Where are green anarchist and anti-civilization thoughts in academia? This article offers an encounter between green anarchism and decolonial theory to demonstrate its relevance as an action-oriented practice carried out across the world by groups or individuals rejecting domination and subjugation by state, capital, and other forms of power. This article begins with an anecdote to reveal weak points within academic decolonial theory, specifically readings of non-Western civilizations, political ambiguities, and corresponding engagements with the state–corporate nexus. Next, it revisits anti-civilizational anarchism, highlighting theoretical development, conflictive debates, and insights. The article concludes by encouraging anarchist decolonial perspectives that articulate permanent tensions against divisions of labour, hierarchies, statist-colonial organizational forms, and industrial/digital technologies. These mechanisms necessitate careful attention to avoid reproducing coloniality and extractivism under different names.


If there is such a hunger to consume nature, there is a similar hankering to gobble up subjectivities – our subjectivities.[1] So let’s live them with all the freedom we can generate; let’s not put them on a supermarket shelf. And seeing as nature is being attacked in so indefensible a manner, at least let’s keep our subjectivities alive, our visions, our poetics of existence. We are definitely not the same, and it’s wonderful to know that each of us is as different from the other as one constellation is from the next. The fact that we can share this space, that we are traveling together, does not mean we are the same; rather that we are capable of attracting one another …

—Ailton Krenak, Ideas to Postpone the End of the World


There is a war to domesticate and consume not only so-called ‘natural resources’ but also our recalcitrant, joyful and caring subjectivities. This implies, Ailton Krenak reminds us above, that people are not alone in this struggle. While we differ in cultural composition and political antagonisms towards civilization and the state, there remains (hopefully) a shared appreciation and love for our ecosystems and habitats. Krenak contends that the shared recognition of this struggle can generate attraction, allowing differences to ‘share space’ and ‘travel’, if not struggle together (as many already do). The growth of techno-capitalism fuels ecological and climate catastrophe,[2] enforcing its worldview (e.g. a ‘perfection of things’)[3] and civilizing processes (Elias, 1978). The Zapatistas (Marcos, 2001), Arturo Escobar (2004, 2021), Vandana Shiva (2013), and other decolonial scholars recognize this permanent colonial war and imposition against the planet (IAM, 2017; Maldonado-Torres, 2016; Zig Zag, 2011). Lesser known in the academy, however, are green anarchists and anti-civilization (AntiCiv) praxis, which take positions of attack against this war of planetary domestication and extraction. As Bill Rodgers (aka Avalon), one of six people arrested by the FBI in Operation Backfire and charged with Earth Liberation Front (ELF) arson actions, wrote before he committed suicide in jail on December 21, 2005:

Certain human cultures have been waging war against the Earth for millennia. I chose to fight on the side of bears, mountain lions, skunks, bats, saguaros, cliff rose and all things wild. I am just the most recent casualty in that war. But tonight I have made a jailbreak—I am returning home, to the Earth, to the place of my origins. (Earth First!, 2015)

Anarchist, especially green anarchist (Figure 1), commitments to earth and animal liberation and eliminating oppressive relationships and extractive industries retain an affinity and complicity with anti-colonial struggles.

Figure 1. Ecological anarchist and anti-extractivist struggle. Artist: Riona O’Regan.

This article is a critical encounter between green anarchism and decolonial theory, arguing that, despite various tensions, green anarchism and anti-civilization praxis remain complementary to decolonial theory. Despite the resilience of anarchist ideas, they are frequently presented in bad faith and largely ignored within the academy, remaining intentionally evasive ideas or relegated to geography and ‘anarchist studies’. Anarchist praxis, outside the academy, has retained global influence through various anti-colonial struggles (Anderson, 2005; Hill & Antliff, 2021; Maxwell & Craib, 2015; Ramnath, 2012; Rapp, 2012), student movements (Aragorn, 2012), anti-police movements (Gelderloos, 2013), and, more visibly, the Plaza Occupations in Europe, North Africa and the USA (Aragorn!, 2012; Gelderloos, 2013; Graeber, 2013). Egyptians, during the Arab Spring (2011), even began adapting and celebrating Black Bloc tactics (Katerji, 2013). Anarchists have consistently retained solidarity and complicity with Indigenous struggles, from Ricardo Floras Magon’s collaboration with the Yaqui and numerous groups across Mexico (Bufe & Verter, 2005) to more contemporary collaborations with the Zapatistas (Maldonado, 2012), Zapotec and Ikoot peoples (Dunlap, 2019a). Anarchist complicities spread across Turtle Island/North America (Churchill, 2003; Hill & Antliff, 2021), Bolivia (Anonymous, 2013; G. Rodríguez, 2020) and many other countries across Abya Yala/Americas (see Anonymous, 2014; Gelderloos, 2022; Ruiz, 2020; Taibo, 2018). This has cultivated Indigenous (Alfred, 2005; Aragorn!, 2005; Dunlap, 2021a), Black (Bey, 2020) and queer anarchism(s) (Ackelsberg, 2013; Bæden, 2014; Fray & Tegan, 2011), and extends to Murray Bookchin’s (2006) social ecology’s gaining influence in Rojava (Dirik et al., 2016). Direct action and mutual aid give anarchism a strong presence in social struggles against exploitation, state control, and development projects. Anarchist praxis, especially its ecological variants, receives less attention in the hallways of the academy (Springer, 2016), leading to minimize, if not erase, anarchists contributions to social struggle and, at issue here, isolating it from interacting with academic decolonial theory.

Decolonial critique rightfully challenges the class and Eurocentric foundations within anarchism (Barker & Pickerill, 2012; Ciccariello-Maher, 2011; Lewis, 2017).[4] Decolonial criticisms remain fundamentally important, yet the academic gaze tends to ignore an expansive terrain of anti-systemic combat, focusing on past convergences, gatherings, and specific anarchists’ collectives. There is a propensity to ignore developments and debates within anarchist theory (hosted largely outside the university and corporate publishing). Meanwhile, anti-authoritarian politics and virulent direct action challenges liberal and authoritarian strategies – left or right – evoking fears of uncontrollability, criticism of lacking ‘leadership’, organization, and lacking political power. The neglect of green and AntiCiv anarchist theory within academia coincides with downplaying the immediate struggles and insurgent subjectivities in the ‘Global North’ and the wider networks in the ‘South’ (see Anonymous, 2013, 2014; Morales, 2014; G. Rodríguez, 2013, 2020). Between 2011 and 2014 in England, for example, there were over 60 anarchist actions against migrant detention operations, prisons, courthouses, police-military infrastructure, animal exploitation industries, communication, and digital infrastructures (Anonymous, 2015).[5] France, between 2020 and 2021, witnessed over 200 acts of sabotage, arson and vandalism against police, prison, television, extractive infrastructures, and energy industries (Anonymous, 2021). These are just a few concentrated example of actions taken by anarchists against institutions and infrastructures understood as colonizing and subjugating land and people. Academic decolonial scholarship – distinct from non-academic scholarship – tends towards prioritizing historical events, retains distance from land struggles, and frequently references the popularized Indigenous and Afro groups. This decolonial academic disposition, moreover, ignores the wider struggle of eco-anarchists and related autonomist tendencies organizing squats, discussions, and attacks against authoritarian politics and extractive infrastructures. This article seeks to tease out these complicated, sensitive, and inflammatory breakdowns to reinforce an anti-authoritarian – if not anarchist – decolonial praxis, which also implies connecting decolonial theory with combative actors within or at the gates of the university. While there is a diversity of decolonial scholars and perspectives, consider the following antidote to illuminate existent political fault lines and concerns to bridge.

In 2017, I attended a ‘decolonial workshop’ at a Latin American Research Centre in Amsterdam, organized by people I knew vaguely. Likewise, it was attended by others I had years earlier been held hostage with (in a legal grey area) by military police on a bus at an anti-prison ‘noise’ demonstration. People sat and watched the lecturer introduce concepts of ‘coloniality’, ‘modernity’, and ‘decoloniality’. Promoting the works of Walter Mignolo and Arturo Escobar, the speaker expressed their guilt for being mestizo[6] and, ironically acknowledging the similarities in what they were saying with Catholicism, asserted the importance of embracing and feeling guilt for their ‘privilege’ and, in my understanding, overall ‘colonial sins’. Instead of preaching sensitivity, collaboration, and generalized insurrectionary/decolonial empowerment, guilt was the methodology to becoming politically ‘correct’, ‘woke’, or ontologically speaking, finding salvation. This event is consistent with trends within ‘academic decolonization’, which promote guilt and submission to decolonial leadership and authority, flattening complicated conflict realities, identity tears, political values and assumes self-identification and inaction against coloniality and its infrastructures (Dunlap, 2021a; Rodríguez & Inturias, 2018). The workshop was a lecture and demonstrably disinterested in struggles outside well-known Indigenous collectives and ‘decolonizing the university’. Living in a squat three blocks away, I felt frustrated watching a ‘professor’ projecting middle-class guilt and academic code in the name of decolonial praxis. Righteous ambiguity pervaded the talk, and when talking about decolonizing the university, nothing was mentioned about the immediate linear classroom layout and multi-scalar infrastructural arrangements that contained all of us. The ‘workshop’ ignored how capitalist institutions use ‘revolutionary ideas’ or ‘critical feedback’ to co-opt ideas, a theme particularly relevant in a university context. I was shocked at the lack of critical reflection and, at the time, I thought that decolonizing the university was akin to burning it down and radically appropriating it. Moreover, when raising clarification questions on what is the ‘colony model’ (or material arrangements inherent in coloniality) and, more relevant to this special issue conversation, how ‘coloniality’ related to civilizations and anti-civilization thought, the lecturer remained intrigued if unfamiliar with this proposition. The suggestion, in line with anti-civilization theory, was whether the problem of inequality, discrimination, hierarchy, and ecological degradation extends beyond colonialism stretching back to ancient civilizations.

This decolonial workshop raises questions still relevant today. Introducing and putting green and anti-civilization anarchism into conversation with decolonial thought is not only theoretically beneficial to ‘academic decolonization’, but it also illuminates a praxis and body of literature out-side the university, rooted in permanent conflict and against the ‘colony’ or, more accurately, civilized progress. Decolonial academic literature, like Marxism (see Springer, 2016, 2017), appears comfortable with divisions of labor – allowing an ‘intelligentsia’ – and hierarchy, which speaks to the issues of organization, the state and the reproduction of colonial forms of organization – and/or coloniality – that green and anti-civilization anarchism are preoccupied with reducing, if not eliminating. Anarchism, while distinctly anti-authoritarian, embraces radical plurality that embraced Indigenous and rural forms of organization (Roman-Alcalá, 2021). These originally distinguished anarchists from Marxists (until later), who actively listened, organized, and drew inspiration from, as Eric Hobsbawm (1971/1959, pp. 82–83) labelled them, ‘backward peasants’ and ‘primitive rebels’.[7] In the academy, insurrectionary struggles are frequently relegated to history, assimilated into the label of ‘social movements’ or, more popular, distanced through emphasizing Indigenous groups and struggles in faraway lands (Dunlap, 2020b, 2021c). Green anarchism affirms that the struggle against the state, domestication processes, and civilization is alive everywhere, even if these actions are decentralized, scattered, and taken up by individuals and small collectives.

Engaging green anarchism(s) offers direct pathways into different socio-ecological struggles and debates, extending to Indigenous anarchist scholarship outside the university (Mullenite, 2021), which – consequently – offers new insights closer to reality. The ‘work emerging from anarchist social movements and practices are often derived from collective struggles and negotiated among groups’ which Joshua Mullenite (2021, p. 207) reminds us by stressing that ‘anarchist geographers ought to cite more anarchists who aren’t professional geographers but instead draw from both the large anarchist scholarly tradition and the rich texts produced by anarchists’. This resonates with Iokiñe Rodríguez (2020, p. 88), who, discussing decolonial environmental justice, contends that ‘theoretical production that takes place outside academia, specifically in activist circles and as a result of the interaction between academics and activists’ deserve greater recognition. While this division and labelling of ‘academics’ and ‘activists’ deserves further reflection (Dunlap, 2020a; Dunlap et al., 2021), green anarchist anti-civilization thought, generated through a praxis outside (and yet influenced by) the university, deserves greater acknowledgement in critical literature and course curriculum. Not to assimilate or dissect the combative anti-state and civilizational struggles into the university, but to remind everyone the struggles against the colony are here, now, and everywhere to various degrees. Escobar (2021, this issue), while laying out six valuable ‘general axes or principles for transition strategies’ (e.g. re-communalization–localization of social life; autonomy; de-patriarchialization–racialiazation of social relations; and re-integration with the Earth), ignores the modalities of permanent conflict and antagonistic action against the state and civilization across the world. Complementing Escobar’s prefigurative intervention, this article seeks to offer an antagonist companion – or potential toolbox – to reinforce the six-transition axis.

This article seeks to promote conceptual clarity within academic decolonization, demonstrating green anarchist affinity and conceptual usefulness of anarchist decolonization. This can identify immediate points of contention over struggles for institutional reform or abolition. Furthermore, the article reminds scholars that ‘decolonization is not a metaphor’ (Tuck & Yang, 2012), demonstrating instead it is a practice carried out by numerous groups and individuals recognizing and rejecting their subjugation by the state, capital, and industrial/digital technologies (see Dunlap & Jakobsen, 2020). The article proceeds by briefly discussing the origins and brief attributes of green and anti-civilization anarchism. This is followed by demonstrating weak and concerning points within academic decolonial theory, notably political ambiguities, readings of civilization and, more so, the materiality of the colony and engagement with the state. Next, it revisits green anarchism and anti-civilizational thought, highlighting theoretical development, conflictive debates, and insights. The article concludes with a discussion supportive of anarchist decolonization, highlighting five useful qualities of green anarchism. Supporting a pluriverse of struggle, the article contends that divisions of labor, ‘statist’ organizational forms, and industrial technology remain sensitive areas to negotiate, necessitating careful attention to avoid the reproduction of coloniality and extractivism under different names, including academic decolonial theory.

Anarchism is dead, long live green anarchy!

Green Anarchism (eco-anarchism) emerges as a response to the narrow articulations of anarchism, rooting anarchist praxis to ecology. Eco-anarchism inevitably grows from the eastern influence of Daoism and Buddhism (Rapp, 2012; Springer, 2016), but more commonly emerges from the proto-anarchism of Henry David Thoreau and the ecological considerations of Peter Kropotkin and Elisée Reclus (Parson, 2018; Rapp, 2012; Springer, 2016). Murray Bookchin’s (2006) social ecology also remains influential in developing eco-anarchism, stressing the inseparability of social and ecological factors. While Fredy Perlman and John Zerzan became central theorists, authors such as Edward Abby, Dave Forman, Arne Næss, Kirkpatrick Sale, Gary Snyder, and Judi Bari were also influential. Green anarchism rests on the insights of anarchism that challenged Marx and, later, Marxism’s workerism, the privileging of economic factors and celebration of centralized institutions or statism (Bookchin, 2006; van der Walt, 2018). Anarchists reject the state as it facilitates the concentration of power into the hands of elites, creating governance by a minority. The state, second, is wedded to centralized bureaucratic and military logics competing over territories and peoples within the interstate system; and, third, its structure and framework are inseparable from capital. As Kropotkin writes, the state and capital are ‘bound together … by the bond of cause and effect, effect and cause’ (van der Walt, 2018, p. 520). Anarchists have always warned of, and rejected, state capitalism, rightfully anticipating Leninism and Stalinism. As van der Walt (2018, p. 521) reminds us, Bakunin claimed that ‘the classical Marxist “dictatorship of the proletariat” would be a dictatorship over the proletariat, headed by a “new privileged political-scientific class” comprised of “state engineers”’. Speaking from their experience in Serbia, which recently gained independence from Turkey, Bakunin ‘insisted that new ruling groups can emerge through the state itself even without taking direct control of the means of production’ (van der Walt, 2018, p. 522). Valuing spontaneity and leaderless resistance, anarchists are preoccupied with forms of organization and the reproduction of domination and oppression, which has only widened and expanded with ecological considerations.

While anti-authoritarian, and anarchist, ideas have always been influenced by Indigenous practices in Europe, Russia, or Turtle Island (Graeber & Wengrow, 2021), green anarchism found common interests and struggles with various Indigenous groups. Indigenous solidarity, co-creation, and struggle began to take hold in the 1970s where anarchists’ and Marxists’ movements and action groups worked in solidarity with the American Indian Movement (AIM) and Indigenous land struggles against the Canadian and US governments (Churchill, 2003; Hansen, 2002; Hill & Antliff, 2021).[8] Together targeted by state counterinsurgency programs (Churchill & Wall, 2002/1988), Indigenous and anarchist collaboration and affinity, as mentioned in the introduction, has been extensive and cultivated eco-anarchist theoretical developments. While there have been important criticisms concerning anarcho-primitivism[9] emerging under the green anarchist umbrella (Smith, 2007, 2011; Tucker, 2019), anarchist and libertarian socialist magazines in Turtle Island and Europe have cultivated solidarity, complicity, and eco-anarchist praxis. To name a few, Fifth Estate (1965-), Endless Struggle (1987–1990), No Picnic (1988–1990), Open Road (1976–1990), Oh-Toh-Kin (1992–1994), Green Anarchy (2000–2008) and the earlier Green Anarchist (1984–1997) and Do or Die (1993–2003) in England (Hill & Antliff, 2021; GA, 2012). These publications allowed common conversations in defense of the Earth and in solidarity with various Indigenous groups across the world, but – more importantly – with everyone taking up this struggle against the ‘capitalist mega machine’ and ‘civilization’. Green Anarchy: The Anti-Civilization Journal of Theory and Action, as one of the editors reflects, ‘became well-known for having the most comprehensive direct action reports in North America, featuring anarchist, anti-capitalist, environmental and indigenous resistance, as well as prisoner revolts’ (GA, 2012, p. 2). This also included the section, ‘The Wild Fight Back!’, which was ‘an amusing accounting of recent attacks on civilized humans by anything from caged tigers to rabid poodles to strong gusts of wind’. These journals, without institutional funding, placed a high value on resistance, rewilding (or ‘decivilizing) and attacking or breaking free from state and civilized infrastructures.

Green anarchy, then, is the anti-authoritarian theory and practice aiming for total liberation (see Loadenthal, 2017; Springer et al., 2021a), and – ideally – refusing submission to half-measures and reproductive political tricks (e.g. leftism and political parties). On further analysis, green anarchists identify civilization as the root of current colonial and statist ills. Inspired by classic definitions (see Brown, 2009), civilization is described as the ‘complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city–state)’, explains Derrick Jensen (2006, p. 17). [C]ities being defined-so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on-as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life (see also Said, 1993). Green Anarchy (GA, 2005, p. 2) contends that: ‘Civilizations inaugurated warfare, the subjugation of women, population growth, drudge work, concepts of property, entrenched hierarchies, and virtually every known disease, to name a few of its devastating derivatives’. The Return Fire (RF, 2013, p. 5) glossary, moreover, emphasizes ecosystems ‘gutted for large-scale resource extraction’, the formation of ‘armies’ and ‘herding insiders to artificially identify with each other as a crowd, by citizenship/race/religion and so on’. Green anarchism, overall, emerges from combative praxis, principally concerned with divisions of labor (e.g. hierarchy), domestication processes, symbolic culture and patriarchy related to civilizations, states, and corporations (see GA, 2005; RF, 2013). This includes particular preoccupation – and breaks – with the political control strategies of the ‘Left’ by developing non-dominating forms of organization (e.g. direct democracy and informality) (GA, 2005, 2012; RF, 2013). Unspoken is the influence of social war theory on green anarchism (see Dunlap, 2019a; Dunlap & Correa-Arce, 2021; Gelderloos, 2013, 2022), which identifies ‘not only hierarchies but also order, democracy, production, equality, and unity as a violent imposition’ (Gardenyes, 2011, p. 10). ‘The enemy,’ Josep Gardenyes (2011, pp. 7–8) contends ‘is the logic of control in and of itself’. Social war, then, is ‘a struggle against the structures of power that colonize us and train us to view the world from the perspective of the needs of power itself, through the metaphysical lens of domination, in which the universe has a center and follows laws and can be quantified’ (see also Anonymous, 2014; Loadenthal, 2017). While green and anti-civilization anarchist antagonism have rejected universities as embodying the problems and relations they oppose (Perlman, 1969; Springer, 2016), anarchist political ecology has emerged within the academy voicing similar concerns divorced from action communiques.

Anarchist political ecology, contrary to political ecology, John Clark (Springer et al., 2021b, p. viii) explains, ‘has an explicit normative commitment – one that arises from the fact that is not only political and ecological but also an-archic, that is, opposed to domination’. This means rejecting the lens of management and statist control of humans and nonhumans common in ecology and, to a degree, political ecology (Springer et al., 2021a, 2021b). Rooted in mutual aid, free association and direct action, anarchist political ecology – like green anarchism – rejects anthropocentrism and the utilitarianism connected to ‘exchange’ and ‘use value’ that subordinates the nonhuman world as resources to plunder. This necessarily entails employing moral and holistic considerations to combine the universal and the particular, the individual and collective, to study the rippling effects of our actions, institutions and political economies. The former nods to the importance of rejecting objectification and commodification, instead aiming to enrich social relationships, soil, water, air, and habitat qualities through academic investigation (Springer et al., 2021a, 2021b), assuming that is possible. In short, anarchist political ecology rejects domination of human and nonhuman life, but more so aims at studying and combating this domination. Green and anti-civilization anarchism(s) reject the unjust, oppressive, genocidal, and ecocidal trajectory in place and aims for a common commitment to develop social practices capable of overcoming techno-capitalism and extractivist processes. Green anarchist praxis, while present on the frontline of struggles, remains marginalized within the university. These contentions represent an ideal. There are no shortage of struggles ahead, suggesting a relevance to connect and exchange with academic decolonization, but more so develop a committed praxis. Yet, as the next section discusses below, there are some questionable obstructions to this relationship with academic decolonial literature. Green anarchists importantly, as the title above suggests, do not want civilized progress, as it tries to kill, capture, exploit, and transform everyone into a resource to plunder.

Academic decolonization: preserving or smashing the colony?

The Modernity/Coloniality/Decoloniality (MCD) project, or ‘academic decolonial’ thought, has demonstrated great value, shortcomings, and ambiguities. Without question, MCD offers extensive and important historical explorations, epistemological deconstructions, and theoretical devices with great relevance (Mignolo, 2005, 2012; Mignolo & Walsh, 2018; Sousa Santos, 2015). The ‘decolonial turn’, explains Nelson Maldonado-Torres (2018, p. 112), ‘refers to decolonization or decolonality as a project that aspires to create a world with symbols, relations of power, forms of being, and ways of knowing beyond modernity/coloniality’. Maldonado-Torres (2018, p. 112) continues that modernity and coloniality ‘are inseparable from elements of modern colonialism like the hiearchization of human difference, the imposition of racial slavery, the appropriation of land, the monopolization of knowledge, and the naturalization of a nonethics of war where acts like extermination and rape are normalized against bodies negatively marked by coloniality’. This reads highly complementary – in style and aim – to anti-authoritarian thought, anarchist tensions (see Bonanno, 1998), and objectives. The decolonial relationship to power, however, remains ambiguous – scattered across many scholars – and in many instances aiming to seize the means of academic and statist production. Decolonial works rely heavily on jargon and new academic terms or, as Siliva Riveria Cusicanqui (2012/2010, p. 102) criticizes, creates ‘a new academic canon, using a world of references and counter references that establish hierarchies and adopt new gurus’ (see also Grosfoguel, 2016). Academic decolonization retains important messages and investigations, yet tends towards abstraction, gate keeping, affirming hierarchies and, overall, internalizing university logics that are a microcosm of civilized society (Asher, 2013; Asher & Ramamurthy, 2020; Dunlap, 2021a). As with the anecdote above, this disposition has a way of flattening and alienating others with similar concerns or, inversely, rebranding an attractive new gospel rooted in liberalism, academic publishing, careerism and, depending on the author, reintroducing identity infused authoritarian ideologies. These priorities tend towards replacing combative struggle against the colony and its extractive industries.

The ‘decolonial turn’ and MCD scholars, with notable exceptions (Escobar & Grofougal), despite voicing criticisms of Marxism (Mignolo & Escobar, 2010), in actuality share an uncritical embrace of academic divisions of labor (Cusicanqui, 2012; Dunlap, 2021a; Grosfoguel, 2016). Meanwhile, prioritizing mediatic iterations of social movement organizing, like the World Social Forum (Sousa Santos, 2015), to the exclusion of other kinds of organizing, not to mention unmediated or conflictive actions – a particular concern for anarchists. Criticism of the MCD project entails theoretical arrogance, nationalism, and authoritarian tendencies (Asher, 2013; Dunlap, 2021a), meanwhile relying on, and employing, identity essentialism that hinders the navigation of conflict terrains (Dunlap, 2021a; Rodríguez & Inturias, 2018). David Graeber (2007, pp. 363–364), while noting affinity with Walter Mignolo, recognizes that ‘Mignolo himself ends up falling into a more modest version of the very essentializing discourse he’s trying to escape’. Ironically, accusations extend to decolonial scholars perpetrating ‘epistemic extractivism’ and ‘racism’ (Cusicanqui, 2012; Grosfoguel, 2016). Aníbal Quijano, Ramon Grosfoguel (2016, p. 135) contends, ‘inferiorizes’ and appropriates ‘indigenous, mestizo and Afro knowledge’ without giving respective scholars credit, while Mignolo ‘appropriates ideas from thinkers who come from peoples in struggle without any political commitment to social movements or the struggles of indigenous peoples and Afros’ (see also Cusicanqui, 2012). This speaks to academic separation from, and implicitly profiteering on, political struggles which becomes divisive when Mignolo (2013), drawing on classical conceptions, exclaims: ‘Delinking from the colonial matrix is not an [sic] anarchism’. Mignolo (2013) justifies this exclusion by pigeon holing anarchists and asserting:

Anarchist delinking was not generated by the colonial wound but by the rage of economic exploitation and political abuses of power. However important these goals were and are, anarchism is embodied in modern subject and subjectivities while delinking and healing from the colonial wound are embedded in subject and subjectivities of colonial subjects. (devalued by heteronormative gender/sexual and by racial categories)

This claim is divisive and limiting. It affirms a limited understanding of colonialism and internal colonization – forgetting that colonial powers had to colonize within before they could expand their operations (Churchill, 2003; Dunlap, 2018a) – but also categorically limits struggle, masking the productive and rippling complexity of colonial harm. Mignolo relies on anarchist stereotypes, ignoring the breadth of theory, action, solitaries, and internal contentions, not-to-forget developments. This includes ignoring classical anarchists’ anti-colonial solidarity and resistances (Ferretti, 2018). Overall, well-known decolonial scholars appear to underestimate not only the effects of civility within academia but also the internalization and reproduction of colonial orders, favouring distinction and categorical exclusion.

Other than evoking general condemnation, decolonial claims are unclear concerning the difficult questions of extractivism, infrastructure, civilization, and state formation. Academic decolonial discourse tends towards situating itself on a geopolitical level. There is an enormous amount of discussion about colonialism, ‘coloniality’, eurocentrism, and ‘decoloniality’, but considering the issue of civilizational transformation – the subject of this special issue – what exactly is the colony and how does it relate to civilization and the state? ‘Anti-systemic decolonial struggles’ Ramon Grosfoguel (2011, p. 14) explains, ‘are at the same time a civilization struggle for a new humanism and a new civilization (indigenous’ conception of transformation in different parts of the world)’. Recently in Globalizations, Mignolo (2021a, pp. 724–725) concurs, contending:

What distinguishes coloniality from other superficially similar forms of control and management is the conjunction of Western constitution of an institutional, conceptual machinery to regulate all areas of human experience with an intervention in all co-existing civilizations to “distort, disfigure and destroy” their past, disturbing the present of people intervened.

There is clear disdain – and rightfully so – for the genocidal propensity of European civilization, yet it is accompanied by the claim that ‘all cultures and civilizations in the planet before 1500 were diversely co-existent’ (Mignolo, 2021a, p. 725). Repeating this claim earlier with Catharine Walsh, Mignolo contends that the cosmologies of different non-European civilizations were based on ‘harmony and equilibrium’, not genocide, ecocide and epistmecide. By 1500 one civilization emerged, Western civilization, that began to intrude, trespass, and violate other civilizations (Mignolo & Walsh, 2018, p. 217). This, however, leads to suggest that before 1500,

many civilizations, doing trade and commerce among them, making impressive buildings, telling stories, doing mathematics, regenerating the anthropos species, and engaging in many other endeavors, in their own local civilizations, but none of them was encroaching into any other civilizations. There were hierarchical domestic organizations in all of them, but no expansion to interfere with other civilizations. (Mignolo & Walsh, 2018, p. 217)

The West in civilizational geopolitics was successful in instituting its campaign of imperial and colonial expansion. This claim, however, ignores the well-documented internal and external imperial campaigns of non-European civilizations or Empires (Novillo, 2006; Oberem, 1974; Scott, 2017; Zeitlin, 2005), and the seeds of discontent sowed. This perspective tends towards romanticizing non-European civilization, in Eurocentric fashion, placing the blame for the fall of a civilized Eden on the West instead of examining internal political discord, collaboration, and agency expressed by Indigenous and ‘civilized’ groups in their opposition to Empires (Gelderloos, 2017; Graeber & Wengrow, 2021; Iannone, 2014; Oberem, 1974). This homogenization of civilizations ignores the wars and internal dissent against civilizations (Scott, 2009, 2017), but also the struggles within ‘Western-Civilization’ that Indigenous (Churchill, 2003), autonomist (Federici, 2009/2004), and others (Sakolsky & Koehnline, 1993) have acknowledged.

This analysis reduces the complications – or positive and enchanting features – of civilizations and/or capitalism that allure and bind people to its operations. Mignolo accepts a rudimentary dichotomy and – at least in these recurring moments – ignores various socio-political factors that allow a ‘minority’ European population to ‘distort, disfigure, and destroy’ non-European civilizations. While offering important challenges and ways of thinking to the Western academy, this tends towards avoiding – or at least burying these questions within volumes of books – the uncomfortable questions of how ‘coloniality’ reproduces itself in practice, its persistence, or how people are possessed by it to uphold the colonial/capitalist/statist order (Dunlap & Jakobsen, 2020). Certainly, Western Civilization, and the resulting colonial powers, were and continue to be disastrous, but this should not dissuade us from critical readings of other civilizations and falling into the myth of progress that ignores the existence of other civilizational powers vying for power alongside the diverse and internally contentious ‘West’ (Graeber & Wengrow, 2021). Anarchist readings of civilization are rather different. ‘We can certainly see traits that all civilizations have had in common’, explains Wolfi Landstreicher (2009, p. 289), ‘particularly the various institutions of domination and exploitation – state institutions, economic institutions, social institutions and systems of techniques developed to put and keep people in their place’. The critique of civilization, as will be discussed below, has allowed for affinity to bloom between anarchists and Indigenous Peoples across the world in a common struggle against domination. Moreover, the decolonial ambiguity seems unclear on challenging divisions of labor (e.g. technocracies, hierarchies), industrial or cybernetic progress, but instead are focused at the geopolitical level or media representations, which assume the existence of extractive and infrastructural modes of production. This is apparent with Mignolo’s (2021b, p. 343) recent meanderings about the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), which he contends ‘are challenges to “the racial distribution of capital”’ and that from ‘a non-Western perspective, they are not a threat but are projects responding to the need to affirm sovereignty and creativity instead of being servants of Western global designs’. This ignores the problem of states, infrastructural development and appears content with modernist domination. Socio-ecological domination – and the largest megaproject scheme in the world – is thereby acceptable as long as it is a non-Western civilizational attempt at colonizing, subjugating and absorbing different peoples into destructive socio-ontological and ecological practices. Green anarchists, consequently, do not want Mignolo’s progress as it appears rather comfortable with socio-ecological domination, continuing on a trajectory to control and ‘kill’ everything.

From civilizations to states

This reduction and exceptionalism emerge over the issue of states. Mignolo and Walsh’s analysis of civilizations operates at the large or global scale, relying on generalizations and avoiding the difficult and specific questions of colonial invasion, warfare, and infrastructural domination (see Gelderloos, 2017). Mignolo speaks about the ontological and cosmological values of civilizations and acknowledges ‘hierarchical domestic organizations’, yet there is still a general avoidance to discuss civilizational politics, meanwhile taking an understandably romantic lens to non-European civilizations. Examining the state in relation to coloniality, however, brings this conversation closer in temporal and analytical scales. Raising important issues, Mignolo and Escobar (2010, p. 2) offers a clear statement:

The decolonial option requires a different type of thinking (Catherine Walsh theorizes it as an-other-thinking), a non-linear and chronological (but spatial) epistemological break; it requires border epistemology (e.g. epistemic disobedience), a non-capitalist political economy, and a pluri-national (that is, non-mono-national) concept of the state. (emphasis added)

This ‘decolonial’ version of the state or state pluralism raises serious organizational questions, particularly important and highly debated among anarchists. How does ‘the colony’ and ‘coloniality’ relate to the state? ‘The emergence of the “modern nation-states” in Europe’, Mignolo (2010, p. 4) continues, ‘means two things: that the state became the new central authority of imperial/colonial domination and the “nation” in Europe was mainly constituted of one ethnicity, articulated as “whiteness.”’ This continues into an analysis of Black Creole and ex-slaves taking power in Haiti, but Mignolo’s (2010, p. 4) point was ‘a Black colonial state was not allowed to occupy the same position in the modern/colonial world, than the White colonial state’. By acknowledging forced colonial dependence and racist geopolitics, Mignolo highlights the hypocrisy of liberal governance while validating world systems theory (Frank & Gills, 1993). This appeal for geopolitical equality and autonomy, however, ignores the complicated politics and governance issues associated with creating and managing ‘a Black colonial state’ (Mignolo, 2010, p. 3), which presumably inherits forms of political coercion, domestication and resource extractivism. The difficult questions, however, are bypassed through the rhetoric of self-determination and geopolitical scale. The question of political form and organization of colonial states, and if different ‘Black’ or ‘Indigenous’ states will not reproduce similar socio-cultural discriminations, discontents and civilizations charting ecocidal pathways.

How the colony is defined, its relationship to the modern state and consequent organizational forms has far-reaching consequences. This question remains central to questions of self-determination and autonomy, and a preoccupation for anarchist decolonial praxis. Ambiguity pervades decolonial theory, meanwhile uncritically celebrating authoritarian and statist forms. ‘For us, the horizon is not the political independence of nation-states (as it was for decolonization)’, explains Mignolo and Walsh (2018, p. 4), ‘nor is it only – or primarily – the confrontation with capitalism and the West (though both are central components of the modern/colonial matrix of power)’. Their concern is more with ‘conversations sustained since the late 1990s’, ‘the habits that modernity/coloniality implanted in all of us’, and how it continues to ‘negate, disavow, distort and deny knowledges, subjectivities, world senses, and life visions’ (ibid). While important assertions, there is little recognition of the productive power, organizational and material technologies of the ‘colonial’ or ‘uninational state’ (Ibid., 25). Explanation appears lacking or the meaning hidden within a new academic canon, to put it gently.

This ambiguity, however, becomes clear in the chapter, ‘Insurgency and decolonial Prospect, Praxis, and Project’ (Walsh, 2018). The chapter begins by celebrating Evo Morals and the Zapatistas, meanwhile discussing ‘insurgent subjectivities’, ‘insurgent agency’ and offering new conceptual definitions (Walsh, 2018, p. 36, 38). While ignoring the history of insurrectionary theory (Dunlap, 2020a; Stirner, 2017/1844) – that despite its Eurocentric positioning could retain practical use in academic conversations – the chapter offers a philosophical extrapolation of insurgency by drawing on ‘Global South’ voices. There is, however, little-to-no reflection on what decolonial insurgency would create other than survival or presumably a pluri-national state or autonomist zones emblematic of the Zapatistas (under constant threat from the Mexican state and paramilitaries). The substance and politics of the academic decolonial position is revealed in Footnote 3. Catherine Walsh writes:

In this understanding of insurgency as an action and proposition “from below,” today Morales has no place. From his presidential post “above,” Morales and his government have worked to criminalize and eliminate social movements, claim and develop ancestral territories, and advance state capitalism. The Morales government, in this sense, is part of the structural problem of capitalism/modernity/coloniality/patriarchy intertwined. However, we should not forget that it is the insurgence “from below” that enabled Evo’s election, not only as the first Indigenous president of the majority Indigenous plurination of Bolivia (a historic advance without doubt) but also as a member of a social movement and part of a collective (not individual) project. It is this insurgence that also put in motion the collective Project of state decolonizing and refounding. And it is this insurgence of social movements and Indigenous peoples that made possible, not only in Bolivia but also in Ecuador, the radical constellations of thought and life visions that now organize both countries’ constitutions and naming of a plurinational and intercultural state, a discussion that I will take up in chapter 3. Suffice it to say that the interest here is not with state, per se, nor with the triumph of coming to state power. Rather, it is with the insurgence of decolonial prospects and praxis, something clearly revealed by the Zapatistas in their practices and praxis of political, economic, and territorial autonomy despite state. (Mignolo & Walsh, 2018, p. 51, emphasis added)

Thankfully, Walsh acknowledges that ‘Morales and his government have worked to criminalize and eliminate social movements’, ‘develop ancestral territories’ and ‘advance state capitalism’, though this should not be surprising. The ‘above’ and ‘below’ dichotomies are rudimentary and limited criteria to root decolonial theory, which makes even less sense from an anti-authoritarian perspective considering the ‘Project of state decolonizing and refounding’ and the celebration of Bolivia and Ecuador organizing and constituting ‘a plurinational and intercultural state’ (see Anthias, 2018; Ranta, 2018). The structural political and extractive issues of the state would remain intact, as they have. This national-level perspective avoids precision, creates ambiguity and, later in the chapter, relies too heavily on references to the Zapatistas. Moreover, this general perspective demonstrates political confusion from the authors, especially given their – rightfully – combative attitude towards Marxism (Mignolo & Escobar, 2010). Relating decolonality to de-westernization, Mignolo (2021b: xi) says it bluntly: ‘De-Westernization, however, can only be advanced by a strong state that is economically and financially solid’. The necessity of authoritarianism is explicit, yet what type of Maoism, Leninism, or culturally appropriate capitalist command economy is favoured? Identity essentialism, Walsh demonstrates above, paves the way towards authoritarian embrace, meanwhile surreptitiously appealing to democratic logics by employing ‘above’ and ‘below’ categorization that cloud political precision and complications on matters of the state. Consequently, this approach marginalizes post-statist and extactivist visions.

Juxtapose this to the works of Raul Zibechi (2012, p. 320, 268), who is unafraid to draw on Eurocentric theory (or circulation/co-creation of ideas),[10] recognizes the poverty of the term ‘social movement’, preferring instead ‘societies in movements’ to better communicate insurrectionary struggles and/or events in Bolivia or elsewhere. Mignolo, Walsh and other academic decolonial scholars dance between Leftism, authoritarianism, and Indigenism, all in the name of criticizing coloniality and eurocentrism. This gives the impression that Eurocentric and statist theory is acceptable as long as it is appropriated by an oppressed identity category (Dunlap, 2021a). The political positions from anarchists and Indigenous combatants themselves remain ignored, instead privileging a politics sympathetic to colonial institutional and statist logics. Take the recent texts from Bolivia compiled by Gustavo Rodríguez (2020, p. 7), which is clear in the first pages: ‘The emergence of the national state in this continent, is the result of a colonial imposition that was mutating into wars and “revolutions” led by the Creole elites’. In the context of the recent Coup d’état in Bolivia, and as the title of a chapter indicates: ‘Neither Dictatorships Nor Democracy Nor MASism Nor Fascism: Permanent Insurrection’. Critical of the Leftist programs of Chavistas in Venezuela, Lulaistas in Brazil and even the Zapatistas, the introduction explains:

For us, informal and insurrectionary anarchists, there are no “good governments” and “bad governments” but a single system of domination to confront. “It is not because we are in favor of Evo, but because we are against Jeanine” (No es a favor de Evo sino en contra de Jeanine), is the cry that expresses the end of belief in a government, and arises in the struggle the need to live without a state, the need for revolt, and spreads the unstoppable power engendered by insurrectionary wrath, contrary to the cowardly accommodations of stagnant neoplataformism and the local pachamamism.

This speaks directly to the recuperation of Indigenous ideas and emerges from (Bolivian) anarchist struggle. Academic decolonization evades the question of the state, which is the evolution of the colony, and expresses its organizational form, its epistemology, and ontology (Dunlap, 2018a, 2021a).[11] Indigenous and anarchists are well aware of this,[12] yet this message seems lost in academia as it can implicate the existent institutional organizations, including the universities, academic lifestyles and, more alarmingly, would demand immediate action, presumably placing in jeopardy the academic division of labor. Anarchist Decolonization, heavily influenced by green and anti-civilization anarchism, responds to academic decolonial shortcomings by recognizing that the state remains the preeminent framework or structure of conquest that manages and secures resource extractivism, social control, racial and sexual discrimination, as well as the subjugation of native populations (Dunlap, 2021a). The ‘Global North’ and ‘South’ have a ‘common enemy’ as Ward Churchill (2002) reminds us, subjugating, possessing, and turning people on each other and subordinating them to the imperatives of the state (Dunlap, 2018a, 2021a). This means questioning the reality of the state form, its mode of production and its technologies, and the consequent extractivism it necessitates aiming for liberation in the face of coloniality and the state.

F#%k ‘the system:’ green anarchism and anti-civilization thought

Anarchist decolonization contends that anarchist theory offers a useful toolbox for decolonial practice. While many strands of anarchism are rightfully critiqued for privileging enlightenment rationalism and materialist atheism, which reduces issues solely to class while transposing Western conceptions of state, sovereignty, and law onto Indigenous cultures (Ciccariello-Maher, 2011; Ramnath, 2012), green and anti-civilization anarchism(s) critically reflect on these issues. Forms of organization are central questions for anarchists, which further raises the question: What are colonial and decolonial forms of organization? How can colonial forms of organization and relationships be broken? Colonial organizational influences are pervasive, contested, and influencing seemingly horizontal forms (Dunlap, 2018b). The Zapatistas – resembling a Mayan-infused autonomist Marxism – serve as one highly celebrated from, yet this is only one of many possibilities (Dunlap, 2018b, 2020a; Rosset & Barbosa, 2021). Anti-civilization theory, a foundation within green anarchism, remains another avenue for consideration and experimentation, which given its commitment to similar decolonial objectives deserves recognition and inclusion in the curriculum.

Anti-civilization thought emerges with the onset of industrialization. An edited collection reveals that amongst many Romantic and enlightenment thinkers, there was recognition of the deteriorating effects of Western Civilization (Zerzan, 2005/1999). Resistance against enclosure (Illich, 1981; Merchant, 1983), colonial-statist desertion (Graeber & Wengrow, 2021; Sakolsky & Koehnline, 1993), and rebellion (Linebaugh & Rediker, 2013) coincide with Indigenous struggles and wars against colonial imposition. The Diggers, Levellers and, later, the Luddites and Captain Swing in England recognized industrialization, urbanization, and mechanized technology as attacks against their social fabrics, joining the war against industrializing states (Foucualt, 2003/1976; Zerzan, 1988). Meanwhile classic Western philosophers – from Durkheim to Marx – witnessed Western Civilization eroding authentic individuality and community (el-Ojeili & Taylor, 2020). Individualist, socialist, and anarchist currents recognized the deleterious effects of civilization (Carpenter, 1889; Stirner, 2017; Anonymous, n.d.). The experience of Nazism, or the (re)colonializing boomerang coming back to Europe (Arendt, 1962/1952; Moses, 2002), offered socio-technical advancements dissected by Lewis Mumford and Jaquce Ellul, which provided intellectual ammunition for anti-civilization perspectives. Marxism retains a current of anti-civilization thought (el-Ojeili & Taylor, 2020). This includes picking and choosing, even decontextualizing, aspects of the Frankfurt School, such as Walter Benjamin’s (2007/1968, p. 256) famous quote: ‘There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. The Frankfurt School’s deconstruction of modernity has proven inspirational to anti-civilization thought (Zerzan, 2005), meanwhile Amadeo Bordiga, the first leader of the Italian communist party, linked capitalism and environmental degradation (el-Ojeili & Taylor, 2020) while Jacques Camatte’s (1973) Marxian exploration into domestication offered building blocks for anti-civilization anarchism.

Beginning with a strong orthodox, and later unorthodox, Marxian background – translating Guy Debord, the Situationist International, Camatte and others into English – Fredy Perlman emerges as an essential author of green and anti-civilization anarchism. Perlman, after attending Columbia University, rejected the academy as well as corresponding ideological trenches. Famously, when asked how he identifies, Perlman stated that ‘the only -ist name I respond to is “cellist”’ identifying with playing the cello over any particular ideology (Perlman, 1989, p. 96). Yet, as Kevin Tucker (2017, iv) contends: ‘Despite his reluctance to use the word, Fredy has been one of the most influential writers on anarchist thought, particularly anti-civilization, green anarchist and anarcho-primitivist strands’. After connecting with the histories and cultures of Anishinaabe nations (the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi) in Detroit, where Perlman lived, his work shifted towards prioritizing socio-ecological thought and oral history. ‘Progress & Nuclear Power: The Destruction of the Continent and Its Peoples’ (1979) became the first explicit outcome of this shift. ‘With humility’, Lorraine Perlman (1989, p. 91) remembers, ‘Fredy tried to absorb the teachings of the North American shamen and “rememberers” whose insights often originated in an era preceding the arrival of Europeans’. The Strait (1988) attempts to honor and continue this oral history, meanwhile his magnum opus, Against His-story, Against Leviathan! (1985), offers an interpretation of civilization from its start to 1983. ‘The resistance story follows the chronology of Leviathan’s destructive march but avoids using His-storians’ conventions of dating the events,’ remembers Lorraine Perlman (1989, p. 88), ‘[t]his, as well as the poetic visionary language, gives the work an epic quality’. This certainly resonates with decolonial tensions regarding the production of his-story and Western conceptions of time (see Tucker, 2019; Zerzan, 1988). Alex Gorrion (2013, p. 3) agrees with Lorraine. Against His-story ‘despite some factual flaws comes much closer to capturing the spirit of power and accurately describing how it functions’. Perlman illuminated the common enemy to all life represented by civilization, describing the processes of extermination, how dominant cultures absorb peoples and, most importantly, describes how resistance turns into submission. Gelderloos (2017, p. 13) suggests Perlman falls into the tap of ‘explaining all other states as consequences of the Mesopotamian experience’ (see also Ghosh, 2018). Western Civilization attempts to rewrite history in its image, ignoring the formation of different authoritarian civilizations, oppressions, and states formations associated with ‘Chinese, Japanese, Incan, Mayan and Aztec civilizations’ that Landstreicher (2009, p. 288) points out relied on the ‘myth of stability’ more than the ‘myth of progress’ (see also Iannone, 2014; Novillo, 2006; Oberem, 1974). Perlman, however, artfully indicates the spiritual dimensions of the psycho-geographic struggle embolden within anarchistic tensions across continents and confrontations with Civilizations, ‘Leviathans’ or, later, the ‘Worldeater’[13] as Perlman called them.

In addition to Perlman, Anarchism has its complementary tradition of anti-civilization thought. Landstreicher (2009, p. 228) reminds us of the influence of Charles Fourier, William Blake, Lord Byron and Mary Shelly, which extends Bakunin’s call for the ‘annihilation of bourgeois civilization’ and ‘all States’. Anarchists Ernest Coeurderoy, Enrico Malatesta, Bruno Filippi, and Renzo Novatore have explicit or implicit understandings of an anti-civilizational praxis (Landstreicher, 2009), yet more to the point, as Margaret Killjoy (2010, p. 2) states, the ‘rejection of complex social hierarchies and government means, therefore, the rejection of civilization’. Landstreicher (2009, p. 232) agrees: ‘the various institutions that comprise civilization act together to take my life from me and turn it into a tool for social reproduction, and how they transform social life into a productive process serving only to maintain the rulers and their social order’. Anti-civilization and green anarchism does not want ‘progress’ if it requires genocide, ecocide and the multiple forms and intensities of slaveries. Early anarchist anti-civilization thinkers, Landstreicher (2009, p. 230) points out had differing – even contradictory – understandings of civilization, failing to connect civilization, progress and industrial technology.

Anarcho-primitivism formalized anti-civilization theory. The works of John Zerzan (1988), John Moore (2016/1990s), Derrick Jensen (2006), Kevin Tucker (2010, 2019), and Enrico Manicardi (2012), assisted in widening and popularizing anarchist critiques of technology, time, symbolism and divisions of labor (el-Ojeili & Taylor, 2020; Parson, 2018). Anarcho-primitivism, however, has been rightfully critiqued for an overreliance on expert (anthropologist, archeologist) knowledge, objectifying /decontextualizing various Indigenous people’s socio-ecological relationships, and creating an ideology[14] as well as, finally, offering ‘no real tool for figuring out how to battle against civilization here and now’ (Ganawaabi, 2019; Landstreicher, 2007, 2009, p. 2; Smith, 2007, 2011). Primitivism, Gelderloos (2017, p. 11) contends, ‘is demonstrably mistaken as regards the origins of oppression and hierarchy, and such a mistake is relevant to our attempts, here and now, to win back our freedom’ (see also Smith, 2007, 2011). This includes ‘a positive racism of romanticing an exotified Other’ that the teleological term ‘primitive’ preserves (Gelderloos, 2017, p. 11), which consequently tends towards ignoring dynamic relationships and confines Indigenous people to the past (see also Graeber & Wengrow, 2021). Primitivism, Kevin Tucker (2019, p. 20, 22) argues, inverts the values of Western Civilization – ‘a big fuck you to the colonizers’ – conceding that ‘primal anarchy’ is a more accurate descriptor than anarcho-primitivism. The anarchist tension, then, merges with the ‘primal’ that is continually inside us and ‘is what we are before being domesticated, colonized, and taken captive’ (Tucker, 2019, p. 22). Primal anarchy recognizes that hunter-gatherer societies still exists – ‘embattled though they may be’ (Tucker, 2019, p. 23) – but also everyone has primal or wild tensions resistant to domestication and domination. ‘Primitivism is born of nostalgia’, explains Tucker (2019, p. 23), ‘Primal anarchy reminds us that domestication can and must be resisted at every single impasse’. Self-reflection, socio-ecological change, and action are always possible. Despite misinterpretation, and select shortcomings, anarcho-primitivism opens important spaces of critique, possibility, and imagining.

The ‘primitivist critique’, explains a Green Anarchy editor (GA, 2012, p. 6), was ‘diagnostic’, useful to ‘decode the system we live under and peel away the shallow gloss and illusory trapping of civilization’. Language, time and organized war are central themes in primitivist theorization, which are themes addressed by the MCD project. Green anarchism, however, in general, lacks acknowledgment of race (until post-Occupy via Black Seed), which the MCD project has brought to the forefront in their works (Mignolo, 2005, 2021a; Mignolo & Escobar, 2010). The commonalities between academic decolonial thought extend further. ‘[A]narcho-primitivism has always told us’, explains Tucker (2019, p. 28), ‘time is a historic creation, one intent on universalizing our displacement from the wild world, to justify our decimation of the earth, to see our wild and less-domesticated relatives as less-than-human, and to leave the relics of our ancestry to history in our trail-blazing path to our destined [civilized] future’. Tucker summarizes almost three decades of work (see Zerzan, 1988, 2005), which is distinctly complementary to decolonial themes related Western conceptions of time subduing Peoples, justifying inequality, normalizing expulsion, and knowledge erasure. The anarcho-primitivist critique of technology, however, while a useful deconstruction device, tends towards ignoring the importance of horticulture, forest gardening, Indigenous science (see Dunlap, 2020a; Graeber & Wengrow, 2021) and the application of ‘appropriate’ or ‘convivial technologies’ wedded to a socio-ecological ethics and use-value (Illich, 1978). Anarcho-primitivism minimizes important, if not crucial, past, present, and future grey areas between nomadic ‘hunter-gathers’ and oppressive civilizations. Anarcho-primitivism and MCD currents, then, both engage in selective and/or romantic articulations and appropriations of the past, though the former is the greatest offender in this regard. Yet, both retain important insights or tools for critical theory and anti-colonial struggle.

There are roughly three stands of anti-civilization anarchism(s): non-primitivist, primitivists/primal, and Indigenous articulations. Anarchism’s broad appeal comes from its rejection of domination, mutual aid, free association, and direct action. Green anarchism and anti-civilization thought have been immensely influential on Earth First!, Earth and Animal Liberation (ALF & ELF) groups (Parson, 2018; Tsolkas, 2015), which relates to insurrectionary anarchist action groups (Loadenthal, 2017) and, the more terroristic, ‘eco-extremist’ tendency equalizing human and nonhuman life through ‘indiscriminate attack’ (Anonymous, 2018a). The eco-extremist tendency has since broken away from anarchism, while anarchists across the world have heavily criticized this tendency (Anonymous, 2018b). Green anarchism and anti-civilization thoughts have had extensive, and Global, influence. Green Anarchy, and other anarchist publication outlets, hosted these praxis debates. To name only a few: Fifth Estate, Do or Die, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, 325, Return Fire: Anti-Authority, Daily Revolt, Individual Will and De-Civilization, Black & Green Review/Wild Resistance, Modern Slavery, Act for Freedom Now and Black Seed: A Green Anarchist Journal and in Italy, Terra Selvaggia and Mexico, among others, Conspiración Ácrata. Anarchism is a toolbox intended to attack, refuse, and create in the face of domination, meanwhile establishing permanent conflict against domination and submission to subjugating statist/extractivist forces. Green and anti-civilization anarchism(s)’ critique of divisions of labor (which generates interlocking hierarchies of domination and universities), advocates direct action (e.g. protest, vandalism, and sabotage) and rejects (or tolerates by circumstance) political parties and Left electoral strategies (e.g. Leftism). This earns green anarchism enemies, while making it difficult for the academy and well-adjusted individuals to digest or feature.

The immediate influence of green and anti-civilization anarchism within struggles across Abya Yala/Turtle Island, cannot be overstated. This influence, however, is often subtle, implicitly or purposely evasive, yet traces emerge in action claims across the globe. While communiques are debated amongst anarchists (Anonymous, 2011; Rodríguez, 2014), ELF, ALF, Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI), and Conspiracy Cells of Fire (CCF) actions and communiques make appearances from Indonesia to Europe, Russia, and Latin America (see Anonymous, 2014; CCF, 2012; Loadenthal, 2017; Rodríguez, 2013; Ruiz, 2020). Anti-civilization thought, as mentioned in the introduction, has proven useful to insurrectionary queers (Bæden, 2014). Historically anarchism has supported anti-colonial struggles (Anderson, 2005; Ferretti, 2018; Gordon & Grietzer, 2013; Magsalin, 2020; Ramnath, 2012; Rapp, 2012), while the anarcho-feminism has taken hold in Bolivia with the Mujeres Creando (Woman Creating) or in Mexico with Féminas Brujas e Insurreccionalistas (Female witches and insurrectionalists). From Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico anarchists remain in struggle, collaborating with Indigenous groups, and cross pollinating anti-authoritarian ideas with and across cultures (Crimethinc, 2021; Dunlap, 2019b; Gelderloos, 2022; Maxwell & Craib, 2015; Rodríguez, 2013, 2020; Ruiz, 2020; Severino, 2015). The varying green and ecological features of anarchism are foundational in this regard. Indigenous anarchisms are emerging from this cross-pollination, revealing buried anti-authoritarian histories and language, cultivating and expanding complicities and solidarities. This anarchistic resurgence, so far, has gained little acknowledgement in the academy.[15]

Advocating ‘deep ecology’, ‘soft-path technology’, ‘green anarchism’ and global balkanization’, Ward Churchill (2003, p. 261, 271) explains, ‘I see a lot of commonality between anarchist ideas of social organization and political economy on the one hand, and indigenous ways of seeing and doing on the other, and so I push people to explore anarchism as their first and most immediate alternative to progressivism’. Indigenous and anarchists across Turtle Island and Abya Yala have long cultivated complicities and common ground (Dunlap, 2019a; Gelderloos, 2022; Maldonado, 2012; Ruiz, 2020). Black Seed (2019, p. 4), since issue seven, is now subtitled: A Journal of Indigenous Anarchy with an editorial board that is ‘indigenous-led, for what that’s worth’. In this genocidal-ecocidal context, a space of co-creation between Indigenism and anarchy plays across its pages. Black Seed, Green Anarchy, or the Earth First! Journal before it, offers an inspiring publication model. The works of Zig Zag/Gord Hill,[16] Aragorn!, Taiaiake Alfred, Rob los Ricos, Cante Waste, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Klee Benally, Mike Gouldhawke, Indigenous Action Media (https://www.indigenousaction.org/) and many others have been important scholars in this regard. With the intention ‘to unite the unique anarchist struggle of Indigenous people in North America’, The Indigenous Anarchist Federation (see https://iaf-fai.org/) has emerged to create a ‘platform to share indigenous anarchist ideas, struggles, philosophies, and challenges’. Important to creating space for this development was Green Anarchy (2000–2008), eventually becoming a ‘100-page journal circulating 8000 copies’ and celebrating Indigenous resistance, all the struggles and collectives in anti-authoritarian struggles against Civilization and the state and corresponding debates. While a product of its time, the magazine sent free issues to prisoners and, as mentioned, included nonhumans in their action reports with the section ‘The Wild Fight Back!’ Contrary to negative anarchist stereotypes, green anarchists have celebrated different ontologies, acknowledged different spirits and see common cause with Indigenous struggle. Decolonial and anarchist voices and actions were celebrated, and the goal was clear: stop this system of genocide, ecocide and wage-slavery – in a word, Civilization. Anarchist Decolonization affirms the anti-authoritarian tensions, pushing for political clarity and struggle within and outside the academy to create the world based on self-organization, free association and mutual aid.

Conclusion: towards pluriversal anarchistic decolonization

Green anarchism and anti-civilization praxis are complementary to decolonial theory. Indigenous resistance has shaped, influenced, and is celebrated by both schools of thought. Modalities of self-organization, mutual aid, free association, and ‘attack’[17] against civilized and statist structures remain the objective of green and anti-civilization anarchism. While green anarchism remains ‘Global North’ centric, decolonial theory and anti-civilization anarchism are heavily critical of – if not reject outright – anthropological influence (Ganawaabi, 2019). While MCD scholars retain arbitrary lines regarding Eurocentric influence (see Dunlap, 2021a), Graeber and Wengrow (2021), among others,[18] contend that European theories were originally inspired by Indigenous groups. When Escobar (2021, this issue) advocates for ‘re-embedding ourselves in the land and seeing ourselves deeply as belonging to the Earth and to stream of life, as many indigenous and territorialized people have done for thousands of years’, he echoes exactly what anarcho-primitivists have been advocating since the 1980s. Remembering anarchist criticisms, anarcho-primitivism demonstrates the practical challenges that might arise from Escobar’s suggestions. Primal anarchy and rewilding, then, offer anti-colonial practices (to employ self-critically) to reconnect with the land, resituate values and root permanent conflict. Decolonial theory, we must acknowledge, has done an enormous amount of work to raise the issues of eurocentrism, racisms and epistemicide under-acknowledged within anarchist and anti-civilization theory. More superficially, anarchism and decolonial theory – around the same time – have both been labelled as ‘turns’ (or fads) within the academy. Decolonial theory and green anarchism are deeply intertwined within the dominant structures, serving as seeds sprouting from within techno-capitalism, civilization, and the university, as well as offering a decolonial/anti-colonial partnership and methodology that provides a bi-directional emic-etic tool to disrupt and dismantle the colony and urbanism. Both tendencies, then, recognize the necessity to stop Western Civilization, while affirming common romantic generalizations that decolonial anarchism(s) are correcting.

There appear numerous roads for affinity, empowerment, and developing struggle between green anarchist and decolonial praxis. ‘Whitness’, as Mignolo pointed out, is rooted in organizing hierarchy and divisions of labor (Bey, 2020). The possibilities are numerous in building towards decolonial solidarity and complicities. The obstructions, however, relate to control, accepting divisions of labor, industrial/digital infrastructures, and the necessary extractivism that the latter implies. The politics of academic decolonial scholars, moreover, rely on general claims (and proliferating jargon) fluctuating between left anti-authoritarian and authoritarian articulations (akin to the vague anarchist ‘critique of all oppressions’). This unwittingly generates similar Marxian hopes of seizing the state apparatus, consequently creating more dissonance on issues of eurocentrism, extractivism, technology, and the human and nonhuman costs to maintain a ‘decolonial’ or ‘plurinational and intercultural states’ and their megaprojects, such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Contrary to Mignolo, megaprojects – regional or transnational – are antithetical towards total liberation. These are extractive and socio-ecologically domesticating infrastructures that further separate us from our habitats, obscure our cultural values and further, as Tucker (2019, p. 27) reminds us, are ‘intertwining our needs with that of the machine’ or, more accurately, statist geopolitical economy. This raises the question, thinking of Cusicanqui (2012), what is Indigenous modernity (besides real multiculturalism) and how can it avoid the ecocidal extractivism, dependence on energy-intensive infrastructures and the corresponding wage-slavery necessary for urban states and modernity to exist in the first place? Decolonization cannot be a metaphor, a rebranding of liberalism or megaprojects – nor a new catchphrase, political tool, or gateway to accumulating social capital.

Anti-civilization and green anarchism’s strength is its determination towards total liberation and rejecting the necropolitics of progress, even if this vision might appear ‘utopian’ or impossible. Yet total liberation is the decolonial wager, at least for (green) anarchists. Green and anti-civilization anarchist theory, in addition to becoming a determined anti-authoritarian politic, we might consider useful in at least five ways. First, green anarchism links the colonial project to the ancient civilizations, and not just ‘Western Civilization’, challenging the ‘Fertile Crescent’ or ‘cradle of civilization’ Eurocentric myth. Non-academic decolonial theory, rooted in struggle, recognizes this continuity of civilization across continents (Zig Zag, 2011). As Peter Gelderloos’ (2017) work demonstrates, dissecting the authoritarian and social control mechanisms, whether in ancient civilizations, colonial ventures, or states, allows us to understand the repressive techniques and strategies designed to divide, conquer, and reproduce political control and ecocidal infrastructures. Second, anti-civilization anarchism(s) reject coercive authority. This confronts the currents in decolonial theory uncritical of authoritarianism, seeking to create new authoritarian ‘in-and-out’ groups or celebrate ‘Leftism’ and so-called decolonial states or representative democracies. Anti-authoritarianism, however, is not an excuse to disrespect people, cultures and territory as observers have raised (Barker & Pickerill, 2012; Lewis, 2017), but rather asks why and how people submit to particular authorities in deserved constant and critical reflection. Third, green anarchism questions specialization and divisions of labor, identifying specialized roles, organizational mythology and (technocratic) ideological adherence as the seeds of bureaucracies that, overtime, can create a progressive collective usurpation of autonomy, condition habits, and instill dependency. Bureaucracy, arguably, is the heart of the colonial project, while racism functions as the lungs of the leviathan, and patriarchy breathes life into the Worldeater. This challenges the separation of anarchist theory and practice, creating an imperative to act. Meanwhile, this creates an embedded hostility or tension towards working in any type of factory or capitalist institution – universities, industrial or otherwise – as subordination to socio-ecologically destructive processes. Furthermore, inspired by eco-feminism (Merchant, 1983; Plumwood, 1993), and complementing decolonial theory, this entails a questioning of modern science, and a natural affirmation of Indigenous and other non-Western civilizational sciences (see Kaptchuk, 2000; Whyte et al., 2016). Fourth, and related, is a deep critique of technology as tool, mechanical and organizational forms. There are various perspectives between green and anti-civilization anarchists yet minimizing divisions of labor and creating food energy autonomy through horticulture, rewilding, forest gardening as well micro-grids – appropriate and convivial technologies – offer important post-developmental pathways. Finally, anti-civilizational anarchism is rooted in the desire to take direct action against the state, as it reflects civilizational and colonial control. Influenced by insurrectionary and nihilist anarchism (see Loadenthal, 2017), not waiting to take action with whatever means available and with a non-dogmatic approach to follow one’s instinct, either in terms of socio-ecological relational development or combative actions, remains central to green anarchist praxis.

Decolonial theory, especially Escobar (2021, this issue), is clear about the issues of patriarchy and racism. Green anarchism acknowledges the deep roots of patriarchy, central to domestication and the civilizational process (GA, 2005, 2012; Return Fire Vol. 2, 2014), which relatively recently has been taken up by insurrectionary queer theory (Bæden, 2014). Decolonial theory offers an important analysis of racism for green and anti-civilization anarchism(s) to heed. There are, however, important stakes in analysing divisions of labor and technology. Divisions of labor, and specialization in general (Illich, 1978), remain important areas to remain vigilantly critical. Divisions of labor cut to the heart of the colonial model, often deeply intertwined with hierarchies, intensive energy use and speaks to the roots of civilizations, statist bureaucracy and the limiting of organizational possibilities. How decolonial theory relates to the state and technology remain important questions, indicating the importance of specialization, divisions of labor, and how high technology will always require high levels and various forms of human, nonhuman, and digital extractivisms (see Chagnon et al., 2021; Tarvainen, 2022). There remains an urgent need to go-beyond democracy (and further away from authoritarianism), opening up spaces for new non-colonial organizational proposals and informal organizing. The possibilities are many, yet remain stifled by existing norms, relationships, and material and organizational technologies. Excavating and resurging pre-colonial organizational forms, anarchist informal organization, and post-millennial networks all serve as avenues of experimentation.

Green anarchism, and anti-civilization theory, stress the necessity – in line with Escobar (2021, this issue), LaDuke and Cowen (2020), Lennon (2021), and Siamanta (2021) – to radically alter our relationships to the earth, each other and, importantly, the current modes of production and supply-webs that back them. Currently, the ‘Left’ across the world believe that so-called ‘renewable energy’ is the answer (Aronoff, et al., 2019; Chomsky et al., 2020). People, scholars, and authorities are ignorant of the reality that our technological ‘hope’ on utility-scale and even community scales have serious extractive, processing, transportation, governmental, energy-use, and decommissioning issues (Dunlap, 2021b). Conceptions of energy production and autonomy are, arguably, lagging behind the development of food sovereignty and autonomy (via Indigenous sciences and permaculture). This is a call to radically question industrial technology and divisions of labor, along with all coercive hierarchies and forms of discrimination that support them, to truly decolonize our relationship with energy production and consumption. Faith in Western-based and practiced technological solutions – or ‘techno-fix’ – amounts to little more than perpetuating and repackaging of another type of white savior-complex. This requires a concerted focus within a pluriverse of possibilities on closing and remediating extractive supply-webs by degrowing extractivism and regrowing human and nonhuman vitality. Escobar’s six principles are indispensable and complementary with this goal, while simultaneously implying that ‘re-localization of social, economic and cultural activities’ and ‘re-integration with the Earth’ means ending – in the Northern and Southern hemisphere – the extractive supply-webs, energy-intensive infrastructures and our consumerist emotional ‘black holes’ organized by techno-capitalist societies (see Alexander, 2008). Collective pluriversal approaches must be implemented widely to end the extractive and exploitative supply webs, built on civilized norms, discriminations, and hierarchies. Anarchist praxis can widen anti-colonial struggles to take action where we are, questioning the multifaceted hierarchies and forms of exploitation enveloping everyone within the pyramid scheme of capitalism, colonialism, and civilization alike.


I am grateful for the enthusiasm and patience of the special issue editors Barry Gills and Antti Tarvainen. The thoughtful and detailed edits, comments, and section title offered by Matt Thierry contributed to this article. Likewise, the comments and suggestions by Peter Gelderloos and Thomas Worsdell were instructive and supported this article. Conversations with Hannah Kass, Amber Huff and source recommendations from Benedicte Bull also contributed to this article. Finally, I am also grateful for the time, energy and suggestions of the three reviewers, especially the constructive, detailed, and supportive comments of reviewers 2 and 3. Thank you for allowing a space for this conversation. Lastly, I am grateful for Sabo’s companionship and care, which also makes its way into this article.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).

Notes on contributors

Alexander Dunlap is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo. His work has critically examined police-military transformations, market-based conservation, wind energy development, and extractive projects more generally in Latin America and Europe. He has published two books: Renewing destruction: wind energy development, conflict and resistance in an American context (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and, the co-authored, The violent technologies of extraction (Palgrave, 2020). This includes a forthcoming edited volume: Enforcing ecocide: power, policing & planetary militarization (Palgrave, 2022).


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[1] From the Flux of Pink Indians Song, ‘Progress’, 1983.

[2] The ‘techno’ is a nod to Jacques Ellul (1964/1954) and the totalitarian nature of technique.

[3] See Foucault (2007/1978, p. 287).

[4] While there are important considerations in these critiques, Maia Ramnath (2012) is excluded from this list as employing a sensitive and caring thread while lodging similar criticisms. Moreover, Ciccariello-Maher’s (2011) chapter builds on and resonates with existing eco-anarchist tensions with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism over the question of productivity and progress.

[5] On 18 November, 2020, Toby Shone has been detained, tortured, and is preparing to stand trial (e.g. May 2022) for suspected connection and dissemination related to one or more actions (see: IDG, 2022). All the actions remain unsolved with one suspect on the run since 2011.

[6] A term used for a person of a combined European and indigenous American descent

[7] Full quote: ‘If this programme bore the Bakuninist label, it was because no political movement has reflected the spontaneous aspirations of backward peasants more sensitively and accurately in modern times than Bakuninism, which deliberately subordinated itself to them. Moreover, Spanish anarchism, more than any other political movement of our period, was almost exclusively elaborated and spread by peasants and small craftsmen’.

[8] For greater description in the North American Context, see Anne Hansen’s interview in Submedia.TV’s (2021) Transmissions Part One: Origins: https://sub.media/video/transmissions-part-one-origins/

[9] Cultural appropriation, Indigenous romanticism and reproducing theology (e.g. the Garden of Eden).

[10] See Graeber and Wengrow (2021:, pp. 18–21) that stresses how influences are never one sided.

[11] This also makes a distinction between decolonial theory and post-development, as the latter appears wedded to conflict and favouring of anti-authoritarian subjectivities and struggles (Dunlap, 2021a).

[12] In Zig Zag (2011), Severino (2013:, p. 8), see also an anti-authoritarian Mapuche perspective in Morales (2014).

[13] I suspect Perlman’s reference to the ‘Worldeater’ and overall analysis of civilizations and state formation was heavily influenced by the Anishinaabe legend of Wiindigo (see LaDuke & Cowen, 2020).

[14] This includes (negatively) reinforcing the myth of progress and mimicking Christian ideology, which while positioned negatively by anarchists, religious studies see a value in this (see Eddebo, 2017).

[15] One would hope this was a strategic choice, yet the dominate politics and intention suggests otherwise.

[16] See also: https://warriorpublications.wordpress.com/about/

[17] Resistance implies reaction, while attack takes initiative and is self-determined: ‘Being the aggressor prevents one from victimizing oneself’ (Schwarz et al., 2010, p. 65).

[18] The Two Rabbit’s Video breaks this down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBFvxkvpi2w&t=1s.