Whenever anyone advocates a transition to a stateless society, an obvious objection is that such a society would be unable to resist a dissident group trying to impose a government on it. Some responses to this objection are discussed here. However, it seems to me that an Anarcho-Primitivist society suffers from a particularly serious case of this problem.

To the best of my understanding, the basic tenets of Anarcho-Primitivism are:

  1. In the distant past, humans lived as hunter-gatherers in small groups which relied on face-to-face interaction for societal organisation, rather than centralised government.

  2. As a result of domestication, industrialisation etc. this arrangement was eventually replaced by states based on violent coercion.

  3. The transition 1 -> 2 was undesirable, and we should attempt to return to the arrangement described in 1.

Fair enough, but why do advocates of Anarcho-Primitivism believe that the newly "primitive" society won't simply undergo the 1 -> 2 transition again? Indeed, the second iteration of 1 seems even more vulnerable to "civilising" influences, since, even if all modern technology is somehow destroyed, the memory of civilisation will presumably still survive amongst the people themselves.

The above line of reasoning seems so obvious, that I can't believe no Anarcho-Primitivist thinker has addressed it. However, I don't know any Anarcho-Primitivists personally, nor have I read any of their works, so I'm asking here if anyone better informed than myself can describe some of the "standard" responses to this problem.

  • 2
    @Trilarion Is that what Anarcho-Primitivists themselves are arguing? That society should continuously oscillate between primitive and civilised states? Jul 17, 2022 at 13:25
  • 5
    @CharlieEvans: I haven't really studied AP, but I would imagine their argument is in line with most other anarchist arguments: that conscious will would come into play. In other words, they would say the initial move to industrialized society was done in ignorance; now that we understand the caustic effects of the move we would consciously refrain from doing it again. One sticks a finger in a fire once and learns not to do it twice... Jul 17, 2022 at 14:27
  • 2
    @CharlieEvans: Well like I said, I haven't really studied this ideology, but I doubt they'd give up reading and writing. There are any number of modern innovations that are consistent with primitive lifestyles. Philosophy as a rule aims at progress. That progress might sometimes mean correcting and removing past mistakes, but generally avoids whole-cloth regression to earlier forms. Jul 17, 2022 at 15:41
  • 2
    Could add it right after "Why do Anarcho-Primitivists believe a primitive society will happen?" I mean that seems like the bigger hurdle.
    – Fizz
    Jul 17, 2022 at 17:33
  • 2
    @Fizz Either a) because they will succeed in convincing people that it is better or b) because civilisation will collapse. I'm not saying either of those is likely, or even really possible, but that is what Anarcho-Primitivists believe. Jul 17, 2022 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


Because the memory of civilisation will persist.

Anarcho-primitivists believe a culture based on hunter-gatherer societies is better. Once everyone realises this there would be no reversion to civilisation because we will remember how terrible it was, and anyone who claims to be "king" or to "own" the land will find their head on the proverbial pole.

They believe that the current society is deviant and unnatural, it was only possible because rapid population growth as a result of food surpluses allowed some people to subjugate others. People allowed themselves to be subjugated because they believed it was the only way to obtain food and security. But we won't get fooled again.

This mindset for anarchoprimitivists is described by an Anarcho-primitivist named Chris Wilson in his article 'Against Mass Society', the publication Green Anarchy and the book Unlearn, rewild by Miles Olson.

In other words, it is standard utopian optimism.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .