Murray Bookchin


American Libertarian Socialist Author, Orator, Philosopher and Pioneer in the Ecology Movement

Author Quotes

Capitalism can no more be ?persuaded? to limit growth than a human being can be ?persuaded? to stop breathing.

Not only in the factory but also in the family, not only in the economy but also in the psyche, not only in the material conditions of life but also in the spiritual ones.

The domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.

Thus, in its call for a collective effort to change society, social ecology has never eschewed the need for a radically new spirituality or mentality. As early as 1965, the first public statement to advance the ideas of social ecology concluded with the injunction: ?The cast of mind that today organizes differences among human and other life-forms along hierarchical lines of ?supremacy or ?inferiority? will give way to an outlook that deals with diversity in an ecological manner ? that is, according to an ethics of complementarity.?1 In such an ethics, human beings would complement nonhuman beings with their own capacities to produce a richer, creative, and developmental whole ? not as a ?dominant? species but as supportive one. Although this ethics, expressed at times as an appeal for the ?re-spiritization of the natural world,? recurs throughout the literature of social ecology, it should not be mistaken for a theology that raises a deity above the natural world or even that seeks to discover one within it. The spirituality advanced by social ecology is definitively naturalist (as one would expect, given its relation to ecology itself, which stems from the biological sciences) rather than super-naturalistic or pantheistic.

You see something very important is happening. Personality is being eaten out, and with that the idealism that always motivated an anarchist movement?the belief in something, the ideal that there is something worth fighting for. I?m much more interested in developing human character in this society. And I?m much more interested in the social conditions that foster commitment to ideals, a sense of solidarity, purposefulness, steadfastness, responsibility?

Capitalism commercializes emotions by placing a dollar sign on everything people believe or feel.

Our Being is Becoming, not stasis. Our Science is Utopia, our Reality is Eros, our Desire is Revolution.

The effort in some quarters of the ecology movement to prioritize the need to develop a pantheistic ?eco-spirituality? over the need to address social factors (which actually erode all forms of spirituality) raises serious questions about their ability to comes to grips with reality. At a time when a blind social mechanism, the market, is turning soil into sand, covering fertile land with concrete, poisoning air and water, and producing sweeping climatic and atmospheric changes, we cannot ignore the impact that a hierarchical and class society has on the natural world. We must face the fact that economic growth, gender oppressions, and ethnic domination ? not to speak of corporate, state, and bureaucratic interests ? are much more capable of shaping the future of the natural world than are privatistic forms of spiritual self-regeneration. These forms of domination must be confronted by collective action and by major social movements that challenge the social sources of the ecological crisis, not simply by personalistic forms of consumption and investment that often go under the rubric of ?green capitalism.? The present highly cooptative society is only too eager to find new means of commercial aggrandizement and to add ecological verbiage to its advertising and customer relations efforts.

To sum up the reconstructive message of ecology: if we wish to advance the unity and stability of the natural world, if we wish to harmonize it, we must conserve and promote variety.

Due honor should certainly be given to Proudhon for developing federalistic notions of social organization against the nation-state and defending the rights of crafts people and peasants who were under the assault of industrial capitalism.

Our choices on how to transform the existing society are still on the table of history and are faced with immense problems. But unless present and future generations are beaten into complete submission by a culture based on queasy calculation as well as by police with tear gas and water cannons, we cannot desist from fighting for what freedoms we have and try to expand them into a free society wherever the opportunity to do so emerge.

The factory serves not only to discipline, unite, and organize the workers, but also to do so in a thoroughly bourgeois fashion. In the factory, capitalistic production not only renews the social relations of capitalism with each working day, as Marx observed, it also renews the psyche, values and ideologies of capitalism.

Ultimately there is no civic ?curriculum,? as it were, that can be a substitute for a living and creative political realm. But what we must clearly do in an era of commodification, rivalry, anomie, and egoism is formulate and consciously inculcate the values of humanism, cooperation, community, and public service in the everyday practice of civic life... Grass-roots citizenship must go hand in hand with grass-roots politics.

Every development must be free to find its own equilibrium. Spontaneity, far from inviting chaos, involves releasing the inner forces of a development to find their authentic order and stability... Spontaneity in social life converges with spontaneity in nature to provide the basis for an ecological society.

Our effort must now be directed throughout the entire year to catalyzing popular antiwar groups: popular assemblies and local action committees, if you like, each rooted in a community, campus, school, professional arena... factory, office, and research establishment. A real movement must be built out of these formations for the immediate purpose of antiwar activity and perhaps in the long run as popular modes of self-activity to achieve a society based on self-management... each popular institution is free to make its own local decisions, free to act or not act as it feels necessary.

The formation of local coalitions of non-party groups ? the best of the urban and rural communes, independent student groups, radical professional, working class, and women?s groups ... independent antiwar groups ? to act concertedly in choosing and presenting candidates for city councils in the municipalities of this country. These coalitions, we believe, must be free and non-hierarchical; they must try to be rooted in their local communities and act openly with each other in a consistently democratic manner, eschewing any form of bureaucratic or manipulatory behavior.

Unless we realize that the present market society, structured around the brutally competitive imperative of ?grow or die,? is a thoroughly impersonal, self-operating mechanism, we will falsely tend to blame other phenomena ? technology as such or population growth as such ? for environmental problems. We will ignore their root causes, such as trade for profit, industrial expansion, and the identification of progress with corporate self-interest. In short, we will tend to focus on the symptoms of a grim social pathology rather than on the pathology itself, and our efforts will be directed toward limited goals whose attainment is more cosmetic than curative.

I am puzzled by people today who, after moralizing about the need for cooperation and goodwill and love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself, suddenly invoke the most primitive, barbarous motivations for any kind of progress.

Partial ?solutions? serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis.

The hollow cone that we call a movement must acquire a more solid geometry. It must be filled in by an authentic popular movement based on the self-activity of the American people, not the theatrical eruptions of a dedicated minority.

Until society can be reclaimed by an undivided humanity that will use its collective wisdom, cultural achievements, technological innovations, scientific knowledge, and innate creativity for its own benefit and for that of the natural world, all ecological problems will have their roots in social problems.

I believe that there has to be an ideal and I favor an ethical anarchism which can be cohered into an ideal. I believe that it?s terribly important to have a movement that is spiritual, not in the supernatural sense, but in the sense of German Geist, spirit, which combines the idea of mind together with feeling, together with intuition. I?m sorry that some self-styled anarchists have picked up on the word spirit and have turned me into a theological ecologist, a notion which I think is crude beyond all belief. There has to be a body of values. I would prefer to call them ecological because my image of ecology goes beyond nature and extends into society as a whole?not to be confused in any way with socio-biology, which I think is an extremely regressive, reactionary tendency.

Power to the people' can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people. Each individual can then take control of his daily life. If 'Power to the people' means nothing more than power to the 'leaders' of the people, then the people remain an undifferentiated, manipulatable mass, as powerless after the revolution as they were before. In the last analysis, the people can never have power until they disappear as a 'people.

The idea of dominating nature has its primary source in the domination of human by human and the structuring of the natural world into a hierarchical Chain of Being.

We are asked to orient our ?strategies? and ?tactics? around poverty and material immiseration at a time when revolutionary sentiment is being generated by the banality of life under conditions of material abundance.

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American Libertarian Socialist Author, Orator, Philosopher and Pioneer in the Ecology Movement