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The Culture of Make Believe

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  1,482 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
Derrick Jensen takes no prisoners in The Culture of Make Believe, his brilliant and eagerly awaited follow-up to his powerful and lyrical A Language Older Than Words. What begins as an exploration of the lines of thought and experience that run between the massive lynchings in early twentieth-century America to today's death squads in South America soon explodes into an ex ...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published 2002)
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Jan 09, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing
The absolute best writer at telling you how fucked up everything is, but making you feel ok about it. Not in a "well, there's no point, so why bother," kind of way, but rather in a "shit, that makes so much sense, I don't feel overwhelmed anymore, so I'm gonna go out and kick some ass in a positive way," kind of way. Everything I've read of his is brutally honest, and amazing.
Aug 29, 2009 rissa rated it it was amazing
We have been trained to see the KKK as a strange fluke run by a group of uneducated lunatics, "the" Holocaust as an awful but isolated incident run by a charismatic lunatic, but to not see the many current and invisible atrocities. We have been trained to ask why certain people commit certain hateful acts, but never to ask what kind of culture forms these people, and this hate, in the first place. We definitely do not ask if the culture that our ways of life are intricately, but abstractly, base ...more
Jun 10, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok
Shelves: theory
I may regret this...

I didnt quite regret this. The stated purpose, or one of them anyway, is to examine privilege and the effects of privilege on the privileged. And Jensen has most of the privilege a person can have. Hes male socilaized/identified, hes straight, hes a US citizen, his family is upper middle class, hes educated, hes white, he owns property. He spends pages and pages, 605 to be exact talking about the history of genocide and destruction that comes out of the US and its parenting d
Apr 25, 2007 Samuel rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-sciences
This is an extremely difficult book to read. It is an academic critique of human civilization. It begins by trying to define a hate group, and moves on to show how our government would have to be included in any adequate definition. That's the beginning. The rest of the book is a litany of stories which come together to make the extremely strong case that our entire civilization is founded upon violence, hatred, and destruction. The problems with civilization, to Jensen, are not solvable through ...more
Jan 17, 2014 blakeR rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, anth-sosh
Wow, one of the more intense books I have ever read. If you're prone to depression, I recommend taking this one in very small amounts, maybe a chapter a week. I read the whole thing in about a week and spent the last few days in a very pessimistic fog about our prospect as a species.

Jensen has the strangest way with words when describing some of the most horrific historical events imagineable. He is eloquent and forceful without being too in-your-face. He does come off as a little arrogant at t
Jul 03, 2008 Bobby rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and eye opening. Imperialism isn't dead it just goes by a different name. This book may have made me an anarchist
Feb 21, 2016 J.M. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: philanthropes and misanthropes
Down with the patriarchy! Down with the matriarchy! Down with... well, whaddya got?

So much of this is brilliantly written, and there's so much that I agree with that I was certain I would end up rating it five stars, end of story. It begins as a study of hatred, as it relates to slavery, lynching, holocausts, extinctions and other atrocities. Eventually the core thesis emerges: our acquisitive, consumptive-destructive civilization is the problem, along with our refusal to even acknowledge the cr
Jun 28, 2014 Curtis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-non-fiction
It is somewhat ironic that I finished reading this book a couple days ago in a title company waiting room - waiting patiently to be called back to a more professional looking office where my wife and I would then proceed to sign and initial a stack of paperwork so thick that the title company's custom manilla folder could barely contain it. Through this exercise of initials and signatures I further ensnared myself into the intricate web of money, credit, mortgages, property ownership, etc. that ...more
May 13, 2009 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
This book left me sad and hopeful and rethinking everything I thought I knew about Western culture.
And I consider myself a tremendous skeptic, especially about this country we call America.
But Jensen interweaves economics, religion, history, media (just to name a few) and shows why the way we live now - as "civilized" Americans, or Westerners - is, not to put too fine a point on it, destructive.
Destructive to our humanity. Destructive to other cultures and races and people. Destructive to the pl
Nov 29, 2008 Libby rated it it was amazing
Someone suggested I read this book about three years ago, but I have to say I probably wasn't ready for it until this year. It was amazing, well-written, seriously challenged my view of the status quo and my "place" in it and reopened my curiosity about "truth" and how we come by that. I would suggest reading "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn first, because if the average person ran right into this book I don't think they'd be prepared to accept it. An overview of US and g ...more
Jesse Carr
Aug 16, 2007 Jesse Carr rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Although Jensen's stream-of-consciousness writing is sometimes hard to follow, his indictment of cultures of violence and domination are extremely compelling. His writing is refreshingly non-academic, yet clearly thoroughly researched and very thoughtful. I still think that "A Language Older Than Words" is his best, but this is a good second.
May 25, 2016 Adam rated it it was amazing
The number topics covered in this book are vast. Derrick Jensen has wounded my soul with his words. But no, that's not really correct. He has only informed me of the sinister forces at work behind the scenes in modern society and the sinister psychology which fuels it.

No one in particular is responsible for the direction we have taken and yet the very few benefit while the vast majority suffer. It's remarkable how I have had an intuitive sense about many of these issues ever since I was a child,
Oct 09, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
Jensen catalogs atrocities. Done by corporations, nations and individuals. Though divided into chapters, the substance of the book meanders through the same general theme. We are destroying what sustains us and that is madness. Mixing personal anecdotes and impressive research, Jensen’s book is part call-to- action and part self-discovery. He analyzes himself, and others, in the hope of seeing the deeply rooted “transparent bonds” which cause us to act in self-destructive ways.

I’m not sure what
Pippypippy Madden
Mar 12, 2008 Pippypippy Madden rated it it was amazing
Derrick Jensen finds the furthest, darkest reaches of the human death culture called civilization. He is plain spoken, even as he explores the history, causes, and largely unspoken, unacknowledged- or hidden in plain sight- rules which perpetuate violence against human beings and the land that we live on. Jensen's ideas can seriously rattle one's cage- even if they are not entirely unfamiliar- and yet reassure at the same time. For me, the reassurance comes in hearing these ideas spoken out loud ...more
Jun 25, 2015 Splashconception rated it it was amazing
Oh man, what can I not say about this book. First checked out from the Portland Library in 2006, the winter of the year I moved, sat around after work in my big empty room in the dead of winter, wet and rainy, getting stoned and reading it, or sometimes walking to the coffee shop in the Rose garden after work and reading it. Reread in 2010, rereading it again now 2015. One of the best analysis of euro-american culture ever written in terms of being honest and truthful about the shitty, brutal ug ...more
Ryan Mishap
Jensen wants to understand what hate is and he starts with a look at racial hatred by examining slavery. Along the way, he wonders at why crimes against women aren't considered hate crimes, wonders if our civilization's assault on nature is about hate, and general delves into a hundred different interesting. provocative things. Hell, read the book I don't got all day to tell ya.
Jan 09, 2014 Jesse rated it liked it
Oh Christ the things we do to each other, and the excuses we tell ourselves to make each and every atrocity seem ok! I honestly didn't know about the Bhopal disaster in India in the early 80's; look it up on Google images and ruin your day.

Derrick Jensen uses a LOT of words with himself and through interviews with others about our human condition and how we're all jerks with sick violent tendencies.

If you are looking for an uplifting ending where an author takes the beginning of the book with a
Feb 16, 2008 jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
a language older than words, part deux.
Tracy Tarbutton
Sep 16, 2009 Tracy Tarbutton rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best.
Clea Milner
Feb 26, 2012 Clea Milner rated it it was amazing
Life-changing book.
Oct 08, 2013 David rated it it was ok
Jensen's a smart guy, sharp at pointing out and deconstructing the inhumane contradicitons of capitalism and our collective denial about same. I found particularly perceptive his idea that "hatred felt long...and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred but like economics or religion or tradition." But the 700-page The Culture of Make Believe (great title) is ovelong by a couple hundred pages at least because Jensen likes to hear himself talk--he adopts a pose of curiosity that is usually just ...more
Dec 29, 2011 amy rated it really liked it
Warning: This isn't so much a review as a list of random things I'd like to remember about the book. Goodreads just doesn't give enough characters in the "Private Notes" section! Why, Goodreads, why?

This book was long, too long and winding... but there was much that i want to remember:

1. comparing 19th-century rationales for slavery to modern-day arguments for world trade/free markets

2. the chapter on native american removal, genocide

3. western civilization as "conquest abroad and repression at
Jan 05, 2014 Zachariah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall a really really good read. I'd recommend it to anyone. Everyone. The book is not without it's problems but in the end they are too minor to go into. After about halfway through the book I voiced my biggest complaint which can be read below if you really want to. Just don't let me or anyone else discourage you from reading this book if you are at all interested in it. Even the length of the book, which, because of his wandering prose, was much longer than it needed to be, still should not ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Miriam rated it it was ok
I held out a long time before I read any Derrick Jensen. In my mind Derrick Jensen was to primitivists what Crimethinc was to young train hopping punks. I heard dogmatic and judgmental opinions from people who repeatedly sited Derrick Jensen.
However, I decided to give "The Culture of Make Believe" a chance when my friend Juli, told me she was reading it and it actually contained highly researched and indepth analysis about the interconnectedness of oppressions.
"The Culture of Make Believe" i
Cailin Deery
Apr 27, 2013 Cailin Deery rated it really liked it
Generally, The Culture of Make Believe is a meticulously researched and compelling historical, cultural expose. It’s an overwhelming and heavy read, but I never felt bogged down. It unburies historical and recent atrocities, takes our structures of power to task, considers the economics at play behind so many actions of hatred, and explores the reasons that we have been blind to so many of these tragedies. It also patiently explains how we might change our way of thinking to not miss the warning ...more
Jun 05, 2008 Keith rated it it was amazing
Well, if you recall from my review of "A Language Older Than Words", I had some issues with Jensen's writing, from a stylistic, and sometimes technical standpoint. I'm pleased to report that he got better by the time he wrote "Culture...", and that his abilities as a speaker in a live setting are in fact matched by his skill as a writer. After having read this, and having started "Endgame", I realize now that most of his talk that I heard in April was drawn from his books, which shouldn't be sur ...more
Feb 29, 2008 Alex rated it really liked it
Derrick Jensen has a knack for compiling some of the most horrible atrocities ever committed and piecing them together within a compelling and provocative thread. This book is more "socially" focused than A Language Older Than Words (which was more ecological), so in that sense I got more out of it, but it's probably not as well written as that earlier book.

The best parts here are about the KKK, IWW, J.P. Morgan and the turn of the century big capitalists and war profiteers, the Nazis, and slave
Jeff Kressmann
Jan 24, 2016 Jeff Kressmann rated it really liked it
An absolutely mind-boggling book. Jensen does a better job than anyone else I know of dissecting the imperalistic violence of western civization, our destruction of native cultures and the environment. Over the years, we have institutionalized this violence as "patriotism" or "economic growth." Only gradually, via "revisionist history" are we recognizing the truth about our oppressive culture.
Alan Kaufmann
Jul 15, 2013 Alan Kaufmann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Simply the best critique of Western civilization I've ever read. If you've ever looked around at what is going on in the world and thought, "This is insane! Why is this happening? How can they DO that?", and actualy wanted an answer, then read this book.

Warning, this book is not for the faint-of-heart. It discusses, in detail, lynchings, genocides, the rape epidemic, the child abuse epidemic, the Klu Klux Klan, corporate greed and control in several eras, wars, hate crimes, etc., etc. If you are
Ken Schaefer
Oct 02, 2015 Ken Schaefer rated it it was amazing
A must read! The author's solution is a change in civilization and a falling in love with the particular. I think another step has to be made where we fall in love with our individual selves and apply that love to the particular and then all particulars to the general. This will take a change in society. In my 64 years I have come to the point where the best solution I have found to all the problems outlined in this excellent book are best met by educating ourselves according to World Socialism. ...more
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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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“For us to maintain our way of living, we must tell lies to each other and especially to ourselves. The lies are necessary because, without them, many deplorable acts would become impossibilities.” 43 likes
“One of the fables we live by is that some day the killing will stop. If only we rid ourselves of Chinese, white men will have jobs and white women will have virtue, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Indians, we will fulfill our Manifest Destiny, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Canaanites, we will live in the Promised Land, and then we can stop killing. If only we rid ourselves of Jews, we can build and maintain a Thousand Year Reich, and then we can stop killing. If only we stop the Soviet Union, we can stop the killing (remember the Peace Dividend that never materialized?). If only we can take out the worldwide terrorist network of bin Laden and others like him. If only. But the killing never stops. Always a new enemy to be hated is found.” 35 likes
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