This Is Burning Man

An inside look at the event known only as Burning Man.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


For those who’ve never heard of Burning Man, it can be hard to explain.
It sometimes calls itself an arts festival or an experiment in “radical self-reliance and
radical self-expression.” Picture a temporary city, built every August in Nevada’s
barren Black Rock Desert, where as many as 30,000 gather to set up shimmering temples, gardens of
flame-shooting lotus flowers, three-story chandeliers that appear to have fallen from the sky,
and other marvels they’ve spent countless hours constructing—for no glory other than
the pleasure of their fellow “burners.” The blissed-out festival, which operates
on a no-barter, no-trade “gift economy,” concludes with the ritual conflagration
of a 40-foot statue: the Burning Man.

Doherty traces the
evolution of what is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise from the first bonfire gathering at
San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986. “It grew spontaneously and… accidentally,”
he writes, “evolving into something that has become the measure of thousands of people’s
lives.”

A nine-year veteran of the burn, Doherty comes dangerously close to saying
that the event’s glory days—which he, of course, experienced—are now behind
it. An editor of the libertarian Reason magazine, he has little patience for festival director
Larry Harvey’s new, more political stance against rampant consumerism, and the ideas and
experiences of ravers, progressives, and women—all arguably part of Burning Man’s
core demographic—are, for the most part, sidelined here. But his book is an intelligent and
exhaustive effort to chronicle the explosion of one of America’s most implausible subcultures.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate