Monday, 11 February 2013

Review of “Recovering Bookchin"

“Recovering Bookchin: Social Ecology And The Crises Of Our Time”” Andy Price, New Compass Press 

 Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), was an American ecological and anarchist thinker and author who coined the term ‘Social Ecology’ to describe his theories and others like them. Andy Price argues that Bookchin had constructed a synthesis of the insights of Ecology into human exploitation of and degradation of our planet with an anarchist based criticism of capitalism. It could be argued that this work may have supplemented and superseded that of Marx. Price suggests that Bookchin’s work; ”…may prove useful in contributing to a way of visualising and realising social change in a globalised world.” (Price 2012 p.263). 

 However Price thinks Bookchin’s potential importance and contemporary relevance has been ignored because Bookchin is often now remembered for allegedly being aggressive, intolerant and some say, trying to ‘take over’ the radical American left. Price argues that such accusations stem from Bookchin’s very irate response to some of the more extreme statements of the ‘Deep Ecology’ movement. 

When you consider some statements of avowedly Malthusian and misanthropic Deep Ecologist writers such as Dave Foreman who advocated not sending aid to starving Ethiopians (cited in Price op.cit. P.19) it is easy to see why Bookchin raged about “eco-brutalism”, and “ecofascism” based on”half digested, ill-formed and half baked” (p.20) ideas. Bookchin was not just angry with those who made vicious statements but also at other Deep Ecologists who made no criticism of them. The issues which enraged Bookchin are still echoed in contemporary Green debates over population growth and whether and how it might contribute to the current ecological crisis, which even on email can often soon degenerate into exchanges of vituperation. 

Personally I think Bookchin dished out a forceful and well deserved attack ideas based on a bad and superficial diagnosis of the current ecological crisis. However, Price argues that Bookchin deserves to known for more than his spat with the Deep Ecologists.

 Price summarises Bookchin’s works on Philosophy, Politics and Social History and makes a good case that these can relate to current developments such as the anti-globalisation movement and eco-socialism. “Recovering Bookchin “ is essentially an academic text, but a remarkably clear and jargon free one which should be of interest not just to students and teachers, but also to any politically informed reader who wants to learn more about criticism of the current ecological and capitalist crisis and consider developing ideas for a better world.

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