Sunday, December 20, 2009 1:00 IST
John Zerzan first shot into celebrity philosopher status in 1995 after the New York Times featured him in 1995 as a supporter of the Unabomber’s anti-technology doctrine. He has since become a leading light of the primitivist movement in the US. In an exclusive interview with DNA, he explains why modern civilization is fundamentally anti-human, ‘green’ technology is ‘psycho’ and Stone Age is the way to go.
American philosopher John Zerzan’s thesis is simple: civilization is pathological, and needs to be dismantled. Zerzan’s radical critique of civilization, laid out in books such as Elements Of Refusal (1988), Future Primitive (1994), and Running On Emptiness (2002) draws on anthropological research to argue that domestication of nature and domestication of humans go hand in hand. And this is accomplished primarily through technology. According to him, the dystopia of the Wachowski Brothers’ Matrix trilogy is already here: the technological-industrial ‘machine’ is already running the world, a world where individual humans are but insignificant little cogs with barely any autonomy. No single human being – neither the most powerful politician, nor the most powerful businessman – has the power to rein in the system. They necessarily have to follow the inexorable logic of what has been unleashed. He believes that the climate change summit in Copenhagen is a joke, and environmentalists are too superficial in their critiques to make a difference. In an exclusive interview, the California-based Zerzan, who was in Mumbai recently for a lecture tour, talks about why going back to the primitivism of the Stone Age is the only meaningful ‘green’ alternative.
Your work has been described as ‘anti-civilisational’. Are you seriously against civilisation? Of course. Anti-civilisational thought draws attention to the nightmare that’s unfolding right now. It asks some basic questions that haven’t been asked. It tries to change the subject away from the manoeuvring on the surface of dominant systems, in favour of going to the roots of it, and posing alternative directions, alternative projects, on a very basic level. I mean, here we are, as a species, and we can’t breathe the air. What more do you have to say? Read the rest of this entry »