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6. Murray Bookchin and Social Ecology
About this Lecture
In the sixth and final module, we examine the efforts of the philosopher Murray Bookchin to fuse together anarchism and ecologism in what he called ‘social ecology’, focusing in particular on: (i) the contrast between Bookchin’s Our Synthetic Environment (1962) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), published just months apart, and the categorisation of these two books as ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ ecologism respectively; (ii) Bookchin’s disillusionment from anarchists in the US and his development of the idea of ‘libertarian municipalism’ which argued for local forms of democratic participation rather than a centralised state and economy; (iii) Bookchin’s most famous text The Ecology of Freedom (1982) and the argument therein that humanity’s domination of nature grows directly out of hierarchical domination within human societies; and (iv) Bookchin’s proposal for the abolition of all forms of hierarchy and his ideological disputes with other anarchist/ecologist thinkers such as Dave Foreman and Christopher Manes.
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 - Murray Bookchin and Social Ecology [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/ecologism/murray-bookchin-and-social-ecology
Humphrey, Matthew. "Ecologism – Murray Bookchin and Social Ecology." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Sep 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/ecologism/murray-bookchin-and-social-ecology