Social Ecology London

A Social Ecology Reading List
January 6, 2008, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Articles and reviews, Texts

This is an attempt to provide a resource of books and essays on social ecology and libertarian socialism. We are only able as a group to read a small number of books and we feel there is a need for suggestions on further reading for people who want to examine different aspects of social ecology in more depth. This is not a definitive list and will be added to periodically as SEL members read more widely themselves


The Ecology of Freedom, Murray Bookchin
Remaking Society, Murray Bookchin
Social Ecology and Communalism, Murray Bookchin
Includes the essay, ‘What is Social Ecology’ which is the best short introduction to social ecology
The Philosophy of Social Ecology, Murray Bookchin
The Modern Crisis, Murray Bookchin
Which Way for the Ecology Movement? Murray Bookchin
Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash, Brian Tokar
Mutual Aid, A Factor of Evolution, Peter Kropotkin
Classic work in which Kropotkin demolishes the Social Darwinist claim that both nature and human society are based on an unending ‘war of all against all’ in which only the most ruthless survive. He argues that the most successful species are those that co-operate and that the mutual aid principle has been the dominant force in human development from primitive societies to the present-day, despite the ideology of capitalist competition.

Organic/Primitive Society

The Ecology of Freedom
Mutual Aid
The World of Primitive Man, Paul Radin
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm
In this work from the mid-seventies, Fromm, a radical psycho-analyst, attempts to show that an instinct for destruction is not inherent in human nature, but a result of society’s thwarting of natural needs and creative impulses. Interesting psycho-analytical biographies of Hitler and Stalin.

Pre-capitalist Society

From Urbanization to Cities, Towards a New Politics of Citizenship, Murray Bookchin
Tedious title but ground-breaking work from Bookchin. He traces the history of the ‘political realm’ – the authentic democracy of community self-management – from Ancient Athens through to the Medieval Communes, and the demise of the political realm at the hands of the State and market. Concludes with a call for a new political movement to re-empower citizens through direct democracy.
Mutual Aid
The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi
Written at the end of the Second World War, this classic work demonstrates how the liberal market system was forcibly imposed on European and colonial societies, causing social and cultural immiseration. A renowned economist but one with a far wider understanding than most denizens of the ‘dismal science’, Polanyi is the perfect antidote to Hayek and Adam Smith.
The City in History, Lewis Mumford
Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages, Jacques Le Goff
Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis

Communalism and Confederalism

Social Ecology and Communalism, Murray Bookchin
Mutual Aid
See chapters on ‘Mutual Aid in the Medieval City’
The Death of Communal Liberty, Benjamin Barber
Cities and the Rise of States in Europe, AD 1000-1800, edited by Charles Tilly and Wim P Blockmanns
The World we have lost, Peter Laslett


Capital, Karl Marx
Marx’s Capital, Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho
The Great Transformation
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, RH Tawney
Late Victorian Holocausts
From Urbanization to Cities
The Ecology of Freedom
The Corporation, Joel Bakan
Wall Street, What it is and How it works, Doug Henwood
Economic Justice and Democracy, Robin Hahnel
Includes a systematic critique of Milton Friedman’s apologia for the market, ‘Capitalism and Freedom’
Consumed, How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantlize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, Benjamin Barber
The market economy becomes the market society. Interesting book that unfortunately pulls its punches in searching for a solution.

Future Society

The Politics of Social Ecology, Janet Biehl
If “Parliamentary Democracy” is an oxymoron, what would a genuinely democratic alternative look like?
Remaking Society
‘Market Economy or Moral Economy’, in The Modern Crisis
Parecon: Life after Capitalism, Michael Albert
Or ‘Participatory Economics’ to give it its full name. An attempt to devise a libertarian socialist economic model – neither central planning nor market economy.
Equality’, in The Chomsky Reader, Noam Chomsky


Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left, Murray Bookchin
Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism, Murray Bookchin
Social Ecology and Communalism, Murray Bookchin
Fields, Factories and Workshops, Peter Kropotkin
Chomsky on Anarchism, Noam Chomsky
Facing the Enemy, A History of Anarchist Organisation, Alexandre Skirda
Journey Through Utopia, Marie Louise Berneri
Demanding the Impossible, A History of Anarchism, Peter Marshall


Marx’s Capital

‘Reflections on Marx and Marxism’ in Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left
Marx’s Concept of Man, Erich Fromm
Unorthodox Marxism, Michael Albert & Robin Hahnel


The Greeks, H.D.F Kitto
Democracy, Ancient and Modern, M.I. Finley
‘Communalism: the Democratic Dimension of Anarchism’ in Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left
Beyond Adversarial Democracy, Jane Mansbridge
Contrasts two contradictory ideas of democracy. Representative ‘adversarial’ democracy and face to face ‘unitary’ democracy

Building a Movement

Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left (see the interview on ‘movement building’)
Social Ecology and Communalism
Includes Bookchin’s last essay, ‘The Communalist Project’ in which he calls for “a new radical organisation to change the world”.
The Politics of Social Ecology
The Ecology of Everyday Life, Chaia Heller
Develops the idea of ‘illustrative opposition’.
Liberating Theory, Michael Albert, Holly Sklar, Noam Chomsky etc
The Trajectory of Change, Michael Albert
A practical attempt to bridge the “disconnection between many of our most informed activists and the bulk of people who are dissatisfied with the status quo but inactive”.

Revolutionary History

The Third Revolution, (Four volumes), Murray Bookchin
A mammoth history of revolutionary popular movements from the Levellers of the English Civil War to the Spanish Anarchists. An education in itself. Last two volumes are obscenely expensive and only available in hardback. Try ordering them from the library.
To Remember Spain, the Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936, Murray Bookchin.
The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, Maurice Brinton

English Radical History

The Levellers and the English Revolution, H.N Brailsford
Brilliant and hugely readable account of the radical democrats of the English Civil War who opposed both King and Cromwell’s Puritan totalitarians.
The World Turned Upside Down, Christopher Hill
The Making of the English Working Class, E.P Thompson
The Blood Never Dried, A People’s History of the British Empire, John Newsinger


Women’s Consciousness, Man’s World, Sheila Rowbotham
Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics, Janet Biehl
Liberating Theory