[Marxism] fwd: [bluegreenearth] Murray Bookchin, Visionary Social Theorist, Dies at 85

paul illich paul_illich at hotmail.com
Tue Aug 1 11:49:28 MDT 2006

Given his alt tech and alt soc ideas, this is a sad day...


Murray Bookchin, Visionary Social Theorist, Dies At 85
by Brian Tokar

July 31, 2006

Murray Bookchin, the visionary social theorist and activist, died
during the early morning of Sunday, July 30th in his home in
Burlington, Vermont. During a prolific career of writing, teaching
and political activism that spanned half a century, Bookchin forged a
new anti-authoritarian outlook rooted in ecology, dialectical
philosophy and left libertarianism.

During the 1950s and '60s, Bookchin built upon the legacies of
utopian social philosophy and critical theory, challenging the
primacy of Marxism on the left and linking contemporary ecological
and urban crises to problems of capital and social hierarchy in
general. Beginning in the mid-sixties, he pioneered a new political
and philosophical synthesis-termed social ecology-that sought to
reclaim local political power, by means of direct popular democracy,
against the consolidation and increasing centralization of the nation

>From the 1960s to the present, the utopian dimension of Bookchin's
social ecology inspired several generations of social and ecological
activists, from the pioneering urban ecology movements of the
sixties, to the 1970s' back-to-the-land, antinuclear, and sustainable
technology movements, the beginnings of Green politics and organic
agriculture in the early 1980s, and the anti-authoritarian global
justice movement that came of age in 1999 in the streets of Seattle.
His influence was often cited by prominent political and social
activists throughout the US, Europe, South America, Turkey, Japan,
and beyond.

Even as numerous social movements drew on his ideas, however,
Bookchin remained a relentless critic of the currents in those
movements that he found deeply disturbing, including the New Left's
drift toward Marxism-Leninism in the late 1960s, tendencies toward
mysticism and misanthropy in the radical environmental movement, and
the growing focus on individualism and personal lifestyles among
1990s anarchists. In the late 1990s, Bookchin broke with anarchism,
the political tradition he had been most identified with for over 30
years and articulated a new political vision that he called communalism.

Bookchin was raised in a leftist family in the Bronx during the 1920s
and '30s. He enjoyed retelling the story of his expulsion from the
Young Communist League at age 18 for openly criticizing Stalin, his
brief flirtation with Trotskyism as a labor organizer in the
foundries of New Jersey, and his introduction to anarchism by
veterans of the immigrant labor movement during the 1950s. In 1974,
he co-founded the Institute for Social Ecology, along with Dan
Chodorkoff, then a graduate student at Vermont's Goddard College. For
30 years, the Institute for Social Ecology has brought thousands of
students to Vermont for intensive educational programs focusing on
the theory and praxis of social ecology. A self-educated scholar and
public intellectual, Bookchin served as a full professor at Ramapo
College of New Jersey despite his own lack of conventional academic
credentials.He published more than 20 books and many hundreds of
articles during his lifetime, many of which were translated into
Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish and other languages.

During the 1960s - '80s, Bookchin emphasized his fundamental
theoretical break with Marxism, arguing that Marx's central focus on
economics and class obscured the more profound role of social
hierarchy in the shaping of human history. His anthropological
studies affirmed the role of domination by age, gender and other
manifestations of social power as the antecedents of modern-day
economic exploitation. In The Ecology of Freedom(1982), he examined
the parallel legacies of domination and freedom in human societies,
from prehistoric times to the present, and he later published a four-
volume work,The Third Revolution, exploring anti-authoritarian
currents throughout the Western revolutionary tradition.

At the same time, he criticized the lack of philosophical rigor that
has often plagued the anarchist tradition, and drew theoretical
sustenance from dialectical philosophy-particularly the works of
Aristotle and Hegel; the Frankfurt School-of which he became
increasingly critical in later years-and even the works of Marx and
Lenin. During the past year, even while terminally ill in Burlington,
Bookchin was working toward a re-evaluation of what he perceived as
the historic failure of the 20th century left. He argued that Marxist
crisis theory failed to recognize the inherent flexibility and
malleability of capitalism, and that Marx never saw capitalism in its
true contemporary sense. Until his death, Bookchin asserted that only
the ecological problems created by modern capitalism were of
sufficient magnitude to portend the system's demise.

Murray Bookchin was diagnosed several months ago with a fatal heart
condition. He will be remembered by his devoted family members-
including his long-time companion Janet Biehl, his former wife Bea
Bookchin, his son, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter-as well as
his friends, colleagues and frequent correspondents throughout the
world. There will be a public memorial service in Burlington, Vermont
on Sunday, August 13th. For more information, contact info(at)social-

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