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5. Carolyn Merchant and Ecofeminism
About this Lecture
In this module, we use the work of Carolyn Merchant as a lens through which to consider the role of gender in ecological politics, thinking in particular about: (i) the thesis of her book The Death of Nature (1980) that the Scientific Revolution involved a shift in the dominant conception of nature from a nurturing ‘mother’ figure (Mother Nature) to a wild and untamed force that needed to be mastered using science; (ii) the idea of philosopher Val Plumwood that the exploitation of nature on the one hand, and women on the other are inextricably linked by the ideology of patriarchy and that the end of both forms of exploitation thus requires the defeat of patriarchy.
In this course, Professor Matthew Humphrey (University of Nottingham) thinks about ecologism as a political ideology by surveying five key thinkers to illustrate both the diversity of ecological thought, and its core unifying themes. We begin in the first module by developing a definition of ecologism and considering how to organise its various ideological strands, focusing in particular on the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess’s distinction between the ‘shallow’ and ‘deep’ ecology movements. We then begin our survey of key thinkers with the American conservationist Aldo Leopold, focusing in particular on his philosophy of the ‘land ethic’. Then, in the third module, we consider the life and work of Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring is widely considered to have catalysed the modern environmentalist movement. In the fourth module, we foreground the German economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher and examine the impact of his book Small is Beautiful (1973) on the ecologism movement. Our fourth key thinker is Carolyn Merchant, whose ecofeminism argued that the domination of nature was intimately linked to unequal gender relations. We end with the anarchist philosopher Murray Bookchin, who maintained that the root cause of environmental crises were the dual evils of hierarchy and domination within human societies, relations which he argued were then projected onto the natural world.
Matthew Humphrey is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Nottingham. He specialises in three areas of political theory in particular: (i) the theory of environmental politics; (ii) analytical political philosophy and theories of justice; and (iii) theories of ideology.
Cite this Lecture
Humphrey, M. (2019, September 29). Ecologism - Carolyn Merchant and Ecofeminism [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/ecologism/carolyn-merchant-and-ecofeminism
Humphrey, M. "Ecologism – Carolyn Merchant and Ecofeminism." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Sep 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/ecologism/carolyn-merchant-and-ecofeminism