Against Civilization

book by John Zerzan

Against Civilization is a book of readings and reflections edited by John Zerzan. It was published by Uncivilized Books in 1999. An expanded edition was published by Feral House in 2005.


  • What I desire is a return to the profundity of experience. I want a society where everyday activity, however mundane, is centered around how incredibly profound everything is. I want that profundity to become so immense that any mediations between us and it become totally unnecessary: we are in the marvel. ... Primal peoples were in touch with this profoundness, and organized their life around it. Religion is a decadent second-hand relic of this original, authentic mode of experiencing, that attempts to blackmail by linking social control and morality with profound experiencings.
    • John Landau, "Wildflowers: A Bouquet of Theses" (1998), p. 41
  • Spirituality represents the specialization and detachment of profundity from everyday life into a disembodied, disconnected, symbolic realm that becomes compensatory for an everyday life whose immanence is banality.
    • John Landau, "Wildflowers: A Bouquet of Theses" (1998), p. 41
  • We must develop ... a social reality based upon sharing of profound experiences as primary exchange rather than the exchange of money or etiquette.
    • John Landau, "Wildflowers: A Bouquet of Theses" (1998), p. 42
  • Can humans exist without some people ruling and others being ruled? The founders of political science did not think so. "I put for a general inclination of mankind, a perpetual and restless desire for power after power, that ceaseth only in death," declared Thomas Hobbes. Because of this innate lust for power, Hobbes thought that life before (or after) the state was a "war of every man against every man"—"solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Was Hobbes right? Do humans have an unquenchable desire for power that, in the absence of a strong ruler, inevitably leads to a war of all against all? To judge from surviving examples of bands and villages, for the greater part of prehistory our kind got along quite well without so much as a paramount chief, let alone the all-powerful English leviathan King and Mortal God, whom Hobbes believed was needed for maintaining law and order among his fractious countrymen.
  • At no point of its long and torturous execution did the Holocaust come in conflict with the principles of rationality. The 'Final Solution' did not clash at any stage with the rational pursuit of efficient, optimal goal-implementation. ... It was generated by bureaucracy true to its form and purpose.
  • The bureaucratic culture which prompts us to view society as an object of administration, as a collection of so many 'problems' to be solved, as 'nature' to be 'controlled', 'mastered' and 'improved' or 'remade', as a legitimate target for 'social engineering', and in general a garden to be designed and kept in the planned shape by force (the gardening posture divides vegetation into 'cultured plants' to be taken care of, and weeds to be exterminated), was the very atmosphere in which the idea of the Holocaust could be conceived, slowly yet consistently developed, and brought to its conclusion.
  • Being civilized signifies not taking your own life and those of others into consideration. It means letting your life be used, exploited and dominated by the always-superior interests of the collectivity where fate decreed that you would be born and live your life. And all for the financial, etc., gain of the authorities of the collectivity in question. In exchange for this submission one is granted the possibility of being accepted as a human being.
    • Des Réfractaires, "How Nice to Be Civilized!" (1993), p. 184
  • Being civilized, as well, signifies sacrificing your life, and those of others, when those in power attempt to solve their management problems with wars.
    • Des Réfractaires, "How Nice to Be Civilized!" (1993), p. 184

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