One of our most fundamental cultural beliefs is this, that civilization must continue at any cost and not be abandoned under any circumstance. Implicit in this belief is another, that civilization is humanity’s ultimate invention and can never be surpassed.

Both these beliefs exemplify the cultural fallacy, which is the notion that one’s beliefs are not merely expressions of one’s culture but are intrinsic to the human mind itself. The effect of this fallacy is that it’s almost impossible for the people of our culture to entertain the idea that there could be any invention beyond civilization. Civilization is the end, the very last and unsurpassable human social development.

Quinn’s book challenges these beliefs and leads the way into new territory “beyond civilization.” This territory isn’t a geographical space (is not, for example, somewhere you “go and start a commune”). It’s an unexplored cultural, social, and economic space “on the other side” of civilization’s hierarchical organization. The journey to this new territory doesn’t represent a way to overturn civilization’s hierarchy but rather a way to leave it behind. It’s an “escape route” to a future where ordinary people can reclaim dignity, joy, equality, and self-reliance. The escape route is hidden, of course, or it would have been found before now. As Quinn shows, it’s hidden where all the greatest secrets are hidden–in plain sight.

BC Reading Group Guide Part 1: About Beyond Civilization
BC Reading Group Guide Part 2: Questions For Discussion
BC Reading Group Guide Part 3: About Daniel Quinn