Marx’s Ecology

Book review: Marx’s Ecology: materialism & natureJohn Bellamy Foster, Monthly Review Press, New York 2000

This is the book for any `Greenie’ who wants to understand the ecological, political and socioeconomic implications of the far famed doyen of Socialist thought. As such it works both as an introduction to the German philosopher’s work and an application of it to the ecological dilemma facing our capitalist society.

Marx based his dynamic theory of historical relationships on ancient Graeco-roman Epicurean materialist thinking. This enabled him to focus on both socioeconomic questions and the human relationship with nature so disturbed by capitalist development.

Even in the 19th century of our present common historical era, Marx addressed ecological issues entailed by the relentless search for ever more profit, which subordinated even then natural imperatives to economic obsessions. In fact in his later years, having left his multivolume magnum opus Capital somewhat incomplete, he devoted himself to study of capitalist agriculture and the degrading effect he considered it to have on the soil.

Overall Marx thought that our era would end in Socialism or barbarism, namely the socioeconomic and ecological collapse we are in fact facing. Green approaches to the challenge of our times can only profit from measurement with the Marxist opus, because it is doubtful politically that mass insecurity will render the public susceptible to the Green message unless the social and economic concerns of the majority are adequately addressed.