Damian F. White. Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal (Book Review) By Utopian Studies

Damian F. White. Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal (Book Review)

By Utopian Studies

  • Release Date: 2010-01-01
  • Genre: Religion & Spirituality

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Description

Damian F. White. Bookchin: A Critical Appraisal. London: Pluto Press, 2008. xvii + 236 pp. Paperback, $24.95. In a career spanning nearly a half-century, the U.S. writer and activist Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) fashioned a distinctive and highly ambitious social theory. Dubbing it "social ecology" (not to be confused with the "social ecology" pioneered by the Chicago school of urban sociology in the 1920s and 1930s), Bookchin aimed to synthesize elements of classical philosophy (especially Aristotle), humanistic Marxism, anarchism, natural science, and radical ecology. His goal was a holistic theory that would allow for a systematic analysis of our deeply problematic relationship with the nonhuman world and provide the necessary political and ethical guidelines so as to reconcile humanity and nature in the context of an imagined "good society." But there can be no such reconciliation until humanity itself is liberated in the form of free, self-governing, and cooperative communities, because, in Bookchin's reasoning, the domination of humankind through coercive and hierarchically structured societies both precedes historically and functions to legitimate the domination of nature. The roots of the contemporary environmental crisis can therefore be traced to what Bookchin calls an "underlying mentality of domination," one that projects the natural world as an unyielding and vindictive "realm of necessity," which must be conquered by a combination of brute force and ceaseless technological innovation. In this cosmic drama, humanity pulls itself out of the primordial slime by its own bootstraps so that it can enter the promised land of material abundance and "civilized" values, but at the supposedly unavoidable cost of social repression and ideologies of command and control. Such master narratives have encouraged our profound alienation from, and fear of, the natural world.