[Marxism] Towards a Marxist Animalism » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names
ratbagradio at gmail.com
Fri Jun 13 17:31:56 MDT 2014
I suggest that a much better materialist take on the Animalist issues is
carried in John Berger's 'Why look at animals?"
As Berger points out domesticated animals are an extension of human culture
and production which also means that their existence is contained and
determined by that relationship. Contemporary cows, sheep, pet dogs,and
horses, etc are artefacts of our ongoing social and economic existence.
Despite what may be the analogies in terms of exploitation, 'liberation' of
such animals (an act only humans can offer these creatures as they can't
usually do it themselves) is tantamount to the negation of their existence.
While a domestic pig may revert and become a boor, and a dog may return to
the feral pack(although I don't know how chihuahuas are gonna get on in the
wilds) -- in effect we are sponsoring ferality separate from the
determinants of nature. 'Liberation' of animals is no way analogous to the
'liberation' of humans...It's a obscene take on Marxism to try to marry the
two perspectives as at Marxism's core is the collective self actualization
of humans by their own activity.
Is that 'anthropocentric'? I guess it is if you are into name calling --
but then to angst over that misses the core holistic materialism in
Marxism, its empowering ecology.
We can DECIDE not to eat or keep animals -- but that's our choice as a
culture and a species.It is not a political imperative-- just a question of
ethics -- determined by our own social and economic relations not by
considerations inherently animalist. Just as abortion is not an ethical
question for Marxists but one determined by our own social, gender and
The problem with an animalist perspective is that it is an ethical
construct and as a topic of debate within Marxism I find its argument
suspect. Nonetheless, comprehending the recent rise on animalist ethics is
a fascinating historical topic as it certainly does reflect how much our
food has been commodified and produced under conditions of increased
exploitation both of other animals(eg:factory farming of poultry, feedlot
beef,etc) and of nature (eg: GMOs, nitrate leaching, pesticides,etc). So
it's roots are tangible and have concrete substance in the productive
process. Indeed 13% of Americans claim they're vegetarian.
[For the wrap up world wide:
Another aspect that bugs me is the suggestion, like some Nirvana focused
Buddhist, that the moral statue of socialism rises the more Vegan it
becomes.I have a problem with that because it pursues a crude reading of
Marx which c hooses to celebrate civilization as being a higher human
condition than 'primitive' hunter gatherer societies. Ye olde Marxist
historical hierarchy thing.The presumed staircase. A tick box approach to
judging social systems where any one short of socialism is inherently
better for humans than the mode that preceded it.. But the hunter gatherer
relationship with nature and animals especially -- was not like
contemporary animalist beliefs at all. Animals were exploited for food or
fibre. These societies were beholden to Nature and in sync with its
tolerances and sustainability but that' was never equated with the tenets
of modern animalist thought which idealises what our attitude to animals
Of relevance is the seeming contradictory growth of Veganism in Israel
despite the Occupation
and this recent published clincher, again in Haretz:The Nazis were Vegans
which raises a lot of 'ethical' questions.
On the materialist question of whether we no longer need to keep animals in
captivity -- I'm very much on the side of affirmation because a sustainable
agricultural system has to be dependent on animal inputs otherwise we must
persevere with fossil sources for traction and fertiliser.(Good example of
the options: Cuban agriculture during the 'Special Period')
And Marx saw this clearly when he raised the question of the Metabolic
Rift.--grain, fruit and veg production need animal inputs.
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