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Marxist Ecology

Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 7 (December 2018)

December 2018 (Volume 70, Number 7)

With the dramatic rise of eco-Marxism in recent years, a corresponding revolution has been taking place in studies of the human-nonhuman animal relationship. Previous critical analyses with respect to the position of animals in human society have been largely dictated by animal-rights discourse, more recently represented by figures such as Peter Singer. Many of these analyses contend that Karl Marx, Marxism, and historical materialism understand the human-nonhuman animal relationship through a dualist, “speciesist,” or human-centric, framework—a critique most famously championed by pioneering ecosocialist Ted Benton. This issue is dedicated to analyzing the theoretical propositions underlying Marx’s analysis and to demonstrate the antispeciesist and antidualist aspects of his evolutionary-materialist understanding. | more…

A child ploughing the land with a water buffalo in Don Det, Si Pan Don, Laos

Marx and Alienated Speciesism

In many animal-rights circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for their speciesist treatment of nonhuman animals and the human-nonhuman animal relationship. These criticisms typically neglect the larger historical conditions, intellectual influences, and debates out of which Marx’s treatment of the human-animal dialectic arose—even though this is crucial to any meaningful understanding of his thought in this area. In response, this article assesses the historical-intellectual background behind Marx’s arguments on humans and animals, placing it in the context of the influence exercised on his thought by Epicurus, Hermann Samuel Reimarus, Ludwig Feuerbach, Charles Darwin, and others. In the process, they explain how Marx’s view of animals in the world came to be integrated with his theory of metabolic rift and his critique of capitalism. | more…

Man plowing with a water buffalo in the paddy fields of Don Puay (Si Phan Don), Laos

On the Origins of Animalist Marxism

Rereading Ted Benton and the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

In human-animal studies and critical animal studies, the most influential treatment of animalist Marxism and Marxist animalism has been developed by Ted Benton on the basis of his interpretation of Karl Marx’s work. This article focuses minutely on Benton’s argument and Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (or Paris Manuscripts), refuting Benton’s contentions point by point and forcefully challenging the idea that Marx’s work was speciesist in orientation. | more…

November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

November 2018 (Volume 70, Number 6)

The twenty-first century has resulted in a vast upsurge of ecological Marxism and ecosocialism more generally, building on the environmental critique of capitalism embedded in classical historical materialism. At the same time, it has also engendered opposing tendencies and approaches concerning how we understand relentless ecological destruction under capitalism. This issue is dedicated to exploring the theoretical advances, schools of thought, and debates on the left in regard to our world’s ecological crisis, which threatens the survival of humanity and is inescapable within the present capitalist system of production. | more…

Capitalism is eating the planet

Value Isn’t Everything

The rapid advances in Marxian ecology in the last two decades have given rise to extensive debates within the left, reflecting competing conceptions of theory and practice in an age of planetary ecological and social crisis. One key area of dispute is the attempt by a growing number of radical environmental thinkers to deconstruct the labor theory of value in order to bring everything in existence within a single commodity logic. For many in Green circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for not directly incorporating the expenditure of physical work/energy by extra-human nature into the theory of value. In response, this article argues that any form of analysis that seeks to eliminate the deep-seated dialectical contradictions between the natural form and the value form, as well as between the capitalist economy and the larger socioecological metabolism, fails to comprehend the complex, interdependent dialectics of nature and humanity. | more…

Seeding clouds over the ocean

Making War on the Planet

Geoengineering and Capitalism's Creative Destruction of the Earth

The dangers posed by climate change have inspired a desperate search for technological fixes in the form of geoengineering—massive human interventions to manipulate the entire climate or planet. But as long as the dominant strategy for addressing global warming remains subordinated to the ends of capital accumulation, any attempt to implement such schemes will prove fatal to humanity. | more…

Dark Clouds of Factory Smoke Obscure Clark Avenue Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio in 1973

‘The Deadly Implications of Capital for the Human Habitat’

A Letter to István Mészáros from Paul M. Sweezy, October 16, 1992

In October 1992, MR founding editor Paul M. Sweezy wrote the following brief letter, published here for the first time, to István Mészáros in response to an interview with Chris Arthur and Joseph McCarney that had just been published in Radical Philosophy. Sweezy saluted the critical significance of Mészáros’s argument on “the monstrous power of capital,” and the failure of many Marxists to perceive this problem in its full dimensions. He also affirmed the imperative of incorporating the ecological economics of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen.
Monthly Review Volume 70, Number 3 (July-August 2018)

July-August 2018 (Volume 70, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

This special issue is dedicated to developing the ecological critique embodied in Marx’s theory of “metabolic rift.” Each article uses the metabolic rift perspective to uncover core contradictions of capitalism, as well as possible paths toward a new system—one that will meet human needs while protecting the earth and future generations. | more…

A 19th-century illustration depicts a scene off the coast of Peru, where bird poop, or guano, was harvested

The Robbery of Nature

Capitalism and the Metabolic Rift

Marx’s notion of “the robbery of the soil” is intrinsically connected to the rift in the metabolism between human beings and the earth. To get at the complexities of his metabolic rift theory, it is useful to look separately at the issues of the robbery and the rift, seen as separate moments in a single development. | more…

Monster soup commonly called Thames water, being a correct representation of that precious stuff doled out to us!

Cesspools, Sewage, and Social Murder

Environmental Crisis and Metabolic Rift in Nineteenth-Century London

The accumulation of human excrement in nineteenth-century cities, particularly London, precipitated a historic environmental crisis—an aspect of the metabolic rift mostly overlooked in ecosocialist analysis. The solution that was finally adopted only shifted the problem out of sight, setting the stage for even greater crises in our time. | more…

Nutrient pollution caused by Surface runoff of soil and fertilizer during a rain storm (1999)

Land–Sea Ecological Rifts

A Metabolic Analysis of Nutrient Loading

Increasing rates of nitrogen and phosphorus application have caused severe damage to aquatic systems, as rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and ocean systems have been inundated with nutrient runoff. Only by addressing the metabolic rupture in the soil nutrient cycle and the contradictions of capital can we begin to mend these land–sea rifts. | more…

Ecosocialism

Marx’s Ecological Education

Kohei Saito’s Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capitalism, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy shows convincingly that Marx’s ideas about the interaction between humanity and nature did not arrive fully formed, but arose from his rigorous engagement with science and philosophy. His insights still offer unparalleled tools to understand capitalism’s current assault on the environment. | more…

Monthly Review Volume 69, Number 6 (November 2017)

November 2017 (Volume 69, Number 6)

Over the last three decades, Monthly Review has stood out as a major source of ecosocialist analysis. This has been especially evident in recent months, with the publication by Monthly Review Press of three pathbreaking books: Kohei Saito, Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy; Ian Angus, A Redder Shade of Green: Intersections of Science and Socialism; and Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams, Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. | more…

Cuban farmers planting sweet potato crop.

The Long Ecological Revolution

From an ecological perspective, the Anthropocene marks the need for a more creative, constructive, and coevolutionary relation to the earth. In ecosocialist theory, this demands the reconstitution of society at large—over decades and centuries. However, given the threat to the earth as a place of human habitation this transformation requires immediate reversals in the regime of accumulation. | 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

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…