Skip to content

A Burner Lexicon: Ten Burner Principles

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

A Burner offers a gift. Black Rock City, 2006. Photo by Ryan Jesena.

Ten Principles, –noun, The Ten Principles of Burning Man, also known as the Burner Principles, are the core ethics of the Burning Man community. They guide the behavior and choices of both organizers (the Burning Man Organization) and participants at That Thing In The Desert as well as most regional events. Like most ethical systems the importance of each ethic, as well as the culture’s success in adhering to them, is sometimes hotly debated.

As outlined in Scribe’s book Tribes of Burning Man, these principles were adopted in 2004 as a guide to the regionals, but ended up also providing a guide to behavior at Burning Man itself. Ironically, the regionals seem far more likely to adopt their own, condensed or alternate versions of the principles than to adhere strictly to these ten.

According to Burning Man, the ten principles are:

  • Radical Inclusion — the idea that everyone is equally welcome at Burn events, no matter how weird.
  • Gifting — There is no commerce at Burn events, and participation in the gift economy is encouraged over barter.
  • Decommodification — The idea that Burn events should be free of advertising, sponsorship, and other outside corporate interests.
  • Radical Self-reliance — Everyone is required to bring what they need to survive for the event, but this principle applies to mental self-reliance as well.
  • Radical Self-expression — The Burn community is a place to be your real self, free of the masks you wear at work or elsewhere in reality camp.
  • Communal Effort — Burn events are run largely by volunteer effort. Even though Burning Man has some paid employees, even that largest event requires the effort of thousands to occur successfully.
  • Civic Responsibility — Unlike underground countercultural events, Burning Man and the regionals try to carve out a space within the boundaries of law by obtaining necessary permits and obeying law enforcement. Burner communities often work to improve the cities around where they live or where their events take place.
  • Leaving No Trace — Many volunteer hours are devoted to cleaning up MOOP, as well as burn scars and other traces of a Burn’s temporary city. As many have pointed out, events may still leave other traces on the environment that are less easily eradicated.
  • Participation — There are no spectators at Burning Man. Unlike other festivals, there is no division between audience and performer: all are participants.
  • Immediacy — Burn culture strives to strip away cultural paradigms that keep humans separate from their true selves, from each other or from the natural world that they are a part of.

In the coming weeks, A Burner Lexicon will examine each of the Ten Principles in closer detail. The lexicographer encourages his readers to submit their thoughts on any or all of the Principles — either in brief opinions or as longer guest posts — for inclusion in these future entries. You can get in touch with the lexicographer by using the email address at the top of this page.

Thanks to JoyKil for suggestions on this entry.

Other entries in A Burner Lexicon can be found at