Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy

Ted Benton reviews  Kohei Saito Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy. 2017. New York: Monthly Review.

This exceptionally clear and well-researched book is based on Saito’s dissertation, originally in German, and incorporates the results of his study of as-yet unpublished manuscripts and excerpt notebooks compiled during the last fifteen years of Marx’s life. Saito’s approach is closely aligned with that of Paul Burkett, John Bellamy Foster and their associates (Burkett 1988, Foster et al. 2010), well-known advocates of a view of Marx as an ecological thinker, who developed the concept of ‘metabolic rift’ to explain the contradictions between capitalism and external nature.

Saito uses the results of his own research to strengthen and extend the claims made by those writers. His key argument is that his predecessors in the ‘metabolic rift’ school of thought were able to demonstrate Marx’s ecological critique only through occasional passages of text. Saito’s research into Marx’s later writings, and, most especially, unpublished notebooks reveals the developing pattern of his reading of contemporary natural science, especially agronomy. Ecology was always central to Marx’s thinking, Saito argues, it was integral to his critique of political economy, and was understood by Marx as ‘the’ contradiction of the capitalist mode of production.

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From Marx to Ecosocialism

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism. Capitalism, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy
By: Kohei Saito
New York, Monthly Review Press, 2017
Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism
By: Victor Wallis
Toronto, Political Animal Press, 2018
Reviewed by Michael Lowy

There is a growing body of ecomarxist and ecosocialist literature in the English-speaking world, which signals the beginning of a significant turn in radical thinking. Some Marxist journals, such as Capitalism, Nature and Socialism, Monthly Review and Socialism and Democracy have been playing an important role in this process, which is becoming increasingly influential. The two books discussed here—very different in style content and purpose—are part of this “Red and Green” upsurge.

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The emergence of an ecological Karl Marx: 1818 – 2018

Karl Marx was born in Trier 200 years ago today. The legacy of the political economist is fiercely contested. The Ecologist was among the first magazines to examine his ecological thinking – in an essay published in 1971. Here, Gareth Dale, an editor of the book Green Growth, examines Marx’s own claims about nature and society – and our original interpretation of them

In the closing decades of the twentieth century an ecological Marx was unearthed…the upshot has been a radical rethinking of Marx’s project.

Karl Marx’s 200th birthday is being celebrated today in circumstances he neither desired nor expected: a planet that is governed by, and increasingly shredded and cooked by, capitalism.

The previous such commemorations – in 1918 and 1968 – arrived amidst worldwide upsurges for progressive social-movements.

The Marx for those conjunctures was a theorist of class struggle, revolution and the subjection of the postcolonial world, but was neglectful of nature. Environmentalists found value in Marx, but not in his ecological analysis. Continue reading “The emergence of an ecological Karl Marx: 1818 – 2018”