The Scene That Became Cities: What Burning Man Philosophy Can Teach Us about Building Better Communities

The Scene That Became Cities: What Burning Man Philosophy Can Teach Us about Building Better Communities

by Caveat Magister (Benjamin Wachs)


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


A practical and irreverent guide to Burning Man, its philosophy, why people do this to themselves, and how it matters to the world

Over 30 years Burning Man has gone from two families on a San Francisco beach to a global movement in which hundreds of thousands of people around the world create events on every continent. It has been the subject of fawning media profiles, an exhibit in the Smithsonian, and is beloved by tech billionaires and boho counterculturalists alike. But why does it matter? What does it actually have to offer us? The answer, Caveat Magister writes, is simple: Burning Man's philosophy can help us build better communities in which individuals' freedom to follow their own authentic passions also brings them together in common purpose. Burning Man is a prototype, and its philosophy is a how-to manual for better communities, that, instead of rules, offers principles. Featuring iconic and impossible stories from "the playa," interviews with Burning Man's founders and staff, and personal recollections of the late Larry Harvey--Burning Man's founder, "Chief Philosophical Officer," and the author's close friend and colleague--The Scene That Became Cities introduces readers to the experience of Burning Man; explains why it grew; posits how it could impact fields as diverse as art, economics, and politics; and makes the ideas behind it accessible, actionable, and useful.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623173692
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Pages: 356
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

For the last ten years, Caveat Magister, aka Benjamin Wachs, has been actively writing about Burning Man culture and engaging with Burning Man at the cutting edge of its philosophy, composing over 250 articles about it for the Burning Man website. By 2015, this work had made him, outside of Larry Harvey and his fellow founders, one of the leading interpreters of Burning Man within its own culture. In 2015, Larry Harvey asked Caveat, along with Burning Man's Director of Education, Stuart Mangrum, to sit on a committee, officially called the "Philosophical Center" of the Burning Man nonprofit.

Table of Contents

What Is Burning Man? ix

Introduction 1

1 The Experience We Are About to Have Together 13

2 How Do We Start? 25

Part 1 What Can We Observe?

3 A Space of Your Own 39

4 Burning Man Spaces Are Not Benign 45

5 Action Is the Basic Unit of Meaning 47

6 Burning Man Involves Meaningful Choices 51

7 Burning Man Is Pointless 55

8 Burning Man Is Decommodified (Part 1) 59

9 Burning Man Is Decommodified (Part 2): Self-Reliance 63

10 Burning Man Is Decommodified (Part 3): Gifting 67

11 Burning Man Is Decommodified (Part 4): Art and Whimsy 71

12 There Are No Spectators, but There Is Creative Tension 77

13 Burning Man Is for Amateurs 81

14 It's Okay to Be Miserable at Burning Man 83

15 Burning Man Cleans Up after Itself 85

16 Burning Man Eschews Bullshit (Part 1) 89

17 Burning Man Is Inclusive 95

18 Burning Man Is Filled with Volunteers 99

19 Burning Man Is Filled with Communities 103

20 Let's Recap 109

Part 2 What Is That Experience Like?

21 Something Something, Transformation, Something Something 117

22 Damned if I Know 121

Part 3 How Did We Get Here?

23 Getting to 'Aha!' 141

24 Impermanence and Participatory Evolution 145

25 Where 'Principles' Come From 149

26 The Appeal of Competence and Mastery 155

27 Finding the Zone 163

28 This Is Not a Drill 167

29 Ch-ch-ch-changing Social Conditions 171

30 So Much Meaning 177

31 Putting It All Together 179

Part 4 The 10 Principles of Burning Man

32 A Reintroduction-What They Do 185

33 Ground Rules for Talking about the 10 Principles 191

34 How to Apply the 10 Principles 195

35 Creative Tension Enhances Burning Man Culture 201

36 Burning Man's Natural Enemy Is Bullshit (Part 2) 207

37 What if We Want an Eleventh Principle? Or a Twelfth? 209

38 The Principles Aren't Just Guides-They're Skills 211

Part 5 Burning Man's Philosophical Method

39 Epistemological Humility 217

40 Okay, but What Is It? 221

41 What Happens Next? 225

42 Standards of Proof 233

Part 6 What Can Burning Man Teach Us about Community and Culture?

43 What We've Learned 239

Part 7 What Happens Next? (You May Already Be a Burning Man Philosopher!)

44 The Four-Five? No, Four (Maybe Five) Eras of Burning Man 249

45 But Wait a Minute, Don't You Guys Already Have an Organization? 257

46 Leadership and Organizational Development 263

47 Politics and Community Development 285

48 Diversity Is Complicated 297

49 Value and Economics 311

50 Bringing It All Together 335

Conclusion 341

About the Author 345

Customer Reviews