- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Monthly Review Press (March 1, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1583670122
- ISBN-13: 978-1583670125
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,661 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature
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About the Author
John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review. He is professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and author of The Ecological Revolution, The Great Financial Crisis (with Fred Magdoff), Critique of Intelligent Design (with Brett Clark and Richard York), Ecology Against Capitalism, Marx’s Ecology, and The Vulnerable Planet.
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That said, the Prologue is tough going for the layperson, but ultimately worth the slog, because subsequent chapters develop, step by step, Marx's key argument: Humans and Nature are components of a single natural system. It is a thoroughly modern message whose time has definitely come.
An 8-year Mexican resident, I am witness to the brutal rape of Mother Earth being enacted by domestic Mexican and multinational corporations. Calling it 'rape' is appropriate, because the lands expropriated for open-pit mining, fracking, etc., are the hereditary lands of Mexico indigenous, original peoples, whose cosmovisión, worldview yields to a way of life intimately connected to Madre Tierra. Violation of their lands is sacrilege.
Given the growing controversy surrounding Neoliberalism and Globalism - the UK's vote to leave the European Union is just the latest in a series - it is time to rethink how we in the 21st century might live on our Planet Earth, Spaceship Earth, as Buckminister Fuller memorably dubbed it decades ago. Foster's superb work makes a major contribution to that project.
Indeed, Foster's book is an interesting study of intellectual history, with an emphasis on the debates that raged during Marx's lifespan in the 19th century. The ideas and discoveries of Darwin, Engels, Epicurus, Hegel, Malthus, Proudhon, and others are discussed at length. Foster presents a Marx who was clearly at the vanguard of progressive thought in his era and gives us considerable insight into how Marx created his materialist theory of history. We also understand why Marx privileged the environment but explicitly rejected the fashionable teleological and racist arguments of his time.
In particular, I found the discussion concerning Epicurus to be fascinating. Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher who had a profound influence on the Enlightenment and was the subject of Marx's doctoral dissertation. Foster tells us that Marx's unconventional interpretations have been confirmed by recent archaeological discoveries, although at the time Marx had been working from a small number of extant fragments of Epicurus' writings. In addition to explaining to the reader why Epicurus' ideas are important, Foster deepens our appreciation for Marx, whose intellectual capabilities were evident even at a fairly young age.
In the Epilogue, Foster shows how Marx's ecology fell out of the loop, a victim to Soviet ideology, Stalinist purges and other historical forces. But he shows how snippets of Marx's environmental thought has influenced scholars and activists throughout the 20th century. In fact, Foster suggests that Marx has been vindicated by some within the contemporary environmental movement. For example, Rachel Carson's work connecting corporate power with environmental and social degradation recalls (unconsciously?) Marx's work regarding the dialectic of nature and science. But with this book, Foster has effectively redrawn the circle, solidly connecting Marxist theory with the environment. Foster helps us understand that social justice and ecological sustainability are core Marxist values that can guide and inspire activists who are looking for solutions to today's environmental crisis.
In short, I strongly recommend this book for readers who are interested in intellectual history and/or eco-socialist theory, and congratulate Foster for an outstanding piece of research.