Paul Burkett's Marx and Nature Fifteen Years After

Foster, John Bellamy

Publisher:  Monthly Review
Date Written:  01/12/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20156

Revisiting the content and contributions of Paul Burkett's book 'Marx and Nature', considering the changes in historical context and perceptions of environmental issues since its original publication.




Nevertheless, the fact that the basic analysis of Marx and Nature has now been widely affirmed by scholars does not make Burkett's work any less valuable to us today. Nor does it make it less important to continue to examine the works of Marx himself - or those of subsequent Marxists who can be said to have contributed to ecological thought. What it does suggest is that the significance of Burkett's Marx and Nature, fifteen years after its first appearance, lies less in its negative critique of first-stage ecosocialism than its positive contribution to the urgent task of developing a socialist alternative to capitalism's destructive ecology. The focus has thus shifted to what can be considered a third stage of ecosocialism research (the logical outgrowth of the second) in which the goal is to employ the ecological foundations of classical Marxian thought to confront present-day capitalism and the planetary ecological crisis that it has engendered - together with the ruling forms of ideology that block the development of a genuine alternative.


It is a testimony to the power of Burkett's contribution that others are now attempting to follow in his footprints, extending Marx's socio-ecological dialectic and ecological-value analysis to the scrutiny of today's environmental problems. We live in a time of great ecological peril, but we are also seeing a great flowering of socialist ecology and of more radical forms of environmental practice, particularly in the global South. Burkett's work has made possible a kind of spiraling movement in which critics of the status quo are able to move back to Marx's radical-materialist critique and then move forward again, newly inspired, to engage in revolutionary ecological and social praxis in the present. Mainstream environmentalism only describes the ecological crisis engendered by today's society; the point is to transcend it.
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