[Marxism] Bogdanov, Bukharin

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Tue Jan 31 08:09:35 MST 2006

On Tue, 31 Jan 2006 06:27:39 -0800 (PST) Andrew Pollack
<acpollack2 at yahoo.com> writes:
> see http://www.marxists.org/archive/bogdanov/index.htm and 
>   http://www.marxists.org/archive/bogdanov/1919/socialism.htm
> and for the man who started this thread:
> http://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/index.htm
> By the way, I'd be interested in opinions on the Lenin quote
> at the top of Bukharin's archive; do you think he'd have felt
>  the same way after Philosophical Arabesques?
> P.S. Comrades should get used to checking the writers' 
> drop-down list at www.marxists.org to see if we've got 
> someone yet, and if not, to badger us about adding them!
> Ben wrote:
> If anyone has info on this I'd be very interested as I'm (gradually) 
> trying to read my way through the main Marxist writings on the 
> environment. (did Bogdanov write anything that's been translated 
> into 
> English? Or even French, which I read a bit?)
Juan Martinez-Alier's book 
*Ecological Economics* (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987)
provides an account of Marxist treatments of ecological
issues starting with Marx & Engels and proceeding
to the Bolsheviks.

According to Martinez-Alier, Alexander Bogdanov renewed attention 
to ecological issues from a Marxist perspective.  His theoretical 
speculations laid the groundwork for what was later called 
general systems theory, as he concerned himself with analyzing 
the conncections betweeen thermodynamics and biology.  He 
suggested a link between the study of energy flow and the 
principle of natural selection. In this he was influenced 
by Ostwald which was one reason why Lenin chose to attack 
Ostwald in *Materialism and Empirio-Criticism*.  As Martinez-Alier 
noted Bogdanov rather uncritically accepted many of Ostwald's 
notions including his idea that "mental" energy is a form 
of physical energy.  On the other hand Martinez-Alier thought 
that Bogdanov's notion that it might be possible to define 
the forces of production in terms of energy availibility 
to be a promising one. And unlike Lenin he saw promise 
in Bogdanov's Machism. 

Concerning Bukharin, Martinez-Alier points out that he 
devoted one chapter of his *Theory of Historical Materialism* 
to analyzing the relations between nature and society in 
whic he noted that society must to survive extract 
material energy from its environment.  The more energy 
it can extract from nature, the better adapted it is to 
its environment.  Soeciety spends the energy of human work 
in exchange for a quantity of appropriated natural energy. 
For Bukharin the idea of an exchange of energy was a useful 
way for interpreting the idea of metabolism between 
nature and society which enabled the process of social 
reproduction.  As Martinez-Alier sees it Bukharin had come 
close to dealing with the question of whether this energy 
"income" is really an income or is in fact a part of 
"capital."  Bukharin also presented a typology of both 
stable and moving social equilibria which he he analyzed 
in terms of social energetics, that is in terms of energy 
flows between society and the natural environment. 

Obviously, since Martinez-Alier's book came out in 1987,
he couldn't address Bukharin's later treatment of these
issues in *Philosophical Arabesqes*.

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