The Threefold Struggle

Pursuing Ecological, Social, and Personal Wellbeing in the Spirit of Daniel Quinn

By Andrew Frederick Smith

Subjects: Philosophy, Environmental Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, History
Series: SUNY series in American Philosophy and Cultural Thought
Hardcover : 9781438488714, 393 pages, August 2022
Paperback : 9781438488721, 393 pages, February 2023

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviations for Quinn's Texts

Prologue: The Threefold Struggle for Ecological, Social, and Personal Wellbeing

Part I: Taker Culture: Fashioning a Mosaic

1. The "Quinn Method" of Cultural Criticism: Memes, Martian Anthropology, and Maieutics

2. Axiomatic Lies: Totalitarian Agriculture and The Great Forgetting

3. Egress Regress: The Antisavior's Devotional

Part II: Leaver Culture: Charting a Certain Road

4. Lessons in Success: Fire of Life, Law of Life, Community of Life

5. Remembering How to Be Human: Gifts of Wisdom and Awareness of the Sacred

6. Vitalizing a People, Becoming a Person: Seeds of Reclamation and Resistance

Part III: A New Story to Be In: On to Croatoan

7. Beyond Civilization: The Rise and Decline of Hierarchalism

8. Unlocking the Food: In Defense of Symbioculture

9. Ending the Food Race: From Biomass to Human Mass and Back Again

10. A Farewell to Miseducation: Unschooling and the Circus of Learning

Epilogue: Changed Minds, Changed Options, and the Schematic of a New Vision

List of Mentioned Characters

Drawing on the thought of novelist and cultural critic Daniel Quinn, argues it is not too late to free ourselves from a culture in which we are compelled to destroy the world, one another, and even ourselves.


We members of settler colonial culture—the latest form of what novelist and cultural critic Daniel Quinn calls Taker culture—are constrained by myriad institutions that leave us with little choice but to engage in practices that are profoundly damaging to the planet, to others, and to ourselves. Our path to living otherwise, Andrew Frederick Smith argues, lies in the threefold struggle, which is inspired by Quinn's focus on the interweaving roots of ecological, social, and personal wellbeing. These three forms of wellbeing are co-implicated. We cannot enjoy one without equally enjoying the others; they are a package deal. As such, what works for people individually and collectively works for the planet, and vice versa. Reclaiming our lives and revitalizing our human and more-than-human communities are salient acts of resistance against Taker culture. They offer means of escape from our cultural captivity and an opportunity for full-spectrum wellbeing.

Andrew Frederick Smith is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Drexel University. His previous books include A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism and The Deliberative Impulse: Motivating Discourse in Divided Societies.


"If we follow Angela Davis' prescription that 'radical' simply means 'grasping things at the roots,' then this work helps us do that by providing a deep critique of what we have been taught to uncritically accept as good in the development of civilization. The Threefold Struggle will appeal to anyone who takes personally the idea that the world can be saved not by trying to moderate our behavior but by making changes that are as dramatic as a religious conversion."—Tadd Ruetenik, author of The Demons of William James: Religious Pragmatism Explores Unusual Mental States