The whitewashing of civilization as white has far more to do with Richard Spencer’s fascist ideology than history. Civilization started in Sumer and Africa. It was not initially a product of Europe. Europe inherited civilization from the cradle of civilization. Racism is a product of relatively recent history and not a transhistorical phenomenon–despite kinshipism and many kinds of xenophobia going back to pre civilization times along with various other forms of ingroup-outgrouping prior to the construction of race. Claiming civilization as mere European imperialism is inaccurate and a denial of thousands of years of history.
Some of civilization’s defining features are 1. cities (communes) 2. going beyond kinship lines in sustained ways beyond periodic interactions. 3. a degree of sophisticated technology beyond the stone age. Civilization and the development of cities (communes) existed prior to the development of states and nation states. The process of civilization has not been a one sided kind of linear progress. As Murray Bookchin points out in The Ecology of Freedom, the development of civilization has been janus-faced and infused with a history of hierarchy and a history of freedom. However, there is nothing in the defining features of what entails civilization that necessarily must include hierarchical civilization. One can recognize the liberatory aspects of the development of civilization–and the potentially liberatory aspects– without justifying or being in any way in favor of hierarchical civilization. Being for particular kind of civilization does not entail being for civilization of any kind. It is also important for civilization to learn a lot from non-civilized relations; for despite the kinshipism that existed–and the lack of sophisticated technology to free people from toil– there are many internally egalitarian relations that we need to learn from and bring into modernity.
Clearly European Imperial States, rulers, and imperial aspects of culture defined themselves as “bringing civilization to the uncivilized”. Anti-civ worldviews buy into that Eurocentric narrative despite the fact that civilization often existed in many places conquered by imperial European states including the so called new world. European Imperial States and the emerging capitalist class were going against the second defining feature of civilization that I mentioned above by reverting to crude racialized double standards to get cheap labor as they intentionally plundered and killed people–at home and abroad– through accumulation by dispossession and normal capitalist accumulation.
Deep ecology and anarcho-primitivism are worldviews that have been thoroughly discredited. Despite the fact that they exist–mainly in PNW anarchist milieus– they lost the debate decades ago for anyone who wants to look into it. Recently such worldviews have disguised themselves by calling themselves anti-civilization. Such a turn is not too novel, for deep green and primitivist ideology has been doing that for a while. But hardly anyone admits to being a deep ecologist or a primitivist these days; it is much more trendy and socially acceptable to disguise such worldviews anti civ or green anarchy–despite green “anarchy” being something initially started by red and black “anarchy”.
By framing the narrative as civilization vs anti-civilization, anti-civ theorists then look to hierarchical civilization and paint civilization without adjectives as hierarchical civilization. Such a worldview is ahistorical, one sided, and anti dialectical because it does not sufficiently look at the history and potentiality of freedom within civilization. Anti-civ theorists often claim that anyone who thinks that any kind of civilization should exist are people who must be in favor of colonization, imperialism, and ecocide or processes that will lead to the above. But there is nothing in civilization in and of itself that sufficiently necessitates such dimensions of civilization. Many anarcho primitivists and deep ecologists use a line of argument that conflates cities with hierarchies–when cities are not necessarily hierarchical– as they propose a worldview that is 1. against the means of history and science 2. against modern medicine in any form 3. against the building of cities and the transformation of raw material into artifice 4. using such artifice to free us from labor and toil 5. and against communes. and 6. in consequence would lead to the killing of people on the scale of billions; beyond what any atrocity in world history has ever caused human beings.
By switching the debate from whether or not people are 1. pro cities/communes of some kind 2. pro going beyond kinship relations and 3. pro technology beyond the stone age to whether one is pro imperialism and conquest, such an anti-civ position tries to attain the moral high ground while dislocating the roots of social problems from hierarchy and placing them onto cities without adjectives. Such an anti-civilization worldview is thoroughly anti anarchistic in various regards, seeing roots of problems in cities moreso than in hierarchies. It is one thing to have reservations about the word civilization given the way that the word has been used, but rejecting the minimal defining aspects of civilization (as sketched out above) is to do something entirely different. Supporting civilization with particular adjectives–such as libertarian socialist adjectives– is not equivalent to supporting hierarchical civilization. Defining civilization as hierarchical obscures the history of early cities, tendencies towards more freedom within civilization, egalitarian voluntary projects in the context of cities throughout history, and projects such as The Paris Commune, The Free Territory, anarchocommunist Shinmin, anarchosyndicalist Spain, EZLN, Rojava, and cooperative and communal organizations.
When engaging an argument such as civilization vs anti-civilization, going into what people mean by different definitions is important to clarify what substantial agreements and disagreements are between interlocutors. In a kind of counter-intuitive way, when issues of definitions are not gone into and dealt with the disagreements about definitions often take center stage of a dialogue or debate. Sometimes the disagreements are definitional and other times the disagreements are substantial. Finding this out can allow people to then focus on what the substantial disagreements are regardless of how people are defining terms subjectively (and even regardless of the social definitions of such words as important as the social definitions of words are). Sometimes anti-civ is a stand in for a broadly anti hierarchical analysis but very often is used to hide the same old deep ecology and anarcho primitivism that has been thoroughly destroyed in the realm of debate to the point where such worldviews are embarrassing to publicly hold.