1 OR GA NI ZA TION & EN VI RON Gimenez MENT / DOES / Sep tem ECOL ber 2000 OGY NEED MARX? DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? MARTHA E. GIMENEZ University of Col o rado Boul der The relationship between ecology and Marx in the United States is difficult because of the lack of work ing-class pol i tics and labor parties; the pragmatic, undialectical recep tion of Marx ism among most intellectuals; and the strength of the ideological, polit i cal and aca - demic con sen sus against Marx. This essay is an intervention in the ideological strug gle to estab lish the relevance of Marx for ecology. The author briefly outlines mainstream, ecocentric and ecofeminist per spec tives and offers a Marx ist critique of their accounts of the causes of ecological prob lems. The author then pro ceeds to present some of the ele ments of Marx s ecology and recent contributions by marx ist ecologists, and argu ing that an ecology without Marx is, in the last instance, an ecology for the privileged, the author con cludes with a call for a red/green dialogue conducive to the development of a movement that seeks the end of the exploitation of both labor and the earth. N arrowly defined, ecology is a sci ence that exam ines the complex sys - temic interactions between the nat u ral envi ron ment and non hu man life forms. 1 Politically, however, ecology today is a generic, mul ti fac eted term that applies to a num ber of heterogeneous ide ol o gies, the o ret i cal perspectives, and political prac tices concerned with the rela tion ship between human pop u la tions and nature (i.e., with the char ac ter is tics of natural eco sys tems and the mostly del e te ri - ous ways they are changed by the effects of human intervention). Some of the main problems that con cern ecologists are the effects of pop u la tion growth, density and size, envi ron men tal pol lu tion, resource deple tion, the extinc tion of plant and ani - mal spe cies and decline in biodiversity, and the effects of envi ron men tal deg ra da - tion on peo ple s health and qual ity of life. From an eco log i cal standpoint, these and other effects of human activities threaten the sustainability of the earth itself as an ecosystem increas ingly out of balance and, con se quently, the survival of all life forms, including the human species. In this arti cle, I intend to present some of the basic assumptions of the dominant ecological perspectives and, from the standpoint of Marxist theory, assess their problematic the o ret i cal and polit i cal impli ca tions, estab lish ing the grounds for my affirmative response to the ques tion that frames the following anal y sis. Ecology does need Marx in order to become theoretically ade quate to the task of under stand - ing the nature of the phe nom ena that con cern it and politically effective in the strug - gles toward social and eco log i cal change. I am aware that most envi ron men tal activists today would dis agree with this conclusion, but this is to be expected in the current political and ideo log i cal climate. I am, of course, aware that the merits of this and similar conclusions can not be established by fiat, but through his tor i cal Organization & En vi ron ment, Vol. 13 No. 3, Sep tem ber Sage Publications, Inc. 292
2 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 293 processes reveal ing the capitalist, historically specific barriers to the long-term suc - cess of isolated envi ron men tal struggles. ECOLOGY AND MARX ISM The rela tion ship between ecol ogy and Marx ism has always been difficult. Marxists tend to argue that despite the con sid er able dif fer ences from Mal thus s (1933) views, which characterize some eco log i cal perspectives today, ecology reproduces the logic of his arguments by pos it ing nat u ral (i.e., unsur mount able) lim its to the pos si bil ity of cre at ing a better soci ety (e.g., see Hardin, 1988, 1995). Whereas Malthus saw an irresolvable conflict between the tendency of the human population to grow exponentially and the inability of food production to grow at the same pace, ecol o gists today posit a conflict between the world s pop u la tion size and growth rate, the earth s limited car ry ing capacity, the need to con tain and rem - edy the envi ron men tal and human effects of industrialization, and the unmet needs of the vast majority of the world s population (Daly, 1996; Hardin, 1993; Ornstein & Ehrlich, 1989; Postel, 1994; Tobias, 1988). Most ecologists, because of the disas trous envi ron men tal record of the former Soviet Union and its East ern European sat el lites, argue that the key sources of the ecological prob lems afflict ing the world today are indus tri al iza tion, whether under cap i tal ist or social rela tions of pro duc tion, and the util i tar ian atti tudes and prac tices toward nature it produces (e.g., Dobson, 1995, pp ). This and similar argu - ments tend to blame Marx, and his the o ret i cal and polit i cal her i tage, for Sta lin ism and its pur suit of eco nomic growth regard less of human and eco log i cal costs. They ignore the eco log i cal cri tique of cap i tal ism con tained in Marx s work as well as its influence on Kautsky, Lenin, and Bukharin (for an illu mi nat ing discussion about Lenin s envi ron men tal policies and the eco log i cal views and con cerns of these prominent Marxists, as well as other Soviet scholars, see Fos ter, 1999, pp ). Fur ther more, because Marx and Engels work is vast, complex, and con tra - dic tory, a great deal of the skep ti cism about its the o ret i cal and political relevance for ecology is likely to rest on undialectical and stereotyped read ings and the lit eral, rather than the o ret i cal, interpretation of isolated quotes. In light of the het er o ge ne ity of the eco log i cal literature, it is dif fi cult to answer the ques tion of whether ecology needs Marx because there is not one ecology, but many. Fur ther more, they are separated by deep differences in their theorizing about nature, the place of human beings in nature, and the causes and the solutions to eco - log i cal problems. Browsing the literature, one encoun ters many kinds of ecol o gies (e.g., social, rad i cal, polit i cal, feminist, deep, shallow, neo-mal thu sian, social ist, and even Marxist). 2 For the purposes of this article, I will limit my discussion to the three main non-marx ist ten den cies within cur rent eco log i cal thinking: main stream or anthro po cen tric, deep ecology or ecocentric, and ecofeminist. The dom i nant, mainstream, anthropocentric (or shallow, from the standpoint of deep ecologists) approaches to envi ron men tal/eco log i cal problems (e.g., Gore, 1993) are concerned with revers ing pro cesses of envi ron men tal deg ra da tion, the basis for economic sustainability, and human survival strategies that take into account the needs to preserve ecological equi lib rium while privileging the fulfill - ment of human needs. Mainstream environmentalism does not chal lenge the basic premises of cap i tal ism such as the endless pur suit of economic growth and higher levels of material consumption, the belief in the capacity of tech nol ogy to solve all problems, or the reduc tion of nature and other life forms to resources to be exploited. Its goals are to ame lio rate the eco log i cal effects of the pres ent sys tem
3 294 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 that might inter fere with busi ness as usual or might have negative effects on peo - ple s health, employment, and lifestyles. Eco log i cal prob lems are viewed as sim ply the unanticipated consequences of economic and social activ i ties, which can even - tu ally be solved to the extent peo ple and corporations are induced to change their behavior through mixtures of economic rewards and punishments. Changes in land-use policies, strug gles against toxic and radioactive waste dump ing, efforts to clean up the air by monitoring automobile emissions, belief in the need to control population growth as a way to decrease envi ron men tal degradation, resource deple - tion, pov erty, and other social problems are exam ples of the kinds of issues that con - cern mainstream environmentalism. Permeating the understanding of eco log i cal problems among main stream environmentalists is the neo-mal thu sian under stand - ing of population and its social, envi ron men tal, eco nomic, and political effects that continues to dominate U.S. culture, media discussions, social science, and policy making about envi ron men tal and social prob lems in the United States and abroad, especially in the Third World. 3 The alternative ecocentric perspectives, such as deep ecol ogy (e.g., Naess, 1988; Tobias, 1988; Sessions, 1995), demote humans from their privileged position in rela tion ship to the nat u ral envi ron ment and other life forms and advo cate biospheric egalitarianism (Naess, 1995, p. 167), giv ing equal survival and fulfill - ment claims to all forms of life. Other impor tant themes of deep ecol ogy are the stress on the intrin sic value of the human and nonhuman worlds; the need to main - tain the diversity of all life forms and all of nature s ecosystems to further the well-being of nature as a whole in its human and non hu man aspects; the need to change substantially the present forms of human intervention in natural processes and ways of think ing to stop the wors en ing of the eco log i cal dis rup tion and restore the bal ance of nature; the need to esti mate the carrying capac ity of the earth as a whole and of the various bioregions where humans are settled as grounds for the need to sub stan tially reduce the size of the human population to give room to non - hu man life forms to flourish; and the need to reduce drastically consumption, waste, and technological developments that destroy the bal ance of nature and decrease biodiversity (e.g., Devall & Sessions, 1995; Naess, 1995). Ecocentric approaches blame the eco log i cal crisis on the anthropocentrism and thirst for power that they argue characterize most of human his tory, especially Western indus trial societies and their cul tural, philo soph i cal, and religious tra di tions that legitimate the dominance of men over women and nature, and of the rich over the poor. Phi los - ophers and activ ists within this perspective have, in their rejec tion of Western ideas, sought sup port to their claims in a mix ture of non-western cul tural, philosophical, and religious tra di tions, bringing together elements of Native Amer i can cultures, Zen Buddhism, mythol o gies, and Oriental mysticism, and sug gest ing a holistic, interconnected, ecological, car ing, and mystical worldview in oppo si tion to in their view the rationalistic, analytic, instru men tal, and exploitative worldview typ i cal of Western soci et ies and fostered by industrialization and its use and abuse of nature and peo ple (Devall & Sessions, 1995). Dif fer ent from and crit i cal of ecocentric per spec tives and pol i tics is ecofeminism, which refers to a broad spec trum of feminist trends that combine alle - giance to different kinds of fem i nist the ory and politics with environmental con - cerns (Carlassare, 1994; Plumwood, 1994, 1998, p. 213). Some strands of ecofeminism share the ecocentric turn to elements of non-western cul tures, phi los - ophies, mythol o gies, religions, and tra di tions, to the ancient ancestry of the great mothers and to female deities to build their understanding of ecology and of the place of humans in nature (Bandarage, 1997, pp ; Christ, 1994;
4 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 295 d Eaubonne, 1994, p. 186; Shiva, 1995, pp ). Social and social ist ecofeminists, although shar ing deep ecology s critique of anthropocentrism, are nevertheless crit i cal of its relative indifference to androcentrism and to the struc - tures of domination that divide people, such as cap i tal ism and patriarchy. (Jackson, 1995, pp ; Plumwood, 1994, p. 208). Rad i cal cultural ecofeminists consider that women are closer to nature than men, pos tu lat ing women s supe rior ability, based on their reproductive experiences and inher ent nur tur ing capacities, to under stand and act in sup port of envi ron men - tal protection and all life forms. They also con sider patriarchy to be the main source of the dom i na tion of women and nature. Eco log i cal prob lems, overpopulation, and class con flicts are fundamentally male problems, the effects of culture and soci ety built by males and for males benefit. For exam ple, though critical of ecofeminists who essentialize male culture, New (1996) agrees with the view that the social repro duc tion of male domination and of eco log i cally destructive practices are insep a ra ble (New, 1996, p. 80). Plumwood (1998) argues that essentialism was more typ i cal of the early stages of ecofeminism than of its more recent trends. For exam ple, ecofeminists who are also social ist fem i nists do not embrace an essentialist under stand ing of women and the relationship between women and nature, nor do they agree with the subsumption of eco log i cal and social prob lems as effects of male dom i na tion and postulate a vari ety of interactions between cap i tal - ism and patriarchy (King, 1994; Plumwood, 1994). Despite their con sid er able dif - ferences, common to all forms of ecofeminism is the placing of patriarchy at the core of the eco log i cal cri sis and the insistence on the con nec tions between the oppression of women, the oppres sion of nature, and the oppres sion of all the social groups that have been nat u ral ized and feminized as part of their oppres sion. This is why Plumwood (1994) envisions the possibility of a social ecofeminism as gen - eral theory of oppres sion (for a critique of the polit i cal and intel lec tual impli ca - tions of some ecofeminist stand points while pos it ing a gender-informed envi ron - mentalism as an alternative, see Jackson, 1995). These dis pa rate forms of ecological con scious ness are the ideo log i cal ways in which most peo ple under stand today the effects of the capitalist exploitation of labor and natural resources. Our reflections on social events and problems and attempts to explain their causes with the tools of the social sciences or philosophy take a course directly opposite to that of their actual his tor i cal development..., we begin post festum, with the results of the process of development ready to hand (Marx, 1974, p. 75), and we apprehend them through forms of con scious ness that reflect both our loca tion in the social struc ture as well as the dom i nant ide ol o - gies of the times. These and other forms of eco log i cal consciousness (e.g., critiques of environmental racism, con cerns with environmental justice) reflect individuals class, gen der, socioeconomic status, racial/eth nic divi sions, and loca tion in dif fer - ent social and geo graphic spaces. As such, they have a material base in the manifold ways in which environmental deg ra da tion, destruction of old forests, decline in biodiversity, the destruc tion of public space and undermining of com mu nity, the alienation of labor, and the deterioration of the health of the pres ent and future gen - er a tions affect dif fer ent peo ple in dif fer ent ways, depend ing on their social and spa - tial loca tions. For the wealthy and better-off classes isolated from envi ron men tal hazards, urban decay, and urban sprawl, it is mainly a question of prof its, per sonal safety, and life style pref er ences, whereas for the work ing classes and the poor, especial those who belong to racial and eth nic minor i ties, it is a often question of life and death. 4
5 296 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 To say that they are ideo log i cal forms of consciousness means simply to point out that they are partial and, therefore, offer misleading understandings to the extent they posit abstract, ahistorical expla na tions for phenomena that from a Marxist theoretical stand point, have con crete, historically specific deter mi nants in the dom i nant mode of production and its his tor i cally specific context. Each approach high lights aspects of the effects of cap i tal ism on peo ple and nature that need to be brought into public con scious ness to mobilize people to strug gle against the continuation of these exploitative practices. However, the expla na tions put forth to account for these problems, shaped by the social loca tion of their advocates and the dom i nant theories and ide ol o gies estab lish ing struc tural lim its to the thinkable, affect the kinds of counter-hegemonic ide ol o gies that emerge as well as peo ple s views about the kinds of actions they can take and the kinds of policies and polit i cal organizing considered desir able. The forms of eco log i cal consciousness pre vi ously exam ined are, to some extent, abstract negations of a status quo char ac ter ized by male dominance, envi ron men tal destruc tion, and the wor ship of eco nomic growth and mate rial consumption for their own sake; hence, the privileging of nature over humans, the blam ing of men rather than the mode of pro duc tion, and the rejection of all things Western in the pur suit of a polit i cal ecology of nostalgia, according to which all non-western philosophies, reli gions, cultures, and all times past were eco log i cally sound and nonexploitative (Mukta & Hardiman, 2000). Explanations that blame anthropocentrism or patriarchy lead to limited under - stand ings of the causes of environmental degradation and women s oppres sion. The most extreme positions rest on the assump tion of universal, inher ent flaws in human nature or in males, while pos tu lat ing the inherent good ness of nature and of women. However, even those who rec og nize the historicity of the ori gins of current beliefs, atti tudes, and prac tices and avoid essentializing men, by attrib ut ing explan - a tory value to the propensities and traits of individuals, narrow unnecessarily the range of political options open to envi ron men tal activists who, rather than strug - gling for struc tural and even systemic changes, end up focused on per sonal change or on specific, local issues that leave the capitalist struc tural deter mi nants of eco - log i cal problems untouched and unchallenged. Also prob lem atic are expla na tions that find the cause of envi ron men tal prob lems in tech nol ogy, because they result in the abstract nega tion of industrialization and the uncrit i cal praise, as desirable alter - natives, of non-western and precapitalist forms of pro duc tion, social organization, and culture, which, on close examination, often turn out to be less eco log i cally benign and oppressive to women and direct producers regardless of gender (for a cri tique of some of those perspectives, see Mukta & Hardiman, 2000). To argue, as Marx ists do, that it is impor tant to trace the capitalist ori gins of the phe nom ena that matter to all eco log i cally concerned people is not a form of reductionism, but an acknowledgement of the historical con di tions that shape our lives and our relationship with nature and other life forms. Although it is important to engage in personal-level earth-friendly changes and to strug gle to resolve local environmental problems, it is even more important to attain knowledge of the spe - cifically capitalist economic processes, social relations, polit i cal vested interests, policies, regulations, and forms of con scious ness that conspire to produce and reproduce wealth, power, health, and well-being for a small minority and envi ron - men tal catastrophes, expo sure to toxic chem i cals, poor health, alienation, pov erty, and inse cu rity for the vast majority of the peo ple. Individualistic and psychologistic explanations, stress ing human or male greed, carelessness, self ish ness, thirst for dom i na tion, con sum er ism, and so on can inspire
6 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 297 some indi vid u als to change drastically their values and prac tices, adopt ing sim pler and less-polluting life styles, recy cling, becom ing involved in local envi ron men tal activities, and help ing oth ers in their struggles (e.g., see Andersen, 1995). Whereas changes in indi vid u als consciousness and behaviors are important because they show, in practice, the pos si bil ity of lead ing a different and enjoy able life while min - i miz ing one s contribution to envi ron men tal deterioration, in themselves these changes are not only insufficient to pro duce qualitative changes but can and have been eas ily coopted by businesses cater ing to the needs of those who practice what they preach and, for example, shop for organic produce and earth- and crea turefriendly goods (e. g., see Brower & Leon, 1999). Explanations in terms of natural limits and eco log i cal laws often rep li cate the Malthusian trick of naturalizing the effects of social insti tu tions and power rela - tions. Marx was not a one-sided social constructionist and did not reduce nature to thought about nature or to a human construct. Marxists are not opposed to the notion that there are nat u ral limits to what social orga ni za tions can accomplish, but become skeptical when natural lim its are invoked to support the status quo and deny the possibility of estab lish ing a more equitable form of social organization. This is why Marxists are likely to scrutinize the notion of nat u ral limits and appeals to nat - u ral laws to explain the effects of sociohistorical and political processes that stand in the way of needed social changes. Marx s anal y sis of the fetishism of commodities (Marx, 1974, pp ) is use - ful to demys tify the extent to which notions of ecological prob lems, eco log i cal lim - its, or nat u ral lim its are reified ways of referring to the effects of historically spe - cific forms of exploi ta tion of nature and labor. To avoid this nat u ral is tic mystification, or the attribution of the effects of the mode of production to nature, it is impor tant to dif fer en ti ate and identify the lim its of objective pos si bil ity (given natural laws), the lim its of poten tial human capa bil ity (i.e., what is not only within the realm of pos si bil ity, given nat u ral laws, but also tech ni cally possible), and what is historically pos si ble, given the existing mode of production and bal ance of power between the contending classes (Mills, , pp ). The naturalistic mystification occurs when social, his tor i cal forces are construed as nat u ral lim its or natural causes. Thus, for exam ple, fam ines can be explained by peo ple s nat u ral propensity to overreproduce, and envi ron men tal degradation can be accounted for by our having forgotten our place in the nat u ral order of things, as one spe cies among oth ers and becom ing, instead, a per ni cious spe cies, a blight on the earth. Another form of mystification is that which hides relations of dom i na tion under technological imperatives, postulating that it is indus tri al iza tion, not cap i tal ism, that causes envi ron men tal deg ra da tion. A more subtle form of mystification is entailed in the cri tique of rationality. Mainstream environmentalism is uncrit i cal of instrumental or formal rationality, con sid er ing it as a taken-for-granted characteristic of human nature, Western cul - tures, and phi los o phies culminating in the scientific prac tices and world out look of Western industrial soci et ies. Ecocentric and ecofeminist perspectives, on the other hand, con sider it as a destructive human, per haps uniquely male, trait that taints our culture, ide ol o gies, and activ i ties, including the production of knowl edge, and a powerful contributing cause of eco log i cal disturbances and envi ron men tal blight. Fem i nist skep ti cism about the desirability of instru men tal ratio nal ity as a positive human trait is understandable because it has been ideologically used to legitimate economic exploi ta tion (of peo ple and nature), and male dom i nance over nature and women, who are then con cep tu al ized as beings closer to nature than to culture and, therefore, nonrational or irra tio nal and even less than human, for ratio nal ity is the
7 298 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 distinguishing trait that separates humanity from non hu man life forms (Plumwood, 1995, 1998, p. 214). Following Lukács (1968) identification of the flaws inherent in German roman - tic anticapitalism, which eschewed the analysis of the realities of cap i tal ist accu mu - la tion and instead focused on capitalism s superstructural effects, I argue that the ecocentric critique of instru men tal reason today rep li cates the theoretical and polit - i cal draw backs of the cri tique of the cul tural and subjective effects of cap i tal ism typ i cal of early German sociology, which reduced the essence of cap i tal ist devel op - ment to a change from community to soci ety (e.g., Tonnies, 1963), or to a pro - cess of ratio nal iza tion or disenchantment of the world (Weber, 1969, p. 155). This leaves out side the scope of theorizing and crit i cism the organic connection between instru men tal, subjective, or formal ratio nal ity and its material con di tions of possi - bil ity, the cap i tal ist mode of production (Lukács, 1968, pp ). To some extent, a similar argu ment can be made about Horkheimer s (1969) critique of instru men tal ratio nal ity, which has been influ en tial in ecological think ing (e.g., see Leiss, 1994; for a different view, see Eckersley, 1994). Abstracting instru men tal rationality from its specifically cap i tal ist con di tions and focusing on its form, Horkheimer argues that it is both... an important symptom of a far reach ing change that occurred in occidental thinking through out the last few centuries (Horkheimer, 1969, p. 16; my translation) and the prod uct of a presumably innate human need to dominate nature (Horkheimer, 1969, p. 184). The notion that ratio nal ity somehow emerged with cap i tal ism under lies the Weberian notion of the dis en chant ment of the world, in other words, the secular dis - placement of value ratio nal and tra di tional actions by instrumentally ratio nal actions, whereby peo ple and nature become means for the attainment of indi vid u - als ends, and the ends are chosen in terms of util ity, cost/benefits calculations, and efficiency, rather than on the basis of mag i cal, emotional, tra di tional, eth i cal, or cul - tural grounds. Today, ecocentric environmentalists and some ecofeminists call for the re-enchant ment of the world, seek ing guid ance from ancient and not-so-ancient phi los o phies, gods and god desses, ways of life, or from attempts to regain a presumably lost and desir able unity with nature. But what is decried today as West ern or male ratio nal ity is actually capitalist instru men tal ratio nal ity, which reduces people and nature to means for profit max i - mization and cap i tal accu mu la tion, for cap i tal ism... has left remain ing no other nexus between man and man [and between man and nature] than naked self-interest (Marx & Engels, 1848/1976, p. 487). If con sid ered purely in for mal terms, instru - men tal rationality is neu tral in its impli ca tions; it refers simply to the adequacy of means to ends. Environmentalists themselves routinely behave just as ratio nally when they choose means adequate to their ends (e.g., recycling to avoid the accu - mulation of waste). The point is that for mally rational behavior is nei ther the pre - rogative of capitalists or of males or of Western cul tures; all human beings behave rationally in a formal sense and what var ies, accord ing to the historical context in which they live, is the nature of the means and the ends they ratio nally pursue. These, in turn, are determined by the material con di tions for mally ratio nal actions pre sup pose that establish the actual content of formally ratio nal behav ior. Weber identified the mate rial or substantive con di tions of formal cap i tal ist ratio - nal ity (e.g., the exploi ta tion of labor, the expropriation of the direct pro duc ers from the means of pro duc tion, income inequal ity, the lack of freedom under ly ing labor force par tic i pa tion) and acknowledged that these mate rial con di tions can be the source of material pos tu lates or claims (e.g., equity, ratio nal, or universal pro vi sion of needs) toward which formal eco nomic rationality is absolutely indifferent
8 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 299 (Weber, 1969, p. 83). It is in that indifference that he located the the o ret i cal lim its of formal rationality, for it is impervious to the ethical and political implications of its effects, as demonstrated in numer ous examples. For example,... that the utmost formal rationality of cap i tal account ing is only possible by the sub jec tion of work - ers to the entre pre neurs domination is another material irrationality specific to the economic order (Weber, 1969, pp , author s empha sis, my translation). Cur rent examples of that irra tio nal ity are the gloom with which capitalists view the lowest unemployment rates in 30 years, and growth in per capita GNP, while wealth and income inequalities reach new heights. The exploi ta tion of nature is one of the material con di tions of capitalist rational - ity and it too has given rise to substantive claims (e.g., sus tain able devel op ment, ecological bal ance, preservation of biodiversity) toward which instru men tal ratio - nal ity is com pletely indifferent, unless ecologically sound measures are at the same time prof it able or polit i cally expe di ent. However, this indifference of formal ratio - nal ity toward its eco log i cally and socially damaging effects is neither irra tio nal (Weber) nor inher ent in its form, but a manifestation of the class char ac ter of its con - tent. What is ratio nal for the cap i tal ist class is rational for the mode of production (i.e., cap i tal ist subjective and objective ratio nal ity coincide), but not nec es sar ily ratio nal for either nature or the majority of the world s pop u la tion. In light of these argu ments, it follows that instru men tal ratio nal ity always pre - sup poses a material or substantive ratio nal ity embodied in its material con di tions of possibility and actualized through the hierarchy of pref er ences gov ern ing indi vid u - als choices of means and ends. Because Weber refuses to see the ratio nal ity behind the irra tio nal ity he eloquently describes, it is under stand able that the alternatives he conceives pre clude a change in the rela tions of dom i na tion and exploi ta tion while pos it ing, instead, the possibility of the rise of char is matic leaders or ref uge in anti thet i cal values, which is the road taken by ecocentric and some ecofeminist per - spectives. The ecocentric conflation of capitalist ratio nal ity with instru men tal rationality results, then, in the neglect of the capitalist struc tural and ideo log i cal causes of eco log i cal problems, and the search for and adoption of religious, mys ti - cal, tra di tional and, pre sum ably, inher ently female (i.e., nonrational) value sys tems and ways of relat ing to nature and other people that although they might be poet i cal and beau ti ful, are less likely to be effective in the struggle toward a sustainable envi - ron ment and human eman ci pa tion. Adherence to ecocentric ideologies is more likely to lead to an understanding of social change that starts with per sonal consciousness and behav ior (e.g., changes in lifestyles toward vol un tary simplicity) on the assump tion that macrolevel social change is simply the result of the sum of changed individual behaviors. However, not all the processes that lead to envi ron men tal deterioration, pol lu tion, and pop u la - tion growth beyond what a given area can sus tain are reducible to the sum of indi - vidual behaviors; they are the effect of complex struc tural ten den cies that would require qualitative struc tural changes to change the unde sir able envi ron men tal and human out comes decried by ecol o gists of all per sua sions. In this respect, Marx ism can offer ecology a cri tique of capitalist ratio nal ity as well as the anal y sis of the conditions conducive to the emergence of an eco log i cal rationality; there is no need to appeal to mys ti cism or religion to argue for the neces sity of changes in the ways capitalism affects nature and all forms of life. Marxism can also iden tify the eco - nomic and polit i cal limits to the effectiveness of earth-friendly changes in indi vid - ual behavior, and the structural barriers to qualitative changes in the macrolevel processes that con tinue to disrupt the environment despite the changes in per sonal behavior within some sectors of the pop u la tion.
9 300 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 CON CLU SION Does ecol ogy need Marx? I won der, at this point, what ecology is, for it seems to be an umbrella term like sexism and racism, which cov ers a vari ety of macrolevel and microlevel phenomena produced by different causes and lends itself to the development of a wide vari ety of con flict ing ide ol o gies and the o ret i cal frame - works. I would pre fer to change the ques tion to the following: Are Marx and Marx - ism contingent or essen tial in the struggles against envi ron men tal degradation and all forms of exploitation and oppres sion? Although in the eyes of envi ron men tal activists, they may seem irrelevant in the context of day-to-day strug gles, the need for an all-encompassing theory capable of illuminating the nec es sary con nec tions between seem ingly sep a rate problems will emerge in time, as activists learn from their experiences that there are capitalist struc tural barriers to the effec tiveness of their individual behav ioral changes and legal and polit i cal successes. This is why it is impor tant that Marxists do more than engage in the o ret i cal cri tique. They should be involved in specific struggles, learn ing from their experiences and sharing their learning with those whose views may be dif fer ent but whose political goals might be the same. This does not imply, however, that the o ret i cal work should be sec ond - ary to political involve ment. On the con trary, as the world systemic nature of cap i - tal ism becomes increasingly vis i ble, the accelerated nature of the cir cu la tion of capital and labor are cre at ing the con di tions for the emer gence of regional trans na - tional working-class orga ni za tions and move ments. At the same time, the exploi ta - tion of nature and the circulation of waste, pollutants, viruses, infec tious diseases, pests, plant diseases, and healthy animals and plants delib er ately or unwit tingly taken from their natural habitat intensify and highlight the global nature of most ecological problems. As the situation worsens at the local, regional, national, and world lev els of analysis, it will call for the Marx ist his tor i cal analysis of its con di - tions of existence and reproduction through time and will also call for the devel op - ment of regulatory agen cies and planning. Marxist contributions to ecology that despite their importance and time li ness are today largely the con cern of academics will at that time become even more relevant. A careful reading of Marx and Engels works leads to the real iza tion that their political econ omy, firmly grounded on mate ri al ist premises, contains important theoretical categories and meth od olog i cal guide lines for the the o ret i cal analysis of the deter mi nants of the current ecological predicament, and for the development of a Marx ist ecol ogy based on eco log i cal prin ci ples central to Marxist the ory (Burkett, 1999; Foster, 2000; Parsons, 1977). Inherent in the pre mises of his tor i cal mate ri al ism is the notion of the coevolu tion of nature and society. Human devel op - ment, the unfold ing of human potentials, and emer gence of new needs and tal ents pre sup pose the material production and reproduction of life and of means of sub sis - tence, pro cesses through which both humans and nature change and are mutu ally sustaining. Marx postulates the exis tence of a pro cess of social metab o lism between human ity and nature and identifies, under capitalism, the presence of a metabolic rift brought about by agri cul tural and trade prac tices that despoil the earth with out replenishing its resources and rob whole regions of their natural con - di tions of production (Fos ter, 1999). Rejecting ecology s rad i cal divi sion between nature and society, accord ing to which societies face insurmountable nat u ral lim its, Marx and Engels offer a mate ri al ist and dia lec ti cal theory of the rela tion ship between humanity and nature. Natural lim its are both material and con di tion ers of social orga ni za tion and human beings while, at the same time, oper at ing through social con di tions established by the level of development of the forces of pro duc -
10 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 301 tion and the exist ing relations of pro duc tion. In other words, to the abstract mate ri - al ism inherent in the dominant eco log i cal perspectives that because of their undialectical standpoint, com bine an ide al ist understanding of the causes of eco - log i cal problems with what amounts to a vulgar mate ri al ist understanding of nat u - ral limits, Marx ism opposes a dia lec ti cal approach that preserves the mate ri al ist side of nature and its laws while acknowl edg ing the history-making capacity of human ity (Timpanaro, 1975). Although Marx s ecology can be recov ered and devel oped through the investi - gation of Marx s, Engels s, and other noted Marxists philosophical, meth od olog i - cal, and the o ret i cal assumptions (Foster, 1999), impor tant ele ments for con struct - ing a Marxist ecology can also be identified through the exploration of the eco log i cal effects of cap i tal ist pro duc tion, trans por ta tion, use of space, taken-for-granted patterns of con sump tion and waste, and so on. O Connor (1988) contributed to the development of eco log i cal Marxism with the conceptualization of a second cap i tal ist con tra dic tion as the basis for a dif fer ent theory of economic cri sis and transition toward socialism. The first contradiction and source of cri ses of underconsumption and overproduction is the contradiction between capitalist pro - ductive forces and production relations ; the second contradiction is the con tra - dic tion between capitalist production rela tions (and productive forces) and the con - di tions of production, or capitalist rela tions and forces of reproduction (O Connor, 1988, p. 13, author s emphasis), mean ing labor power, nature, and the com mu nal or general conditions of social pro duc tion, such as infrastructures and means of com - munication (O Connor, 1988, p.14). This the o ret i cal innovation was received with both praise and criticism, result ing in a series of productive exchanges that deep - ened our under stand ing of the capitalist sources of eco log i cal problems and of the complex impli ca tions of eco log i cal strug gles when placed in the context of local, national, and world inequality (Guha, 1994; Mingione, 1993). 5 Foster (1992) pres - ents an alternative interpretation of the two con tra dic tions as the abso lute gen eral law of capitalist accumulation and the absolute gen eral law of envi ron men tal degradation under cap i tal ism, meaning the tendency toward pro duc ing wealth and simul ta neously depleting and spoiling the nat u ral con di tions of wealth accu mu la - tion (pp ). Cap i tal ism seeks to con trol the worse effects of its con tra dic tions through var i ous forms of state inter ven tion, eco log i cal restruc tur ing, and cooptation of eco log i cal con cerns (e.g., the emer gence of envi ron men tal eco nom - ics and the pursuit of busi ness as usual under the rhet o ric of sus tain able devel op - ment and eco log i cal modernization; Barry, 1999, pp ). However, the effects of the sec ond con tra dic tion are infi nitely more dif fi cult to man age than the first, and cap i tal ism will even tu ally be unable to elude the revenge of nature (Fos ter, 1992, p. 80). It is impor tant to keep in mind, however, a third contradiction: that is, the contra - dic tion between capital and labor, which has pivotal political and envi ron men tal implications because the greater the exploitation of labor, the greater its vul ner a bil - ity to envi ron men tal problems and the greater the like li hood that workers eco - nomic survival might clash with the goals of envi ron men tal ists. This is why Marx - ists bring to ecology the need to for mu late ecological and envi ron men tal objectives while tak ing into con sid er ation their potential effects on workers current and future abil ity to make a living (for a discussion of the need to bring economic inequality into the core of eco log i cal thinking see, for example, Mingione, 1993). This is why the future of humanity and the earth lies with the for ma tion of a labor-environmentalist alliance (Foster, 1992, p. 79).
11 302 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 Marx said that the barrier to cap i tal accumulation is cap i tal itself and this is man - ifested in the peri odic cri ses of overproduction and underconsumption, the pro gres - sive under min ing of the con di tions of production, and the ebb and flow of class struggles, set backs, advances, and stale mates. The greater the destructive effects of the free market on nature, the more obvi ous the need for its antithesis (i.e., preven - tion, reg u la tion, and plan ning). Upton Sinclair wrote The Jun gle (1951) to highlight the inhu man con di tions in which meat-packing work ers worked and lived. How - ever, as he said, instead of touch ing the hearts of the Amer i can people, he succeeded in touch ing their stom ach, and the Food and Drug Administration was born. It is possible that envi ron men tal activ ists, struggling against the exploi ta tion of nature and for a qualitative change in our relationship with the environment and other life forms may suc ceed, despite their current skep ti cism about Marx and Marx ism, in releas ing the collective energy needed to under mine the fetishisms of market free - dom, competition, and unceas ing eco nomic growth in the pub lic consciousness, thus pav ing the way toward social changes designed to end not only the exploi ta tion of nature but the exploi ta tion of labor as well. However, such changes do not hap pen auto mat i cally; in the absence of a widespread, ongoing, prin ci pled red-green dia - logue, the most that is likely to be attained is an improve ment in environmental con - di tions for the privileged and the better off. Does ecol ogy need Marx? Is there any doubt? NOTES 1. This article is a revised version of an article originally presented in March, 2000, at the Socialist Scholars Con fer ence at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City Uni - versity of New York. 2. A very useful reader that brings together the main schools of eco log i cal think ing today is Redclift and Woodgate (1995). There is a growing body of social ist and Marx ist ecology lit er a ture; the jour nal Capitalism, Nature and Socialism is an invalu able resource. Recent contributions to this literature are O Connor (1998), Foster (2000), and Burkett (1999). 3. For an excellent crit i cal review of neo-mal thu sian literature and policies, see chapt ers 1 and 2 of Bandarage (1997). 4. For exam ple, in a recent article in the New York Times, James Fallows (2000), writing about the newly wealthy in the information and communication technologies world, states that the key issue that con cerns them is the protection of the envi ron ment, not only because they are located in the most beau ti ful areas of the coun try but also because their ability to use that envi ron ment matters to them: A software engineer with $2 mil lion in stock options can t really imag ine being laid off. He can imagine ill-planned urban growth ruin ing a forest where he likes to hike. 5. See Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, volume 3, numbers 3 and 4, and volume 4, numbers 1 and 2. REF ER ENCES Andersen, D. N. (Ed.). (1995). Downwardly mobile. For con science sake. Eugene, OR: Tom Paine Institute. Bandarage, A. (1997). Women, pop u la tion and global cri sis. A polit i cal-eco nomic analysis. London: Zed Books. Barry, J. (1999). Marx ism and ecology. In A. Gam ble, D. Marsh, & T. Tant (Eds.), Marxism and social sci ence (pp ). Chi cago: University of Illinois Press. Brower, M., & Leon, W. (1999). The consumer s guide to effective environmental choices: Practical advice from the union of concerned sci en tists. New York: Three Rivers Press.
12 Gimenez / DOES ECOLOGY NEED MARX? 303 Burkett, P. (1999). Marx and nature. A red and green perspective. New York: St. Martin s Press. Carlassare, E. (1994). Essentialism in ecofeminist discourse. In C. Merchant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Christ, C. (1994). Why women need the god dess. In C. Mer chant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Daly, H. E. (1996). Beyond growth. The economics of sus tain able development. Boston, MA: Bea con Press. d Eaubonne, F. (1994). The time for ecofeminisms. In C. Mer chant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Devall, B., & Ses sions, G. (1995). Deep ecology. In M. Redclift & G. Woodgate (Eds.), The sociology of the environment (Vol. 2, pp ). Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar. Dobson, A. (1995). Ecologism, social ism and feminism. In M. Redclift & G. Woodgate (Eds.), The sociology of the environment (Vol. 2, pp ). Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar. Eckersley, R. (1994). The failed prom ise of critical theory. In C. Merchant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Fallows, J. (2000, March 19). The invisible poor. The New York Times [Online article]. Avail - able at: Foster, J. B. (1992). The absolute general law of environmental deg ra da tion under capital - ism. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 3(3), Foster, J. B. (1999). Marx s the ory of metabolic rift: Classical foun da tions for envi ron men tal sociology. Amer i can Jour nal of Sociology, 105(2), Foster, J. B. (2000). Marx s ecology. New York: Monthly Review Press. Gore, A. (1993). Earth in the balance. New York: Plume. Guha, R. (1994). Radical environmentalism: A third-world cri tique. In C. Merchant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Hardin, G. (1988). Dis crim i nating altruisms. In Tobias (Ed.), Deep ecology (pp ). San Marcos, CA: Avant Books. Hardin, G. (1993). Liv ing within limits. Ecology, eco nom ics and pop u la tion taboos. New York: Oxford University Press. Hardin, G. (1995). The trag edy of the com mons. In M. Redclift & G. Wood gate (Eds.), (Vol. 2 pp ). Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar. Horkheimer, M. (1969). Critica de la razon instrumental [Critique of instrumental rea son]. Buenos Aires: Sur. Jackson, C. (1995). Radical environmental myths: A gen der perspective. New Left Review, (210), King, Y. (1994). Feminism and the revolt of nature. In C. Merchant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlan tic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Leiss, W. (1994). The domination of nature. In C. Mer chant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlan tic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Lukács, G. (1968). El asalto a la razon. La trayectoria del irracionalismo desde Schelling a Hitler [The destruction of rea son. The tra jec tory of irrationalism from Schelling to Hit - ler]. Mex ico: Ediciones Grijalbo. Mal thus, T. R. (1933). An essay on pop u la tion. New York: E. P. Dutton. Marx, K. (1974). Cap i tal, Vol. I. New York: International. Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1976). The com mu nist man i festo. In Col lected works (Vol. 6, pp ). New York: Inter na tional. Mills, C. ( ). Marxism and naturalistic mystification. Science & Society, 49(4), Mukta, P., & Hardiman, D. (2000). The political ecology of nos tal gia. Capitalism, Nature, Social ism, 11(1), Naess, A. (1988). Identification as a source of deep ecological attitudes. In Tobias (Ed.), Deep ecology (pp ). San Marcos, CA: Avant Books.
13 304 ORGANIZATION & ENVIRONMENT / September 2000 Naess, A. (1995). The shallow and the deep, long-range ecology move ment: A sum mary. In M. Redclift & G. Woodgate (Eds.), The sociology of the environment (Vol. 2, pp ). Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar. (pp ). New, C. (1996). Man bad, woman good? Essentialisms and ecofeminisms. New Left Review, 216, O Connor, J. (1988). Cap i tal ism, nature, socialism. A the o ret i cal intro duc tion. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 1(1), Ornstein, R., & Ehrlich, P. (1989). New world new mind. New York: Touchstone Books. Parsons, H. L. (1977). Marx and Engels on ecology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Plumwood, V. (1994). Ecosocial feminism as a general the ory of oppres sion. In C. Merchant (Ed.), Ecology (pp ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Human ities Press. Plumwood, V. (1995). Women, humanity and nature. In M. Redclift & G. Woodgate (Eds.), The sociology of the environment ( Vol. 2 pp ). Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar. Plumwood, V. (1998). The environment. In A. Jaggar & I. Young (Eds.), The Blackwell com - panion to feminist philosophy. Lon don: Blackwell. Postel, S. (1994). Carrying capacity: Earth s bot tom line. In L. R. Brown, et al (Eds.), State of the world 1994 (pp. 3-21). New York/London: W. W. Norton & Co. Redclift, M., & Woodgate, G. (Eds.). (1995). The sociology of the environment. Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar. Sessions, G. (Ed.). (1995). Deep ecology for the 21st century. Boston: Shambhala. Shiva, V. (1995). Science, nature and gender. In M. Redclift & G. Woodgate (Eds.), The soci - ology of the environment (pp ). Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar. Sinclair, U. (1951). The jungle. New York: New Amer i can Library. Timpanaro, S. (1975). On mate ri al ism. Lon don: New Left Books. Tobias, M. (1988). Deep ecology. San Marcos, CA: Avant Books. Tonnies, F. (1963). Com mu nity and society. New York: Harper Torchbook. Weber, M. (1969). Economia y sociedad [Econ omy and society]. Mex ico: Fondo de Cultura Economica.
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