For Zerzan, being alienated means being ‘estranged from our own experiences, dislodged from a natural mode of being’. Zerzan argues that exploitation lies at the heart of alienation because it has brought into being a colossal industrial system that forces individuals to regard the world as an object of consumption. Dependent on industrial technology to provide for their wants, people destroy the only thing they really need: the natural world. In America the effect has been to create a ‘jarring contrast between reality and what is said about reality’. People are encouraged to think in terms of ‘dreams’ but are frustrated by the impossibility of their achievement. The ‘nightmare scenario is that the ‘contrast can go on forever: people … won’t even notice there’s no natural world anymore, no freedom, no fulfilment, no nothing. You just take your Prozac every day, limp along dyspeptic and neurotic, and figure that’s all there is’.

Zerzan, Running on Emptinesss, 80.


Production of an obedient workforce…

Work supports and is supported by education or, as Zerzan defines it, ‘knowledge production’. In schools, children learn ‘that they are always being observed, monitored and evaluated’. The apparent blandness of ideology thus describes the insiduousness of the states command of daily life.

M. Hern, ‘The Promise of Deschooling’, Social Anarchism, 25, 1988,

Work is a site …

Work is a site for totalitarian control: surveillance, rotework, imposed work tempos, production quotas, punching-in and -out… Workplaces – factories, offices and shops – are no dfferent in kind from prisons, though they have a different ambience. Work may not be as regimented as prison life, but it is imposed like a prison sentence and workers believe it to be neccesasry and willingly spend the best part of their lives in burdensome jobs that turn them into automata.

B. Black, ‘THe AAbolition of Work’, in H. Ehrlich (ed.) Reinventing Anarchy, Again (Edinburgh:AK Press, 1996) 238-9.

Linear time orders and constrains us by structuring our activities – in the workplace, forcing the pace of production and organizing the routine of daily life – and our consciousness. It has no connection with the rhythms of the natural world. In linear time life is understood as a simple progression in which each individual waits for its end.

Zerzan. Running on Emptiness, 76.