The Art of Nothing

2004-02-26

Claire Wolfe links approvingly to two essays by Tom Elpel: Escaping the Job Trap and The Art of Nothing. Illustrating my distinction between Aristotle and Thoreau, Elpel outdoes even Thoreau in advocating a return to the lifestyle of the hunter-gatherer! Having just read two books on early humanity by John E. Pfeiffer, I find it difficult to understand how someone could think the nomadic life is realistic in this day and age, let alone an ideal. Talk about saying "No!" to the flow of history: the hunter-gatherer mode of existence became effectively extinct about ten thousand years ago when the human population grew too large to be supported by hunting and gathering, and people turned to agriculture. Concomitant with the rise of agriculture and settled life ("civilization" means literally "city living") came an ever-expanding individualism, as opposed to the oppressive egalitarianism of hunter-gatherer bands. A libertarian hearkening for small-band living is just about as incongruous as Oscar Wilde's individualist defense of socialism in The Soul of Man Under Socialism. Better, methinks, to look forward to a post-state society than back to a pre-state society.

(BTW, talk of hunter-gatherers reminds me of one of my favorite cartoons.)


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