Radical Ritual. How Burning Man Changed the World

Author: Shister, Neil

Publication Date:

July 2019



Original language and publisher

English (USA) | Counterpoint Press

Territories Handled

World excl. English North America



Radical Ritual. How Burning Man Changed the World

Author: Shister, Neil


“Masterfully organized and written with a clarity and liveliness that pulls us along, Neil Shister’s Radical Ritual meshes two different approaches to its elusive subject. It combines the intellectual insights of a seasoned objective reporter and analyst who has studied Burning Man’s history and creators in depth with the deeply personal responses of an active (though hardly unquestioning) participant who conveys the experiential feel of being there. The result is a brilliantly successful synthesis and wonderful read from start to finish.” — Carl Smith, author of The Plan of Chicago and professor of American studies and history at Northwestern University

“Neil Shister’s book skillfully traces the evolution of Burning Man and provides rare insights into how this cultural phenomenon is changing the world.” — Michael MikelFounding Board Member, Burning Man Project

A captivating history of the Burning Man Festival proposing that what Florence was to the Renaissance, Black Rock City is to an unfolding cultural epoch that remains to be named.

It started with a scrap wood bonfire on a San Francisco beach in 1986 and today, it’s a week-long extravaganza in the Nevada desert for over 80,000. For six days in late August, ‘Black Rock City’ exists as a self-sustaining community and then on the seventh day, the residents of the temporary community break camp, taking care to “leave no trace.” Written from Neil Shister’s perspective as a five-time participant, journalist, and student of American culture, Radical Ritual presents Burning Man as vitally, historically important, a significant player in the avant-garde, forging new social paradigms as liberal democracy unravels. In a wonderful mix of narrative storytelling and reportage, Radical Ritual discusses how Burning Man has impacted not only the art and music worlds, but also disaster relief, urban renewal, the utilization of renewable energy and even the corporate governance of Google.

Shister is not alone in his beliefs. Led by conservative activist Grover Norquist, the Cato Institute recently held an event on what libertarians can learn from Burning Man. The festival intertwines conservative and progressive ideas. On one hand it is a celebration of self-reliance, personal accountability, and individual freedom; on the other hand it is based on strong values of inclusion, consensual decision-making, and centered, collaborative endeavor.