What is civilization, and is it a good thing? It’s a name for the most glorious of humanity’s monuments and cultural achievements; yet it also speaks of the conquests, oppressions, and empires which make their glory possible. This book explains the essence of civilization, then asks what’s wrong with it, and considers what can be done about it.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
In this stimulating and wide-ranging study, Brendan Myers invites readers to consider the nature of civilisation, what is wrong with it and what can be done about it in a narrative that also includes pastoral interludes as well as contributions from his friends about absurdities and illusions associated with civilisation. One of the central paradoxes is that the word is on the one hand associated with monuments and cultural achievements, but also entails conquests, oppressions and widespread genocide.
I found it a useful exercise to zoom out to consider the nature of civilisation, and agree with the author that a better world is indeed possible based on his idea of four lamps: human nature is sufficiently malleable for culture to change, even if slowly, we have made some progress in empathy, cooperation and compassion, we can find depth in life after casting away our illusions, and we can recognise and contribute to the progress that is already being made. At this dark time, it is useful to reflect on the case for optimism in relation to our future.
Full Review in Issue 125, 2017/3, pg. 54 ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer
Who would have thought a book about philosophy could be an utterly entrancing read? Actually, not just an entrancing read, but the perfect holiday reading for anyone who likes to think about stuff as well as be transported in the imagination to distant places and distant times
Reclaiming Civilization by Brendan Myers did all of that for me. It starts with Brendan sitting by a lake in the Canadian wilds, pondering about civilisation in general and about whether to return to the city or stay out there in nature, living a simple life.
His ponderings lead him to consider how our ancient ancestors lived when they were nomadic hunter-gatherers, and how civilisations have developed over the millennia to where we are today.
As publisher Moon Books says about the book on its website: "What is civilization, and is it a good thing? It’s a name for the most glorious of humanity’s monuments and cultural achievements; yet it also speaks of the conquests, oppressions, and empires which make their glory possible. This book explains the essence of civilisation, then asks what’s wrong with it, and considers what can be done about it."
It is a journey through time and through beliefs about social interaction and social structures. It is a journey of discovery that explains how civilisations break down and the problems they can have, but it also shows the benefits civilisation brings. It is not a nihilistic, depressing book.
And Reclaiming Civilization is also about Brendan's actual travels in the real world - first to the lakes, then to an isolated location in Eastern Europe, where he spends glorious summer weeks in unspoilt countryside with just two dogs for company.
Brendan shows there are many illusions about civilisation that need to be seen through, but he also shows that once those illusions are gone, we can work to create an environment that brings out the best in people and allows us to thrive in a society that works for the good of all.
If you are about to head out for an August break from the rat-race, take this book with you. Enjoy it, and mull over how to start reclaiming civilisation when you return. ~ Lucya Starza, A Bad Witch's blog
Brendan Myers is that rarest of creatures, a philosopher who writes in a style that is eminently readable, refreshingly jargon-free, not remotely patronising and, what's more, genuinely engaging. Rather than a dry, academic text, reading this gives one the feeling of sitting with the author in a warm room, probably with a glass of wine or a decent pint of real ale, and listening to him expound his ideas with pleasure and enthusiasm. In this case, those ideas are all about civilisation, asking what it is, if it is a good thing, and how we can make it better. Given the daily dose of depression drip-fed to us on every news bulletin, these are perhaps the most pressing questions of our age. In seeking to answer them, Myers demonstrates a remarkable breadth of knowledge of prehistory, history, politics and philosophy, from the earliest stirrings of humanity to the present day. That he can analyse with such clarity the seemingly chaotic mess we as a species have got ourselves into is remarkable in itself. Even moreso is that he is able to untangle the chaos sufficiently to draw from it causes for optimism and a plan for the future that might just see us thrive rather than merely survive. Anyone running for political office should not be allowed to do so until they have read this book. If this were done, the world would undoubtedly be a better, safer, saner place. ~ Philip Shallcrass, Founder and Chief of the British Druid Order
Brendan Myers is one of the most creative and exciting of contemporary Pagan philosophers whose new book Reclaiming Civilization is filled with arresting insights and closes with a fascinating discussion of virtue ethics' relationship with life's "immensities." There is good food here for the mind and the soul. ~ Gus DiZerega, Political scientist with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, author of Fault Lines and Persuasion, Power, and Polity
This is a very interesting discussion of one of the central issues of the current world, and indeed of all history, which puts under scrutiny a number of common assumptions which are seldom examined. ~ Ronald Hutton, Professor of History, Bristol University