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Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1583670125
ISBN-10: 1583670122
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Editorial Reviews

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.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Louis Proyect on June 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
In "Marx's Ecology," John Bellamy Foster defies conventional green thinking by raising the banner of materialism rather than spirituality in the fight to save the planet and humanity from ecological ruin. In addition to restoring materialism to its proper place, Foster also shows that ecological questions were central not only to Marx, but other Marxists such as Bebel and Bukharin. By restoring this lost tradition, Foster hopes to create a new basis for ecosocialism grounded in Marxist science rather than mysticism.
Although most students of Marx are aware of materialist thought in such early works as the 1845 "Theses on Feuerbach," Foster argues convincingly that materialism made its debut in Marx's doctoral dissertation on the "Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature," written four years earlier. According to Foster, the standard explanation for the dissertation is that Marx saw Epicurus as a kindred rebel spirit. This Epicurus sought to overthrow the totalizing philosophy of Aristotle, just as the post-Hegelians--including the young Marx--rose up against Hegel. What is missing here is the element of materialism, which drew Marx to Epicurus in the first place. Marx identified with the Enlightenment, for which Epicurus serves as a forerunner to the radical democrats of the 17th and 18th century. The materialism they all shared was crucial to an attack on the status quo, ancient or modern.
The Greek materialists, especially Epicurus, are important to Marx because they represent the first systematic opposition to idealist and essentialist thought. Just as importantly, Epicurus in particular anticipates the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a hot knife through the rancid butter of existing views of the ties between science, ecology, and the politics of the human future.
Foster presents prodigious historical evidence for his thesis that, despite a century-and-a-half of obtuseness on both right and left, Karl Marx was one of the greatest and deepest inheritors and advancers of the best tradition of both "Enlightenment materialism-humanism" and ecological realism.
Foster shows that, contrary to traditional interpretations, Marx was neither an admirer of crude mechanistic science nor an airy Hegelian dreamer. If one actually bothers to read the earliest and the lesser-known Marx, it turns out that the bearded one was quite consciously an exponent of the supple, open-ended materialism embodied in the Epicurean tradition and in the best ideas of its Enlightenment elaborators, including giants of science like Bacon and Darwin.
This unappreciated fact, Foster also shows, meant that Marx was also a very profound ecologist. Up to speed on the most important ecological debates of his epoch, Marx's whole project, Foster convincingly demonstrates, rested on the kind of hard-headed, historically-sensitive, and politically clear-sighted concern for the world's ecological welfare that is so sorely lacking in today's sterile debates between status-quo ostriches and "radical" nature worshippers.
This book has opened my eyes and greatly deepened my appreciation of Marx, ecological thought, the history and future of science, and the best meaning of humanism. Anybody interested in these vital issues ought to get and digest this ground-breaking tour-de-force!
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"Marx's Ecology" by John Bellamy Foster positively reasserts the long-neglected environmental aspects of Karl Marx's writing. Foster guides the reader through a fascinating look at Marx's personal intellectual development and the various thinkers who influenced him. The author reveals a Marx who was keenly aware of capital's strategy to alienate labor from nature. Foster also makes clear that Marx worked assiduously to develop a theory that might reconnect dehumanized labor with its degraded environment in hopes of creating a better, more sustainable world.
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.
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