(More) Commerce Comes to Burning Man

Via Boing Boing, I read this great essay on Burning Man and the counter-culture’s problematic resistance to corporations:

But Burning Man is rife with the products of corporations, and always has been. And has always had to be. The prepared food items and bottled water we live on out there; the portajohns our wastes go in after eating that food and drinking that water; the tents we sleep in, the pipe and metal domes we lounge under, the clothes we wear, either exotic or normal—all sold to us not for fellow-feeling but by monied interests, usually corporate, who just want our cash.

I first read about Burning Man courtesy of Bruce Sterling’s 1996 article in Wired. It struck me as a cool idea, though certainly not for me.

In about 2001, I heard about somebody I knew going to Burning Man. They were two publicists from Victoria, and I concluded that it had probably jumped the shark. Cool is a moving target, after all.

I suspect that somewhere out there, people have started a Burning Man 2.0 (or 3.0) which I haven’t heard of. That’s where the real anarchists are headed.


  1. While I’ll agree that it’s hard, nay impossible, to live a life devoid of corporate trappings, there’s a difference between throwing an event in which most of the participants have purchased mass produced items and having a corporate interest directly and deliberately influence the nature of your event through planning or sponsorship.

  2. +1 to what Thomas says. Using items made by a corporation is a far cry from having a corporation influence or structure your event. I can take any water I want to Burning Man, but I can only bring water supplied by Coca Cola to the Fifa Under 20 games, or be removed by force from the event.

  3. Lets understand what anarchism is before we have a shit fit about commercial interests intervening. Anarchism is about absence of outside control (anarchos, in its greek root, means no leader). Commercial interests can do whatever they want as long as they play by the same rule s as everybody else. If the whole of Barcelona could run on Anarchist principles (pretty successfully, I might add) for most of the Spanish civil war, then I think Burning Man can survive a tiny injection of big business. At the end of the day, if you can embrace the your enemy and can still control your destiny you win on the double.

  4. As a first timer to the Green Man 2007, I found Burning Man was full of contradictions. The most obvious was that my party shopped in a Reno WallMart to prepare for the burn. The employees were very familiar with “burners”, an indication that many others had shopped there over the years. To tout “non-commercial” values yet shop at the evilest of corporate empires is a huge contradicion.

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