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Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization (Endgame #1)

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,848 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
The long-awaited companion piece to Derrick Jensen's immensely popular and highly acclaimed works A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe. Accepting the increasingly widespread belief that industrialized culture inevitably erodes the natural world, Endgame sets out to explore how this relationship impels us towards a revolutionary and as-yet undiscovere ...more
Paperback, 495 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by Seven Stories Press
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Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonA Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There by Aldo LeopoldThe Lorax by Dr. SeussThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanDesert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Best Environmental Books
58th out of 579 books — 771 voters
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le GuinAnarchism and Other Essays by Emma GoldmanV for Vendetta by Alan MooreOn Anarchism by Noam ChomskyHomage to Catalonia by George Orwell
Anarchist books
17th out of 290 books — 216 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 04, 2011 Terence rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who cares about the future of the planet (even if they don't agree w/ the author's POV)
Recommended to Terence by: Democracy Now! interview & a reread of Brad's review
There’s a scene early in Asimov’s Foundation when Hari Seldon is on trial for sedition (he’s been prophesizing the collapse of the Empire) and the prosecutor asks him about the group of people he’s assembled, if they’re there to save the Empire. Seldon replies (and I paraphrase freely since I don’t have the book in front of me):

“Oh, no, the Empire’s toast. The most we can do is make sure the ensuing dark age doesn’t last as long as it might without our intervention.”

Another author who’s brough
Jan 29, 2008 Zach rated it it was ok
I probably would have given this book three stars - for being an interesting read. Derrick Jensen calls himself an anti-civilization anarchist. His basic premise is that because we take more out of the earth than we give back to it, our civilization will eventually fail. He is very radical in his views and is far from a boring author.

I gave it only two stars (and would give it 1 and 1/2 if I could) after he came to my class and spoke. He looked and smelled like a bum. His hair was unkempt, he ha
else fine
May 15, 2007 else fine rated it really liked it
Derrick Jensen doesn't seem quite as on top of it in this book - he seems angrier and more tired, and it feels less cohesive. It's like Culture of Make Believe was a heartbreaking knife of a book, and this new one is a giant blunt axe. It is so brutal that it's difficult to get through, even for long-time readers of Jensen. It's given me weeks of nightmares.

Why, then, should you read it? Because this is the world we live in, and these are the facts, and at some point we will all have to face up
Jan 13, 2014 =====D rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Derrick Jensen’s point is that civilization is going to very likely kill us all if allowed to continue. It may be global warming, but more likely it will be a number of things, all making disturbances in the ecosystem, disrupting it, and causing it to fail. When ecosystems fail, it happens dramatically and quickly, and although life is wonderfully adaptive, the kind of life that sustains human beings is but one kind, and there is no reason to believe that the forms life adapts into will be so co ...more
Nov 08, 2008 Brad rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, political
There was a point, about half way through Endgame: Vol 1: The Problem of Civilization, where I was sick of Derrick Jensen's obsessions. I was tired of reading about dams and salmon and Indians and rape. I was tired of his rambling style, his repetition, and his tendency to let quotations from others speak for themselves (a bad rhetorical habit I constantly strive to teach my students to overcome).

In most circumstances these annoyances would be enough to make me put down my book and walk away (ev
The Big Idea Bookstore
Jul 14, 2010 The Big Idea Bookstore rated it it was amazing
Modern man likes to pretend that his thinking is wide-awake. But this wide-awake thinking has led us into the mazes of a nightmare in which the torture chambers are endlessly repeating in the mirrors of reason. When we emerge, perhaps we will realize we have been dreaming with our eyes open, and that the dreams of reason are intolerable. And then, perhaps, we will begin to dream once more with our eyes closed. -- Octavio Paz

What do you do after reading Endgame? Here are your choices: (a) blow up
Apr 25, 2012 Sarina rated it did not like it
This book bores me to death. I have never been a fan of Jensen's writing, while agreeing with many of his basic premises & enjoying the themes he touches on. I think he's a terrible writer. It seems like every other page has something like, "The other day I was talking to a friend, & she said that..." or "I'm writing an email right now, & a bird is chirping outside my window"...Come ON. Some call that approachable, relatable. I call that terrible writing. This guy quotes himself at l ...more
Max Carmichael
Dec 19, 2012 Max Carmichael rated it did not like it
This book is bloated with sloppy writing and sloppy thinking - like the work of environmental guru Ed Abbey - but like Abbey's books, Endgame has apparently won a following among frustrated, desperate environmentalists.

Jensen makes many accurate observations about the human institutions and behavior patterns that may be aggregated into the abstraction "civilization." I found nothing new here - I've been making these observations myself for decades, and I've also read much more insightful and coh
Mark Dickson
Jul 09, 2011 Mark Dickson rated it liked it
I almost feel the need to not give this book a rating at all, because a singular rating system isn't really applicable to this type of book. Though at almost no point while reading this book would I say that I "liked" it, I did find it challenging and thought-provoking, and would ultimately consider it a worthwhile read. Important books are not always likable. It's important to note, however, what makes this book important: it's not that Jensen characterizes a novel problem, or even that he forw ...more
Jan 11, 2011 Marshall rated it did not like it
Probably the worst environmental book ever written, by a narcissistic, nihilistic eco-feminist whose childhood abuse became his adult politics. The main premise is that civilization is not and can never be sustainable, and the only way for us to survive as a species is to go back to the stone age. He calls indigenous warfare a form of "play." He equates all labor with slavery, all trade with theft, all technology with violence. He is a master of hyperbole.

His solution? More violence. How origina
Jan 17, 2014 blakeR rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, anth-sosh
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
Jul 14, 2007 Chris rated it it was ok
I must admit, I share this man's sentiment, that we must move to a more natural state of being that is better on the earth. But, I don't agree in killing (allowing naturally the deaths of) billions of people to do it. If we went back to a primitive lifestyle, I would die, most of us would. I don't know how to find food in the wild, I don't know how to make the medicine to fight my chronic illness. He makes that point clear, by saying "stock up" when technology falls apart. Is that my only option ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Blake rated it it was amazing
Shelves: life-changing
Not for the faint of heart.

If you never questioned a thing in your life, you might want to start doing so before reading this.

Lumen Natura
Dec 11, 2009 Lumen Natura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indigenous
Another book that everyone in the USA should read. Our culture of greed has already caused many plants and animals to go extinct. How many more before it is too much? How long do we have to wait for something to change? Is pacifism really gonna get us there? Many questions that no one really ever dares to ask are put to us here with a clear and real manner.

Our culture will not last forever. We need to see this and take steps to deal with the situation before it all comes tumbling down around us
Feb 10, 2008 Monster rated it liked it
Jensen's writing style is repetitive and perhaps mildly obnoxious. however, Endgame gets a good rating by virtue of the ideas therein. it's the first anti-civ book i've read in years and looking past its iconic position among anarcho-primitivists (which tends to be offputting), it remains a point well taken. i hear the second volume is even better.
John Clark
Oct 27, 2010 John Clark rated it it was amazing
Derrick Jensen is the most passionate living justice author that I have encountered. He is enraged by the environmental and social injustice wreaked by a culture of consumption and resulting oppression, and he is unequivocal in his perspective on what needs to be done.

In this, the first part of a two-part series, Jensen provides a very clear definition of civilization that he uses to vehemently argue that civilization is inherently exploitative and destructive (and, thus, evil). In this way the
May 12, 2009 L rated it it was amazing
Nothing else I`ve read has ever made me so generally fired up, at least not since I was 15 or so. I read it while I was working long days doing construction, which I don`t know anything about and am terrible at, so busting my thumbs with hammers and startling myself with the nail gun and trying not to cry as the guy I was working for made me all too aware of what an amateur and a fuckup I was. I was living out in a tent in the woods, but it was March, and, y`know, Canada, so it was too cold to h ...more
May 24, 2009 Deborah rated it really liked it
I found the book to be entertaining and provocative. Jensen's style of writing is conversational, which makes it an easy read, but also left me wishing he had delved a little more seriously into some of the topics rather than just repeatedly making fun of those who disagree with him (as entertaining as that was). It started to drag and get a bit repetitive by the second half of the book. Overall, though I found it very refreshing to read his ideas about the environment and our culture. Some of h ...more
Jonathan Pistorino
Jan 23, 2009 Jonathan Pistorino rated it really liked it
This book describes every major aspect that is the error of civilization. Derek Jensen does a great job of laying out the destructive culture of civilization and he halts all reasoning for its continued existence. Through many examples he draws a picture of how civilization is fucking us and our world through its existence. He uses some very personal examples which help is argument even more.

My only qualm is that he uses a minor amount of petty banter with the reader which is somewhat tiresome
Jun 19, 2010 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, beyond
This book is important, and I recommend it to everybody. I don't agree with 100% of what he says, and some of his logic doesn't follow, but every example he cites is true, and it's impossible to ignore. You cannot help but be moved by this book. Again, I recommend it.

"Civilization is not and can never be sustainable."
Civilization is exploitative by definition. Exploitation - of people, of non-human life, of nonrenewable resources - is wrong. We will have to stop eventually when we run out of oil
Jensen's language can be occasionally smug/poetic, but the dude repeatedly belabors a very good point: civilization is unsustainable and killing all of us. The criticism of the book in the reviews below are either logically unsound ("some Native American tribes developed agriculture therefore the book is invalid because it claims some Native American cultures lived in tune with the land"), naive ("we shouldn't let billions of people die") or embarrassing ("guy smelled bad and dressed funny when ...more
This book is emotionally draining. It's very good, but I find the author to be frustratingly repetitive at times. He does make a lot of good points about how nonviolence is totally ineffective, so I feel like it was a good book to read after having just read How Nonviolence Protects the State.
Apr 13, 2014 Brandon rated it really liked it
An awesome, very readable, and highly essential presentation of the anti-civilization position. Some of Jensen's Buddhism-bashing and hardliner primitivist arguments are down-right pretentious, but the book remains a very important text regardless of these faults.
Ryan Mishap
Through his often sideways approach to research, explanation, anecdote, personal experience, and sense of empathy, Jensen details the pathology of our civilization while taking on critics and defenders of the way things are. Highly recommended.
Nov 12, 2013 Martin rated it really liked it
A good book with some carefully, if repeatedly spelled out arguments. Would have rated it higher, but found it very good on explaining the issues, but stopped short of envisioning past them. Hoping that Vol 2 might take things further...
Joyelle Jolie
Oct 07, 2014 Joyelle Jolie rated it it was amazing
Derrick Jensen's books are the most gut-wrenchingly honest, soulful, well-researched and profoundly moving books you will ever read. He gets directly to the point with his thoughts and feelings about the sociopathic nature of civilization and supports his argument in great detail with the most detailed references and thorough analysis while writing in a way the grabs the reader's heart and never lets it go until the very last page. You come away from reading his books feeling overwhelmed, energi ...more
Feb 11, 2015 Dayton rated it it was amazing
I definitely don't agree with everything in this book, but it is passionately argued, enjoyable to read (though at times he rambles), I learned a lot (about both environmental destruction and the military), and many of my preconceptions (especially on violence) were forcefully challenged. Parts of this book literally changed the way I look at human civilization--and I now see Jensen's critiques everywhere.

For example, take premise four: "Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely acc
Christopher Taylor
Aug 17, 2016 Christopher Taylor rated it liked it
Thought-provoking. The machine of civilization - one insane self-serving step after another has led to the point where many see collapse as inevitable. The longer it takes, the more of the biosphere that the industrialized world will bring down with it. It is challenging to go through the thought processes that lead to the "us" vs "them" mentalities that Jensen tries to promote. That is to say, even though "we" - i.e. those concerned with biodiversity, the environment, etc. - are consumers, "we" ...more
Benhamish Allen
May 07, 2011 Benhamish Allen rated it really liked it
I read this book on my Kindle, I'm not sure what that means.
Jaice Keys-DuMars
Aug 04, 2011 Jaice Keys-DuMars rated it it was amazing
The most cutting and urgent critique of civilization in print.
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Has Derrick Jensen impacted/changed your thinking? 6 14 Mar 07, 2013 02:17AM  
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  • The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
  • My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization
  • Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
  • Against His-Story, Against Leviathan!
  • Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism, and Terrorism
  • The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience
  • Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
  • Animism: Respecting the Living World
  • The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
  • How Nonviolence Protects the State
  • Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America
  • The Coming Insurrection
  • The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World
  • What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
Derrick Jensen is an American author and environmental activist living in Crescent City, California. He has published several books questioning and critiquing contemporary society and its values, including A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe, and Endgame. He holds a B.S. in Mineral Engineering Physics from the Colorado School of Mines and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Eas ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Endgame (2 books)
  • Endgame, Vol. 2: Resistance

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“Those in power have made it so we have to pay simply to exist on the planet. We have to pay for a place to sleep, and we have to pay for food. If we don't, people with guns come and force us to pay. That's violent.” 95 likes
“Surely by now there can be few here who still believe the purpose of government is to protect us from the destructive activities of corporations. At last most of us must understand that the opposite is true: that the primary purpose of government is to protect those who run the economy from the outrage of injured citizens.” 70 likes
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