Book: The Return of Nature

20 May 2020 — Monthly Review Press

The return of nature

by

$23.00 – $35.00

Twenty years ago, John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature introduced a new understanding of Karl Marx’s revolutionary ecological materialism. More than simply a study of Marx, it commenced an intellectual and social history, encompassing thinkers from Epicurus to Darwin, who developed materialist and ecological ideas. Now, with The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology, Foster continues this narrative. In so doing, he uncovers a long history of efforts to unite issues of social justice and environmental sustainability that will help us comprehend and counter today’s unprecedented planetary emergencies.

The Return of Nature begins with the deaths of Darwin (1882) and Marx (1883) and moves on until the rise of the ecological age in the 1960s and 1970s. Foster explores how socialist analysts and materialist scientists of various stamps, first in Britain, then the United States, from William Morris and Frederick Engels to Joseph Needham, Rachel Carson, and Stephen Jay Gould, sought to develop a dialectical naturalism, rooted in a critique of capitalism. In the process, he delivers a far-reaching and fascinating reinterpretation of the radical and socialist origins of ecology. Ultimately, what this book asks for is nothing short of revolution: a long, ecological revolution, aimed at making peace with the planet while meeting collective human needs.


“A monumental book, a genealogy of ecosocialism, a priceless resource for those pursuing this path today.”

—Helena Sheehan, author, Navigating the Zeitgeist

“Foster’s richly detailed and groundbreaking history tells the story of the British and American scientists and activists who in the century following Marx’s death, adopted and built on this dialectical tradition, from Engels’ Dialectics of Nature to the fast developing science of ecology and the birth of the radical science movements of the 1970s. A tour de force.”

Steven Rose, emeritus professor of neuroscience, Open University

“In the century following Marx’s death, left-wing scientists and writers made major contributions to the development of modern ecological thought. Foster’s brilliant new book recovers that history, making the work and ideas of those neglected ecosocialist pioneers accessible to the activists who are building today’s movements against global environmental destruction.”

—Ian Angus, author, Facing the Anthropocene; editor, Climate & Capitalism

“With The Return of Nature, Foster has given ecological Marxism an epic chronicle that speaks straight to the crises of our times: a sequel and prequel of extraordinary power.”

—Andreas Malm, author, Fossil Capital: On the Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming

“Foster’s magnificent The Return of Nature tells the story of the late nineteenth and early twentieth scientists and other intellectuals who followed paths laid out by Marx and Engels with respect to the profit-driven degradation of the environment and biosphere.”

—Stuart A. Newman, Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College

“John Bellamy Foster fills in the broad historical and philosophical details spanning the post-Darwin moment to the vibrant 1960s when ecology became common currency, detailing how dialectical thinking penetrates all. Previous histories of ecology have failed to embrace Marxism’s critical association with the development of ecology as a political subject, something this book does elegantly and thoroughly.”

—John Vandermeer, author, with Ivette Perfecto, Ecological Complexity and Agroecology

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