Murray Bookchin: Quote of the Day!

Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006)

Social ecology rests on the basic minimal claim that our entire endeavor to dominate nature stems from the domination of human by human–not from agriculture, from technology per se, from a vague thing called industrialism, from religion, from anthropocentrism, from humanism, or from whatever buzzword one chooses to pull out of the bumper–sticker slogans…

Only the complete substitution of hierarchical society as it has developed over thousands of years with all the moral, spiritual. religious, philosophical, economic , and political paraphernalia that has accompanied that development–by an ecological society can finally bring nature and a fulfilled humanity into harmony with each other. Indeed, it is only in an ecological society, free of all hierarchy and domination, that this fulfilled humanity can find its ecological role in developing a free nature–one in which nature is rendered fully self–conscious by a species of its own creation and by rational faculties that have emerged from its own evolution.

Stated bluntly: no revolutionary movement can grow if its theorists essentially deny Bloch’s “principle of hope,” which it so needs for an inspired belief in the future; if they deny universal History that affirms sweeping common problems that have besieged humanity over the ages; if they deny the shared interests that give a movement the basis for a common struggle in achieving a rational dispensation of social affairs; if they deny a processual rationality and a growing idea of the Good based on more than personalistic (or “intersubjective” and “consensual”) grounds; if they deny the powerful civilizatory dimensions of social development (ironically, dimensions that are in fact so useful to contemporary nihilists in criticizing humanity’s failings); and if they deny historical Progress.  Yet in present-day theoretics, a series of events replaces History, cultural relativism replaces Civilization, and a basic pessimism replaces a belief in the possibility of Progress.  What is more sinister, mythopoesis replaces reason, and dystopia the prospect of a rational society. What is at stake in all these displacements is an intellectual and practical regression of appalling proportions–an especially alarming development today, when theoretical clarity is of the utmost necessity.

– Murray Bookchin, Collected Works

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Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006)was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist, and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics, philosophy, history, and urban affairs as well as ecology. In the late 1990s he became disenchanted with the strategy of political anarchism and founded his own libertarian socialist ideology called Communalism.

Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets.

3 thoughts on “Murray Bookchin: Quote of the Day!

  1. I am involved in a casual reading group with a couple of friends, and I’m agitating to get some Bookchin on our reading list. His ecological thought meant that he was doing a kind of onto-cartography, remembering the material, long before critical theorists felt the need to remind themselves of the world beyond the page. For instance, behind the production of

    ‘a single yard of high quality electrical wiring lies a copper mine, the machinery needed to operate it, a plant for producing insulating material, a copper smelting and shaping complex, a transportation system for distributing the wiring — and behind each of these complexes other mines, plants, machine shops and so forth’ (The Murray Bookchin Reader, p.115).

    … well as all the psychic and ideological machinations of capital. We have been talking about organisation, from Lenin to anarcho-syndicalism, and I’d like to get his short ‘The communalist project’ up as a read. He’s as provocative as he was in ‘Listen Marxist!’ despite it being, I think, the last thing he wrote before his death:

    ‘Anarchism has often been confused with revolutionary syndicalism, a highly structured and well-developed mass form of libertarian trade unionism that, unlike anarchism, was long committed to democratic procedures, to discipline in action, and to organized, long-range revolutionary practice to eliminate capitalism’. (Harbinger, Vol. 3. No.1).

    What strikes me now, just thinking on when I first read Bookchin, is that it was at the time that I was attending Stewart Martin’s lectures on Merleau-Ponty, lectures in which Martin would get lost in imaginal scenes of “being honeyed” and so forth. Both figures hit me at the same time and, although its taken me a long time to come back around to them- I had something of a detour away from philosophy for a while there- I am returning to them at roughly the same time. We always circle the same problems, the same obsessions.


    • What I liked about Bookchin was his cut to the chase attitude: he new his history, he labeled things exact, he didn’t mince words but called a spade a spade. American as apple pie, but socialist as it has always been… with a libertarian leftist flavor. A plain shooter who saw bullshit for what it was and is: the barbarization of civilization. He hated the whole postmodern crapology, the relativist stance, and promoted a form of the dialectic that was not bound by some abstract tantalization of the spirit ( the false Hegel). He felt that most so to speak leftists were no radical enough… that since 1990 socialists had betrayed both the Communist Idea and the whole enlightenment tradition in radical thinking. That’s the part of Ray Brassier that I like is his return to the actual radical tradition in the Enlightenment… the one written about by Johnathan Israel. Without both analytical reasoning and the Hegelian progressive form of the dialectic without its historicism we’re pretty much doomed to a slow collapse into barbarism across the planet. Most people seem to want to throw the baby out with the wash when it comes to the Enlightenment period thought. As if Reason with a capitol letter were the whole of it…. I agree with both Brassier and Bookchin in that sense, that we need some form of rationality, otherwise we’re doomed to the irrational doom of relativism and myth/religion.


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