The Murray Bookchin Reader

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(1921 - 2006) ~ Father of Social Ecology and Anarcho-Communalism : Growing up in the era of traditional proletarian socialism, with its working-class insurrections and struggles against classical fascism, as an adult he helped start the ecology movement, embraced the feminist movement as antihierarchical, and developed his own democratic, communalist politics. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "We are direly in need not only of 're-enchanting the world' and 'nature' but also of re-enchanting humanity -- of giving itself a sense of wonder over its own capacity as natural beings and a caring product of natural evolution" (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)
• "...Proudhon here appears as a supporter of direct democracy and assembly self- management on a clearly civic level, a form of social organization well worth fighting for in an era of centralization and oligarchy." (From : "The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism," by Murray Book....)
• "Or will ecology groups and the Greens turn the entire ecology movement into a starry-eyed religion decorated by gods, goddesses, woodsprites, and organized around sedating rituals that reduce militant activist groups to self-indulgent encounter groups?" (From : "The Crisis in the Ecology Movement," by Murray Bo....)

(1953 - )
Janet Biehl (born September 4, 1953) is an American political writer who is the author of numerous books and articles associated with social ecology, the body of ideas developed and publicized by Murray Bookchin. Formerly an advocate of his antistatist political program, she broke with it publicly in 2011. She works as a freelance copy editor for book publishers in New York. She currently focuses as well on translating, journalism, and artmaking. (From :


This document contains 13 sections, with 109,297 words or 738,505 characters.

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We must always be on a quest for the new, for the potentialities that ripen with the development of the world and the new visions that unfold with them. An outlook that ceases to look for what is new and potential in the name of “realism” has already lost contact with the present, for the present is always conditioned by the future. True development is cumulative, not sequential; it is growth, not succession. The new always embodies the present and past, but it does so in new ways and more adequately as the parts of a greater whole. Murray Bookchin, “On Spontaneity and Organization,” 1971 Acknowledgments The idea for this reader initially came from David Goodway, who, one sunny afternoon in May 1992, sat down with Bookchin, Gideon Kossoff, and myself in an attic in Keighley, West Yorkshire, to draft a table of contents. Although the present book bears only the faintest re... (From :

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Introduction In the aftermath of the cold war, in a world that glorifies markets and commodities, it sometimes seems difficult to remember that generations of people once fought to create a very different kind of world. To many, the aspirations of this grand tradition of socialism often seem archaic today, or utopian in the pejorative sense, the stuff of idle dreams; others, more dismissive, consider socialism to be an inherently coercive system, one whose consignment to the past is well-deserved. Yet for a century preceding World War I, and for nearly a half century thereafter, various kinds of socialism — statist and libertarian; economistic and moral; industrial and communalistic — constituted a powerful mass movement for the transformation of a competitive society into a cooperative one — and for the creation of a generous and humane system in which emancipated human beings could fulfill their creative and rational pot... (From :

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Chapter 1: An Ecological Society Introduction Bookchin’s interest in ecology arose primarily from his boyhood curiosity about natural phenomena, from his studies of biology in high school. and from his love of green spaces in the environs of his native New York City, as well as from his dismay at their diminution with the buildup of urban streets and buildings. Yet another source of inspiration for his thinking about ecology were the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In scattered passages the two progenitors of Marxian socialism had alluded provocatively to a conflicted relationship between town and country. “The greatest division of material and mental labor,” they wrote, “is the separation of town and country. The antagonism between town and country begins with the transition from barbarism to civilization, from tribe to State, from locality to nation, and runs through the whole history of civ... (From :

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Chapter 2: Nature, First and Second Introduction Amid the technological enchantment of the 1950s, proponents of organic farming, like Bookchin himself, had to defend organic agricultural techniques against the scorn of federal agencies and the chemical industry, both of which were busily making pesticides into agricultural commonplaces. Unlike today, when the value of organic farming is recognized, in those years its value had to be fought for. As part of that struggle to defend organic farming, Bookchin borrowed the concept “unity in diversity” from the German idealist philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. Recast as a principle of organic agriculture, the concept suggested an alternative farming technique that was able to rid crops of pests, without the use of carcinogenic pesticides. Unlike the monocultures that demanded pesticide use, a diversity of crops in one field could play off potential pests against one another, leavi... (From :

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Chapter 3: Organic Society Introduction In Bookchin’s view, society and culture must be understood by examining not only what they are at present but their origins and subsequent development over the course of history. Thus, to rescue a tradition of freedom in support of his ecological society, he traces a “legacy of freedom” that has run as an alternative libertarian undercurrent through Western history. In his 1982 book The Ecology of Freedom he gave particular attention to what he calls “organic society” — that is, the preliterate band and tribal cultures that preceded recorded history in Europe and America and that persisted far longer in other parts of the world. Insofar as a number of its features hold relevance for the creation of an ecological society, organic society is part of the “legacy of freedom.” Perhaps the most important of these features is the relatively... (From :

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Chapter 4: The Legacy of Domination Introduction According to Marx, “primitive egalitarianism” was destroyed by the rise of social classes, in which those who own wealth and property exploit the labor of those who do not. But from his observations of contemporary history, Bookchin realized that class analysis in itself does not explain the entirety of social oppression. The elimination of class society could leave intact relations of subordination and domination. Engels, in his essay “On Authority,” wrote explicitly that he not only would preserve hierarchy in a “classless” society but regarded it as indispensable in industrial production. In order to attain the broadest possible freedom in an ecological society, Bookchin emphasized that it would be necessary to eliminate not only social classes but social hierarchies as well. Thus, where Marx had worked with categories of class and exploitati... (From :

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Chapter 5: Scarcity and Post-Scarcity Introduction For all but the privileged few, history has been in great part a chronicle of material scarcity — that is, an insufficiency of the goods and services that people need and value — all too often as a result of an unequal distribution of wealth. At best, people living under conditions of material scarcity must spend an inordinate amount of time working to produce the goods they need for material survival, or else earn a livelihood. This necessity, Bookchin maintains, reduces people to a quasi-animalistic existence; it prevents them from fulfilling their potential for rationality and freedom and thus from becoming fully human. At the same time, material scarcity has also been an ideology as well as a reality — in particular, ruling elites have used it as a rationale for authoritarianism — both when scarcity is real, and when it has been artificially induced f... (From :

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Chapter 6: Marxism Introduction Although Marx’s writings had a great influence on Bookchin’s ideas, it became clear to him early on that a degree of authoritarianism, particularly an acceptance of domination, recurred in the Marxian writings. Even in the 1940s he was cognizant that a centralized state was essential to Marx’s views and to the new socialist dispensation that he would create. Moreover, even as Marx and Engels attacked class society, they had taught that hierarchical relationships were indispensable to a socialist society, just as a factory needed hierarchical relationships in order to operate. In time, Bookchin realized that the ideological rationales for material scarcity that were typical of bourgeois society had been recapitulated in Marxist theory as well. Just as ruling elites had used scarcity to justify their authority, Marxism insisted that the domination of nonhuman nature not only made c... (From :

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Chapter 7: Anarchism Introduction In the epilogue to his 1962 history of anarchism, George Woodcock concluded that anarchism as a movement was all but dead. “During the past forty years,” he wrote the influence [the movement] once established has dwindled, by defeat after defeat and by the slow draining of hope, almost to nothing. Nor is there any reasonable likelihood of a renaissance of anarchism as we have known it.... History suggests that movements which fail to take the chances it offers them are never born again. Within only a few years of Woodcock’s interment of anarchism in the cemetery of defunct social theories, Bookchin was breathing life back into it. With the emergence of the ecological issue and the new potentiality for post-scarcity in the postwar period, anarchism ceased to be merely a utopian fantasy and seemed, on the contrary, to be a... (From :

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Chapter 8: Libertarian Municipalism Introduction Bookchin’s anarchism shares with traditional anarchism an opposition to the nation-state and a search for libertarian alternatives, but it differs with traditional anarchism on the tangible nature of the alternatives it embraces. Anarchism, in the main, looks to nonpolitical arenas of society as the sites for constructing its alternatives — variously the factory, the cooperative, even the individual lifestyle. The typical ambition of anarchism is to create not libertarian politics but libertarian social institutions; or as Martin Buber once put it, “to substitute society for State to the greatest degree possible, moreover a society that is ‘genuine’ and not a State in disguise.” Such anarchism has traditionally rejected politics, considering politics synonymous with the nation-state itself. Much of traditional anarchism even rejects... (From :

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Chapter 9: Dialectical Naturalism Introduction For much of the twentieth century relativism has plagued philosophical thought, casting into ever-greater philosophical doubt all claims to objective knowledge of reality. In the 1980s and 1990s the rise of postmodernism and deconstruction have given academic philosophy a further relativistic charge. Claims to objective knowledge have now become deeply problematic — and the tendency is growing, when competing claims to knowledge are debated, to end merely with an agnostic shrug. Despite such intellectual fashions, however, it is a staple of political action in any era that it must have a philosophical grounding in objective reality. Political action presupposes that a group of people have a coherent understanding of their social condition, a belief that it is necessary and possible to change those surroundings, and the willingness to make a long-term commitment to change them... (From :

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Chapter 10: Reason and History Introduction The ecological society that Bookchin described in 1964 remains a constant social ideal over three decades of his writing, projecting a clear and steady image of an ecological society, integrating town and country, individual and community, technology and ethics, politics and economy. The communistic principles he attributed to organic society in 1982 remain pillars of the society he has always envisioned: interdependence must replace hierarchy, and freedom must be defined not in opposition to first nature but as latent within it. The “legacy of freedom” is one he cherishes even more fervently, in the face of an ever-more powerful “legacy of domination.” But other aspects of Bookchin’s work have undergone notable change over the years, as do those of all thinkers who are engaged in the public realm over a long period of time and who are alert to changes tha... (From :

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List of Sources 1. An Ecological Society Decentralization: Selected from Our Synthetic Environment, under the pseudonym Lewis Herber (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), pp. 237–45. The British edition of this book was published by Jonathan Cape (London, 1963 ); a revised paperback edition was published by Harper Colophon Books, under the name Murray Bookchin (New York, 1974). Anarchism and Ecology: From “Ecology and Revolutionary Thought,” under the pseudonym Lewis Herber, Comment [NY] . This essay was republished in Anarchy [UK] 69, vol. 6 ; and in Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism (San Francisco: Ramparts Books, 1971; London: Wildwood House, 1974; and Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1986). This selection comes from Post-Scarcity Anarchism, pp. 76–82. The New Technology and the Human Scale: From “Towards a Liberatory... (From :


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The Murray Bookchin Reader -- Publication.

February 01, 2017 ; 7:02:25 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
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