Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1. Introduction

By Kamran Nayeri, June 9, 2009

There is no doubt that humanity faces a socioeconomic, environmental and ecological crisis. Radical social change is necessary to resolves these interrelated crises. As a contribution towards finding solutions to these crises, this page is dedicated to exploring and advocating ecosocialism as a way to find Our Place in the World.

By ecosocialism, I mean a critical appropriation of the contributions of the socialist movement, beginning with Karl Marx, synthesized with a critical appropriation of contributions from the Deep Ecology movement beginning with Henry David Thoreau.
Marx characterized modern human condition by alienation from society, nature and, therefore, our true self. As social animals, we are neither truly social nor live up to our full potentials. Socialism for Marx was a process of overcoming alienation and fully developing our human nature. However, Marx’s work is essentially focused on understanding and revolutionizing social relations; he did not develop his analysis of our relationship with nature and how it too should be revolutionized.

As a movement, socialists have committed two major errors with respect to our relationship to nature. The more benign error was the assumption that the problematic of our relationship with nature will wither away with the arrival of socialism. Thus, the disastrous environmental policy of Stalinist industrialization did not become an issue even with its revolutionary socialist critics. The more malignant error involved the notion of “struggle against nature.” Marx’s humanism was in continuity with the anthropocentric worldview of the Renaissance that claimed humans have unlimited potential and power and the task of history is to realize them. Thus, the socialist discourse included the argument that nature can be “better controlled” in a planned economy.

It is the great merit of Thoreau and the Deep Ecology movement to break with this Western anthropocentric tradition in favor of an ecocentric (ecological) worldview. Thoreau, who also criticized commercial relations of his time, equated freedom with wildness. Deep Ecology movement has registered significant progress to organize a mass movement to resolve the current environmental and ecological problems (see the Eight Point Platform by Arnes Naess and George Sessions). Still, analysis of socioeconomic relations leading to environmental and ecological problems remains undeveloped. More specifically, there is no clear vision for a post-capitalist society.

Clearly, there is something to be gained from the synthesis of Marxian socialism and Deep Ecology insights. But is it possible? Fortunately, they both (that is, some strands of Deep Ecology) are built on the basis of philosophical materialism and share a historical method.
I maintain that the key to the ecosocialist synthesis is the Darwinian evolutionary theory that is consistent with both Marxian socialist theory and Deep Ecology materialist ecosophies (ecological philosophies; Naess’ terminology).

This is the task of Our Place in the World. I am looking forward to your contributions.

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kyle said...

This is a worthy undertaking Kamran - I am excited to follow its development. As a disclaimer, my formal knowledge of the topics is lacking. You state that:

"the key to the ecosocialist synthesis is the Darwinian evolutionary theory that is consistent with both Marxian socialist theory and Deep Ecology materialist ecosophies."

What comes to mind is the Marxist idea that man evolved as a social animal and maximizes his potential when develops himself and his social structures in a way in harmony with this fact. Ecologically, man evolved from previous organisms, just like every other creature on the planet. Animals in general live in harmony with their surroundings, in a way that allows for the continued existence of their species. As far as I know, man alone has escaped this rule of nature, and thrown things terribly our of balance. He is thus approaching his relationship to nature in a way that is contradictory to his Darwinian roots.

I do see the parallel here with the socially destructive patterns of isolation and competition in modern capitalism, again throwing man out of sync with his Darwinian origins. I am ill-read in both of these subjects, and thus am looking forward to where you go with this :)

Kamran Nayeri said...


You are absolutely correct in my view. I hope to develop these ideas later in this page. I am glad that you have written about them and I hope others do the same. By the way, I also do not claim to be an authority on any of these subjects (although I know a fair amount about some, e.g. socialist theory and history). But we cannot afford not to think, analyze, communicate and act until we feel fully enlightened. Thus, I do really rely on others to help me out in this project. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

frmurph1 said...

Looking forward to reading more here. Check this out: http://bit.ly/fwSq2

Kamran Nayeri said...


Glad to see you have taken the time to look at this page. Thanks for the article on the potential food crisis due to reliance on agribusiness. The parallel with the financial crisis is not coincidental; agribusiness and financial sectors are both part of the capitalist economy and organized accordingly. Somewhere down the road, we will look at food, and not just from the perspective of how to meet demand from over 7 billion people, but also from ethics of food production. I hope you will continue to contribute.

Derek Wall said...

take a look at John Bellamy Foster's book Marx's Ecology, if you have not done so.

also keep it real, the ecosocialists in the forests of Peru have been working hard, take a look at their work, http://www.aidesep.org.pe/

And here http://www.luchaindigena.com/

find about their work and please support them

Kamran Nayeri said...


Thanks for your comments. I have read Foster's fine book. However, what he is doing there is to confront the anti-Marx environmentalists with the fact that Marx was indeed aware of and concerned with some environmental issues of his time and that Marx's theory of social change is necessary for the environmentalist who come to realize that capitalism must be replaced.

What I am arguing is that Marx was still an anthropocenteric and what socialism requires is an ecocenteric framework. The blog will work towards a synthesis of Marx's ideas with this framework in mind.

I will certainly examine with interest the links you suggested and your own blog.

And thanks very much for the link to Hugo Blanco's blog! I know Hugo from the 1970s and interviewed him once in Italy in 1980!