Q. What is primitivism?
A. When I use the word primitivism, I mean a broad critique of our modern way of life — including technology, capitalism, contemporary lifestyles, diet, and industrialism as a whole. People who are attracted to the label of “primitivism” probably find themselves disturbed by these modern developments and realize that, amid all the technological wonders of progress, we’ve lost something. We would like to figure out just what we’ve lost and how we might get it back.
Q. Is primitivism a program, political philosophy, or organization?
A. No. There is no founding document or thinker of primitivism and no overarching organization, so every person under the primitivist banner will have their own ideas on what it means and how they’d like the world to look. Some people are resistant to the very idea of planning such a world at all. Some, like Daniel Quinn, believe in learning from the past to build a new future without erasing what we have now; others, like John Zerzan, believe the modern world is impossibly corrupted and can only be fixed by returning to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Q. What do you mean by technology?
A. Technology entails all sorts of mechanisms, physical as well as social, that improve efficiency at some task. Technology is not limited to computers and things that require electricity. Flint arrow heads, language, the wheel, Gantt charts, and innumerable other things are technological.
Q. Do primitivists want to abolish all technology (e.g., modern medicine)?
A. For reasons stated above, I cannot claim to speak for all primitivists. But my own view is that technology is a tool, and tools cannot be inherently good or evil. The usefulness and appropriateness of any tool is entirely the product of the person using it. If technology is “evil,” it’s only because we use it as a tool to dominate, taking more than our fair share of the world, or treat it as an ends of its own, divorced from human purposes. As such, it makes no sense to throw out all technology, nor is it possible to do so.
Q. Why are you against technology?
A. I am not against technology. I am against the use of technology to take more than our fair share. It’s written that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), and I believe that this applies in general to the principle of taking more than you need. Technology, unfortunately, serves as the primary vehicle of doing so, as labor-saving devices and more efficient technique allows us to produce more, consume more, and destroy more. Isn’t it interesting that we are continually coming out with ways of doing more things faster, yet we seem to just get busier every year? If the promises of technocrats held true, we would be living like the Jetsons. We are clearly not.
Sadly, technology has become such an idol that we often treat it as an end in itself, an inherent good, rather than a means to make our lives eaiser and better. How much of our annual activity is dedicated to coming up with sharper, better, more efficient forms of technology, even when such things are not needed? We ought to always remember that the end goal of any technology is to improve human lives. To forget this and pursue technological development without restraint is fundamentally anti-human.