Lasch: Theory of Passivity Stumbles
Your growing conviction that people are unable (or have lost the ability) to learn from and develop conclusions about their experience, and to act to change the conditions of their lives finds its latest confirmation in Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism (See review, FE #299, Oct 22, 1979). Lasch’s central idea is that a given state of capitalist development contains a corresponding individual personality structure (the “narcissistic” personality type corresponding to the bureaucratic “consumer society” of “late capitalism”) and that the analysis of this personality structure is the key to understanding human behavior and activity. Despite lip service to revolutionary possibilities, Lasch’s thesis is a determinist one which vitiates the likelihood of the emergence of an autonomous politics in the present period.
Nov 28, 2018
Community, Primitive Society and the State
Primitive culture, Marshall Sahlins has argued, is not fetishized utility. “The practical function of (primitive) institutions,” he tells us, “is never adequate to explain their cultural structure....People employ customs and categories to organize their lives within local schemes of interpretation, thus giving uses to material circumstances which, cultural comparison will show, are never the only ones possible.” Consequently, diversity is the rule in the primitive world, as much because of the multifarious systems of meaning and interpretation peoples employ to constitute their worlds, as because of the varying climates and landscapes in which they are situated.
Jul 10, 2017
Anti-Nuclear Movement in Europe
The Pull-Back From Armageddon
The massive and still-growing anti-nuclear movement in Europe has become a serious threat to the avatars of destruction who, through the auspices of NATO, are attempting to turn Europe into a nuclear battlefield by deploying Pershing II and cruise missiles on European soil. An American diplomat in Bonn recently warned the readers of the international edition of Newsweek (8/24/81): “If the peace movement isn’t defused soon, we might see the same kind of threat to cruise and Pershing installations after 1983 that you see directed against nuclear energy plants today.” The implications of this shocking development were clearly spelled out by the worried diplomat: “We’re talking about a serious threat to NATO planning as a whole.”
Dec 25, 2018
Discussion on Anti-work
Crisis of capital or its success?
“Anti-Work and the Struggle for Control” in this issue [FE #309, June 19, 1982] continues John Zerzan’s work demonstrating the massive erosion of traditional American values, in this case centering on popular allegiance to the work ethic. Below is a rebuttal from Tim Luke, which appeared in Telos magazine No. 50 (Box 3111, St. Louis MO 63130, $5); this is followed by a reply from Zerzan and a comment by Bob Brubaker of the FE staff.
Mar 16, 2019
First Draft Foes Convicted
The Higher Point of View
“Seen from a lower point of view, the Constitution, with all its faults, is very good; the law and the courts are very respectable; even this State and this American government are, in many respects, very admirable, and rare things, to be thankful for, such as a great many have described them; but seen from a point of view a little higher, they are what I have described them; seen from a point higher still, and the highest, who shall say what they are, or that they are worth looking at or thinking of at all?”
—Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience”
May 31, 2019
A Family Quarrel
There’s no end to discussion about the “crisis of the family.” From Reader’s Digest to obscure academic journals, in the halls of Congress and in countless homes, the crisis of the family is portrayed, analyzed, debated, or lived out. This discussion has become the litany of a society in crisis. This is so, as Jean Bethke Elshtain tells us, because the crisis of the family “is a crisis of meaning and it goes to the heart of our self-understandings and our social existence.” 
Jul 6, 2015
Primitives and Production: a response
In response to Tech Examined a letter from Jeffrey Vega, FE #315, Winter 1984.
Jeffrey Vega would like to define primitive cultures “in the terms of class society” so he can assimilate them to the “historical materialist perspective.” In his mind this is a legitimate operation, since unlike “the self-definition of tribal society” (presumably to him a limited form of knowledge), a class analysis enables us to uncover “the dynamics which led to the development of class society.”
Jul 21, 2017
Anarchy in San Francisco
The 1989 gathering: 3 views
“Without Borders,” this year’s Anarchist Conference and Festival was held in San Francisco from July 20th to 25th. Taking place at the Horace Mann Middle School in the city’s Mission District, the gathering drew somewhere between 1,000 and 3,000 people from North America and around the world. The exact number will never be known since only the lower number “officially” registered as participants, but thousands more took part in the six-day conference and other events which provided opportunities for learning and discussion, direct action, performance, play and celebration.
Jan 23, 2018
Fifth Estate Collective
E. B. Maple (Peter Werbe)
Excerpts from Fifth Estate history
Much of primitivist theorist John Zerzan’s early work appeared in the Fifth Estate. His Cassandra-like predictions of imminent collapse of modern society began in 1976 with his FE article, “The Decline and Fall of Everything”--a compendium of statistics of social dislocation.
With the FE, he explained the human dilemma as rooted in the institutions of civilization itself. He indicted not only agriculture, but also music, art, numbers, and even language itself as being the agents of human alienation. His provocative and often maddening articles that appeared in these pages were always answered by counter-critiques from our staff and led to feisty exchanges of letters. Eventually, we parted company with him.
Mar 6, 2014