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What is Rewilding?

By Devon Pryor
Updated May 23, 2024
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Rewilding, when taken in the context of modern day human society, refers to a process by which the domestication of people is undone. The philosophy behind rewilding is based on the idea that over time, the changing civilization of humans has resulted in the domestication of the human being. Rewilding practices seek to reverse this domestication, and return human beings to a pre-civilized, wild state of being.

Within rewilding theory, domestication is considered to be negative, the effect of unnatural influences brought by the constant and accumulative modernization of society. Rather than view modernization and civilization as the progress of human society, rewilding theories see these forces as a digression from the natural and correct state of human life.

Rewilding considers the natural state of humans as the pre-civilized, wild, primal state of life, wherein complex social structures, technology, and other markers of civilization do not have a place. Rewilding criticizes these modern ideas, along with most facets of modern human domestic life that do not have to do with pure survival.

As a practice, rewilding seeks to reverse the domestication of humans via the reintroduction of what is considered innate knowledge, that which is thought to have been lost during the gradual domestication of the human species. This innate knowledge includes familiarity with plant and animal species, for example. Rewilding considers the natural and innate knowledge of humans to be more linked with nature and the wild itself. It seeks to return humans to their place in wild nature, to return them to an untamed state of holistic being.

Due to its rejection of society, or of that which is considered symptomatic of social domestication, rewilding has associations with anarchism. More specifically, rewilding can be linked to green anarchism, and anarcho-primitivism. Green anarchism is a combination of social, political, and philosophical theories that emphasize the importance of the environment, and criticize the digression of humans from a state in tune with the environment. In this sense, rewilding might be considered as the tool by which followers of green-anarchism could go about reversing the negative effects of domestication.

Rewilding is also linked with anarcho-primitivism in terms of viewing the civilization of humans not as progressive, but as digressive, misled and unnatural. More specifically, anarcho-primitivism credits the negative aspects of modern day society to be symptomatic of industrialization, technology, division and specialization of labor, and other digressions from the original wild state of humans. Anarcho-primitivism posits the nomadic, primitive, hunter-gatherer lifestyle as the original and innate state of human life, and considers all digression from this state to be unnatural, and negative. Much like rewilding, anarcho-primitivism points the finger at facets of modernized society such as agriculture, hierarchy, and other types of social stratification.

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