The Konformist

June 2002

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Running on Emptiness:

The Pathology of Civilization

by John Zerzan

Feral House

214 pp.


Book Review


Mickey Z.

Anarchism provokes some rather predictable responses. The mainstream is reflexively hostile. The intellectuals offer condescending remarks like that of Jaye Beldo who admitted that he regards "anarchy as a mere euphemism for impotence" and explained that Zerzan's writings would not lead him to abandon his computer and make "a dash to nature like some 21st Century Schizoid Rousseau." Then there's all the bitchy in-fighting between anarchist factions too numerous to track.

While Zerzan would snobbishly label me a "hobbyist" when it comes to anarchy, I found this collection of essays to be a welcome reality check. Many of the subjects discussed by the author are subjects I've written about for years - often from a somewhat similar perspective - and that¹s how I personally chose to evaluate this book. I ignored his ingenuous critique of Chomsky, his frequent use of rarified language (the bane of anarchists everywhere), and his insatiable need to label. Far more important is this: Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, the questions Zerzan asks will provoke critical thought in anyone with an open mind.

For me, a book that asks big questions (Why do humans ignore the nature of their bodies and minds? Has one single man-made item been a necessary improvement on the earth? Why do we put the survival of all species in peril for our exclusive comfort and gratification?) transcends labels like primitivist, syndicalist, and even anarchist. No one theory can or should own such fundamental inquiry and to discount this book based solely on Zerzan¹s reputation is to sacrifice an invaluable resource. The stakes are far too high to let that happen.

To order Running on Emptiness, contact Feral House:


Mickey Z. can be reached at


Jaye Beldo Review

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