Endgame Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization

by Derrick Jensen


Jensen gets a ton of credit from me just having the balls (or ovaries, as he would qualify) to write this stuff. It is indeed a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the psychopathology of our civilization, perhaps the best I’ve read. He provides convincing arguments with such precision that it is difficult to refute them. His stance on violence has been revelatory for me, and has gone a long way toward helping me flesh out my own ideas on the subject.

That said, I do have problems with the book, mostly stylistic. The book is incredibly engaging for its length, but it gets bogged down at times, for various reasons:

-It is too long. He hammers the same points home over and over again (especially if you’ve already read A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe — see my review), and I found myself skimming, especially toward the end of the book. I know that he’s reserving it for the 2nd volume, but I got tired of hearing about how “we’re going to get into” the stuff we can actually do to fix this, and never actually getting there over 450 pages.

-His narrative style is uneven. He vacillates between 1) a very informal and personal conversational style, bordering on cheesy, annoying or intrusive (including endnotes), and 2) erudite scholarship, showcasing his large vocabulary and impressive structure (even though pervasive use of words like “reification” and “palliate” were more confusing than clarifying). There seemed to be no real pattern between stylistic shifts, making it jarring and distracting.

-He comes across as not exactly arrogant, but maybe just pretentious and immature. This is most evident in his overuse of the [sic:] device, which is funny at first but then just becomes ridiculous. He should give his readers credit for being able to detect irony. Overall, Jensen strikes me as a fascinating guy, super-intelligent, and someone I’d definitely like to meet and have a conversation with. Though judging by his writing, any sort of regular social interactions would get annoying (there I go with some pretentiousness of my own).

-He does a good job of explaining (rationalizing?) his reluctance to blow up any dams himself, and I do admire his honesty and humility in confessing this. Nonetheless, it damages his credibility, and I imagine it will continue to do so until he eventually drops the keyboard and picks up the C4 (as he intimates he comes closer to doing every day). I respect and agree with his opinion that he is providing a unique service in his capacity as writer/speaker, but the credibility gap remains. When/if he takes the plunge, I’ll certainly miss his writing, but be more impressed by his example.


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