Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Philosophy Dept.


Jill P. Gordon


Contemporary philosopher and activist, John Zerzan, critiques modern civilization, and then in hindsight the history of civilization, on two central grounds, which form the basis for the rest of his criticism and theory. Firstly, we are alienated from existence in as much as our experience is, in various ways, mediated rather than immediate. Through language (or symbolic thought), a sense of measured time, symbolic ritual, technology and all the other constituents of civilized culture, we become alienated. His ideal existence might be something like the state of animals as described by John Gardner in his novel Grendel, “he stares at as much of the world as he can see and feels it surging in him, filling his chest as the melting snow fills dried out creek Secondly, we are oppressed materially, inequality being essential to civilization. This inequality began, roughly, with the advent of permanent agriculture, which gave rise also to specialization and division of labor; technology serves to facilitate this material inequality as much as it also becomes a part of alienating culture. As some men began to fall under the dominion of others, a swelling of culture occurred, as symptom of rising misery, both as a means of coping with the harshness of agricultural life as opposed to gatherer-hunter existence, and as means of controlling those whose lot was mostly worsened by the new late neolithic regime.


consumerism, Anarcho-Primitivism

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