burning man

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Book review: This Is Burning Man by Brian Doherty.
This book gives a description and history of Burning Man that is mostly consistent with what I know of it. I particularly like how he calls it “a social revolutionary movement that is not about fighting authority but is dedicated to working with it”.
He glosses over the inconsistent beliefs in the culture over property rights. He has one brief mention of bicycle theft without much indication of how big a problem it is or how it affects the culture. He occasionally implies it’s considered ok to destroy someone else’s possessions, but doesn’t provide a clear enough description of how much of a cultural difference that is.
He describes some of the disagreements over the what Burning Man should be, including some early disputes over whether it was ok for it to become an art festival, and whether attempts to introduce political advertising fits well with the anti-commercial rules. He suggests that control of the culture is sufficiently decentralized that no small group can decide the answers to those disputes.
The main hint he provides for those hoping to create similar events elsewhere is beyond some minimum level of safety and logistics planning, the success or failure is largely in the hands of participants rather than leaders, and the leaders of Burning Man don’t have a clear idea of how they succeeded.
He suggests that a sense of crisis, mostly due to the hostile environment, helps create a sense of bonding. I think he wildly exaggerates the effects of the physical environment (whose main value is minimizing political objections to Burning Man).