The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology
672 pp, $28 pbk, ISBN 978-1-58367-928-9
By John Bellamy Foster
Reviewed by Camilla Royle
“The Return of Nature is a genealogy of ecological thinking. The word ‘ecology’ was not in common usage until the twentieth century, leading many to consider ecological thinking a fairly recent development. However, in this impressive volume, John Bellamy Foster convincingly identifies a materialist ecological sensibility within works dating back a century prior to ecology’s popularization. Starting with the funerals of Darwin and Marx in 1882 and 1883 respectively, the book traces how socialist thinkers in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were integral to developing an outlook that acknowledges the complex relationship between human production and the rest of nature.
….A later chapter, ‘A Science for the People,’ discusses the organization of that name in the 1970s and 1980s (whose magazine, also called Science for the People, was a forerunner of this publication) and the nearest thing to a British equivalent, the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science. Foster rightly points out that the original Science for the People was influenced by the 1930s generation in their critique of the idea that science is separate from social relations. But they had some key political differences. As part of the New Left, they were less likely to be sympathetic to greater state control of science compared to previous generations. Several members of the organization were associated with developments in biological and ecological thinking. For example, Science for the People member Richard Levins was part of developing an ecological critique of the assumption that there is harmony in nature. He described a co-evolutionary relationship of humanity and nature where processes of change are inherent to both….”
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