And, at the bottom of his resolutely nihilistic denunciation of the present, is a beautiful and poetic vision of life free of mediation and alienation, and based instead on love and empathy. Zerzan claims that anthropological evidence shows that before the emergence of these forms, people lived in an unmediated oneness and harmony with their world. We now live in a world of complete alienation, where everything we experience has been standardized and controlled, turned into quantifiable forms that are repeatable and exchangeable. Zerzan calls us to throw off these alienated forms and return to our true being, which is intuitive, primal, spontaneous, and which still exists underneath. Starting in the mids, Zerzan published most of his new works in the Fifth Estate, until a final falling out with members of the editorial collective in over his theoretical views. Afterwards, he became a contributing editor at Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, until it shifted hands into the new Bay Area collective a few years ago.
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Shelves: political-theory , philosophy , heresy , s Really good critiques postmodernism. It claims that postmodernism is the ultimate outgrowth of a technological civilization, which has completely overtaken direct, real personal interaction and naturalness. The direct is replaced by the simulated and self-referential. Postmodernism also entails a retreat into total relativism which destroys the ability to critique anything. If all perspectives are just another equally valid narratives decontextualized from any meta-narrative, then whats the Really good critiques postmodernism.
If all perspectives are just another equally valid narratives decontextualized from any meta-narrative, then whats the point of changing anything?
PoMo makes us complacent, or unwilling to be activists or to imagine a better future. Postmodernism in its attempt to smash all false binaries, smashes the binaries of culture and nature, freedom and slavery, ignorance and knowledge.
The book argues that postmodernism while associated with the modern left, should really be more strongly associated with capitalism. Postmodernism cutting the legs out from under any social critique, and thus strongly bolsters the status quo which just so happens to be capitalism.
There are also good critiques of modern leftism in here as well, as fundamentally defensive of the nihilistic, technological status quo. A lot of the critique of modern technology rests on the idea purported by Freud in "Civilization and its Discontents" in which he claims that civilization requires the repression of natural instincts and desires. However it takes this beyond Freudian beliefs to claim that civilization should therefore be dismantled. Zerzan disagrees with the conception of the state of nature as being a "nasty" or "brutish" environment.
They see a state of nature as paradisiacal, and rely on archeology, nutritional science, psychology, anthropology, and history to make these judgements. Crucial to his critique of modernity is the disharmony, alienation, and psychological problems which result from it. There is also the environmental devastation, the dissolution of "Dunbar number" type tribal units, the arms race between medical technology and the diseases produced by the rest of technology, gender inequality, aggression against animals, and a bunch of other crap.
Where face to face interaction breeds authenticity, closeness, and socialness, electronic and urban life produces inauthenticity, alienation, anti-socialness. He sees Japanese culture as the furthest progression of this, as japanese society is also the most technology obsessed one on the planet.
Theres also some stuff about how symbolic language is bad. That was dumb. I get a lot of its critiques of technology and of "mass society". It makes legitimate points. But It never brings forth primitivism as a viable or attractive solution to these problems.
You mostly have to piece it together through the critiques. So it ends up being a mostly complaintative book which draws illogical conclusions from those complaints. Most people do acknowledge that technological progress has drawbacks. Most view it as a two steps forward one step backwards scenario. I enjoyed this book for its pre-apocalyptic attitude, critiques of postmodernism, and supremely unique perspective.
However, the primitivist thesis is left undeveloped, and many of the more radical critiques like the one of symbolic thought were highly uncompelling. His critique of postmodernism would also have been better if he had addressed some of the ways which PoMos try to get out of the uncomfortable philosophical position he accuses them of. Were their ideas heeded at all, there would be so few of "us" remaining that the original audience of someone like Zerzan might be completely gone.
Are they intentionally calling for billions of deaths? Dec 27, Ed rated it liked it a good critique of the postmodern.
Twilight of the Machines
According to Zerzan, original human societies in paleolithic times, and similar societies today such as the! Kung and Mbuti , live a non-alienated and non-oppressive form of life based on primitive abundance and closeness to nature. Constructing such societies as 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. Crucially, the category of primitives is restricted to pure hunter-gatherer societies with no domesticated plants or animals.