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Ecology

Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, and Engels

Organisms and Objectifications

A Historical-Materialist Inquiry into the 'Human and Animal'

The anthropocentric tendency to view nature or the environment as everything that is not human obscures the productive processes that go on in “nature.” But non-human animals are also the purposeful producers of their own worlds: they too engage in their own species-specific objectifying activity that transforms what is, from their perspective, nature; they too build worlds in their own bodily image.… | more…

Carl Schorlemmer Postcard

Marx and Engels and the ‘Red Chemist’

The Forgotten Legacy of Carl Schorlemmer

Most accounts of Marx and Engels’s lives, if they mention Carl Schorlemmer (1834–92) at all, refer to the renowned chemist only as a friend, without acknowledging his influence on their studies of the natural sciences. It is time to restore this neglected figure to his rightful place in the Marxian—and Engelsian—tradition.… | more…

Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 9 (February 2017)

February 2017 (Volume 68, Number 9)

Notes from the Editors

For those attuned to the most fashionable trends in mainstream discourse on climate change, it is clear that “resilience” is now in, and “sustainability” is out.… The concept of resilience, while adopted by some progressive thinkers and organizations, is nonetheless being rapidly incorporated into a survival-of-the-most-resilient philosophy in which poor nations, and indeed exploited and dispossessed people everywhere, are told they must simply become more “resilient” in order to survive—but in a world in which such dynamic adaptability is available mainly to the rich, who enjoy monopolies of capital, resources, and technology.… | more…

Trump Digs Coal

Trump and Climate Catastrophe

It would be wrong…to see the new administration as simply a cabal of ignoramuses, beginning with the climate-change-denier-in-chief himself. Rather, their efforts to undermine even modest regulations and to discredit sound science are necessary parts of an attempt by carbon capital to proceed undeterred with burning of fossil fuels, as if this did not constitute a dire threat to the human species.… Today virulent anti-environmentalism, tied to a broader neo-fascist politics linked to white supremacy, is the backfire being ignited against both efforts to combat climate change and the larger movement for social and environmental justice.… | more…

Terrace field in Yunnan China

Ecology and Revolution

A Letter to Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, July 31, 1974

In the early 1970s, MR editors Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy increasingly introduced ecological themes into the magazine, and began to question the viability of unlimited, exponential economic growth in a limited biosphere. Sweezy, in particular, was deeply interested in ecological problems, a topic he began to write on in this period, in essays such as “Cars and Cities”…, and to which he returned on various occasions until the end of his life.… [In this 1974 letter to the influential ecological economist, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Sweezy outlined] the revolutionary implications of ecology, and the break that these necessitated with pure “economism”—a rupture that only a truly revolutionary socialism could bring about.
Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation

Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation

Forthcoming in May 2017

Sickened by the contamination of their water, their air, of the Earth itself, more and more people are coming to realize that it is capitalism that is, quite literally, killing them. It is now clearer than ever that capitalism is also degrading the Earth’s ability to support other forms of life. Capitalism’s imperative—to make profit at all costs and expand without end—is destabilizing Earth’s climate, while increasing human misery and inequality on a planetary scale. Already, hundreds of millions of people are facing poverty in the midst of untold wealth, perpetual war, growing racism, and gender oppression. The need to organize for social and environmental reforms has never been greater. But crucial as reforms are, they cannot solve our intertwined ecological and social crises. Creating an Ecological Society reveals an overwhelmingly simple truth: Fighting for reforms is vital, but revolution is essential.… | more…

A Redder Shade of Green : Intersections of Science and Socialism

A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism

Forthcoming in June 2017

As the Anthropocene advances, people across the red-green political spectrum seek to understand and halt our deepening ecological crisis. Environmentalists, scientists, and ecosocialists share concerns about the misuse and overuse of natural resources, but often differ on explanations and solutions. Some blame environmental disasters on overpopulation. Others wonder if Darwin’s evolutionary theories disprove Marx’s revolutionary views, or if capitalist history contradicts Anthropocene science. Some ask if all this worry about climate change and the ecosystem might lead to a “catastrophism” that weakens efforts to heal the planet.… | more…

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy

Forthcoming in August 2017

Karl Marx, author of what is perhaps the world’s most resounding and significant critique of bourgeois political economy, has frequently been described as a “Promethean.” According to critics, Marx held an inherent belief in the necessity of humans to dominate the natural world, in order to end material want and create a new world of fulfillment and abundance—a world where nature is mastered, not by anarchic capitalism, but by a planned socialist economy. Understandably, this perspective has come under sharp attack, not only from mainstream environmentalists but also from ecosocialists, many of whom reject Marx outright.… | more…

Pig CAFO

Marx as a Food Theorist

Food has become a core contradiction of contemporary capitalism. Discussions of the economics and sociology of food and food regimes seem to be everywhere today, with some of the most important contributions made by Marxian theorists. Amid plentiful food production, hunger remains a chronic problem, and food security is now a pressing concern for many of the world’s people.… Despite the severity of these problems and their integral relation to the capitalist commodity system, it is generally believed that Karl Marx himself contributed little to our understanding of food…. [Yet] food for Marx was far more than a “passing interest”: in his work one finds analyses of the development of agriculture in different modes of production; climate and food cultivation; the chemistry of the soil; industrial agriculture; livestock conditions; new technologies in food production and preparation; toxic additives in food products; food security; and much more. Moreover, these issues are not peripheral, but organically connected to Marx’s larger critique of capitalism.… | more…

Marx and the Earth: An Anti-Critique

Why Ecosocialism Needs Marx

In his recent foreword to the second edition of Paul Burkett’s Marx and Nature, John Bellamy Foster reflected on a significant change in left attitudes toward Marx’s ecology: “Today Marx’s understanding of the ecological problem is being studied in universities worldwide and is inspiring ecological actions around the globe.” This worldwide recognition of Marx’s ecological critique of capitalism without doubt owes much to Burkett’s Marx and Nature (1999) and Foster’s Marx’s Ecology (2000). Yet the new interest in ecological Marxism did not originate solely with these books. Rather, as their new co-authored book Marx and the Earth documents, over the last fifteen years Burkett and Foster have meticulously refuted the many criticisms of Marx from so-called “first-stage ecosocialists”…. It should be noted that, whatever their disagreements with Marx, the first-stage ecosocialists were also deeply critical of capitalism. So why are Foster and Burkett arguing with their potential comrades? Furthermore, some of the issues taken up in Marx and the Earth might appear abstruse at first glance—why bother debating them at such length?… [A] patient reader will soon recognize the book’s importance and the significance of the issues at stake.… | more…

Monthly Review Volume 68, Number 5 (October 2016)

October 2016 (Volume 68, Number 5)

On August 29, in a historic moment in the history of the planet, the 35-member Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) reported to the International Geological Congress that the Anthropocene epoch in geological history is “stratigraphically real” and should be dated as arising around 1950, displacing the Holocene epoch of the last 12,000 years. The AWG has yet to arrive at a formal decision that would adopt a definite global “signal” (though ten of the thirty-five members currently support using fallout radionuclides from atomic weapons testing as the signal), which would be followed by the designation of a “golden spike” or actual location in the rock, sediment, or ice strata. Yet the general parameters of the onset of the new epoch are clear.… As Colin Waters, secretary of the AWG, explained: “Being able to pinpoint an interval of time is saying something about how we have had an incredible impact on the environment of our planet. The concept of the Anthropocene manages to pull all these ideas of environmental change together.” Most importantly, it tells us that the world economy has generated an anthropogenic rift in the Earth system threatening millions of species, including our own, requiring fundamental changes in the way in which society relates to the earth through production.… | more…

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