Social Ecology and Communalism - Murray Bookchin - Google Livres
PDF | Murray Bookchin, the founding theorist of social ecology, was a pioneer of left political synthesis, which he eventually termed “communalism. of society and its relationships to non-human nature to a thoroughgoing critique of. For a critique of deep ecology's relationship to the political right, see . 70 Murray Bookchin, Social Ecology and Communalism, edited by Eirik Eiglad (San. Communalism is the name given to social ecology as developed by Murray Bookchin. Social ecology is a holistic philosophy and.
Independence, not to mention competition, would have seemed utterly alien, if not bizarre, to a creature reared over many years in a largely dependent condition.
Care for others would have been seen as the perfectly natural outcome of a highly acculturated being that was, in turn, clearly in need of extended care. Our modern version of individualism, more precisely, of egotism, would have cut across the grain of early solidarity and mutual aid — traits, I may add without which such a physically fragile animal like a human being could hardly have survived as an adult, much less as a child.
Second, human interdependence must have assumed a highly structured form. There is no evidence that human beings normally relate to each other through the fairly loose systems of bonding we find among our closest primate cousins.
That human social bonds can be dissolved or de-institutionalized in periods of radical change or cultural breakdown is too obvious to argue here. On the contrary, the evidence we have at hand points to the fact that all humans, perhaps even our distant hominid ancestors, lived in some kind of structured family groups, and, later, in bands, tribes, villages, and other forms.
In short, they bonded together as they still donot only emotionally and morally, but also structurally in contrived, clearly definable, and fairly permanent institutions. Nonhuman animals may form loose communities and even take collective protective postures to defend their young from predators.
But such communities can hardly be called structured, except in a broad, often ephemeral, sense. Humans, by contrast, create highly formal communities that tend to become increasingly structured over the course of time. In effect, they form not only communities, but a new phenomenon called societies. If we fail to distinguish animal communities from human societies, we risk the danger of ignoring the unique features that distinguish human social life from animal communities — notably, the ability of society to change for better or worse and the factors that produce these changes.
By reducing a complex society to a mere community, we can easily ignore how societies differed from each other over the course of history. We can also fail to understand how they elaborated simple differences in status into firmly established hierarchies, or hierarchies into economic classes. We tend, in effect, to confuse the strictly institutional creations of human will, purpose, conflicting interests, and traditions, with community life in its most fixed forms, as though we were dealing with inherent, seemingly unalterable, features of society rather than fabricated structures that can be modified, improved, worsened — or simply abandoned.
The trick of every ruling elite from the beginnings of history to modern times has been to identify its own socially created hierarchical systems of domination with community life as such, with the result being that human-made institutions acquire divine or biological sanctity.
In either case, be it the notion of an abstract society that exists apart from nature or an equally abstract natural community that is indistinguishable from nature, a dualism appears that sharply separates society from nature, or a crude reductionism appears that dissolves society into nature. These apparently contrasting, but closely related, notions are all the more seductive because they are so simplistic.
Although they are often presented by their more sophisticated supporters in a fairly nuanced form, such notions are easily reduced to bumper-sticker slogans that are frozen into hard, popular dogmas. Social Ecology The approach to society and nature advanced by social ecology may seem more intellectually demanding, but it avoids the simplicities of dualism and the crudities of reductionism.
Social ecology tries to show how nature slowly phases into society without ignoring the differences between society and nature on the one hand, as well as the extent to which they merge with each other on the other.
The everyday socialization of the young by the family is no less rooted in biology than the everyday care of the old by the medical establishment is rooted in the hard facts of society. By the same token, we never cease to be mammals who still have primal natural urges, but we institutionalize these urges and their satisfaction in a wide variety of social forms. Hence, the social and the natural continually permeate each other in the most ordinary activities of daily life without losing their identity in a shared process of interaction, indeed, of interactivity.
Obvious as this may seem at first in such day-to-day problems as caretaking, social ecology raises questions that have far-reaching importance for the different ways society and nature have interacted over time and the problems these interactions have produced.
How did a divisive, indeed, seemingly combative, relationship between humanity and nature emerge? What were the institutional forms and ideologies that rendered this conflict possible? Given the growth of human needs and technology, was such a conflict really unavoidable? And can it be overcome in a future, ecologically oriented society? How does a rational, ecologically oriented society fit into the processes of natural evolution?
Even more broadly, is there any reason to believe that the human mind — itself a product of natural evolution as well as culture — represents a decisive highpoint in natural development, notably, in the long development of subjectivity from the sensitivity and self-maintenance of the simplest life-forms to the remarkable intellectuality and self-consciousness of the most complex.
In asking these highly provocative questions, I am not trying to justify a strutting arrogance toward nonhuman life-forms. I have argued that this synchronicity will not be achieved by opposing nature to society, nonhuman to human life-forms, natural fecundity to technology, or a natural subjectivity to the human mind.
Indeed, an important result that emerges from a discussion of the interrelationship of nature to society is the fact that human intellectuality, although distinct, also has a far-reaching natural basis. Our brains and nervous systems did not suddenly spring into existence without a long antecedent natural history.
That which we most prize as integral to our humanity — our extraordinary capacity to think on complex conceptual levels — can be traced back to the nerve network of primitive invertebrates, the ganglia of a mollusk, the spinal cord of a fish, the brain of an amphibian, and the cerebral cortex of a primate. Here, too, in the most intimate of our human attributes, we are no less products of natural evolution than we are of social evolution.
- Murray Bookchin
- Social ecology
- Review: Social Ecology and Communalism
As human beings we incorporate within ourselves aeons of organic differentiation and elaboration. Like all complex life-forms, we are not only part of natural evolution; we are also its heirs and the products of natural fecundity. In trying to show how society slowly grows out of nature, however, social ecology is also obliged to show how society, too, undergoes differentiation and elaboration.
In doing so, social ecology must examine those junctures in social evolution where splits occurred which slowly brought society into opposition to the natural world, and explain how this opposition emerged from its inception in prehistoric times to our own era.
senshido.info | Murray Bookchin: social anarchism, ecology and education
Indeed, if the human species is a life-form that can consciously and richly enhance the natural world, rather than simply damage it, it is important for social ecology to reveal the factors that have rendered many human beings into parasites on the world of life rather than active partners in organic evolution.
This project must be undertaken not in a haphazard way, but with a serious attempt to render natural and social development coherent in terms of each other, and relevant to our times and the construction of an ecological society. This crucial view cuts across the grain of nearly all current ecological thinking and even social theorizing. This is most obvious in social theory. Nearly all of our contemporary social ideologies have placed the notion of human domination at the centre of their theorizing.
Hence, in order to harness the natural world, it has been argued for ages, it is necessary to harness human beings as well, in the form of slaves, serfs, and workers. That this instrumental notion pervades the ideology of nearly all ruling elites and has provided both liberal and conservative movements with a justification for their accommodation to the status quo, requires little, if any, elaboration. What is perhaps less known, however, is that Marx, too, justified the emergence of class society and the State as stepping stones toward the domination of nature and, presumably, the liberation of humanity.
It was on the strength of this historical vision that Marx formulated his materialist conception of history and his belief in the need for class society as a stepping stone in the historic road to communism. Ironically, much that now passes for antihumanistic, mystical ecology involves exactly the same kind of thinking — but in an inverted form. However much the two views may differ in their verbiage and pieties, domination remains the underlying notion of both: Among apes, for example, there is little or no coercion, but only erratic forms of dominant behaviour.
Gibbons and orangutans are notable for their peaceable behaviour toward members of their own kind. The tendency to mechanically project social categories onto the natural world is as preposterous as an attempt to project biological concepts onto geology. Stalagmites and stalactites in caves certainly do increase in size over time. But in no sense do they grow in a manner that even remotely corresponds to growth in living beings.
This raises the issue of repeated attempts to read ethical, as well as social, traits into a natural world that is only potentially ethical insofar as it forms a basis for an objective social ethics.
Yes, coercion does exist in nature; so does pain and suffering. However, cruelty does not. Animal intention and will are too limited to produce an ethics of good and evil or kindness and cruelty. Evidence of inferential and conceptual thought is very limited among anima]s, except for primates, cetaceans, elephants, and possibly a few other mammals.
Even among the most intelligent animals, the limits to thought are immense in comparison with the extraordinary capacities of socialized human beings. Admittedly, we are substantially less than human today in view of our still unknown potential to be creative, caring, and rational. Our prevailing society serves to inhibit, rather than realize, our human potential. We still lack the imagination to know how much our finest human traits could expand with an ethical, ecological, and rational dispensation of human affairs.
By contrast, the known nonhuman world seems to have reached visibly fixed limits in its capacity to survive environmental changes. If mere adaptation to environmental changes is seen as the criterion for evolutionary success as many biologists believethen insects would have to be placed on a higher plane of development than any mammalian life-form.
None of these remarks are meant to metaphysically oppose nature to society or society to nature. On the contrary, they are meant to argue that what unites society with nature in a graded evolutionary continuum is the remarkable extent to which human beings, living in a rational, ecologically oriented society, could embody the creativity of nature — this, as distinguished from a purely adaptive criterion of evolutionary success.
The great achievements of human thought, art, science, and technology serve not only to monumentalize culture, they serve also to monumentalize natural evolution itself. Life-forms that create and consciously alter their environment, hopefully in ways that make it more rational and ecological, represent a vast and indefinite extension of nature into fascinating, perhaps unbounded, lines of evolution which no branch of insects could ever achieve — notably the evolution of a fully self-conscious nature.
If this be humanism — more precisely, ecological humanism, the current crop of antihumanists and misanthropes are welcome to make the most of it. Nature, in turn, is not a scenic view we admire through a picture window — a view that is frozen into a landscape or a static panorama.06. Social Ecology and Communalism - After Murray Bookchin
Such landscape images of nature may be spiritually elevating but they are ecologically deceptive. Fixed in time and place, this imagery makes it easy for us to forget that nature is not a static vision of the natural world but the long, indeed cumulative, history of natural development. This history involves the evolution of the inorganic, as well as the organic, realms of phenomena.
Wherever we stand in an open field, forest, or on a mountain top, our feet rest on ages of development, be they geological strata, fossils of long-extinct life-forms, the decaying remains of the newly dead, or the quiet stirring of newly emerging life.
Rather, natural history is a cumulative evolution toward ever more varied, differentiated, and complex forms and relationships. This evolutionary development of increasingly variegated entities, most notably, of life-forms, is also an evolutionary development which contains exciting, latent possibilities.
With variety, differentiation, and complexity, nature, in the course of its own unfolding, opens new directions for still further development along alternative lines of natural evolution. A brown hare that mutates into a white one and sees a sn covered terrain in which to camouflage itself is acting on behalf of its own survival, not simply adapting in order to survive. The greater the variety of habitats that emerge in the evolutionary process, the more a given life-form.
To the extent that natural evolution follows this path of neurological development, it gives rise to life-forms that exercise an ever-wider latitude of choice and a nascent form of freedom in developing themselves. Given this conception of nature as the cumulative history of more differentiated levels of material organization especially of life-forms and of increasing subjectivity, social ecology establishes a basis for a meaningful understanding of humanity and society s place in natural evolution.
Murray Bookchin taught there until In the s he was involved with the Clamshell Alliance, an anti-nuclear group which pioneered tactics of non-violent direct action Small As Janet Biehl c has commented it was significant because it was written for a general readership and highlighted the environmental threat posed in a number of areas.
He discussed pesticides, food additives, and X-radiation as sources of human illness, including cancer op. Other books of his that influenced a generation of radicals to consider both the community and the planet include The Ecology of Freedom BookchinThe Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship republished as From Urbanization to Cities Bookchin band The Third Revolution Bookchin He also wrote many essays that challenged Marxist presumptions and the danger of radical individualism at the expense of the larger community.
A pioneer in the ecology and conservation movements, Murray Bookchin was also a libertarian socialist whose ideas on the social role of anarchism put him at violent at least verbally odds with a new generation of anti-capitalists who focused more on personal rebellion than social action. To Bookchin, this was a retreat into a bourgeois self-absorption that absolved anarchists from responsibility to enact change, thereby betraying the basic principles set down in the nineteenth century by Bakunin, Kropotkin and others.
The Deep Ecology philosophy seemed to him to be a retreat into mythology, rather than a force for real action and change.
Social Ecology and Communalism
He believed the environmental movement was drifting into a self-absorbed, self satisfied longing for oneness with nature, a return to an intuitive relationship with the land, a myth that, like all myths to Bookchin, was based on fear of reality and self-centeredness. By he was framing his ideas within communalism rather than anarchism Bookchin During this period he worked with his partner of some twenty years — Janet Biehl — both to produce a reader, and an overview of his thinking The Politics of Social Ecology Biehl and Bookchin Murray Bookchin died at his home of heart failure in July in Burlington, Vermont.
Bookchin was survived by his partner Janet Biehl, his former wife Bea and his son and daughter. Social anarchism His main ideological battle played out in the distinction between lifestyle anarchism and social anarchism, the latter of which he championed.
In lifestyle anarchism, promoted by the like of Hakim Bey and the magazine Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, the focus is on the self. To Murray Bookchin, that was a recipe for self-absorption: Thus is social nature essentially dissolved into biological nature; innovative humanity, into adaptive animality; temporality, into precivilizatory eternality; history, into an archaic cyclicity. Lifestyle anarchism, by assailing organization, programmatic commitment, and serious social analysis, apes the worst aspects of Situationist aestheticism without adhering to the project of building a movement.
As the detritus of the s, it wanders aimlessly within the bounds of the ego and makes a virtue of bohemian incoherence. He used the traditional Vermont Town Meeting as an example of sustainable, local, communal anarchy, in which each has a voice in the affairs of the whole while still able to stand as an individual.
Seeing the teacher as partner in learning, not as an ultimate authority. Individualized learning plans and paces, in which the learner gains knowledge relevant to them and their needs in order to advance.
Recognition of the whole person—the need for breaks, need for quiet space, need to leave early, recognition that learners have complex lives beyond the classroom and may benefit from being in class for reasons beyond learning. Respecting students as adults while maintaining order—to discipline without demeaning them. The celebration of small victories. Setting realistic goals—an honest environment that is compassionate and respectful, but clear about expectations.
Recognition that learner may be better served elsewhere. Through individualized, the needs of the group—for safety, respect, attention, instruction—is paramount; ensuring this can mean anything from asking learners to leave program to peer tutoring, small group exercises, parties, etc. The recognition and reinforcement of the fact that as the learner improves, new knowledge and ideas will be brought back to the family and to the community, creating opportunities for empowerment.