Sunday, 1 March 2015

Murray Bookchin and social ecology

Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) developed a unique philosophy of American non-violent anarchism (or libertarianism, according to some). After a revolutionary youth as a Communist, Trotskyist, union organizer, and anti-racist, he urged a “post-scarcity” utopia founded on ecology and local democracy. In the 1960s he wrote ground-breaking studies of chemical pollution, racism -- and ecology as a revolutionary paradigm. At his Institute for Social Ecology and as a professor at New Jersey’s Ramapo College, he explored anarchist and libertarian thought, denouncing Soviet Marxism and US nuclearism alike socially-constructed nightmares.(2) In the 1970s he moved to Vermont, founding ISE and putting his philosophy into practice (3).

Cooperation and interdependence, in his view, were the basis of cultural evolution and ecology. The so-called “law of the jungle” was neither natural in origin nor inevitable in history. The ideal society would be free from drudgery, human exploitation and class domination. See his classic 1993 summary What is social ecology? -- whose core principle is “dialectical naturalism”. (4)

ISE 40th Reunion 1Social ecology advocates a reconstructive and transformative outlook on social and environmental issues, and promotes a directly democratic, confederal politics. As a body of ideas, social ecology envisions a moral economy that moves beyond scarcity and hierarchy, toward a world that reharmonizes human communities with the natural world, while celebrating diversity, creativity and freedom. Historically, the Institute for Social Ecology has been a pioneer in the exploration of ecological approaches to food production, alternative technologies, and urban design, and has played an essential, catalytic role in movements to challenge nuclear power, global injustices and unsustainable biotechnologies, while building participatory, community-based alternatives. The Institute strives to be an agent of social transformation, demonstrating the skills, ideas and relationships that can nurture vibrant, self-governed, healthy communities.” 
-- from the website of the ISE, Marshfield VT. Current director is Brian Tokar (2nd row R)

The ISE has links with U of Vermont, Prescott College AZ, SEEDS in Vashon Is. WA, the bilingual Centre d'Écologie Urbaine / Urban Ecology Centre in Montreal, Democratic Alternative and New Compass Press in Norway, Ecologie Sociale in Switzerland; and centers (5) in Ireland, London, Frankfurt, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Latin America and Australia. It both influenced and critiqued the Occupy movement. (6)

  1. Bookchin's Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (1982) greatly influenced the German Green party's four pillars: ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence.
  2. His libertarian municipalism combined the tradition of New England-style town meetings with the rising Green movement.
  3. For his other major publications see
  4. See Ursula Le Guin's thoughtful comments “On the Future of the Left“ 4 Feb 2015; and

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