Anti-Civ Anarchy


Anti-civilizational anarchism is an anarchist school of thought closely related to green anarchism. Anti-civ critique extends the usual anarchist critique of capitalism, states and patriarchy to civilization as a hierarchical power structure.

Anti-civ anarchism argues that civilization is an unsustainable idea which needs to be abolished. Anti-civ folks think that civilization domesticates humans and other living beings and attempts to dominate all life through structures of civilization (industry, capitalism, school, media, racism, colonialism/imperialism, states, patriarchy, slavery and others). It is argued that bands of precivilized people were more or less egalitarian, had more leisure time and common ownership–which could be called “primitive communism“, term first used by Marx and Engels.


While many perceive the anti-civ tendency as a modern tendency, anarcho-naturism emerged in the late 19th century in Spain, France, and Portugal, contemporary to anarcho-syndicalism. Thoreau, Tolstoy and Reclus all criticized civilization from an anarchist perspective. Classical Eastern and Western anarchic anti-civ tendencies we can see with Lao Tzu, and the Cynics. Much of this informs contemporary anti-civilization beliefs, which includes anarcho-primitivism, post-civ, and non-primitivist anti-civ tendencies (e.g. Feral Faun).

What is “Civilization“?

So what is civilization anyways? For starters and an “unbiased“ definition, you might look into Wikipedia's first paragraph about civilization. Though many thinkers and writers have attempted to define civilization. Derrick Jensen, even if he explicitly states he's not anarchist nor primitivist, writes in his Endgame:

I would define a civilization much more precisely [relative to standard dictionary definitions], and I believe more usefully, as a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts— that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined–so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on–as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.

Richard Heinberg wrote in his critique of civilization:

“…for the most part the history of civilization…is also the history of kingship, slavery, conquest, agriculture, overpopulation, and environmental ruin. And these traits continue in civilization’s most recent phases–the industrial state and the global market–though now the state itself takes the place of the king, and slavery becomes wage labor and de facto colonialism administered through multinational corporations. Meanwhile, the mechanization of production (which began with agriculture) is overtaking nearly every avenue of human creativity, population is skyrocketing, and organized warfare is resulting in unprecedented levels of bloodshed...“

Common criticisms of anti-civ anarchism

People argue that many problems of the civilization (like over-exploiting nature's resources, burning fossil fuels, species die-off, etc) can be blamed on capitalism.

But civilization had problems before capitalism was a functional concept (here is one such issue). Another common critique of anti-civs is that millions/billions of people die, if civilization were to be abolished overnight. You have to realize that it was the civilization in the first place which created billions of people, a sort of double bind if you will, who collectively put too much strain on the environment. In the current state of affairs, both abolishing and continuing with civilization means committing a suicide. Anti-civ anarchists aren't celebrating this double bind, however they do acknowledge it and try to answer the inevitable question:“What do we do with the bind?“

I have also seen that anti-civ anarchism is inherently ableist. First of all, we're anarchists. We advocate for a classless, stateless and moneyless societies which have no social hierarchy or domination. Ableism is one such hierarchy and we're against it. Second of all, civilization can be seen as ableist. Many diseases are a direct result of wasteful, sedentary lifestyle of cities. Black Death during the Middle Ages, allergies, malaria, Crohn's, obesity, anxiety, and many others are exaggerated by high-density city lifestyles. Industrial medicine only offers civilized solutions/treatments but the whole process only perpetuates the ecocidal destrutction of everything on this planet (read Civilization Will Stunt Your Growth, linked below, which rebuts the accusations of ableism better than I'm able to).


Adapted from a reddit post**