John Zerzan is an anarchist and primitivist writer and speaker. His books include Against Civilization and Elements of Refusal. We spoke about his critique of technology and civilization, moving on to discuss the origins of the biocentric philosophy that lies at the core of much of his thought. The Conversation itself was a major theme in our talk: John is the only participant in The Conversation (at least at this point) who openly advocates targeted property damage to change minds, so I was especially curious to ask whether his ideas can participate in The Conversation or if they are uncompromising. Micah and I discuss this more at the end of the episode.
There are an abundance of intellectual connections in this episode. My actual talk with John lasted nearly four hours but the edit you are hearing is only 25 minutes long, so a lot of interesting material didn’t make it in, but we do discuss Gabriel Stempinski’s ideas of community and Timothy Morton’s deconstruction of “nature.” Coming back-to-back with Ariel Waldman, John’s conversation offers a very different measure of “progress.” Also, Micah references an op/ed piece I wrote about the connection between community and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. If you are interested in reading my article, it is here.
One more thing of note: Micah and I feel that it is extremely important to include John Zerzan in the project because his ideas question just about every commonly held assumption about normality. At the same time, it would be impossible to include his voice without mentioning that many people associate him with anarchist violence during the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and Theodore Kaczynski. Both stories are amply discussed online and I encourage you to do your background research. For my part, I wanted to steer our conversation away from events and towards philosophy–Kaczynski and the WTO protests only make brief appearances to illustrate examples. We’re all big kids here, but I think it’s worth stating the obvious: the opinions of the interviewees are theirs alone. Micah and I believe it should be possible to discuss any idea without endorsing it or suggesting that it is held by other participants in the project, even when we draw intellectual connections between thinkers.