ANARCHO-PRIMITIVISM: Main concepts

By Unknown

“Anarchy is the order of the day among hunter-gatherers. Indeed, critics will ask why a small face-to-face group needs a government anyway. If this is so we can go further and say that since the egalitarian hunting-gathering society is the oldest type of human society and prevailed for the longest period of time – over thousands of decades – then anarchy must be the oldest and one of the most enduring kinds of polity. Ten thousand years ago everyone was an anarchist.”

 

Some anarcho-primitivists state that prior to the advent of agriculture, humans lived in small, nomadic bands which were socially, politically, and economically egalitarian. Being without hierarchy, these bands are sometimes viewed as embodying a form ofanarchism. John Moore writes that anarcho-primitivism seeks “to expose, challenge and abolish all the multiple forms of power that structure the individual, social relations, and interrelations with the natural world.”

Primitivists hold that, following the emergence of agriculture, the growing masses of humanity became evermore beholden to technology (“technoaddiction”) and abstract power structures arising from the division of labor and hierarchy. Primitivists disagree over what degree of horticulture might be present in an anarchist society, with some arguing that permaculture could have a role but others advocating a strictlyhunter-gatherer subsistence.

Primitivism has drawn heavily upon cultural anthropology and archaeology. From the 1960s forward, societies once viewed as “barbaric” were reevaluated by academics, some of whom now hold that early humans lived in relative peace and prosperity. Frank Hole, an early-agriculture specialist, and Kent Flannery, a specialist in Mesoamericancivilization, have noted that, “No group on earth has more leisure time than hunters and gatherers, who spend it primarily on games, conversation and relaxing.” Jared Diamond, in the article “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race”, said hunter-gatherers practice the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history, in contrast with agriculture, which he described as a “mess” and that it is “unclear whether we can solve it”. Based on evidence that life expectancy has decreased with the adoption of agriculture, the anthropologist Mark Nathan Cohen has called for the need to revise the traditional idea that civilization represents progress in human well-being.

Scholars such as Karl Polanyi and Marshall Sahlins characterized primitive societies as gift economies with “goods valued for their utility or beauty rather than cost; commodities exchanged more on the basis of need than of exchange value; distribution to the society at large without regard to labor that members have invested; labor performed without the idea of a wage in return or individual benefit, indeed largely without the notion of ‘work’ at all.” Other scholars such as Paul Shepard, influenced by anthropologistClaude Lévi-Strauss, have written of the “evolutionary principle”, which states that when a species is removed from its natural habitat, its behaviors will become pathological. Shepard has written at length on ways in which the human species’ natural “ontogeny”, which developed through millions of years of evolution in a foraging mode of existence, has been disrupted due to asedentary lifestyle caused by agriculture

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