Is Agriculture the "Demon Engine of Civilization"?

Agriculture, the indispensable basis of civilization, was originally encountered as time, language, number and art won out. As the materialization of alienation, agriculture is the triumph of estrangement and the definite divide between culture and nature and humans from each other.

Agriculture is the birth of production, complete with its essential features and deformation of life and consciousness. The land itself becomes an instrument of production and the planet’s species its objects. Wild or tame, weeds or crops speak of that duality that cripples the soul of our being, ushering in, relatively quickly, the despotism, war and impoverishment of high civilization over the great length of that earlier oneness with nature. The forced march of civilization, which Adorno recognized in the “assumption of an irrational catastrophe at the beginning of history,” which Freud felt as “something imposed on a resisting majority,” of which Stanley Diamond found only “conscripts, not volunteers,” was dictated by agriculture. And Mircea Eliade was correct to assess its coming as having “provoked upheavals and spiritual breakdowns” whose magnitude the modern mind cannot imagine.

“To level off, to standardize the human landscape, to efface its irregularities and banish its surprises,” these words of E.M. Cioran apply perfectly to the logic of agriculture, the end of life as mainly sensuous activity, the embodiment and generator of separated life. Artificiality and work have steadily increased since its inception and are known as culture: in domesticating animals and plants man necessarily domesticated himself.

That’s the beginning of a lengthy, thoughtful piece on agriculture and its faults or potential faults. I have to say that I resonate with the author’s message and points. Of course, agriculture has been theorized as the beginning of environmental destruction many times by now, but this author goes quite deep into the issue, and in a very eloquent way. To check out the full piece by John Zerzan, head on over to The Anthropik Network: Agriculture: Demon Engine of Civilization

What do you think, is agriculture the “demon engine of civilization” or is it something a little more positive?..

Photo Credit: Jim Moran

2 thoughts on “Is Agriculture the "Demon Engine of Civilization"?”

  1. agriculture has enabled man to perpetuate itself into global dominance (at least on a mammalian size scale – bacteria and viruses probably can still kick our monkey asses). however if we would stop soil erosion on a planetary scale, end global hunger (a man made problem), and look to permaculture to feed humanity (check out ) , especially since we’re all here already, agriculture might be able to be done “correctly” (seems like it could be possible). humans need to start with the assumption we have messed stuff up and look at what we can do to stop messing things up (this should probably start with more leisure time to sit, not do. ) okay i’ll stop, like i really have any solutions, seems like you have to have lots of objective knowledge to know how much we’ve messed up and how to fix it. let’s all sit around and just breathe more!! be well zach!!

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