pseudonym "Lev Chernyi"), before briefly moving to New York City in 1995 to be published by members of the Autonomedia collective. The demise of independent distributor Fine Print nearly killed the magazine, necessitating its return to the Columbia collective after just two issues. It remained in Columbia from 1997 to 2006. As of 2006 it is published bi-annually by a group based in Berkeley, California.[1][2] The magazine accepts no advertising. It has serially published two book-length works, The Papalagi and Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life.

Perspective and contributors

The magazine is noted for spearheading the Post-left anarchy critique ("beyond the confines of ideology"), as articulated by such writers as Lawrence Jarach, John Zerzan, Bob Black, and Wolfi Landstreicher (formerly Feral Faun/Feral Ranter among other noms de plume). Zerzan is now best known as the foremost proponent of anarcho-primitivism. The magazine has been open to publishing the primitivists, which has caused leftist critics and academics like Ruth Kinna (editor of Anarchist Studies) to classify the magazine as primitivist, but McQuinn, Jarach and others have published critiques of primitivism there. Bob Black is best known for "The Abolition of Work" (1985), a widely reprinted and translated essay (first widely circulated, in fact, as an insert in Anarchy in 1986[citation needed]), but for Anarchy he has mainly contributed critiques of leftists and anarcho-leftists such as Ward Churchill, Fred Woodworth, Chaz Bufe, Murray Bookchin, the Platformists and most recently AK Press. Wolfi Landstreicher now writes from the "insurrectionalist" perspective of Renzo Novatore and Alfredo Bonanno (he has translated both) which combines a sympathy for generalized, spontaneous, unmediated uprising with the egoism of Max Stirner.


  1. ^ Feeney, Mary K. (November 22, 2001). "Voices You May Not Want to Hear". Hartford Courant. 
  2. ^ "Embattled prof files complaint against himself". MSNBC. Associated Press. July 1, 2005. 

External links

Green Anarchy

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Green Anarchy
Type Political philosophy
Format Biannual magazine
Owner n/a
Founded 2000
Political alignment Anarcho-primitivism
Language English
Headquarters Eugene, Oregon
Official website

Green Anarchy is a magazine published by a collective located in Eugene, Oregon. The magazine's focus is on primitivism, post-left anarchy, radical environmentalism, anarchist resistance, indigenous resistance, earth and animal liberation, anti-capitalism and supporting political prisoners. It has a circulation of 8,000.[1]

The subtitle of the magazine is "An Anti-Civilization Journal of Theory and Action".

According to their web site,[2] Green Anarchy was established in the summer of 2000 by one of the founders of Green Anarchist, "a similar, yet more rudimentary, publication from the United Kingdom" and "began as a basic introduction to eco-anarchist and radical environmental ideas, but after a year of limited success, members of the current collective took on the project with an enthusiastic trajectory."

Author John Zerzan is currently one of the publication's editors.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Green Anarchy

External links

Charles Fourier

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François Marie Charles Fourier

François Marie Charles Fourier (7 April 1772 – 10 October 1837) was a French utopian socialist and philosopher. Fourier is credited by modern scholars with having originated the word féminisme in 1837;[1] as early as 1808, he had argued, in the Theory of the Four Movements, that the extension of the liberty of women was the general principle of all social progress, though he disdained any attachment to a discourse of 'equal rights'. Fourier inspired the founding of the communist community called La Reunion near present-day Dallas, Texas as well as several other communities within the United States of America, such as the North American Phalanx in New Jersey and Community Place and five others in New York State.




Fourier was born in Besançon on April 7, 1772.[2] Born a son of a small businessman, Fourier was more interested in architecture than he was in his father's trade.[2] In fact, he wanted to become an engineer, but since the local Military Engineering School only accepted sons of noblemen, he was automatically ineligible for it.[2] Fourier later was grateful that he did not pursue engineering, for he stated that it would have consumed too much of his time and taken away from his true desire to help humanity.[3] In July 1781 after his father’s death, Fourier received two-fifths of his father’s estate, valued at more than 200,000 francs.[4] This sudden wealth enabled Fourier the freedom to travel throughout Europe at his leisure. In 1791 he moved from Besançon to Lyon, where he was employed by the merchant M. Bousqnet.[5] Fourier's travels also brought him to Paris where he worked as the head of the Office of Statistics for a few months..[2] Fourier was not satisfied with making journeys on behalf of others for their commercial benefit.[6] Having a desire to seek knowledge in everything he could, Fourier often would change business firms as well as residences in order to explore and experience new things. From 1791 to 1816 Fourier was employed in the cities of Paris, Rouen, Lyon, Marseille, and Bordeaux.[7] As a traveling salesman and correspondence clerk, his research and thought was time-limited: he complained of "serving the knavery of merchants" and the stupefaction of "deceitful and degrading duties". A modest legacy set him up as a writer. He had three main sources for his thought: people he had met as a traveling salesman, newspapers, and introspection. His first book was published in 1808.

In April 1834, Fourier moved into a Paris apartment where he later died in October 1837.[8]

On October 11, 1837 at three o’clock in the afternoon, Fourier’s funeral procession began from his home to the church of the Petits-Peres.[9] The ceremony was attended by over four hundred people from all trades and backgrounds.[9]


Perspective view of Fourier's Phalanstère

Fourier declared that concern and cooperation were the secrets of social success. He believed that a society that cooperated would see an immense improvement in their productivity levels. Workers would be recompensed for their labors according to their contribution. Fourier saw such cooperation occurring in communities he called "phalanxes," based around structures called Phalanstères or "grand hotels." These buildings were four level apartment complexes where the richest had the uppermost apartments and the poorest enjoyed a ground floor residence. Wealth was determined by one's job; jobs were assigned based on the interests and desires of the individual. There were incentives: jobs people might not enjoy doing would receive higher pay. Fourier considered trade, which he associated with Jews, to be the "source of all evil" and advocated that Jews be forced to perform farm work in the phalansteries.[10]

Fourier characterized poverty (not inequality) as the principal cause of disorder in society, and he proposed to eradicate it by sufficiently high wages and by a "decent minimum" for those who were not able to work.[11]

He believed that there were twelve common passions which resulted in 810 types of character, so the ideal phalanx would have exactly 1620 people. One day there would be six million of these, loosely ruled by a world "omniarch", or (later) a World Congress of Phalanxes. He had a touching concern for the sexually rejected–jilted suitors would be led away by a corps of "fairies" who would soon cure them of their lovesickness, and visitors could consult the card-index of personality types for suitable partners for casual sex. He also defended homosexuality as a personal preference for some people.

Fourier was also a supporter of women's rights in a time period where influences like Jean-Jacques Rousseau were prevalent. Fourier believed that all important jobs should be open to women on the basis of skill and aptitude rather than closed on account of gender. He spoke of women as individuals, not as half the human couple. Fourier saw that “traditional” marriage could potentially hurt woman's rights as human beings and thus never married.[12]

Fourier's concern was to liberate every human individual, man, woman, and child, in two senses: Education and the liberation of human passion.[13]

On Education, Fourier felt that "civilized" parents and teachers saw children as little idlers.[14] Fourier felt that this way of thinking was wrong. He felt that children as early as age two and three were very industrious. He listed the dominant tastes in all children to include, but not limited to:

  1. Rummaging or inclination to handle everything, examine everything, look through everything, to constantly change occupations;
  2. Industrial commotion, taste for noisy occupations;
  3. Aping or imitative mania.
  4. Industrial miniature, a taste for miniature workshops.
  5. Progressive attraction of the weak toward the strong.[14]

Fourier was deeply disturbed by the disorder of his time and wanted to stabilize the course of events which surrounded him. Fourier saw his fellow human beings living in a world full of strife, chaos, and disorder.[15]

Fourier is best remembered for his writings on a new world order based on unity of action and harmonious collaboration.[2] He is also known for certain Utopian pronouncements, such as that the seas would lose their salinity and turn to lemonade, and in a prescient view of climate change, that the North Pole would be milder than the Mediterranean in a future phase of Perfect Harmony.[14]


The influence of Fourier's ideas in French politics was carried forward into the 1848 Revolution and the Paris Commune by followers such as Victor Considérant.

Numerous references to Fourierism appear in Dostoevsky's political novel The Possessed first published in 1872. In it Fourierism is used by the revolutionary faithful as something of an insult to their brethren and those within the circle are quick to defend themselves from being labeled a Fourierist. Whether this is because it is a foreign ideology or because they believe it to be archaic is never made entirely clear.

Fourier's ideas also took root in America, with his followers starting phalanxes throughout the country, including one of the most famous, Utopia, Ohio.

Kent Bromley, in his preface to Peter Kropotkin's book The Conquest of Bread, considered Fourier to be the founder of the libertarian branch of socialist thought, as opposed to the authoritarian socialist ideas of Babeuf and Buonarroti.[16]

In the mid-20th century, Fourier's influence began to rise again among writers reappraising socialist ideas outside the Marxist mainstream. After the Surrealists had broken with the French Communist Party, André Breton returned to Fourier, writing Ode à Charles Fourier in 1947.

Walter Benjamin considered Fourier crucial enough to devote an entire "konvolut" of his massive, projected book on the Paris arcades, the Passagenwerk, to Fourier's thought and influence. He writes: "To have instituted play as the canon of a labor no longer rooted in exploitation is one of the great merits of Fourier," and notes that "Only in the summery middle of the nineteenth century, only under its sun, can one conceive of Fourier's fantasy materialized."

In 1969, the Situationists quoted and adapted Fourier's Avis aux civilisés relativement à la prochaine métamorphose sociale in their text Avis aux civilisés relativement à l'autogestion généralisée.

Contemporary influence

North American Phalanx building in New Jersey

Fourier's work has significantly influenced the writings of Gustav Wyneken, Guy Davenport (in his work of fiction Apples and Pears), Peter Lamborn Wilson, and Paul Goodman.

In Whit Stillman's film Metropolitan, idealist Tom describes himself as a Fourierist, and debates the success of social experiment Brook Farm with another of the characters.

David Harvey, in the appendix to his book Spaces of Hope, offers a personal utopian vision of the future much like Fourier's ideas.

See also


Fourier's works

On Fourier and his works

On Fourierism and his posthumous influence


  1. ^ Goldstein 1982, p.92.
  2. ^ a b c d e Serenyi 1967, p.278.
  3. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.14.
  4. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.7.
  5. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.236.
  6. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.15.
  7. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.235-236.
  8. ^ Pellarin 1846, p.236.
  9. ^ a b Pellarin 1846, p.213.
  10. ^ Roberts, Richard H. 1995. Religion and the Transformations of Capitalism: Comparative Approaches. Routledge. pp 90
  11. ^ Cunliffe 2001, p.461.
  12. ^ Denslow 1880, p.172.
  13. ^ Goldstein 1982, p.98.
  14. ^ a b c Charles Fourier, 1772-1837 -- Selections from his Writings Retrieved November 25, 2007
  15. ^ Serenyi 1967, p.279.
  16. ^ Kropotkin, Peter. The Conquest of Bread, preface by Kent Bromley, New York and London, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906.

External links

Radical environmentalism

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Radical environmentalism, is a grassroots branch of the larger environmental movement that emerged out of an ecocentrism-based frustration with the co-option of mainstream environmentalism. It is the ideology behind the radical environmental movement.



As a movement


The radical environmental movement aspires to what scholar Christopher Manes calls "a new kind of environmental activism: iconoclastic, uncompromising, discontented with traditional conservation policy, at time illegal ..." Radical environmentalism presupposes a need to reconsider Western ideas of religion and philosophy (including capitalism, patriarchy[1] and globalization)[2] sometimes through "resacralising" and reconnecting with nature.[1]

The movement is typified by leaderless resistance organizations such as Earth First!, which subscribe to the idea of taking "direct action" in defense of "mother earth" including civil disobedience, ecotage and monkeywrenching.[1] Movements such as the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Earth Liberation Army (ELA) also take this form of action, although focus on economic sabotage and guerrilla warfare, rather than civil disobedience.[3] Radical environmentalists include notably earth liberationists, as well as; anarcho-primitivists, animal liberationists, bioregionalists, green anarchists, deep ecologists, ecopsychologists, ecofeminists, neo-Pagans, Wiccans, Third Positionists, anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist protesters.[1]


Groups: Environmental Life Force, Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Earth Liberation Army (ELA) Plane Stupid and Camp for Climate Action
Timeline of Animal Liberation Front actions: 1976-1999, 2000-2004 and 2005-Present
Further information: Ecotage, Monkeywrenching, Earth liberation
The symbol of Earth First!: a Monkey wrench and stone hammer.

Whilst many people believe that the first significant radical environmentalist group was Greenpeace, which made use of direct action beginning in the 1970s to confront whaling ships and nuclear weapons testers,[4] others within the movement, argues as Earth Liberation Front (ELF) prisoner Jeff "Free" Luers, suggests that the movement was established centuries ago. He often writes that the concept of "eco-defence" was born shortly after the existence of the human race, claiming it is only recently that within the modern development of human society, and individuals losing touch with the earth and its wild roots, that more radical tactics and political theories have emerged.[2][5]

The alternative tactic of using explosive and incendiary devices was then established in 1976, by John Hanna and others as the Environmental Life Force (ELF), also now known as the original ELF. The group conducted a campaign of armed actions in northern California and Oregon, later disbanding in 1978 following Hanna's arrest for placing incendiary devices on seven crop-dusters at the Salinas, California airport on May Day, 1977.[6] It wasn't until over a decade and a half later that this form of guerrilla warfare resurfaced as the Earth Liberation Front [7] using the same ELF acronym.

In 1980 Earth First! was founded by Dave Foreman and others to confront environmental destruction, primarily of the American West. Inspired by the Edward Abbey novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Earth First! made use of such techniques as treesitting[8] and treespiking[9] to stop logging companies, as well as other activities targeted towards mining, road construction,[10] suburban development and energy companies.

An ALF raid removing 82 beagles and 26 rabbits from Interfauna in Cambridge on St Patrick's Night 1990.[11]

The organization were committed to nonviolent ecotage techniques from the group's inception, with those that split from the movement in the 1990s including the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in 1992, naming themselves after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) who formed in the 1970s.[12] Three years later in Canada, inspired by the ELF in Europe the first Earth Liberation direct action occurred, but this time as the Earth Liberation Army (ELA), a similar movement who use ecotage and monkeywrenching as a tool, although no guidelines had been published.

The ELF gained national attention for a series of actions which earned them the label of eco-terrorists,[13][14] including the burning of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado in 1998, and the burning of an SUV dealership in Oregon in 1999. In the same year the ELA had made headlines by setting fire to the Vail Resorts in Washington, D.C., causing $12 million in damages.[15] The defendants in the case were later charged in the FBI's "Operation Backfire", along with other arsons and cases, which were later named by environmentalists as the Green Scare; alluding to the Red Scare, periods of fear over communist infiltration of U.S.[16][17] Following the September 11, 2001 attacks several laws were passed increasing the penalty for ecoterrorism, and hearings were held in Congress discussing the activity of groups such as the ELF. To date no one has been killed as a result of an ELF or ALF action since both groups forbid harming human or non-human life.[18] It was then announced in 2003 that "eco-terrorist" attacks, known as "ecotage", had increased from the ELF, ELA and the "Environmental Rangers", another name used be activists when engaging in similar activity.[19]

In 2005 the FBI announced that the ELF, is America's greatest domestic terrorist threat, responsible for over 1,200 "criminal incidents" amounting to tens of millions of dollars in damage to property,[20] with the United States Department of Homeland Security confirming this regarding the ALF and ELF.[21]

Plane Stupid then was launched in 2005, in an attempt to combat the growing airport expansions in the UK using direct action with a year later the first Camp for Climate Action being held with 600 people attending a protest called Reclaim Power converging on Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire and attempted to shut it down. There were thirty-eight arrests, with four breaching the fence and the railway line being blocked.[22][23]

Radical environmentalism has been called a new religious movement by Bron Taylor (1998). Taylor contends that "Radical environmentalism is best understood as a new religious movement that views environmental degradation as an assault on a sacred, natural world."[18][24]

Offshoots of Radical Environmentalism

Several philosophies have arisen from ideas in radical environmentalism that include Deep Ecology, Ecofeminism, Social Ecology, and Bioregionalism.

Deep Ecology is attributed to Arne Naess and is defined as “a normative, ecophilosophical movement that is inspired and fortified in part by our experience as humans in nature and in part by ecological knowledge”. [25]

Ecofeminism originated in the 1970s and draws a parallel between the oppression of women in patriarchal societies and the oppression of the environment.[26]

Social Ecology is an idea attributed to Murray Bookchin, who argued that in order to save the environment, human society needed to copy the structure of nature and decentralize both socially and economically. [26]

Bioregionalism is a philosophy that focuses on the practical application of Social Ecology, and theorizes on “building and living in human social communities that are compatible with ecological systems”.[26]

See also

Further reading

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Manes, Christopher, 1990. Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization, Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
  2. ^ a b A Brief Description of Radical Environmentalism, Jeff Luers, 4 Struggle Magazine, 26th September 2005.
  3. ^ SUV Armageddon Approaching?, Car Keys, 29th August 2003.
  4. ^ Weyler, Rex. Greenpeace: How a Group of Journalists, Ecologists and Visionaries Changed the World. Rodale, 2004)
  5. ^ Writings from Jeff Luers, Free Jeff Luers.
  6. ^ Original ELF
  7. ^ Earth Liberation Front
  8. ^ Earth First's first treesitting civil disobedience action, Earth First! 1985, Oregon, June 1985.
  9. ^ Tree Spiking Memo, Earth First!, April 1990.
  10. ^ Wall, Derek (1999). Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement: Radical Environmentalism and Comparative Social Movements. Routledge. 
  11. ^ "The man, the activist", first published in Arkangel.
  12. ^ ELF Burns Down Vail, FIRE, December 1999.
  13. ^ Earth Liberation Front is now FBI's No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat, Property Rights of America Foundation Inc, March 2001.
  14. ^ ELF News, Earth Liberation Front
  15. ^ waste & abuse - controversy over a temporary dirt road built by Vail Resortsand its effect on wetlands, BNet, September 27th 1999.
  16. ^ Eco-Terror Indictments: "Operation Backfire" Nets 11, FBI, January 20th 2006.
  17. ^ Resentencing date set for Jeff Luers, Freedom4um, 29th December 2007.
  18. ^ a b Bron Taylor, 1998. Religion, Violence and Radical Environmentalism: From Earth First! to the Unabomber to the Earth Liberation Front,Terrorism and Political Violence 10(4):1-42
  19. ^ The eco-terrorist anthrax connection, ESR, October 21st 2001.
  20. ^ Best, Steven and Best & Nocella. Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth, Lantern Books, 2006, p. 47.
  21. ^ FBI, ATF address domestic terrorism, CNN, May 19th 2005.
  22. ^ "The Battle of Drax: 38 held as protest fails to close plant". The Independent. 1 September 2006. 
  23. ^ "In the shadow of Drax, not so much a fight as a festival". The Guardian. 1 September 2006.,,1862662,00.html. 
  24. ^ Taylor, Bron, 2005. Radical Environmentalism, The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, pp 1326-1335. ISBN 1-84371-138-9
  25. ^ Dunlap. "Deep Ecology and Radical Environmentalism." American environmentalism the U.S. environmental movement, 1970-1990. Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis, 1992. Print. Page 52.
  26. ^ a b c Long, Douglas. Ecoterrorism (Library in a Book). New York: Facts on File, 2004. Print. Pages 21,22,23.

External links

John Zerzan

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John Zerzan

Zerzan in Belgrade, Serbia in 2008
Born 1943 (1943)
Salem, Oregon, United States
Occupation Philosopher, author

John Zerzan (born 1943) is an American anarchist and primitivist philosopher and author. His works criticize agricultural civilization as inherently oppressive, and advocate drawing upon the ways of life of prehistoric humans as an inspiration for what a free society should look like. Some of his criticism has extended as far as challenging domestication, language, symbolic thought (such as mathematics and art) and the concept of time. His five major books are Elements of Refusal (1988), Future Primitive and Other Essays (1994), Running on Emptiness (2002), Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections (2005) and Twilight of the Machines (2008).



Early life and education

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 work

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.[1] The history of civilisation is the history of renunciation; what stands against this is not progress but rather the Utopia which arises from its negation.[2]

Zerzan is an anarchist, and is broadly associated with the philosophies of anarcho-primitivism, green anarchism, anti-civilisation, post-left anarchy, neo-luddism, and in particular the critique of technology.[3] He rejects not only the state, but all forms of hierarchical and authoritarian relations. "Most simply, anarchy means 'without rule.' This implies not only a rejection of government but of all other forms of domination and power as well."[4]

Zerzan's work relies heavily on a strong dualism between the "primitive" — viewed as non-alienated, wild, non-hierarchical, ludic, and socially egalitarian — and the "civilised" — viewed as alienated, domesticated, hierarchically organised and socially discriminatory. Hence, "life before domestication/agriculture was in fact largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality, and health."[5]

Zerzan's claims about the status of primitive societies are based on a reading of the works of anthropologists such as Marshall Sahlins and Richard B. Lee. Crucially, the category of primitives is restricted to pure hunter-gatherer societies with no domesticated plants or animals. For instance, hierarchy among Northwest Coast Native Americans whose main activities were fishing and foraging is attributed to their having domesticated dogs and tobacco.[5][6]

Zerzan calls for a "Future Primitive", a radical reconstruction of society based on a rejection of alienation and an embracing of the wild. "It may be that our only real hope is the recovery of a face-to-face social existence, a radical decentralization, a dismantling of the devouring, estranging productionist, high-tech trajectory that is so impoverishing."[4] The usual use of anthropological evidence is comparative and demonstrative - the necessity or naturality of aspects of modern western societies is challenged by pointing to counter-examples in hunter-gatherer societies. "Ever-growing documentation of human prehistory as a very long period of largely non-alienated life stands in sharp contrast to the increasingly stark failures of untenable modernity."[2] It is unclear, however, whether this implies a re-establishment of the literal forms of hunter-gatherer societies or a broader kind of learning from their ways of life in order to construct non-alienated relations.

Zerzan's political project calls for the destruction of technology. He draws the same distinction as Ivan Illich, between tools that stay under the control of the user, and technological systems that draw the user into their control. One difference is the division of labour, which Zerzan opposes. In Zerzan's philosophy, technology is possessed by an elite which automatically has power over other users; This power is one of the sources of alienation, along with domestication and symbolic thought.

Zerzan's typical method is to take a particular construct of civilisation (a technology, belief, practice or institution) and construct an account of its historical origins, what he calls its destructive and alienating effects and its contrasts with hunter-gatherer experiences. In his essay on number, for example, Zerzan starts by contrasting the "civilized" emphasis on counting and measuring with a "primitive" emphasis on sharing, citing Dorothy Lee's work on the Trobriand Islanders in support, before constructing a narrative of the rise of number through cumulative stages of state domination, starting with the desire of Egyptian kings to measure what they ruled.[7] This approach is repeated in relation to time,[8] gender inequality,[9] work,[10] technology,[11] art and ritual,[6] agriculture[12] and globalization.[13] Zerzan also writes more general texts on anarchist,[4] primitivist theory,[2][5] and critiques of "postmodernism".[14]

Political development

In 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-Ashbury neighborhood.[15][16]

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.[17][16] The local Situationist group Contradiction denounced him as a "leftist bureaucrat".[18] 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.[16]

In 1974, Black and Red Press published Unions Against Revolution by Spanish ultra-left theorist Grandizo Munis that included an essay by Zerzan which previously appeared in the journal Telos. Over the next 20 years, Zerzan became intimately involved with the Fifth Estate, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, Demolition Derby and other anarchist periodicals. He began to question civilization in the early 80's, after having sought to confront issues around the neutrality of technology and division of labour, at the time when Fredy Perlman was making similar conclusions.[19] He saw civilization itself as the root of the problems of the world and that a hunter-gatherer form of society presented the most egalitarian model for human relations with themselves and the natural world.

Zerzan and the "Unabomber"

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. After Zerzan become known as a friend of the Unabomber, 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:

...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 harm is not justifiable...[20]

However, Zerzan in the same essay offered a qualified defense of the Unabomber's actions:

The concept of justice should not be overlooked in considering the Unabomber phenomenon. In fact, except for his targets, when have the many little Eichmanns who are preparing the Brave New World ever been called to account?… Is it unethical to try to stop those whose contributions are bringing an unprecedented assault on life?[20]

Two years later, in the 1997 essay "He Means It - Do You?," Zerzan wrote:

Enter the Unabomber and a new line is being drawn. This time the bohemian schiz-fluxers [see Gilles Deleuze], Green yuppies, hobbyist anarcho-journalists, condescending organizers of the poor, hip nihilo-aesthetes and all the other "anarchists" who thought their pretentious pastimes would go on unchallenged indefinitely - well, it's time to pick which side you're on. It may be that here also is a Rubicon from which there will be no turning back.

In a 2001 interview with The Guardian, he said:

Will there be other Kaczynskis? I hope not. I think that activity came out of isolation and desperation, and I hope that isn't going to be something that people feel they have to take up because they have no other way to express their opposition to the brave new world.[21]

Zerzan and Pacific Northwest anarcho-primitivism

On May 7, 1995, a full-page interview with Zerzan was featured in The New York Times.[22] 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 trend, which argues that anarchists should break with the political left.

Zerzan is currently one of the editors of Green Anarchy, a journal of anarcho-primitivist and insurrectionary anarchist thought. He is also the host of Anarchy Radio in Eugene on the University of Oregon's radio station KWVA which airs Tuesday nights 7 to 8 pm Pacific Standard Time (PST) as of June 30, 2009. He has also served as a contributing editor at Anarchy Magazine and has been published in magazines such as AdBusters. He does extensive speaking tours around the world, and is married to an independent consultant to museums and other nonprofit organizations.


In his essay "Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm", Murray Bookchin directed criticism from an anarchist point of view at Zerzan's anti-civilisational and anti-technological perspective. Bob Black's Anarchy After Leftism is a known book within primitivist circles, written as a rebuttal to Bookchin. Another notable anarchist work directed at Bookchin's perspective is David Watson's Beyond Bookchin.

Aside from Murray Bookchin, several other anarchist critiques of Zerzan's primitivist philosophies exist. The pamphlet, "Anarchism vs. Primitivism" by Brian Oliver Sheppard criticizes many aspects of the primitivist philosophy. [23] Some authors, such as Andrew Flood, have argued that destroying civilization would lead to the death of a significant majority of the population. [24] John Zerzan contends the collapse of civilization as having a gradual decrease on population size, with the possibility of people having the need to seek means of sustainability more close to nature.[25] Additionally, several anarcho-primitivist thinkers, such as Derrick Jensen, argue that civilization is in fact unsustainable, and as such the problem addressed by the primitivists in maintaining overpopulation is not a question of their choosing, while they seek other possible scenarios and look for appropriate courses of actions.[26][27][28]

Selected works

See also


  1. ^ John Zerzan - The Mass Psychology of Misery
  2. ^ a b c John Zerzan - Why Primitivism?
  3. ^ John Zerzan The Guardian
  4. ^ a b c John Zerzan - What is Anarchism?
  5. ^ a b c John Zerzan - Future Primitive
  6. ^ a b John Zerzan - Running on Emptiness: The Failure of Symbolic Thought
  7. ^ John Zerzan - Number: Its Origin and Evolution
  8. ^ John Zerzan - Time and its Discontents
  9. ^ John Zerzan - Patriarchy, Civilization, and the Origins of Gender
  10. ^ John Zerzan - Organized Labor versus "The Revolt Against Work"
  11. ^ John Zerzan - Technology
  12. ^ John Zerzan - Agriculture
  13. ^ John Zerzan - Globalization and its Apologists: An Abolitionist Perspective
  14. ^ John Zerzan - "Hakim Bey," Postmodern Anarchist
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c John Zerzan - did you become an anarchist?
  17. ^ History of the union
  18. ^ "Open Letter to John Zerzan, anti-bureaucrat of the San Francisco Social Services Employees Union"
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b John Zerzan - Whose Unabomber?
  21. ^
  22. ^ Prominent Anarchist Finds Unsought Ally in Serial Bomber (New York Times article)
  23. ^ Anarchism vs. Primitivism by Brian Oliver Sheppard
  24. ^ Civilization, Primitivism, Anarchism by Andrew Flood
  25. ^
  26. ^ Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization, Seven Stories Press
  27. ^
  28. ^

External links

Guy Debord

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Guy Ernest Debord
Full name Guy Ernest Debord
Born December 28, 1931(1931-12-28)
Paris, France
Died November 30, 1994 (aged 62)
Bellevue-la-Montagne, Haute-Loire, France
Era 20th century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Marxism, Situationist
Main interests Social theory · Reification
Commodity fetishism
Notable ideas Spectacle

Guy Ernest Debord (December 28, 1931 - November 30, 1994) was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, hypergraphist and founding member of the groups Lettrist International and Situationist International (SI). He was also briefly a member of Socialisme ou Barbarie.




Guy Debord was born in Paris. His father died early, and he was raised by his grandmother in a series of Mediterranean towns. He was a headstrong youth, and after graduating high school he dropped out of the University of Paris where he had been studying law. He became a revolutionary poet, writer and film-maker founding the Lettrist International schism with Gil J. Wolman. In the 1960s he led the Situationist International group, which influenced the Paris Uprising of 1968. Some consider his book Society of the Spectacle (1967) to be a catalyst for the uprising.[1] In the 1970s Debord disbanded the Situationist International, and resumed filmmaking with financial backing from the movie mogul and publisher Gérard Lebovici (éditions Champ Libre). His two most recognized films date from this period: a film version of Society of the Spectacle (1973) and the autobiographical "In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni" (1978). After the dissolution of the Situationist International, Debord spent his time reading, and occasionally writing, in relative isolation, although he continued to correspond on political and other issues, notably with Lebovici and the Italian situationist Gianfranco Sanguinetti.[2] and designed a war game [3]. He was married twice, to Michele Bernstein and Alice Becker-Ho.

His lifelong steady alcohol consumption began to take a toll on his health. Apparently to end the suffering from a form of polyneuritis brought on by his excessive drinking, he committed suicide,[4] shooting himself in the heart at his property (called Champot) in Bellevue-la-Montagne, Haute-Loire, on November 30, 1994.

In order to prevent the selling of Debord's archive to Yale University [5] the French Ministry of Culture officially declared it to be 'a national treasury', justifying this act by stating that "he has been one of the most important contemporary thinkers, with a capital place in history of ideas from the second half of the 20th century"[6]


Guy Debord's best known works are his theoretical books, Society of the Spectacle and Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. In addition to these he wrote a number of autobiographical books including "Mémoires", "Panégyrique", "Cette Mauvaise Réputation..." and "Considérations sur l'assassinat de Gérard Lebovici". He was also the author of numerous short pieces, sometimes anonymous, for the journals "Potlatch", "Les Lèvres Nues," "Les Chats Sont Verts," and "Internationale Situationniste".

In broad terms, Debord's theories attempted to account for the spiritually debilitating modernisation of both the private and public spheres of everyday life by economic forces during the post-WW2 modernisation of Europe. He rejected as the twin faces of the same problem both capitalism of the West and the statism of the Eastern bloc. Alienation, Debord postulated, could be accounted for by the invasive forces of the 'spectacle' - "a social relation between people that is mediated by images". Debord's analysis developed the notions of "reification" and "fetishism of the commodity" pioneered by Karl Marx and Georg Lukács. This analysis probed the historical, economic and psychological roots of 'the media'. Central to this school of thought was the claim that alienation is more than an emotive description or an aspect of individual psychology: rather, it is a consequence of the mercantile form of social organization which has reached its climax in capitalism.

The Situationist International, a political/artistic movement organized by Debord and his colleagues and represented by a journal of the same name, attempted to create a series of strategies for engaging in class struggle by reclaiming individual autonomy from the spectacle. These strategies, including "dérive" and "détournement", drew on the traditions of Lettrism.

The SI was the fusion of several extremely small avant-garde artistic tendencies: the Lettrist International, the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (an off-shoot of COBRA), and the London Psychogeographical Association in 1957. After an intense period of theoretical analysis, publication and the expulsion of most of its few members, leading to the Second Situationist International, the Situationist Antinational and the Situationist Bauhaus, Debord dissolved the SI in 1972.

Debord's first book, Mémoires, was bound with a sandpaper cover so that it would destroy other books placed next to it.

Debord has been the subject of numerous biographies, works of fiction, artworks and songs, many of which are catalogued in the bibliography by Shigenobu Gonzalves, "Guy Debord ou la Beaute du Negatif".

On January 29 2009, 15 years after his death, the archive of his works have been classified as "National treasure" by the Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, in response to a sale request by Yale University.[7]


Complete Cinematic Works (AK Press, 2003, translated and edited by Ken Knabb) includes the scripts for all six of Debord's films, along with related documents and extensive annotations.

Popular culture

Debord was the inspiration for the character in the film Waking Life (2001) named "Mr. Debord",[citation needed] who quotes Robert Louis Stevenson: "Suicide carried off many. Drink and the devil took care of the rest."


Works by Debord

Further reading


  1. ^ Andreotti, L. "Review: Leaving the twentieth century: The Situationist International." Journal of Architectural Education, 49(3), p. 197.
  2. ^ Guy Debord
  3. ^ Le Jeu de la Guerre : Relevé des positions successives de toutes les forces au cours d'une partie accessed 14th January 2008
  4. ^ Hussey, Andrew (28 July 2001). "Situation Abnormal". The Guardian. Retrieved July 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise du 12 fevrier 2009 (texte 120)
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]

External links