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+2 votes
Disclaimer: I am not an an-prim, and in fact I am far from one, though I do agree with an-prims to some extent on critiquing the role technology plays in human society. I'm going to try to not sound like a dismissive asshole or someone who is deliberately misrepresenting primitivism.

That being said, one thing I've always wondered about an-prims is how they view people outside the primitivist "scene" for lack of a better word. The critique I hear all the time for example is that primtivists would let a huge portion of the population die who depend on medical technologies to stay alive, because they just want to destroy all civilization and technology no matter what. That sounds to me like a hyperbolic characterization of primitivists and seems like it would defy some basic anarchist principles. So more generally speaking, I guess what I'm asking is: Do primitivists expect everyone under anarchy to give up technology and become hunter-gatherers? Would people who didn't want to become hunter-gatherers be forced in some way to give up technology anyways? Would primitivists be breaking into my house and smashing my computers?

Again, I know that this sounds like an unfair characterization of primitivism and like it would violate some basic anarchist principles, but I really know very little about primitivism so I'm just being upfront about my questions. I've always thought that under anarchy, primitivists would want the freedom to go be hunter-gatherers and would militantly defend the destruction of the environment - all things I'm down with as long as people like me are also allowed to do our own thing (of course without forcing technology onto primitivists, or anyone else for that matter, as happens very often in our society). Or is there an inherent, possibly insurmountable tension between the primitivist position and non-primitivists that would ultimately mean one side would have to win out in the end?

To add to that: Do you think that there is any potential for cooperation and dialogue - I'm talking especially in terms of theory, since we both want to destroy the State and capitalism and hierarchy and so on - between primitivists and techie type anarchists? Does primitivism have anything to offer us techie types? Though I should add to that, that cyber-anarchism or whatever label you'd want to call it has to itself bring something to the table, since the tech world is dominated mostly by "anarcho"-capitalists and lolbertarians. The only thing close to a techie anarchism that I know of is "anarcho-transhumanism", whose theory seems to consist mostly of a single website steeped in Old Left ideas, and Deus Ex game manuals.
by (610 points)
Maybe flip this question the other way: would anarcho-techies want, or be able, to force primmies to live in a technological world? The imposition of any particular technology on those who don't wish to live near or with it would seem to violate anarchist principles too; the idea that "doing your own thing" creates some impermeable boundary between your embrace of a particular technology and your non-techie neighbor is a little strange since techies have this odd tendency to expand the usage areas -- not to mention the waste products -- of their favorite toys.

While it might be that a band of primmies would burst into your house to smash your computer, it's far more likely that primmies would be poisoned downstream by the toxic run-off from your computer factory.

The difference of these possibilities is the human scale of each -- the in your face quality of the relations in the first and the out of sight, out of mind quality of the second. This is part of the problem many primmies point to about technology (as a vague generic category): alienation.
seconding lawrence's post about some assumptions your question makes. but aside from that...

primitivism as an ideology promoted by zerzan and tucker seems to be quite rigid (as evidenced, if nothing else, by all the greens, anarchists, and green anarchists they reject). and the change that they believe necessary is a world change (which might or might not mean that pockets of tech would still exist). but to the extent that technology is not (just) a set of tools, but a way of looking at the world (and each other), they are for its abolition.

their argument is not that they "would let people die" but that we're all going to die (in fact are already dying from changes that tech has created, although media aren't talking about it as being the cause), as well as the rest of the world, if tech continues, and that tech doesn't have solutions for the problems that tech has created.
i'm not sure what is meant by "under anarchy", but i'll assume the implication is a world without all the institutions (and related mindsets) of mass society, which currently prevent anarchy and widespread anarchistic relations.

in such a world, mass society would/could not exist. hence, humans would likely live in much smaller social groupings. in such a world, one group might be techies, while another might be primmies. i see no reason why those groups could not coexist - so long as neither imposed their will on the other.

a major practical issue with techies being one (or more) of those groups, is that most (all?) technology - as distinguished from human scale "tools" - requires systems and processes that are completely reliant on hugely destructive activities and materials (not to mention, ideologies). the resource extraction, transportation, processing, production, etc, are all things that would inherently impose on others that have very different desires.

since such a world would assumedly proceed from the current technocrapia, there would be much detritus left over that could be used by those that cared to do so - with the same understanding that imposing on other groups will cause major conflict (and go against the anarchistic desires that are supposedly shared). i personally would be with neither of those groups (techies or primmies), but at this point in my life, i would absolutely use my solar panels (and related tech) for as long as they would last.

creating new technologies would likely be limited to what is achievable by techie groups without imposing on other groups. and that is where i see anarchy falling down for them. perhaps they could find a way to work it out, with many tech groups working together, but as soon as they impose on me and mine, they will have to deal with some serious resistance. i personally think it would be impossible to retain or (re)create real technology without MASS society and all the necessary institutions that requires. and then it will have ceased to be anarchy.

[yes, a bolo'bolo -ish view. one might think - from various posts of mine - that bolo'bolo and "only a tsunami will do" are the only things i've ever read. psyche - i haven't even read them!!!!!  bwaaahahahahaha]
techies get bored easily so human-scale tools won't do.

primmies can sit for hours just 'being.'

techies want everything mediated and can't even dance to drums of skin and wood.

primmies want nothing mediated and accuse everyone else's dance of being too symbolic and abstract.

techies shit on everyone else with abandon, given they apologize via rationality and good manners.

primmies believe everyone shits on them, for they always live downstream.

techies like metal and acrylic ear- and nose-rings.

primmies prefer bones and twigs.

and so on. when the rain starts the umbrella of anarchy is either too techie or not complicated enough.

notice this is *not* an answer. just enjoying play with generalities ;-)

edit: typo, extras
well, they co-exist now under capitalism and hierarchical institutions, so.....

also, i don't know why an anarchist would "expect everyone under anarchy" to do anything, or "force everyone" to do anything.

and i don't think all "primies (one 'm" or two?) or "techies" would answer the question the same. the way the question is worded, it seems to assume one prescription for all who label themselves a certain way.

if i called myself one or the other, i could give my individual answer, but i don't.
AF: :)

BAA: TWO, 2, for gawd's sake two. :D also, while of course different primitivists will believe different things, there are two (or one and a half) main speakers for primitivism, and i think it's fair to gauge it by their standards/presentation of it.

ps: this is a topic on anews right now.
Okay then, I'm just going to make these responses in one post not to anyone in particular:

I indicated in my question (but didn't address more directly or fully) that the "techie" anarchists would indeed also have to consider whether or not their actions would be imposing on the primitivists. Otherwise, they wouldn't be anarchists in the first place, right? But this sort of problem seems to be something that everyone else has also indicated, that technology would necessarily lead to expansion and destruction of the environment and thus impose on the primitivist types if attempts were made for technology to coexist with primitivism. I obviously disagree that technology would necessarily have to expand and impose, because for one thing the people who currently develop and build technologies aren't doing it with an anarchist mindset - or even a sane one, for that matter. I think we're all pretty familiar with the criticisms of capitalism that have been talked about to death by the Left, and one of them is that capitalism is inefficient and destructive whenever it gets in the way of profits. If the world was in anarchy or however the hell you want to phrase it, the techie types would not only be concerned with production that isn't environmentally destructive or inefficient, but would also not be producing mountains of garbage that no one needs or wants but that can be sold to people nonetheless in a capitalist society.

What that second point means is that we do absolutely need to change our relationship to technology in some way. I'm inclined towards the position that technology needs to be thought of as something for human development rather than something humans develop, but I realize that this could be a naive position to take. Like I've said, I'm mostly ignorant to primitivist critiques of technology. But basically my point is that I think the criticism that technology will indirectly impose on primitivists is kind of a contingency that techie anarchists would need to address in a post-capitalist society where it would be possible to explore different modes of production and different systems that would be able to work in a decentralized and large-scale but non-invasive manner. And certainly insofar as they are anarchists, they would. But again I am ignorant of primtivist critiques of technology, so I don't know whether it's just the nature of technology to impose and that there are no solutions techie anarchists could come up with. I'm also ignorant of what sorts of ideologies technology necessitates. All reasons why I'm asking these questions.

Again I'm ignorant of primitivist theory so I'll have to ask forgiveness if it sounds like I'm unfairly labelling all primitivists or making claims about what they'd all do. But then I guess as lawrence pointed out this question can't be dealt with without also asking what techie types would do.
dot, yes, perhaps you can gauge the beliefs of primitivists by the writing of one or two people...

but the question asked "can they co-exist?". i assume n1x did not mean to ask if the two (or one and a half) @prim people could co-exist with one or two representative @techie of choice, but rather larger groups of people.

i suppose one could imagine a billion zerzan clones matched up against a billion techie representative clones, but isn't that how authoritarian thought looks at things? as generic, disembodied people defined by labels, pitted against one another.

thanks for the spelling tip.  :)


if i considered myself an @prim or @tech (i don't), i'd think about my experiences with people of the other ilk, and then i could imagine how well i'd get along with them. or perhaps if i knew (and/or observed interactions between) people who used each label, i could make some guesses. but as the question stands, i wouldn't know how to answer it. i imagine some would get along just fine, others might have intense conflicts, just as people with differing beliefs and outlooks do today. i can't think of any reason why the conflict would be increased with the absence of the state or capitalism.

i would hope living anarchically means more to someone who uses an @prim or @tech label than living primitively or technologically does. i say that probably because that's what matters most to me. in my life now, i'd feel grateful to spend a little time with anyone who desires anarchy and attempts to live anarchically -  adjectives, or not..  :)
I hope those techie anarchists are familiar with mining ore/rare earth metal and not destroying the surroundings. Questions like these tend to assume currently enslaved people will just continue to mine this shit and destroy their surroundings after some revolution or something, so techies can continue with their tech-fetish.

Not an answer, obviously, but just my very brief thought on the matter. I not a primitivist, nor a techie. :)
n1x: " I'm inclined towards the position that technology needs to be thought of as something for human development rather than something humans develop"

are you referring to "technology" as the overall processes, mindsets, drivers, etc (what some might call the "institution" of technology), that constitute a technological society? or simply the products of said institution?

either way, now that i think of it, your inclination seems to put the cart before the horse. humans had to develop technology, or it would not exist (leaving aside the extraterrestrial arguments). humans continue to do so, pushing ever further into scientific realms that seem scary as shit to me; all the while destroying massive amounts of life in the process. most/all human developments have been claimed to be "for human development" (betterment, growth, progress, etc). that is a shallow argument for a critical thinker, imo. it ignores or trivializes questions like:

at what cost does all this "human development" come? what about all the folks that had NO say in those developments, and whose lives have been forever changed/destroyed as a result of the ideologies and activities required? what makes that type of human development so unquestionably "correct" - for everyone? why is such development imposed (as opposed to offered as one possible option)? [i could go on and on...]

" ... the techie types would not only be concerned with production that isn't environmentally destructive or inefficient, but would also not be producing mountains of garbage..."

wow. that is a HUGE leap of faith on your part. is that simply wishful thinking, or do you have some reason to think that? if the latter, i'd love to hear it.

hey baa, i think what i was trying to say that perhaps didn't come across is that while most @primms may not speak for everyone else, the names that are most concerned with developing (or perhaps just enforcing) @prim ideas are the two mentioned. i am definitely not thinking of armies of jz clones, although there is something very funny there (under the horror).

and my experience has been that when anarchy is hyphenated, it always gets less emphasis than whatever is supposed to be modifying it. but, you know, call me tired and cynical ;)

hi dot, i think what you wrote earlier came across pretty close to what you said here. i didn't think you imagined the armies of clones (it sounds funny to me too when i picture it)......rather it sounded like n1x framed it that way.

thanks for relating your thoughts about hyphenated anarchy. i think that's an important observation. i probably incorrectly assumed anarchy would have more importance than the modifier. i've read some of zerzan, jensen, tucker....but maybe not enough to pick up on that. i also haven't had any discussions - in person, or online - with people who consider themselves @prim, or many other anarchists with other adjectives. thankfully (from what i've read), most folks on this site tend not to qualify their desire for anarchy.

you don't appear tired and cynical to me. i imagine you've had a lot more experience reading and talking with anarchists with adjectives than i have. i wonder what most of the anarchists with modifiers would say about themselves in terms of which has more importance to them....anarchy or the qualifier.

'when anarchy is hyphenated, it always gets less emphasis than whatever is supposed to be modifying it.'

dot, thank you for saying that.


plus enough characters to post...

' of them is that capitalism is inefficient and destructive whenever it gets in the way of profits'

I know your post is over two years old but in relation to technology and profits I think if the profit motive didn't exist, we would be manufacturing products that were more durable and long lasting. Things could be designed so that any improvements could be easily incorporated into existing products rather than marketing new models. Also I imagine products may be designed so that they can be easily repaired and recycled.
i programmed computers for 25 years and i don't have a cellphone i can relate, nihilist
overall, modern technology is pretty mystifying, and trying to play around with it can be pretty fun and inspirational. Of course, as funky said in an earlier thread, they can be grasped...what we call a "computer" is really a series of on-and-off switches combined with several other types of technology depending on the purpose. The sad thing about the whole thing is that "technology" in the sense that we know it is actually making it more and more difficult to live without it, and unlike what ted kaczinsky thought there's really nothing to be done about that. For example, when all the rivers are poisoned...

There was also a good article in the berkely anarchists reading group about how corporations are already a form of technology in the legal sense (as in, they are "artificial intelligence", they give workers a great roadblock against the state and the general ethical concerns about corporate practice). This is why i tend to roll my eyes when primitivists start talking about "technology", humans have always been cyborgs and technological slavery really was something set in place a very long time ago.
i generally agree with your point, nihilist.

technology, like capitalism, is self-perpetuating. but i disagree that humans have always been cyborgs. hierarchy as an accepted way of organizing human life had massive impact on the lives of most humans from millenia ago, while technology has only had serious impact since well into the industrial revolution. the level of "technological slavery" we see today is only a few decades old.

but that doesn't really matter at this point. human life is what it is. we all have choices, though those choices seem to diminish with each new technological development and its unquestioned imposition on us through legal, financial, forceful and other means.

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