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Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin 1st Edition

4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199342488
ISBN-10: 0199342482
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Biehl has an insider's view of Bookchin as both his collaborator and his lover, and she uses that insight to paint a detailed and lively picture of this important figure." -- Publishers Weekly


"Biehl's biography--for illuminating the emergence and contexts of these ideas--may very well be the best introduction we have to social ecology today. ... Janet Biehl has done a remarkable job bringing Bookchin "back to life" for new generations." --New Compass


"Biehl has written a compelling and significant chapter in American history." -- Booklist


The prescient Bookchin emerges in Janet Biehl's politics-heavy biography as incisive, inventive and pragmatic -- a refreshing contrast to today's environmental doom-mongers and techno-utopians alike." --Nature


"The first ... biography of Bookchin, it is well-written, exhaustively documented, and invites readers to traverse the full arc of his life, from his earliest days in New York City to his last in Burlington, Vermont." --Institute for Anarchist Studies


"Biehl's fluid prose makes Bookchin's traverse of the American leftist landscape accessible to the uninitiated. ... The biography is her expression of gratitude and homage, which, as Biehl demonstrates in these pages, Bookchin truly deserves." --Seven Days


"[A]n admirably thorough guide to both Bookchin's remarkable intellectual evolution and to the concrete issues and debates that informed it. It is also a well-written and highly accessible introduction to Bookchin and his ideas that promises to help keep his legacy alive for the next generation of political and environmental activists. ... [Biehl's] engaging and useful book has injected fresh life into Bookchin's vision for an ecological and libertarian left by demonstrating its relationship to vital questions and tactics and strategy that continue to be debated by present-day activists." --Environmental Politics


"Janet Biehl's meticulously researched biography splendidly captures Bookchin's intellectual and personal journey from youthful communist to mature anarchist. Bookchin influenced the thinking and actions of a generation but today his writings and insights are largely unknown. Biehl's terrific book will do much to overcome this illiteracy and introduce a new generation to one of the key intellectuals of our time." -- David Morris, Director, Public Good Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance


"Murray Bookchin was irascible, human, brilliant, and above all relevant to our own time. This valuable book brings his work to life and takes us through his intellectual, activist and personal struggles between the late 1930s and the end of the 20th Century. An ecologist before the term was understood by most Americans and a sophisticated anarchist who recognized the importance of clear (but decentralized) organizational structure, Bookchin's story also offers a reminder of what it takes to live a committed life in our own time in history." -- Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, Co-Founder of The Democracy Collaborative


"Creative, charismatic, controversial and, many would add, more often than not a bit cantankerous, Murray Bookchin was without doubt one of the most significant anti-capitalist thinkers of the last century. Here in Janet Biehl's intimate and meticulously researched biography, we see his tumultuous life and times laid out in such a way as to illuminate the cross-currents and confusions that powered the rise of left-wing ecological movements over more than half a century. This biography deserves to be widely read for its contemporary relevance." --David Harvey, CUNY Graduate Center


"Janet Biehl has written an insightful and compelling biography of Bookchin, which not only illuminates the details of his fascinating life, but which also captures a vivid sense of his times: the Depression-haunted 1930s in New York where he grew up, the civil rights struggle, the counterculture of the late 1960s, the peace movements in the '70s and '80s, as well as the gradual emergence of a global ecological consciousness of the past few decades." --The Vancouver Sun


About the Author


Janet Biehl was Murray Bookchin's copyeditor for the last two decades of his professional life, and collaborated with him on both books and articles. She works as a freelance copyeditor for Viking Penguin, Alfred A. Knopf, Pantheon, Crown, Doubleday, and many other publishing houses.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199342482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199342488
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,300,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished reading this book early this morning, and was close to tears. This is a wonderful book, explaining the life of a human who strove mightily for social justice and harmony among humans and our planetary ecosystem, inseparable tasks. It can't be simple, and it can't be "streamlined" or "leveraged" or diesel powered or industrialized. We each have to work sincerely and with a deep sense of ethics. Just because somebody else doesn't, is no excuse. Hard times loom. Work together. Grow food. Bicycle. Use less. Love more. I just ordered the Murray Bookchin Reader.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Murray Bookchin was a pivotal, polarizing figure in the post-WWII history of anarchism. He put ecology and democracy on the anarchist agenda in a way that was as novel as it is enduring. As a polemicist, he spent decades at the center of crucial debates about history, strategy, and foundational ideals. Even his critics must acknowledge that he made major contributions to the growth and clarification of the anarchist perspective.

Something shifted in the movement when he died in 2006. For the preceding fifty years, his writings had been a point of reference through which we could clarify our views, even when we disagreed with them, whereas now that he was gone we had to make sense of him. Who was he and how had he lived? These are compelling questions for those who had worked with him and for anyone who wants to understand contemporary anarchism.

Janet Biehl’s Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin will help us here. The first (and probably last) biography of Bookchin, it is well-written, exhaustively documented, and invites readers to traverse the full arc of his life, from his earliest days in New York City to his last in Burlington, Vermont. But it is more than a biography. Biehl was Bookchin’s lover, collaborator, editor, researcher, advocate, and (finally) nurse for two decades and this text is also a memoir of their time together.

Ecology or Catastrophe tells a tragic story. Biehl portrays Bookchin as an irrepressible, profoundly creative and intelligent man who threw himself wholly into radical movements, set out to untangle some of history’s most challenging problems, but who ended his days feeling isolated, abandoned, and despairing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Janet Biehl is a brilliant, inquisitive and dedicated scholar and writer. She brings Murray Bookchin alive and weaves an incredible story of a remarkable man, the era he lived in, and his vision and impact, both then and now. This is a great read and education!
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Format: Hardcover
Reading Ecology or Catastrophe is much more than reading about Murray Bookchin’s life. For me, it was a combination of a history lesson of the radical left in the 20th century and the powerful story of an individual’s ability to form groups in order to change capitalist society. I was totally engrossed in it from the first page to the last.

I did not become radicalized until 9/11. While I lived through the political and social upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s, I watched them from a distance; trying to make sense of them in the traditional, fairly conservative world I was part of. The revolutionary Left was not part of my world until the last 15 years – and I have a lot of catching up to do. Janet Biehl has made those times and events come alive for me. This book was both a riveting portrayal of Bookchin’s life all the way from standing on street corners in New York speaking to – and responding to the arguments of – 1930’s American communists to the very end of the book when he is writing his 4 volume tome, The Third Revolution.

It seemed as though I was right there with him in the Bronx, in that magical Marxist school. His amazing journey took him from a marginal life with his mother in Brooklyn to teaching classes at Goddard College and Ramapo College, without even a high school diploma, publishing many thought-provoking and significant books and being part of the creation of the Institute for Social Ecology. His writings helped me to clarify the different between the environmental movement and social ecology. My heart ached for him as I watched his devotion to Weber be rewarded by spite and betrayal, as it did when I read about so many “deep greens” turning against him with such viciousness.
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Format: Hardcover
An amazing political biography on a true revolutionary, Murray Bookchin, who dedicated his life to fighting capitalism, statism, hierarchy, and ecological destruction, and to advocating a liberatory society built along ecological lines.

I have read Bookchin's writings before, where I learned about the particulars of his ideas. This biography offers the reader a view into the unique personal, social, and political circumstances that led to the formation and development of his ideas. I was very intrigued by the blend of narrative and history telling. It can be difficult to balance these aspects in a way that engages the reader, and Biehl did so, with honesty and deep respect for her beloved subject.

This book has come out at a most crucial time, where our society is literally at a cross road between ecology or catastrophe, and Bookchin's ideas are essential to any earnest struggle toward ecology.
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