Filed under: Uncategorized
This article was written by an SEL member for Black Flag magazine (issue 228, 2008/9). Although written a year ago it seemed relevant to the current round of discussions on global warming in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen: Flooding the Market
Something strange has happened over the last few years. Ecological concerns , formerly the preserve of a few bearded hippies and annoying lefty types, have entered the mainstream. Climate change due to human activity has been accepted as fact by government and business alike. Something has to be done.
Unfortunately this something is up for grabs. At the moment unfortunately the solutions fighting it out for prominence come up pretty poorly. None of them fully engage with the wider context of our class based, hierarchical society. All seek to work within capitalism without questioning whether this is desirable or even feasible.
Capitalism to the rescue?
Can capitalism ‘solve’ the climate change problem? Well, a few years ago my instant reaction would have been no. My answer now is that it’s highly unlikely to. It depends whether you’re talking abut a pure market system or the more complex capitalist world that we actually live in.
Capitalism by its nature is based on the need to continuously expand or die. New markets must constantly be sought, new or more efficient ways of generating and realising profit created. There is no moral dimension to capitalism. In itself it does not take into account anything other than the accumulation of wealth.
There are some free market advocates that believe that the solution to environmental problems is private ownership. According to Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “Rather than the silly slogan of some environmentalists, that ‘trees should have standing,’ our argument is that behind every tree should stand an owner who can act as its protector” (1). It’s unclear what would stop the owner from chopping the tree down if it were more profitable to do so. In this argument pollution would be fought by owners of land/property suffering pollution bringing legal claims – though proving that a particular factory is responsible for acid rain seems a little difficult.
Bar these visions of a bosses’ utopia in which everything is owned for the good of all (not to mention the profit of the few) – and one in which it is hard to see how climate change could be tackled – we’re left with a free market that without outside intervention would quickly lead to ecological disaster, not just through an amoral approach to growth by any means, but also through a consequence of market exchange – externalities.
An ‘externality’ is something that occurs as a result of a market exchange, that affects people or things other than the buyer and seller. It’s in the interests of both buyer and seller for some costs resulting from the transaction to be shifted on to others (‘externalised’). Robin Hahnel gives the example of someone buying a car from a car maker. The costs of the pollution caused through production, and the pollution, congestion, and carbon emissions caused through consumption – use – of the vehicle are not included in the price struck. The costs are borne by others. Put simply, if it’s cheaper to pollute than it is to avoid or clean up pollution, market logic says pollute (2).
So the logic of capitalism points to – if I may lapse into rock-speak – a one way ticket to hell.
The thing to bear in mind however is that we do not live in a pure free market system. The state and other bodies and mechanisms represent another part of the ruling elite alongside the people who fill boardrooms and senior management positions. In a sense they are the semi conscious bourgeoisie, who often act to save their business brethren (I use the gendered term deliberately) from themselves. It is this part of the ruling elite that often grants reforms, as it can see that in the long run reforms are in their class interest, as they head off too much disruption from dissatisfied workers/women/black people/youth/LGBT people etc. The potential effects of global warming – rising sea levels, food shortages, famine, death and population displacement – would present a huge risk to both profit making and the legitimacy of state and capitalist institutions.
I believe that on this level there has been recognition that we are staring a global crisis in the face. The noises coming from government bodies, quangos, media outlets and so on reveal that climate change is a genuine concern. They know that steps have to be taken.
Having said that, this will always be tempered by the immediate needs of the business class. The recent double dealing by the Government offers a great example. To avoid EU commitments to renewable energy it has been seeking to have overseas renewable projects it has funded count towards its target, as well as so called ‘clean coal’ carbon capture. Allegedly the real aim is to support nuclear energy over renewables, as funding both not to mention infrastructure support for both) is not really an option.(3)
As an aside on clean coal, the government is to fund a demonstration project to assess the technology. The anticipated period for the project is 15 years. That is, it will take 15 years before they can even assess whether or not the technology is both sound and financially viable(4). These are 15 years we do not have if we are to avoid the more serious consequences of global warming.
There may be a time where concrete actions are taken. The thing to remember however is that these changes will not be at the expense of class power. Those at the top will not let a trivial matter such as climate change upset their position of dominance. By the time this happens, I fear that remedial actions will be quite drastic, presumably some form of carbon rationing where the more money you have the more carbon emitting activities you can enjoy. This would also necessitate a strong authoritarian state, to ensure there is no cheating the system (at least amongst the proles), and to quell any social unrest the situation causes.
The most well known example of elite action to tackle climate change is the Kyoto Protocol. As part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change it is an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% (from their 1990 levels) by 2012.
According to George Monbiot’s recent book Heat, we actually need to reduce carbon emissions in the ‘developed’ world by 90% by 2030 to have a good chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. This means keeping warming below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels (1.4 degrees above the warming already caused). Note that this is not a ‘safe’ level – millions could still be at risk from water or food shortages below this level. (5)
This should not be taken as a call for us to run back to the caves, but it does mean that we cannot be too complacent. Some technological solutions will help us, but we cannot rely on techno-fixes alone. There have to be fundamental changes to the way we organise society. Yet this doesn’t really figure into the current international agreements or even discussions.
A favoured market based solution to global warming is carbon trading. Companies are allocated carbon emission allowances. If their CO2 emissions are lower than their allowance they can sell the unused portion, or similarly buy more if they are going to exceed their limit.
This approach is littered with problems. It actively encourages CO2 emissions to be increased up to the already inadequate limits, as ‘unused’ allowances are sold to someone who will use them. In the EU scheme governments have handed out huge allowances to the biggest polluting industries, leading to the price of carbon dropping by 60% (hardly encouraging anyone to cut emissions) and UK companies alone making collective profits of ￡940m in the first year of the scheme.(6)
Some trading schemes (eg, under Kyoto and the EU’s scheme) allow polluters to buy credits from overseas offsetting projects, generally in the developing world. Offsetting is a dubious practice at the best of times, (see below), and this approach does nothing to lower emissions, especially given the dubious nature of many of these projects.(7)
Carbon Trading also has an ideological effect – and probably motive – of yet again expanding free market rhetoric into another area of life. Once more capitalism rides to the rescue, with the magic of the market’s ‘invisible hand’ holding back the waters and saving the poor polar bears. I used the phrase rhetoric deliberately as, like in many other cases, the reality is not that of a truly free market – the massive handouts of allowances was hardly an example of muscular capitalism.
If anyone were in any doubt about the nature of carbon trading, the Financial Times again highlighted the class war credentials of such schemes:
“Both carbon taxes and markets put undue burden on the poor. Governments should counter such regressive carbon taxes by lowering taxes on labour. Yet most of the political appeal of markets is that they hide the true costs to consumers. That is why carbon markets exist in the first place. For this reason it is unlikely that governments would offset the invisible burden of markets by changing visible taxes.” (8)
Most of us are aware of carbon offsetting. The idea is that you ‘neutralise’ the carbon emissions from a particular activity (air travel is a common example) by paying a company to remove an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, generally by planting trees. Sounds like a great solution, except for one thing – it doesn’t really work.
It’s hard to accurately calculate how much CO2 a tree will absorb – and for how long. Unless the tree undergoes the same processes that led to the creation of fossil fuels that carbon isn’t going to stay locked away for ever – it will be released if the tree burns or rots.
As a scientist from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research said to The Guardian, “Even if the trees do survive, if we have climate change and a 2C or 3C temperature rise, then how do we know those trees are not going to die early and break down into methane and actually make the situation worse?” (9)
Other offsets are based on projected savings caused by other schemes such as windfarms or promoting more efficient lightbulbs. But here too calculation is an issue, not to mention a high degree of double counting, where projects that were going to go ahead anyway are counted within the offset framework. Carbon Trade Watch have produced a fine report that exposes the offsetting problem
Even if offsetting was a plausible system on its own terms, it diverts attention away from the real solution – leaving fossil fuels in the ground in the first place – and works on the basis that a clear conscience is available to those who can afford it. It’s no wonder that groups such as Carbon Trade Watch have compared this system to medieval indulgences, where wealthy sinners could pay to have their heavenly slate wiped clean.
Capitalism as if profit mattered
“We need more people like Porritt … prepared to … find the best ways to save both the environment and the capitalist system”
Quote from the back of Capitalism as if the world mattered
Jonathan Porritt was a childhood hero of mine. Growing up in the days of John Craven’s Newsround I remember him running Friends of the Earth at a time when I was getting interested in environmental issues. Then I grow up to find him running a pro-business green group called Forum for the Future and writing a book called ‘Capitalism as if the World Mattered’.
The book is based on the perspective that capitalism can be made a bit nicer. This would be achieved by identifying “those characteristics of today’s dominant capitalist paradigm that most damagingly impede progress towards sustainability and set out to change them through the usual levers – government intervention, consumer preference, international diplomacy, education and so on”.
Despite having read the whole book, it’s hard to give a clear picture of what Porritt actually envisages beyond a few examples of case studies or possible reforms. These include environmental taxes intended to reflect externalities, business accounting that would reflect environmental impact and Wal-Mart’s sustainability plans. He reprints Forum for a Future’s business case for embracing sustainable development – stronger brands, customer loyalty, influence with regulator/government, enhanced shareholder value. There is no real recognition that we live in a society which is divided along the lines of wealth and power. Imagining a little bit of moral pressure and reasoned argument will bring about reforms significant enough to make a real difference seems every bit as utopian as he accuses anti-capitalists of being.
Down with this sort of thing! Careful now…
The analysis from liberal greens is not particularly illuminating. It tends to be a mishmash of a generalised ‘we’re all killing the planet so change your lightbulbs’, anti-corporate finger pointing and calls for government to take strong action to make us all better green citizens.
The extent of the analysis on the ‘I count’ website’s ‘What causes climate change’ page is typical: “But who causes it?: It’s simple. We all do. At home, work and play.” (10)
The problem with NGOs is that they honestly believe that they are sitting on terrible information, and all they really need to do is make a large fuss about it and get government to take action. It’s very much along the lines of the Quaker idea of speaking truth to power. Yet as Chomsky has often pointed out, people in power generally know the truth already. It’s just that the current situation benefits them.
Furthermore, NGOs cannot or choose not to see systemic reasons for environmental destruction (or poverty or war or any other major scourge). They would jeopardise their support from well off guilty liberals. Their chief executives are after all now part of the very class they would be attacking, and would lose out on that forthcoming CBE.
I spend a lot of time looking around the internet at green sites. If I see that native American proverb about ‘when the last tree dies … blah blah blah … then they will realise that you can’t eat money’ one more time I will scream. Apart from being annoyingly cloying, I’ve never seen any evidence that it’s a genuine Cree proverb.
You could say that this at least points to an anti-capitalist sentiment, but too often the people spouting this are merely anti-corporate. In some ways this is a step on from simply blaming humans or particular levels of technology for environmental destruction, but it equally fails to get to grips with the mechanics of a hierarchical capitalist system. All it sees are bad people doing bad things.
The general outcome of this kind of anti-corporate pressure tends to be ‘greenwash’, the use of PR and image to sell the idea that the particular company is actually very very environmentally friendly indeed. This is typified by BP’s change of logo to an abstract sun/flower design and infamous ‘Beyond Petroleum’ strapline.
While the facts behind the greenwash are easy to point to, we increasingly live in the situationists’ world of spectacle, where the reality is not as important as the image. The truth is whatever gets into the public consciousness. Oppositional groups have no chance of matching the marketing budgets of the transnationals, leaving aside fighting elite consensus within the media.
In any case, the point is not that certain companies are benefiting from threatening our future. Shell do not act the way they do because they’re run by nasty people. Corporations are simply following the intrinsic logic of capitalism. No matter how fluffy your intentions might be when you start a company, you can’t escape this logic. That’s why the Body Shop under the Roddicks was anti-union, and why it ultimately sold out to L’Oreal. And of course the Body Shop never broke with the idea of top down hierarchy and wage slavery at any point.
It can make sense to point to individual acts of companies, either to stop an immediate threat, or as an example of wider structural concerns, but the futility of seeing this as an end in itself not only hides the true nature of the problem but also falls victim to PR chicanery.
What is needed is a thorough change in the way we generate power, produce food, transport ourselves and manufacture the goods we need. We need to leave fossil fuels in the ground rather than create voodoo business schemes to magic away our carbon emissions. This could be done by massive state control, which would leave in place the hierarchies of power and control that got us into this mess in the first place. Ironically, Jonathan Porritt has pointed out a better way:
“But if one gets to the state of mind where you say that nobody can ever trust government and politicians again, then we are stuffed. What are we meant to do? Make it all happen ourselves?”(11)
Ultimately that is the answer. If we are to achieve both a sustainable future and a free humanity, we must make it all happen ourselves. Not as consumers, not as voters. We need an economy and a society that is geared towards meeting human needs rather than accumulation for its own sake. This cannot happen within capitalism.
1. Cited in the Commons Blog introduction page http://commonsblog.org/about_freemkt.php
2 Economic Justice and Democracy Robin Hahnel, Routledge, 2005 pp.84-89
3. Guardian March 29 2008 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/mar/29/renewableenergy.climatechange
4. Competition for a Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Demonstration Project: Project Information Memorandum, Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file42478.pdf
5. Met Office paper presented at the Stabilisation 2005 conference – http://www.stabilisation2005.com/impacts/impacts_human.pdf
7. See the free Cornerhouse publication Carbon Trading for a much more in depth account of this murky world http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/pdf/document/carbonDDlow.pdf
8. Carbon Markets create a muddle, Financial Times 26 April 2007 http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4b80ee18-f393-11db-9845-000b5df10621.html
11. From a discussion printed in New Internationalist Dec 2007 http://www.newint.org/features/2007/12/01/debate/
Filed under: Uncategorized
Review of Neighborhood Government: The Local Foundations of Political Life by Milton Kotler*
In September a newspaper in Southend, Essex ran a feel good story about a community project run by Christian evangelicals in the poorest ward of the town. The project’s motto, “Reaching Out, Changing Lives” “couldn’t be more apt” as hundreds of lives had been turned around, the paper said. But behind the breezy optimism and “tea and toast” alongside bible study every Friday, was a bleakness of aspiration. Local residents were given confidence training, job skills and help to overcome their addictions. But the idea that the area’s problems were rooted in a basic lack of economic and political power and the solution might be to collectively fight to gain power, rather than just adapt people to the demands of a competitive economy, was completely absent.
Four decades ago, when Milton Kotler wrote Neighborhood Government the sense of what was possible was very different. 1968 was a tumultuous year but amid the revolutionary outbreaks and anti-war protests, Kotler discovered “a movement for local control” across America. In the poorest parts of US cities, people were coming together to change their lives in a tangible, political sense. They were demanding the transfer of political authority to institutions they directly controlled, and were using that democratic power to pass their own laws and control rents, prices, banks, taxation, schools, housing and welfare programmes.
Kotler locates this movement for self-rule in the neighbourhoods of cities. The neighbourhood has a special meaning for him. It is not, as commonly assumed, just a place where people live and socialise. It is, buried deeply under the surface of central state control, a political unit. The neighbourhood is a “political settlement of small territory and familiar association, whose absolute property is its capacity for deliberative democracy,” he says.
Kotler delves into American history to show how the neighbourhoods of many US cities were once independent self-governing territories before being annexed and then subjugated by larger entities around them. Originally, many US cities were directly democratic: political decisions were made by town meetings of citizens. In these town democracies there were factions but not organised political parties. This popular democracy was gradually replaced in the nineteenth century by what he calls “aristocratic government” through elected representatives.
But this was not just an American phenomenon. Kotler says that the “fundamental character” of modern revolution has been local insurrection against the central power of the state. Like Murray Bookchin in The Third Revolution, he sees this movement for grassroots control in the Parisian sections of the French Revolution and the factory and neighbourhood soviets of the Russian Revolution; a flowering of decentralised democracy that was stamped out by centralising Girondists and Bolsheviks.
In late ‘60s America, in cities like New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans, that revolutionary tradition was being revived. Kotler describes in detail the experience of one attempt to develop neighbourhood democracy in Columbus, Ohio which began with the formation of the East Central Citizens Organization (ECCO) in 1965.
ECCO started as a local service provider in a neighbourhood of 6,500 residents with an unemployment rate far above the city’s average. The participants decided to legally incorporate the neighbourhood, creating an organisation open to all local residents. They vested legislative power in an assembly, and elected an executive council to carry on the administration of decisions between meetings of the assembly. Political clubs in each of the four districts of the neighbourhood had the task of initiating discussions and new programmes which were put before the main assembly.
Within three years, the organisation was operating a public health service programme and a veterinary clinic, purchasing houses for rehabilitation, operating a credit union and was planning to open a supermarket. But, says Kotler, ECCO does just regard itself as a provider of necessary services to local people. It wants “territorial jurisdiction over public activities”. It controls federal anti-poverty programmes in the neighbourhood and has de facto control over programmes for young people. It also has jurisdiction over the local library, appointing the librarian and selecting books. It hopes, in time, (the book was written in 1968) to be legally designated a political entity of the municipal government.
Kotler says the significance of ECCO lies in its “liberation of practical political deliberation”. “For the first time,” he writes, “residents legally decide certain matters of community life. They are steadily practising the art of political decision-making and living with and learning from the consequences of their decisions. ECCO residents are now orators and officials, and practical political wisdom is developing in a community where earlier the only expressions were frustration and escape.” This is the essence of philosopher Hannah Arendt’s definition of political freedom – the right to be a participant in government.
Despite this transformation, Kotler says that ECCO has only travelled a few steps towards genuine self-rule. He likens poor neighbourhoods to colonised countries. Everything sold inside the community is owned outside. Everything earned flows to outside ownership. To redress this, neighbourhoods need regulate their own territorial economy. They need the authority to tax businesses and citizens and to decide how that revenue is spent. Local people need to control local production and be employed in local enterprises. “It’s reasonable,” says Kotler, [for neighbourhoods] “to control prices, rents, licensing and banking.”
Kotler says that were a community to constitute itself to weld such economic and political power, it would form a neighbourhood government. It is worth dwelling on what he means. He is not referring to greater public participation in centrally planned political programmes. He is not talking about local people taking or being given, control over single institutions, such as schools – which would be in effect, if isolated from any collective democratic structure, a form of privatisation. And he does not have in mind the informal participation of ephemeral protest movements or free-floating assemblies brought together to deal with single issues. Self-rule means, to him, the transfer of the legal authority of the state, to permanent, legally-constituted, directly democratic entities, open to all citizens and possessing their own formal constitutions and rules.
“Political power has two components,” says Kotler, “prudent decision and forceful action.” This definition view of government as potentially the directly democratic exercise of self-rule by a community – entirely separate to government by a state – has also been made by Bookchin. “A government – or better still, a polity – is an ensemble designed to deal with the problems of consociational life in an orderly and hopefully fair manner,” he writes in The Communalist Project. “Every institutionalized that constitutes a system for handling public affairs – with or without the presence of a state – is necessarily a government.”
Neighbourhood government is posited by Kotler as the democratic alternative to national representative government, which purports to be the apogee of democracy but isn’t. “We have been told so often that our government is ‘democratic’ that we have failed to realise that is only representative,” he says. “Once we elect our representatives, our voice in day to day political decision is lost.” But in neighbourhood government, law-making power remains in the demos, the people.
Kotler undertakes an extensive justification of this form of government against the familiar claims of its representative opponent. When faced with any experiment in direct democracy, the advocates of representative government usually claim that it is has no legitimacy because few people will actually participate. Kotler takes as an example ECCO, where attendance fluctuates from between 10 and 25 per cent of the membership. But even attendance at the low end of this range “is quite sufficient to bring all political positions of common concern and interest to the forum for deliberation,” he says. “Even a 10 per cent quorum usually encompasses the widest existing range of political opinion and emotion.” A local councillor by contract may be elected by as little as 10 per cent of the electorate, and will have ultimate power to decide on political matters for the whole community until the election comes around again.
Neighbourhood democracy is also more likely to serve the common interest than representative government where the interests of the wealthy intercede between the voters and the council or government they elect. “Law-making by an assembly of citizens will favour the many rather than few simply because wealth and special interest have a smaller voice in the assembly than in elected council,” says Kotler. But this does not mean that there will be no stratifications of power or divisions in assemblies. Factions and internal political groups will exist – without them neighbourhood democracy – would have no motion or direction, but they won’t turn into political parties attempting to gain control of the state.
Kotler distinguishes the neighbourhood power movement from other political theories that used the local community as the springboard for political activism. Most notably, he rejected the approach of the father of community organising Saul Alinsky, whose Chicago-based Industrial Areas Foundation was later to train the current Commander in Chief of the United States. In Kotler’s view, Alinksy saw the neighbourhood in instrumental, rather than political terms. Alinsky wanted to organise neighbourhood power to exert a continuous pressure on central government in order to extract political concessions in areas such as housing, jobs or wages. He never saw the potential of the neighbourhood as a place of community self-rule
The neighbourhood power movement in American cities, the beginnings of which Kotler chronicled, spread to more cities during the 1970s before subsiding after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. But as the Argentinian neighbourhood assemblies and experiments such as Marsh Farm in the UK show, the impulse for face to face democracy and self-rule – or what has been called, historically, the political realm - keeps recurring.
There are limitations in Kotler’s vision. He is hazy about how citizens’ organisations in different neighbourhoods should federate together. He assumes that neighbourhoods merely need to control economic enterprises within their boundaries. There is – understandably for 1968 – no mention of ecology and he establishes an unnecessary conflict between the desire for social equality and political liberty, while summarily dismissing class struggle. But as a description of how citizens’ assemblies can constitute themselves and begin to take political power and authority, the book has valuable lessons for social ecologists and communalists.
* The book was first published in 1969 and re-published in 2004
Filed under: Uncategorized
When contemplating the relevance of Murray Bookchin’s social ecology to the contemporary world, it is striking to note the degree to which this school of thought, like other radical Euro-American intellectual traditions, concerns itself largely with ‘advanced’ Western/Northern societies. Like his sometimes-comrade Herbert Marcuse, Bookchin, in fact, has conceded as much, stating that the primary responsibility of Western/Northern radicals vis-à-vis less-developed country residents is to overthrow dominative institutions in their own societies so as to allow for the emancipation of those currently oppressed by the international system. It is to be wondered, then, whether his project, as valuable as it is, can be applied to contexts outside of those on which he focused most of his efforts—that is, directly to those peoples his work largely ignores. It certainly seems that he has much to say here, and that many of the profound problems that beset the “wretched of the earth” could perhaps be helped along by the contributions of social ecology. It is the hope of the present work, then, to employ the insights of Bookchin and his social ecology to critique mainstream development theory, in an effort ultimately to present an alternative by which the dominant trends, both contemporary and historical, of the world’s course might be overturned, and a “free nature”—a reconciliation between external nature and human society that radically diminishes the pain and suffering in both —realised. As the most radical critique of conventional development thought and practice with which I am familiar, and one that in fact shares many of the analyses advanced by the aforementioned thinkers, post-developmentalism seems to represent a useful means to this end.
Though ‘post-developmentalism’ is not as an intellectual tradition as clearly demarcated as Bookchin’s social ecology, the many thinkers associated with it share a number of common theoretical views. Most post-developmentalists hold a highly critical view of the trajectory of history, especially of its most-highly lauded creation, modernity. In language reminiscent of Bookchin, Sahlins notes that contemporary society is the “era of hunger unprecedented,” a time of “the greatest technical power” in which “starvation [is] an institution.” He contrast this with what he calls “the original affluent society,” or the lived space-time experience of hunter-gathering societies, which he finds to have “easily satisf[ied] all people’s material wants” and provided a degree of leisure time unknown in most of the forms of human social organization that have followed ‘primitive’ society. Latouche similarly remarks that the promises of Renaissance humanism have devolved within modernity into the instauration of “the most inhuman society ever constructed by man,” one characterised by the dominance of “the quantitative”—a “cult of life without quality” that remains fundamentally indifferent to the fate of the individual. He sees a valuable alternative in “traditional societies,” most of which he finds to have gone without the concept of accumulating wealth or dominating external nature. Galeano, for one, sees the perpetuation of the prevailing state of affairs, which he see as “poised on the brink of an abyss,” as fundamentally necessitating the perpetuation of injustice. Indeed, there is reason to believe that the very development of the West/North has been based on the systematic underdevelopment of the South; the poorer countries of the latter, which Latouche sees as being considered within prevailing society as “good only […] for the wrecker’s yard,” thus face little prospect of realizing development, as they lack a periphery of “‘New’ Worlds” to exploit for their own benefit. The atrocious consequences of the present situation are, then, unsurprising: according to Latouche, 40,000 “radically outcast” children die every day of poverty—the equivalent, as he puts it, of the number of deaths at Auschwitz every three months —while “large majorities […] within most Southern countries” are reputed to be worse-off now than at the time of formal decolonization, with Central and Southern American societies purportedly having suffered the worst social and economic conditions since the European conquest during the ‘lost decade’ of neo-liberal restructuring in the 1980s.
Faced with the enormity of problems extant in the status quo, many writers associated with post-developmentalism have called for an “end to development.” Most such advocates reserve much of their ire for those who, cognizant of the substantial problematics characteristic in conventional development theory and practice, call for an ‘alternative development’—whether ‘participatory,’ ‘socialist,’ and so on—noting that the “opposition between ‘alternative development’ and alternative to development is radical, irreconcilable.” For such theorists, ‘development’ cannot be made “different from what it has been,” and they suggest that we give up the “comforting illusions” of working to “change the world,” develop “new types of social organisation,” and “save ‘humanity’” and instead advocate the development of “post-modern spaces,” which one group of theorists find to be the “only hope [for] a human existence” and for the “survival and flourishing [of] the ‘social majorities’” of the world. Such positions amount to a radical rejection of ‘progress,’ which, in the view of various theorists, represents a Western ideology that has enshrined the “one and only way of thinking”—that of subordinating the entirety of the life-world to the interests of transnational capital —and legitimated the “top-down, ethnocentric, and technocratic” forms that Escobar sees development theory and practice as having represented since their inception. Declaring, then, that “we are facing modern problems for which there are no modern solutions,” some post-developmentalists advocate the rejection of all the institutions they see as associated with the Western social construct of Homo oeconomicus (neo-liberal globalization, the welfare state, human rights, and the “modern self”), the “replacement of ‘global thinking’ with the ‘local thinking’ practiced at the grassroots,” and support for peoples’ local struggles as consonant with “their own cultural contexts.” Rahnema, for his part, seems to favor a devolution of power from the modern state to those whom traditional societies purportedly found the “wisest, the most virtuous, and hence the most ‘authoritative’ and experienced.” He hopes for the day when the peoples of the world will be left “free to change the rules and the contents of change, according to their own culturally defined ethics and aspiration,” noting that the coming post-development period will “distinguish itself from the preceding one” if the world’s jen—Confucius’ purported term for “the authoritative persons”—come to institute “an entirely new rationale and set of assumptions” whereby responsibility and compassion for the min—the “masses”—is actualised.
Many thinkers associated with post-developmentalism also express deep concern for what they see as the ecological predicament brought on by modernity. Sachs asserts that the global capitalist economy has “come up against its bio-physical limits” and, indeed, called into question the very survival of the earth itself, yet he expresses the concern that mainstream environmentalism tends to privilege dominant Western/Northern views of nature that, in the name of practicality or relevance, do not “plead anew against the world’s course” and hence ultimately serve the ends of capital, oligarchism, and eco-technocracy. In dominant formulations, argues Sachs, the “crisis of nature” stands at odds with the “crisis of justice”: thought and action dedicated to resolving problematics regarding humanity’s treatment of external nature are deemed mutually exclusive with attempts to ease the suffering of ‘second nature.’ Sachs asserts, however, that this false set of choices rests on conventional understandings of questions related to development and external nature, and he hopes for an eclipse of the current emphasis on endless growth, consumption, and “progress” by the emergence of a “politics of sufficiency” that would drive a search for modes of social organization that respected ecological limits and took “their inspiration from indigenous ideas of the good and proper life.” Escobar shares Sachs’s concerns about global eco-technocracy, noting that much of development discourse assumes it is the “benevolent (white) hand of the West”— the “fathers of the World Bank,” aided by “a few cosmopolitan Third Worlders”—that is to “save the Earth” by means of a set of superficial policies which follow directly from their understanding of the life-world as a “technical problem.” Escobar here remarks on the wealth of indigenous knowledges regarding external nature that largely is excluded from development theory, and he concludes that knowledge of the prospect of ecological finitude demands that humanity “reimagine the relationship between society and nature” and “reconnect life and thought at the level of myth.”
Toward a Post-Developmental Ecological Rationality
From the previous section, then, it should be clear that many of the thinkers associated with post-developmentalism share many of the concerns of Bookchin: common to all are fierce critiques of the trajectory of human history, a stress on the need to deconstruct and rethink given conceptions of ‘progress,’ opposition to capitalist modernity and most forms of constituted power, and concern for humanity’s relationship to external nature. However similar their concerns and views may be on some of these questions, there nonetheless exists a considerable degree of difference among them.
Perhaps the greatest conflict to be found between the thought of Bookchin relative to most post-developmentalists can be found in the latter’s interpretations of post-modernism and poststructuralism. Esteva and Prakash’s call to replace ‘the global’ with ‘the local’ typifies this, as does Latouche’s dismissal of the search for “new types of social organisation.” Such conclusions seem highly misguided, as asserting that humans give up concern for ‘the global’ and work to create local, post-modern spaces seems completely to overlook the decidedly significant influence that global processes—neo-liberal globalization, capitalism, colonial legacies and neo-colonial relationships, global warming, and so on—have on local realities and the very existence, let alone flourishing, of the “‘social majorities’” of the world. The very fact that these regional/global relationships exist in the current day, are socially contingent, and have dramatic and often highly negative effects on the lives of billions of people demands that they be addressed and radically overturned; to dismiss the structural bases for many of these relationships as immutable or irrelevant, as some postmodern strains of post-developmentalist thought suggest, is tantamount to a betrayal of the world’s dispossessed.
The emphasis many post-developmentalists place on outrightly rejecting ‘the Western’ also seems fundamentally problematic. Certainly, the West/North has much to atone for as regards its historical treatment of Southern peoples—for how can European colonisation, the Columbian Exchange, the Atlantic slave trade, neo-liberal structural adjustment processes, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the destruction of Vietnam and Iraq, and the global imposition of a fundamentally ecocidal economic system be forgotten, let alone forgiven? Post-developmentalists are certainly right to be suspicious and critical of Western/Northern designs for Southern peoples, but they are mistaken in seeing Enlightenment principles of social emancipation and resistance to oppression as being irrecovably tied to neoliberalism, the welfare state, and the social construct of Homo oeconomicus. Esteva and Prakash correctly point out that dominant Western/Northern notions of the self and society represent just one in a set of “diverse cultural windows” regarding these questions, but it seems doubtful whether it follows that concerned observers uncritically endorse the resolution of such problematics in the pre-modern or hybrid modes of social organization that Esteva and Prakash, Rahnema, and Escobar seem to advocate. While it may be true that the modes of governance that have been imposed on Southern peoples in the modern period dwarf “[t]he evils and injustices of traditional village governance,” it hardly seems clear that what should follow is a return to societies dominated by the “compassionate and authoritative” jen favored by Rahnema. Instead, post-developmentalists like Latouche and Esteva and Prakash should remain true to their emphasis on difference and so come to see the concept of development “as a set of conflicting discourses and practices based in positions that contradict one another” and thus one open to contribution from critical, non-hegemonic Western thought, such as that advanced by Bookchin. If the analyses of the latter are to be seen as in any way legitimate—and it is the argument heretofore advanced that they most certainly are—it seems that the task of critical inquiry should be directed not toward the valorisation of hierarchical power but rather toward an opposition to hierarchy and domination as such. Such efforts are to stress the need for the emergence of the “real ‘state of exception’” sought by Benjamin: the “abolition of domination.” The realization of emancipatory societies, freed from both capitalism and domination more generally, could allow for the instauration of Bookchin’s ‘liberatory technologies,’ ones which could help historically poorer societies conquer material scarcity in manners that avoid the torturous “process of dissolution [that] constitutes the historical evolution of the West” : its legacy of thoroughgoing self-repression, social injustice, and destruction of nature. A new, critical developmentalism, one that views development, like the Enlightenment, as “a real quest for improving the human condition” corrupted by “class power and ruling ideologies,” would disprove Latouche’s view that development cannot be made “different from what it has been” and refute the view common to Esteva, Prakash, and Rahnema that the prospect for systemic change now has passed.
1 M. Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism xvi (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2004.)
2 Ibid, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy 191 (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2005 ), The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism 45 (Montréal: Black Rose, 1990) 45
3 M. Sahlins, “The Original Affluent Society” 18 (The Post-Development Reader. Eds. Majid Rahnema and Victoria Bawtree. London: Zed Books, 1997. 3-21.)
4 Ibid 4, 18-19
5 S. Latouche, In the Wake of the Affluent Society: An Exploration of Post-Development 224 (Trans. Martin O’Connor and Rosemary Arnoux. London: Zed, 1993. emphasis in original)
6 Ibid 204, 230
7 E. Galeano, “To Be Like Them” 215 (The Post-Development Reader. Eds. Majid Rahnema and Victoria Bawtree. London: Zed Books, 1997. 214-22.)
8 M. O’Connor and R. Arnaux, “Translators’ Introduction” 8-9 (Latouche, Serge. In the Wake of the Affluent Society: An exploration of post-development. London: Zed, 1993. 1-20.); S. Latouche, op. cit. 41
9 Ibid 36
10 W. Sachs, “Global Ecology and the Shadow of ‘Development” 5 (Global Ecology: A New Arena of Political Conflict. Ed. Wolfgang Sachs. London: Zed, 1993. 3-21.)
11 A. Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World 217. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1995.)
12 Ibid vii-viii; S. Latouche op. cit. 149; M. Rahnema, “Towards Post-Development: Searching for Signposts, A New Language and New Paradigms” 392 (The Post-Development Reader. Eds. Majid Rahnema and Victoria Bawtree. London: Zed Books, 1997. 377-403.)
13 S. Latouche, op. cit. 159; Escobar, op. cit. 5
14 S. Latouche, op. cit. 160, 187; M. Rahnema, op. cit. 392
15 G. Esteva and M.S. Prakash, Grassroots Post-Modernism: Remaking the Soil of Cultures 4. (London: Zed, 1998.)
16 I. Ramonet, “The One and Only Way of Thinking” 179 (The Post-Development Reader. Eds. Majid Rahnema and Victoria Bawtree. London: Zed Books, 1997. 179-81.)
17 A. Escobar, “The Making and Unmaking of the Third World through Development” 91 (The Post-Development Reader. Eds. Majid Rahnema and Victoria Bawtree. London: Zed Books, 1997. 85-93.)
18 B. De Sousa Santos, “On Oppositional Postmodernism” 36 (Critical Development Theory: Contributions to a New Paradigm. Eds. Ronaldo Munck and Denis O’Hearn. London: Zed, 1999. 29-43.)
19 G. Esteva and M.S. Prakash 146, 121, 11, 21, 137-8
20 M. Rahnema 388-9
21 Ibid 384, 391, 394; emphasis in original
22 T.W. Adorno, Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy 7 (Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.)
23 W. Sachs (1993) 6, (1999) 61, 68
24 (1997) 293
25 Ibid (1993) 17, 4, 7-8
26 (1995) 193, 91
27 (1995) 211
28 R. Bryant and S. Bailey, Third World Political Ecology 6-7 (London: Routledge, 1997); R. Peet and E. Hartwick, Theories of Development 159-61 (New York: Guilford, 1999.)
29 G. Esteva and M.S. Prakash, op. cit. 140-1
30 Ibid 137-8; M. Rahnema op. cit. 388-9
31 G. Esteva and M.S. Prakash op. cit. 114
32 M. Rahnema, op. cit. 394
33 R. Peet and E. Hartwick, op. cit. 156, emphasis in original
34 M. Löwy, Reading Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ 59-60 (Trans. Chris Turner. London: Verso, 2005.)
35 K. Marx, The Portable Karl Marx 557 (Ed. Eugene Kamenka. New York: Penguin, 1983.)
36 R. Peet and E. Hartwick, op.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Remaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future by Murray Bookchin
A review by Marcus Melder
This book, first published in 1990, is intended to serve as a primer for the body of work that Murray Bookchin developed over the thirty previous years. Another intent of the text to is to challenge other strands of the ecology movement who root the cause of the ecological crisis in human beings, liberal environmentalist who accept the status quo as a social given, and Marxist who still cling to the proletariat as the historical agent for overthrowing capitalism. While taking the reader on an exciting intellectual journey, Bookchin engages a range of disciplines such as evolutionary biology, anthropology, revolutionary history, utopian philosophy, political theory, and ethics. This book provides a coherent body of ideas for anyone seeking to challenge the growing ecological and social crisis.
Bookchin argues that human being’s unique capabilities, including mental subjectivity, are not alien to the natural world. Instead they incorporate aeons of natural differentiation and elaboration. In contrast to the Victorian view of nature as “blind” and “mute” where organisms merely “adapt” to their environment, Bookchin presents a view of nature that is creative, increasingly subjective, and embodying the potentiality to be free and rendered fully self-conscious. He defines nature as the “cumulative evolution towards ever more varied, differentiated, and complex forms and relationships.” We are told that it is social ecology’s commitment to the natural world that these potentialities are real and can be actualized.
Bookchin asserts that social ecology’s greatest contribution to ecological thought is that the domination of nature “stems” from the domination of human by human. All ecological problems are social problems. Therefore, social ecology reexamines the concept of domination, which exists exclusively in society, in order eliminate it and create an ecological society.
Like human beings, society (second nature) too evolves out of (first) nature. Society has its biological roots in the mother/child relationship, and the prolonged dependence of the young. That prolonged dependence creates the need for interdependence rather than “rugged individualism.” This interdependence assumes a highly structured form, social institutions, that can be altered for better or worse. Early primitive societies were essentially egalitarian, even lacking a domineering vocabulary. They lived by the principles of the “irreducible minimum”, usufruct, and mutual aid. Though lacking domination in institutional form, they were not ideal. Indeed they were notoriously parochial.
Next, Bookchin lays out his theory of the emergence of hierarchy. The elderly, who were the most vulnerable members of society, sought security and over time used their position, as the preliterate village’s historians and keepers of traditions, to create a gerontocracy. This was at a time when the biological division of labor of men’s civil world and woman’s domestic world were still complementary. Only later, when man’s civil world expanded and the “big man” hunter slowly developed into the “great warrior” and began to dominate the younger and weaker men, did woman’s domestic world begin to be dominated by men. Bookchin considers the growing authority of men over women as a major historical shift that had a profound influence on social evolution. Hierarchy was further reinforced by shamans, who were vulnerable due to the uncertainty of their magical practices. The great warrior slowly transforms into the hereditary chief, whose position is sanctified by the shaman’s new priestly corporation. These developments led to the creation of economic classes and the early quasi-State.
These changes occurred slowly over long periods of time. An epistemology of rule had to be instilled in people’s minds in order to overcome the egalitarian values of the “irreducible minimum”, usufruct, complementarity, and mutual aid. Bookchin emphasizes how much hierarchical differentiation reworked social relationships long before the emergence of economic classes. It was only later that society began to even think of nature as “stingy” and seek to dominate it.
A major turning point in history was the emergence of the city. The city was a new social arena, a territorial arena, where people affiliated based on residential and economic interest. This new development allowed for new forms of human association where people could interact with little regard for their ancestry or blood ties. In contrast to the parochialism of tribal society, the city offered the “outsider” a degree of protection and judicial security. Slowly over time, this gave rise to the idea of a common humanitas. One of the negative impacts of the city was that communal ownership gave way to private ownership. According to Bookchin, “hierarchy … became embedded in the human unconscious while classes, whose legitimacy was more easy to challenge because of the visibility of exploitation, came to the foreground of an embattled and bitterly divided humanity.”
Another major turning point in history, we are told, was the development of the nation-state and shortly after, capitalism. Initially, the “king’s justice” was welcomed by commoners as a buffer against unruly nobles. The growth and use of power by the nation-state caused it to be later resisted by commoners. Bookchin briefs us on the history of that resistance: the Communeros of 16th century Spain, the radical farmers of New England after the American revolution, the sans-culottes of the French revolution, and finally the Paris Commune of 1871. The fate of the nation-state hung in the balance. Bookchin argues that history could have gone the route of decentralized confederated municipalities. He further argues that capitalism was not preordained by history, nor was the nation-state formed by the bourgeoisie. Markets existed long before the rise of the market economy. We are told that before the rise of capitalism all societies had a disdain for competition, growth, accumulation, and egoism. Capitalist were held in check by the values of their times as well as their own desires to invest their wealth in land, in order to join the aristocracy, rather than further accumulation. The breakthrough for capitalism came in England where common lands of the peasantry were enclosed in order for nobles to grow wool for Flanders’ textile industry. This created a large number of dispossessed proletariats. The bourgeoisie were then able to evade guild restrictions by concentrating cottagers into new “factories” and subjecting them to harsh exploitation. Bookchin explains that it is not technology and industry itself that undermines the natural environment, but rather the capitalist system that puts them to use. Capitalism’s very law of life is to “grow or die.” There is no greening capitalism. The only choice we have is to destroy it.
Bookchin moves on to discuss the “ideals of freedom” that developed out of the libertarian movements that resisted the emergence of hierarchy, classes, and the State. In order to do so, Bookchin distinguishes between freedom and justice. Justice is a demand for equity based on ones contribution. Thomas Jefferson stated that justice was “equal and exact” based on the principle of equivalence. People are different for many reasons. This allows for inequality in substance because justice is established in mere form. Freedom on the other hand, acknowledges people’s differences and seeks to compensate for them. Out of this Bookchin derives a maxim that forms the foundation of the ideal of freedom, the “equality of unequals.”
Next Bookchin critiques the concept of myth. Myths, according to Bookchin, seek for a return to a “golden age” that is actually regressive to the ideal of freedom. Many people today call for a return to an atavistic prehistory where freedom takes on the form of an absence of desire, will, and purpose. This notion is in contrast to nature’s evolution towards greater subjectivity and sensibility. Christianity changed myth from longing for a past “golden age” to a vision of a future utopia. Radical Christian sects of the Middle Ages contributed greatly to the increasingly expansive ideals of freedom. Over time this vision became increasingly earthbound, naturalistic, and secular. In contrast to myth, Bookchin considers the influence of reason as the greatest contribution to the expansion of the ideals of freedom. He argues against the notion that there is only one type of reason. In addition to formal syllogistic logic, there is also dialectical reason. Dialectical reason is an organic form of reason that stresses growth, potentiality, and eduction. This form of reason offers an organismic approach to understanding the world, rather than a mechanistic one. Bookchin denotes several great tendencies in the development of the ideals of freedom. First a commitment to the existing world and to secular reality. Second, the need for a carefully structured society. Third, a high esteem placed on work. And finally, the great importance of community. Furthermore, Bookchin adds that the anarchist theorist and libertarian utopists of the 19th century stressed the importance of ethics to influence choice. In addition, anarchist and libertarian utopist, especially William Morris and Charles Fourier, sought a balanced society that provided material well being yet was well ordered. The society they sought would eliminate the contradictions between substantive equality and freedom, and between sensuousness, play, and work.
In discussing the revolutionary project, Bookchin briefly touches on peasant and artisanal radicalism before moving on to discuss proletarian socialism. The peasants that were proletarianized by the enclosure movement brought their precapitalist cultures along with them into the industrial cities. Bookchin denotes this point as being of significance in understanding the character of their discontent and their militancy. These proletarians were angry over their loss of autonomy, craftsmanship, and community. Out of that anger developed a revolutionary spirit that lasted from the worker’s movement in Paris in 1848 up until the anarcho-syndicalist movement of Barcelona in 1937. What has changed in the decades that followed, according to Bookchin, “is [that] the agrarian world and the cultural tensions with the industrial world that fostered the revolutionary fervor, have waned from history.” Indeed the working class has become completely industrialized and is no longer the bourgeoisie’s antagonist. This leads us to a flaw in Marxian theory, the belief that a new society is an embryo that grows in the womb of the old. Orthodox Marxist doctrine believed that the proletariat would become the majority of the population and would be driven to revolt due to miserable working conditions and chronic economic crises. What the Marxist did not see was that capitalism would domesticate the proletariat through racist tactics, patriotic chauvinism, hierarchical management techniques, economic crisis management, and by reducing their numbers through technological innovation. Furthermore, the Marxist “embryo” theory eliminated spontaneity from the revolutionary project by claiming that social evolution was historically determined. Centralization of the both the economy and the state were welcomed by Marxist as “historically progressive” and “stages” towards revolution. By reducing humans to primarily economic beings, the Marxian revolutionary project “reinforced the very degradation, deculturalization, and depersonalization of the workers produced by the factory system.” Finally, the objectification of human beings in Marxist theory led to the denaturing of nature. Capitalism, which destroyed all limits on the exploitation of the natural world, was welcomed as necessary. The conquering of nature was a “precondition” for the development of a socialist society.
Not long after Marxism began to wane a new set of ideas began to develop. The revolutionary project was being revived during the 50′s and 60′s with pre-Marxist libertarian ideals and was inspired to a great extent by the millenarian character of the civil rights movement. Other movements, such as the anti-Nuke and anti-War movements, contributed to the civil rights movement to create the New Left. The New Left, Bookchin tells us, contrasted the heavily Marxist influenced Old Left by its aims, forms of organization, and strategies for social change. The emerging counterculture mixed with the New Left and emphasized lifestyle changes, sexual freedom, and communal values. The sense of promise produced by these movements were partially fueled by a materialist view of abundance that could be possible for all. Initially the New Left and counterculture were anarchistic and utopistic. They began to revive the traditions of the democratic revolutions of the 17th & 18th centuries by calling for participatory democracy, and also demanded the decentralization of society in order to make democracy meaningful. In addition, the accumulation of property was viewed disdainfully. Unfortunately, the New Left became infested with Maoist tendencies and it began to dissipate as fast as it had developed. The economic insecurities during the 70′s also played a role in the demise of the New Left. According to Bookchin, “privatism, careerism, and self-interest increasingly gained ascendancy over the desire for a public life, an ethics of care, and a commitment to change.” An increasingly commercialized counterculture began to use drugs more for sedation than mind expansion. One of the New Left’s weakest points was that it valued action at the expense of theoretical insight. Despite its failures the New Left and counterculture contributed greatly to the revolutionary project by stressing antihierarchical, decentralist, communalist, and sensuous values.
Bookchin explains that environmental movements, which have a long history in both the United States and in Europe, are reform movements seeking piecemeal changes that do not threaten the capitalist system. Separately, certain groups of wilderness enthusiasts view all humans, regardless of power differences between oppressor and oppressed, as inherently anti-natural. Bookchin asserts that this is a simplistic view of both nature and society. In the early 60′s, eco-anarchist theorist sought to go beyond these forms of environmental concern by advancing libertarian ideas for restructuring society along ecological principles. Social ecology, influenced by the writings of Peter Kropotkin, stressed that ecological problems were rooted in social problems. They advocated the replacement of capitalism with decentralized democratic communities, eco-technologies, and economically structured around the ecosystems of its location. For the first time ecological problems were rooted in hierarchy. By the late sixties a new movement developed, feminism, that showed that women were a victim of a male dominated society irrespective of her class position. Feminism helped to rework social ecology into a critique of hierarchical forms. This critique of hierarchy highlighted the subtle forms of rule that existed throughout society and organized around a universal interest that was not specific to a particular class, gender, race, or nationality.
Bookchin see the 18th century Enlightenment as an era upon which to draw high ideals for the establishment of a free society. The ecological crisis and social conflicts that we face develop out of a domineering society and thus we must remake society along ecological lines. Bookchin believes in the importance of creating a broad social movement that is built upon a general human interest. Ecological principles are based on unity in diversity, differentiation, and wholeness. The social counterpart to these principles is the Greek ideal of a well rounded, many-sided person who lives in a well rounded, many-sided society. The earth can no longer be owned, Bookchin states, but rather the fruits of the earth must be distributed according to need. In addition, policies should be made by democratic assemblies which are open to the participation of every normal adult in the community. The administration of the community’s policies can be handled by boards or commissions that are fully accountable to policy making assemblies. These assemblies should be sized for face to face discussion at the village, town, or neighborhood level. In order to avoid parochialism, these communities should confederate at the city and regional levels. Communities would send mandated delegates, who are recallable and accountable, to these confederated assemblies. Bookchin seeks to develop an ethical system of values for the assembly. Drawing from the example of the ancient Greeks, he advocates communal solidarity, amateurism or roundedness, self-sufficiency, and the giving of one’s free time in service to the community. These ethical values allow for the forming of a well developed human being, a citizen. The formation of the citizen is achieved by a character-building process called paideia. The ideal of paideia is characterized by civic responsibility, the ability to reason out one’s view clearly, and to exhibit high ethical standards. Direct democracy, according to Bookchin, is a way of life. Bookchin gives this collection of political ideas the name libertarian municipalism. The municipality is the immediate environment in which a person interacts with society beyond one’s personal life. The way to achieve this is by creating counter-institutions that initially develop a dual power along side the existing power structure. In time, by working to build a larger and stronger movement, the abolition of the market economy and the nation-state can be achieved.
Our society’s use of technology has created an ecological crisis of monumental proportions. Agribusiness, which has compacted the soil with its heavy machinery, has also poisoned our soil and water with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Climatic changes are being induced by deforestation and a transportation system built around the private motorcar. Urbanization threatens both the city and the country side by spreading concrete over agricultural land along with the homogenization of life into a mass consumer culture. All of this is motivated by an economic system that must continually expand until it has completely devoured the natural basis of all life. Bookchin states that we must re-assess our technologies and the goods they produce. Decentralizing large cities into humanly scaled communities is indispensable to the creation of an ecological society. Ecological sensibilities could be developed through participating in organic agriculture as well as through solar and wind installations. Property in an ecological society would be neither privately owned nor nationalized, but rather it would be municipalized. Economic policies would be made by citizens in face-to-face assemblies. Work would be rotated between the city and the countryside and between everyday tasks. Land would be used ecologically. Small industrial operations would utilize labor saving devices and multi-purpose machines. Arduous labor, when necessary, would become festive communal affairs. Quality craftspersonship, aesthetics, and durability would be valued over quantity. The transition to this society, Bookchin notes, will not spring forth abruptly. The move to a new society is a long process that will no doubt entail uncertainties, failures, and digressions before the movement realizes its sense of direction. There is no certainty that substantial social change will occur in one’s lifetime. But one must act in order to save one’s own individuality in our corrupted meaningless society. Above all, the revolutionary project is an educational process where people develop a new consciousness of being.
At last, Bookchin states his belief in the probability that normal people have untapped reasoning capabilities on the level of humanity’s most gifted individuals.
Finally, Bookchin explains to the reader his dialectical philosophy and seeks to situate humanity’s place in nature. He admits that his philosophy, like all philosophies that account for humanity’s meaning, are based on unprovable presuppositions. All substance is in a process of development. This development is defined as “an unfolding of the latent potentialities of a phenomenon, the actualization of possibility and undeveloped form in the fullness of being.” Bookchin does not believe that existence is predetermined, but rather is marked by “an inherent striving … and tendency toward greater differentiation, complexity, increasing subjectivity … , and physical flexibility.” As life evolves into increasingly complex forms, it begins to participate in its own evolution. Nature has a tendency towards conscious development and choice exposes its potential for freedom. Humanity has actualized this development and is nature’s potential for becoming fully self-conscious. Just as society (second nature) evolved out of (first) nature, Bookchin states the possibility of a “free nature” evolving out of “second nature.” Free nature is described as an emancipated humanity that would provide caring and sympathetic guidance to evolution. Bookchin is careful to point out that his message does not approve of “natural engineering.” In addition, he informs us that rationality exists objectively and is a product of evolution. Because potentialities are objectively grounded, according to Bookchin, the rational what should be is no less real than the irrational what is.
Marcus Melder is a social ecologist from Louisiana, USA
Filed under: Uncategorized
Democratic Alternative on the European Social Forum
Within a few days the European Social Forum will be launched in Malmö, Sweden. This will mean four days filled with seminars, discussions, music etc. There will be participants coming from more or less all parts of Europe as well as from other parts of the world.
The final program of the 2008 ESF in Malmö consists of 250 seminars, workshops and assemblies, over 400 cultural activities – films, theatre, concerts, poetry, you name it – inaguration, parade, party and closing session. It is all in all the most extensive program ever for the ESF. And of course, more than this, there will be loads of side activities, informal meetings, manifestations and political activism.
The program can be downloaded here (file size: 8 MB, format:pdf):
In the program we are involved in two arrangements:
On friday 18.00-21.00, seminar with Democratic Alternative and several other organisations at Folkets hus, sal 2, Nobeltorget, Sofielund:
“Degrowth and social rebirth – The logical steps to global survival”
The path of capitalism is based on unlimited growth in production and consumption. This path is pathological and unsustainable – people are becoming aware of this and new groups/movements are being formed. We want to gather these groups, exchange experiences and form a European network of degrowth groups/activists. The aim is to build strategies and alternatives to the current growth paradigm.
On Saturday 11.00-12.30, seminar with Democratic Alternative at Folkets hus, sal 3, Nobeltorget, Sofielund:
“Radicalizing municipalities, developing direct democracy”
Popular power needs to be radically expanded if equality, solidarity and ecology are to be seriously considered. What role can municipal direct democracy play in
implementing such a politics? Could confederations of municipalities build a better system of government than nation states? A seminar on how the theory and practice of Social Ecology and Communalism can help propel the popular movements forward.
We are also in a que to get a space for one more session in the program lead by Social Ecology London and Democratic Alternative. In the case we get the space the ativity will be:
‘Are you prepared for the Big Change? – Movement Building for a Free Society’
Presentation of the ideas of Social Ecology and Communalism, a philosophy and theory advocating popular control over the economy and face-to-face democracy, followed by a discussion on organizational challenges for the future. How do we induce and organize processes that can lead to people power?
Filed under: Uncategorized
So Civilization is killing the planet? Is social ecology the answer?
By Campbell Young
This article was first published in Mayday magazine: A Forum for Progressive Thought in March 2008. It was written in response to a talk at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, by the author Derrick Jensen
As a metaphor, anti-civilization can be a powerful source of personal liberation. Who of an anarchist or libertarian affinity can’t remember that cathartic moment when they first rejected their “internal cop” – the obedient, “civilized” version of themselves they received from schooling, organized sports, religion, and the mass media? Whether they occur in a mosh pit, a rave, or a drum circle, these primitive, tribal moments are often important first steps in a longer term rejection of the system in favour of something more humane.
That’s why so many were positively stoked by Derrick Jensen’s recent talk at McMaster. The anti-civilization/primitivist author of Endgame was characteristically on-point in his denunciation of the death-cult that currently tries to pass itself off as a society. For many, it was a nice break from the self-deception of Al Gore style environmentalism. I can see why so many activists are motivated by Jensen.
The problem arises, however, when we speculate on how “bringing down civilization” and “returning to the primitive” might unfold. The current ecology-energy crisis could take many shapes. A rapid return to the Stone Age is one of the least likely, and certainly one of the least ethical, of all possible outcomes. It would likely involve a massive liquidation of already-fragile ecosystems and a large scale human “die-off” as the present population attempts to eke out a semi-nomadic living from the “land base.”
I’ve heard it opined that primitivism is a good theory without practical application. But what good social theory presents no opportunity for practical application? In my view, the lack of hope in primitivism stems directly from its lack of theoretical coherence.
My disagreement with primitivism is not that it is “too radical,” but rather that it is not radical enough. For all his impassioned and militant language, Derrick Jensen never squarely addresses the real root cause of the social-ecological crisis, which is the emergence of hierarchy and domination through history. Instead, he focuses on one tool that hierarchies use – the myth of civilized progress – and crudely inverts it
Like the state ideologues he assails, Jensen rules out the possibility that humanity has the capacity to achieve limit and well-roundedness through ethics. Instead we must effectively de-evolve by abolishing some of our most uniquely human achievements – science, technology, and the city – crippling ourselves in the process. Remember these attributes, like humanity itself, are products of natural evolution no less than a spawning salmon.
Like it or not, civilization has always had two sides. Yes, it has been the harbinger of greed, imperialism, and tyranny. But it has also created the promise of secular reason, mass literacy, radical democracy, and the notion of a universal humanity. This is not equivocation, but recognition of the tension between freedom and domination that characterizes the history of civilization. Recognition of historical process does not necessarily mean a simple-minded faith in progress.
At least Jensen defines civilization correctly as a society comprised of cities. But from there, his analysis loses all coherence. Sure, today’s formless blobs of suburban sprawl are highly unsustainable, ugly, spiritless entities whose energy gluttony forms a direct link to the cluster bombs in Iraq. No argument there.
But cities, especially what’s left of traditional neighbourhoods, are also the places where most radical activists live and engage. Cities are the logical places to begin the process of decentralization, to experiment with direct forms of democracy, to deschool our minds, and to apply the modern technologies of bicycle culture, permaculture design, passive-solar and small-scale wind energy in radical ways.
Most importantly, cities are the logical places to efface our domineering attitude toward each other and, ultimately, the natural world. Civic communities present the only opportunity to build relationships of free association based on affinity (as opposed to the limited ethnic and kinship associations of primitive tribes).
These forms of activism are highly “civilized” in the best sense of the term. Many of Jensen’s most fervent acolytes do this kind of work with a high degree of idealism and competence, and must sooner or later bring action into line with thought, or vice versa. I’m open about theory and generally pleased when I see people in my town take a libertarian stance, period. But I fear the commitment to primitivism will encourage some activists to abandon some important work for desperate acts. That’s why I’m putting out the call to form a group to study the praxis (theory + action) of social ecology.
The basic idea of social ecology is that the present ecological crisis is rooted in social hierarchy as such. A society where people see each other as instruments of domination is bound to see nature as an instrument of domination. Capitalism creates the “apotheosis” of this problem because it reorganizes all labour, ideology and culture around a set of bureaucratically engineered “needs” – most notably the need for incessant quantitative growth.
Like anarcho-primitivism, social ecology admires pre-literate societies for their egalitarian outlook and relatively harmonious relationship with nature. But rather than “going back” to a world of animism and stone tools, it seeks to re-constitute an ecological society on the more conscious plane that reason allows. It sees humanity’s potential to reclaim this ancient “legacy of freedom” in civilization’s long history of peasant revolt, Christian communism, working class struggle, revolutions, anti-imperialism, feminism, and more recently counterculture and radical ecology.
The social ecology movement has roots in the New Left and appropriate technology movements of the sixties and seventies. The theory goes all the way back to Elisee Reclus and Peter Kropotkin in the 1890s. But it was developed mainly by the American social theorist Murray Bookchin (1921-2006). Bookchin was the first anarchist writer to explore the planetary crisis, and to propose a vision of what a free, ecological society would look like. His multi-faceted philosophies cover the city in history, revolutions, technology, gender, work, and many other useful topics. His insights are sorely missed.
Bookchin has been criticized, perhaps rightly, for his arguably narrow view later in life. His public feuds with the “lifestyle anarchists” were unquestionably divisive in tone and perhaps even contradicted his own earlier ideas about counterculture, as well as his call for ecological “unity-in-diversity.”
But I have no doubt that social ecology would be of immense value to local people trying to contribute to a freer and more sustainable future. In particular, its call for a direct, face-to-face, decentralized democracy – which Bookchin termed libertarian municipalism – is in line with the place-based community building that seems to be going on. Libertarian municipalism is also broadly consistent with real anti-authoritarian social struggles currently happening around the world, from Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen to the Autonomous Municipalities of the Zapatistas. Even the workplace democracy taking place in Argentina (and so beautifully portrayed in the documentary The Take) has been nurtured by a much larger movement of neighbourhood based Assembleas Populares.
Most importantly, social ecology is generally consistent with the real organizing taking place locally in Hamilton. Five years ago, I saw Bookchin’s “trans-class people” crystallize in opposition to eco-cide and municipal corruption in the Red Hill Valley. For three months an essentially stateless community began to grow and thrive on the basis of mutual aid and participatory democracy. Red Hill was easily the most radical moment in Hamilton since the Stelco strike of ’46 and it pointed the way toward a broader communitarian movement within the city. But to create substantive change it needs the ideological clarity that social ecology provides. That’s why I want to start a group to practice social ecology formally.
A social ecology group could read and discuss Bookchin’s often-challenging writings in a collaborative learning environment. It could examine writers more peripheral to social ecology, such as John Clark, Janet Beihl, Ivan Illich, and Lewis Mumford. It could discuss concrete strategies for liberation in the Hamilton community. It could examine concepts and issues that Bookchin never dealt with directly. And finally, this group could discuss the role of violence and non-violence in a setting free of histrionics. It could even become a forum to discuss the role that bush craft, foraging skills and primitive lore could play in a broader social ecology movement.
I believe an understanding of social ecology is crucial at the present time. As this civilization appears to be straining under the weight of its contradictions, the left-libertarian scene seems to be growing and fragmenting simultaneously. “New Urbanists” and “workerists” want to recede into cartoons of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie and proletariat respectively, while primitivists want to recede all the way back into the Stone Age. Only social ecology has the breadth and depth to include the knowledge of all these sects, while offering a constructive vision to move forward.
Campbell Young is a social ecologist from Hamilton, Canada.
‘Social Ecology and Communalism’ by Murray Bookchin
A review by SEL member Emily Kenway
This is a new publication of four essays by Murray Bookchin, intended to give an overview of his ideas. The four essays are well chosen; the book would be ideal as an introduction to anybody unfamiliar with Bookchin’s theories. These seem especially apt in current times, when corporate power shows no signs of stalling and the Marxist notion of capitalism collapsing from within is utterly archaic, leaving the traditional radical left floundering.
Bookchin will accept no accommodation with the tyrannical grow-or-die principles of capitalism and the corporate domination of nature. He argues that the only way towards a more rational society and to allay the catastrophe of global warming is through altering these fundamental economic and political tenets of our current society. His answer is the concept of ‘communalism’, a participatory political system comprised of directly democratic municipalities which then join together as federations. Central to this premise is that power flows from the bottom up and not the top down. His focus is on the intention behind social institutions. He advocates an economy that serves human needs rather than a runaway train of capitalist profit.
Bookchin is adept at explaining what his theories are not; he rails against primitivism, oxymoronic “green capitalism”, and the characterisation of humans as “intelligent fleas” by Gaian theorists or as “natural aliens” by those subscribing to what he calls a “naïve biocentrism”. He expounds his distaste for the current “goulash” of ideas that he describes as “antirational, atavistic”; the mysticism growing in popularity with the disillusioned, over-consuming bourgeoisie. There is the usual peppering of polemic that those familiar with Bookchin will have come to expect – he describes the academic presses as “pornographers” and refers with a gothic flourish to the “darkness of capitalist barbarism”- but underlying his sometimes dogmatic tenor are some seriously good, seriously applicable ideas. He reiterates throughout the essays the pillars of his theory; civic self-governance, healthy interdependence between communities to stem parochialism, humanly-scaled bodies of people working on bottom-up democratic principles; a focus on ‘craftpersonship’, employing eco-technologies and bridging the dislocation between work and leisure, rather than mechanised, automaton production. He speaks of nature not as the static vista that we have become accustomed to in our urbanised age, but as a constantly developing, fluid entity that we are both a physical part of and able to complement and nurture with our technologies, rather than ransack.
Murray Bookchin thought, wrote and was involved in radical politics for most of his eighty-five years. He described social ecology as an “uncompromising critique” of the current situation, and frequently explained that, as with nature, a rational reasoning to find an ethical and democratic society could not come from a static ideology. With this in mind, this book is a fantastic starting point for any leftist movement, implying a dynamic development away from the “co-optative wiles of capitalism” and towards a more ethical, localised and democratic society. In his words, “humanity is too intelligent not to live in a rational society. It remains to be seen whether it is intelligent enough to achieve one”.
Filed under: Uncategorized
This article was written for IBEX‘s forthcoming ezine.
No sane person can doubt now that we are in serious trouble. The consequences of the accelerating destruction of the natural world, according to the UN Global Environment Outlook, published in October, include the disappearance of fertile land because of degradation, a dwindling amount of uncontaminated water, a rate of species extinction a hundred times faster than that of the fossil record, the rapid rise of oxygen ‘dead zones’ in the oceans, and the growing reality of climate change. 20 per cent of disease in the developing world is because of pollutants, 60 per cent of ecosystems are degraded and 1.8 billion people face world shortages by 2025. There is a serious risk, the UN asserts, that environmental damage could soon reach the point of no return.
But in comparison to the scale of the problem, our responses seem pitifully inadequate. People are urged to “save the planet” by recycling plastic bags, not filling their kettle to the brim, and unplugging the telly. Companies promote their “green” credentials and aspire to become carbon neutral. Still emissions rise, the seas are poisoned and the countryside is steadily engulfed in concrete and tarmac. In the UK, a “greenfield” area the size of Leicester is lost to development each year and traffic is predicted to increase by 30 per cent by 2015.
Social ecology is based on the understanding that the ecological crisis we face is caused by social problems and conflicts. We will not cease to dominate the natural world until we cease to dominate each other. Our failure of imagination in dealing with this crisis stems from a refusal to come to terms with these social divisions. “We” as a species cannot hope to heal our relationship with nature while the vast majority of us remain so palpably unfree and powerless. To hold slum dwellers in Nairobi (or for that matter debt-ridden, overworked westerners) and Wall Street hedge funds managers equally culpable for environmental problems is as stupid as it is offensive. The conventional remedies for overcoming ecological destruction – moral exhortation, education of consumers, lobbying of corporations and governments, a striving for greater “political will” evade this uncomfortable fact and as such skim the surface of the problems they are trying to confront.
According to social ecologists we cannot hope to understand our current plight unless we fully comprehend the economic and social system that dominates the world and is in the process of transforming China and India; a system that regards both human beings and the natural world as nothing more than objects to be exploited for gain, and compels most people to be so concerned with their own economic survival they are unable to make the choices necessary to avert ecological disaster.
Capitalism is much more than an economic system based on private property and exchange. What makes it unique in human history and so lethal to the environment is that it is a system of unrelenting expansion. Profits are made, not just to be consumed by owners, but to be reinvested in order to grow the enterprise. It is a system of grow or die. Firms that do not grow are swallowed up by competitors. The result is a dynamic system but one entirely without limit or balance. It is profoundly unecological.
Business leaders will meekly suggest that they are merely responding to our own desires. The flip-side of this view is that it is people’s inherently greedy natures that are responsible for spewing waste into the atmosphere, killing the oceans and destroying the natural landscape. But to social ecologists, this is reading the situation backwards. In truth, a competitive economic system, dedicated to maximising returns for shareholders, is duty bound to endlessly generate new products and find ways of convincing us that we need them. In the US in 1994, 50 new food products were launched aimed at children. In 2004, the same juvenile market was bombarded with 470 new food products. Our market economy precariously depends on this perpetual contrivance of necessarily unfulfilling desires. Without this motor, the economy falters and jobs dry up. This fact can do more than any other to explain why humanity’s ecological footprint is now dangerously beyond the Earth’s biological capacity.
The realisation that we weren’t born with a desire for an SUV might seem commonplace but it leads to an important insight. That we live in a society that fans and stimulates certain desires whilst starving other basic needs, such as the need for affordable housing or interesting, meaningful work. This leads to the understanding that while we shackle society to an economic system whose sole aim is, not our welfare but the maximisation of profit, we will produce a dangerously one-sided and extreme society, that is inevitably in conflict with the natural world as well as our own decent, human impulses. It also leads to the realisation that the same system that got us into this mess cannot get us out of it. We, as a species, have other choices. Capitalism is not our inexorable fate.
Thus, for social ecology, to attain a balance in our relations with nature and a society that doesn’t relentlessly try to turn us into unsympathetic, selfish egotists, we need to replace the market. We need an economy in which we as citizens, not an anonymous mechanism of buying and selling, determine our social priorities, a sane balance between leisure and work, and how we can exist with nature, not against it.
But social ecology profoundly differs from many forms of anti-capitalism, such as Marxism. Unlike most 20th century revolutionary movements, social ecology does not believe in seizing state power and imposing its vision of a perfect society on an unwilling populace. To social ecology, the state, even in its democratic garb, is a mechanism for elites to manage society. The “democratic” states in which we live are, more truthfully, oligarchies. “Democracy, as conceived by politicians, is a method of making people do what their leaders wish under the impression that they are doing what they themselves wish,” observed the philosopher Bertrand Russell. As a form of libertarian socialism, social ecology wants to go beyond this highly constricted form of “democracy” to create a radical, participatory form of democracy in which citizens collectively manage their own affairs.
In this vision for a free society, social ecology recovers a concept that is alien to conventional political ideologies such as liberalism and Marxism: the notion of the political realm – defined as the popular self-management of the community. Historically, social ecology looks to lived examples of this political realm from the direct democracy of Ancient Athens to the free, self-governing cities of Medieval Europe, the Parisian sections of the French Revolution and the worker and peasant collectives of the Russian and Spanish Revolutions. Despite concerted attempts to stamp it out, the political realm keeps reasserting itself. After the economic crisis in Argentina in 2001, a network of neighbourhood assemblies sprang up that, for a time, seriously rivalled the discredited official political system, organising vital functions such as the community purchasing of food. One third of the population were thought to have participated and many believed they were building “a new form of political organisation”.
It is these local, face to face assemblies that social ecology believes can be the nucleus of a new society. They provide an arena for people to manage their own affairs without the mediation of professional politicians or bureaucrats. But in an interdependent world such assemblies cannot be autonomous. They would join together with others assemblies in a town or city and elect delegates, with clear mandates, to a council to determine matters of mutual concern. These democratic municipalities would themselves join with other municipalities, electing delegates to higher level councils. They would develop a participatory economy which responded to the conscious articulation of material needs, not to profit maximisation and exploitation. This economy would embrace eco-technologies that would reduce needless toil and labour and give people the free time to manage their own society. This approach to political organisation, in which power flows up from the bottom, in contrast our top down centralised systems, is known as confederalism. This society would not result in “anarchy” in the pejorative sense of the term. It would establish its own laws and have a “government” conceived, not as a state, but popularly-controlled institutions to deal with matters of common concern. But power would be exerted, as much as possible by the population as whole, not self-interested elites.
Clearly, such as different political dispensation will not come into being spontaneously and without struggle. Social ecologists believe in the formation of an organised, political movement to establish local assemblies and the election of delegates to local councils to give power to them. A network of these assemblies would eventually be able to form a dual power to both capitalism and the centralised state. That is a long-term vision. But whilst working towards it, social ecologists will join with environmentalists in efforts to stop ecological destruction and support reforms that reduce harmful human impacts on the natural world. They will also defend democratic aspects of the state, such as publicly-owned health services, from the assaults of privatisers and neo-liberals, whilst working to open them up to greater popular control. These activities are important. But without a carefully thought out vision of a different kind of society, activism will get lost in endless compromises and eventually completely capitulate to the status quo.
Would the kind of society articulated by social ecology succeed in healing relations with the natural world? It is possible that humanity could democratically decide to go on plundering the environment just as it is now. But there are sound reasons to think that this would not happen. Firstly, in a post-capitalist society people would no longer be compelled by the economy to behave in selfish, anti-social ways. They would no longer be bombarded with advertising urging them to consume without regard to the consequences. But also a society that had abolished the domination of one part of society by another could develop an ethical and rational attitude to nature. No longer riven by conflicts based on class, gender or ethnicity, people could move beyond a narrow sense of self-interest, to become, for first time, genuinely responsible. They could become stewards of the natural world, not its enemies.
Social Ecology London
Filed under: Uncategorized
We will be out in force at the London Anarchist Bookfair – 27 October, 10-7 at Queen Mary and Westfield College, Mile End Rd, London E1
As well as having a stall we will be running a couple of workshops –
12pm Room 325
Red Black and Green
An Introduction to Social Ecology
Sick of being told that the way to deal with climate change is change your lightbulbs and trust in treaties and free market solutions? Social Ecology offers a radical libertarian ecological perspective, rooting environmental issues in the social context that created them. This session, run by Social Ecology London, gives an overview of the basic ideas of social ecology, how it differs from other radical green currents, and the reconstructive vision it proposes.
2pm Room 324
Men and Feminism (everyone welcome!)
A workshop led by a member of Social Ecology London.
Anarchists claim to be against all forms of social hierarchy, but how often do we really think beyond economic and political hierarchies?
Of 100 workshops at the climate camp only two were related to women or gender and one of them was cancelled.
What should our response to patriarchy be as anarchists/left libertarians?
What about those of us brought up to become men?
What can men do about male privilege and domination in their own lives?
What can they do as part of a broader movement to challenge these things?
Come along to think about these questions with people of all genders who are interested in discussing and taking action to end male dominance forever!
If you’ve never been to the Bookfair, it’s certainly an experience. From squeezing past the punx at the front door to battling your way through crowded rooms full of stalls, from running away from the scary beardy men who want to talk about their tiny niche version of autonomist marxism to having surprisingly interesting discussions, all human life (of a libertarian left persuasion anyway) is there.
There’s a large number of workshops on, films and performance. Not to mention a creche too.
So come along, come to our workshops and say hello to us on our stall.
Filed under: Uncategorized
We have received reports that a former member of Social Ecology London, now resident in Sweden, has been ‘hit by a badger’. At present we are not sure how, why or where, but both are believed to be unharmed. More details when we know more.
Badgers – cute bundles of fun, or sworn enemies of radical ecology?