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Customer Review

on February 3, 2008
As a socialist with relatively unfocused environmental concerns, I had long looked forward to reading Joel Kovel's 'ecosocialist manifesto' "The Enemy of Nature". I had hoped that the book would help me clarify and organize my ecological thinking and its relation to socialism.

Although I very much wanted to appreciate "The Enemy of Nature", I was largely, though not completely, disappointed. For the most part, I found the writing overly abstract, weighed down by unnecessarily abstruse academese and excessive Marxian verbiage. I got little out of it, and feel there is little to get out of it in the first place.

"The Enemy of Nature" is divided into three parts: "The Culprit", on capital and capitalism; "The Domination of Nature", on the relationships between capitalism and nature; and "Towards Ecosocialism", on green politics and where to go from here. Of the three, I found only the last worthwhile, in part because it had to touch on the "real world" in its discussions of current political issues, in part because Kovel was able to at least partially articulate some inspiring conclusions and visions for the future.

The first part, "The Culprit", presents a pretty standard modern Marxist discussion of capital and capitalism, with emphasis on the "early Marx" and Marx's relatively few remarks on ecology and the environment. Although decent at times, these chapters include quite a bit of phrase-dropping of notions like "ecosystemic manifolds", "the prime desideratum of the capitalist" and the "First Contradiction" and "Second Contradiction of Capital" (complete with the capital letters), that did little but aggravate me.

This pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo only worsens in the second part, "The Domination of Nature". Far too much of the discussion of "The Domination of Nature" is dominated by an extended, unclear, and so far as I can tell utterly irrelevant expostulation of the second law of thermodynamics, and its supposed relationships with Hobbes, "Social-Darwinism", "God", evolution, the "Gaia principle", and the meaning of life itself. All of this fully activated my bull detector, and I remain highly skeptical of whatever it is exactly that Kovel is arguing in this section of the book.

In the end, after reading "The Enemy of Nature", I remain a socialist with relatively unfocused environmental concerns. I still hope someday to find a clear, powerful, inspiring ecosocialist manifesto that will help synthesize my conceptions of socialism and ecology, but after this decidedly mixed bag, I'm far less eager to search it out.
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