The Culture of Make Believe


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 examination of the very heart of our civilization. Readers of Jensen’s earlier work will recognize his deft and startling interweaving of the deeply personal, the political, the historical, and the philosophical, as he attempts to understand the atrocities that characterize so much of our culture, from the 8,000 dead at Bhopal to the more than twenty million people enslaved today (more than came over on the dreaded Middle Passage), to the destruction of the natural world.

The book makes clear that only through understanding these atrocities, by feeling and then moving through the resulting sorrow and despair, will be able to halt them. With The Culture of Make Believe, Jensen has written a book that is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking.

“Derrick Jensen is a man driven to stare without flinching at the baleful design of our culture, which encourages us to honor those who wreak the most havoc on the world (and on human lives) and to scorn those who protest against the havoc as opponents of decency and good order. In fact, The Culture of Make Believe so explicitly reveals the intimacy between the murder of the world and “decency and good order” that I’m surprised any author would dare write it and any publisher would dare bring it to print. His analysis of our culture’s predilection for hatred and destruction will rattle your bones.”
Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael

“Derrick Jensen tears our illusions from us with his shocking yet graceful prose. It might numb us, but no. The Culture of Make Believe is a masterpiece. It stirs us with the excitement of being in a truer world, being our truer selves. Derrick Jensen is a public intellectual who who both breaks and mends the reader’s heart.”
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet For A Small Planet

“Derrick Jensen is your basic human being, and he sees the world in the basic way all human beings should, but do not. The planet Earth is alive, period. Human beings are one of many living populations on the living Earth, period. Armed with a heart-stopping language older than words, Jensen is a mathematician, a comedian, a fierce critic of decent white male human history and its complex web of racism, sexism, hate; its greed and wanton disregard for life. Read this book. Get it for everyone you care about. Jensen’s words are often difficult, but no one ever said facing the past and present of our culture would be a goddamn moonlit stroll down Memory Lane.”
Inga Muscio, author of Cunt: A Declaration of Independence

Contents and Excerpts


October 2006, by the Gray Panthers of San Francisco
Winter 2003, by Terry Shistar (PDF)
April 2002, by Leigh Wilkerson
April 2002, from Publishers Weekly


ERRATA for the first printing of the Context Books edition of The Culture of Make Believe