Romancing the Primitive

William J. Lines


This book is about civilisation’s discontents, those who have idealised people outside of civilisation, imagining they lead happy, fulfilling lives at peace with one another and in harmony with the world around them. For most of this time, romanticising this ‘other’ constituted one strand in the thick rope of Western thought and reflection and knowledge of the human heart. Today, however, romanticising the primitive dominates Australian intellectual and cultural life, becoming an obsession and virtually a religion. The once single fibre now constitutes almost the entire rope.

Romancing the Primitive: The Myth of the Ecological Aborigine traces the roots of this religion, surveying primitivism — the unending revolt of the civilised against civilisation — from Hesiod to Tacitus, from the Medieval Church to Montaigne, from Rousseau to the twentieth-century Australian environment movement and its apotheosis in the works of Henry Reynolds, Bill Gammage, Bruce Pascoe, and Peter Sutton.

Romancing the Primitive defends science against superstition and liberalism against thralldom, seeking to reinstate genuine intellectual inquiry and discovery and build debate on real information. Along the way, the narrative critically visits the Uluru statement, the High Court and education in Australian schools and universities.

Author William J. Lines was born in Perth and graduated from the University of Western Australia with a degree in economics before embarking on extensive travels through Asia, Europe, and North America. He lived a while in Wales, where he renovated an abandoned Quaker chapel, and for twenty years in the United States, where he began writing. He has published eight books on history, nature, and conservation in Australia. He now lives in Tasmania with his wife and daughter.

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Paperback, 245 pages, ISBN: 978-0-6489961-8-7
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Weight 0.370 kg