Books: The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology

13 November 2020 —  Climate & Capitalism

Essential Reading
Bulletin: On the day this review was published, it was announced that The Return of Nature has won this year’s Deutscher Memorial Prize, awarded annually to “a book which exemplifies the best and most innovative new writing in or about the Marxist tradition.”

John Bellamy Foster’s brilliant recovery of a century of ecological and socialist thought will inform, enable, and inspire a new generation of reds and greens

John Bellamy Foster
Socialism and Ecology

Monthly Review Press, 2020

reviewed by Peter Critchley

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Book: The Return of Nature

20 May 2020 — Monthly Review Press

The return of nature


$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.

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In Defense of Ecological Marxism: John Bellamy Foster responds to a critic

6 June 2016 — Climate & Capitalism

“Jason Moore has joined the long line of scholars who have set out to update or deepen Marxism in various ways, but have ended up by abandoning Marxism’s revolutionary essence and adapting to capitalist ideologies.”

John Bellamy Foster

John Bellamy Foster

One of the most important books of Marxist theory published in recent years is Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature, in which John Bellamy Foster rediscovered and expanded on Marx’s understanding of the alienation of human beings from the natural world, crystallized in the concept of metabolic rift.

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What’s new on Reading From the Left

24 December 2012 — Readings From the Left

If you’ve not found RFL before this, here are a few of the latest, free offerings on the site.

Online Now:

This important feminist critique of populationist theory and practice, long been out of print, is now available on Reading from the Left with the author’s assistance and permission.

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Capitalism and Environmental Catastrophe By John Bellamy Foster

30 October 2011 — MRZine

John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff at Occupy Wall Street.  Photo by Carrie Ann Naumoff

This is a reconstruction from notes of a talk delivered at a teach-in on “The Capitalist Crisis and the Environment” organized by the Education and Empowerment Working Group, Occupy Wall Street, Zuccotti Park (Liberty Plaza), New York, October 23, 2011.  It was based on a talk delivered the night before at the Brecht Forum.  Fred Magdoff also spoke on both occasions.

The Occupy Wall Street movement arose in response to the economic crisis of capitalism, and the way in which the costs of this were imposed on the 99 percent rather than the 1 percent.  But “the highest expression of the capitalist threat,” as Naomi Klein has said, is its destruction of the planetary environment.  So it is imperative that we critique that as well.1

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The Ecology of Socialism: John Bellamy Foster Interviewed by Solidair/Solidaire

26 April 2011 — MRZine

Solidair/Solidaire, the weekly journal of the Workers Party of Belgium (PVDA-PTB), interviewed John Bellamy Foster, editor of Monthly Review, 26 April 2010

Solidair/Solidaire: Many green thinkers reject a Marxist analysis because they think that the Marxist approach to the economy is a very productivist one, focused on growth and seeing nature as “a free gift” to mankind.  You contradict that idea.

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We Cannot Shop Our Way Out of the Problems John Bellamy Foster Interviewed by Max van Lingen

1 December, 2009 — MRZine-Monthly Review

John Bellamy Foster is the editor of the socialist magazine Monthly Review and teaches sociology at the University of Oregon.  He has written on numerous subjects, from political economy to Marxist theory.  This year Foster published The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace With the Planet.

Max van Lingen is a student of political philosophy and modern history at the University of Amsterdam and a journalist for the Dutch monthly The Socialist.  A shortened version of this interview appeared in Dutch in the December issue of The Socialist.  The entire interview appeared in Dutch on the website of the International Socialists:

Consciousness about climate change has increased enormously; however, it also seems as if there is a lack of criticism of business and government actions.  Instead it appears as if people are thinking: it doesn’t really matter why people act, as long as they act.

I think people on the left often try to be “practical,” which they interpret as somehow trying to accommodate themselves to the status quo, so as to make minor improvements.  Often this is a kind of desperation to effect change.  However, Copenhagen is already a dead deal before it begins.  The United States and the other leading powers have indicated that there will be no binding agreements, no significant changes, and no non-market solutions.

James Hansen, arguably the world’s greatest climate scientist, has called the latest U.S. climate legislation passed by the House “worse than nothing” in that it locks in a “temple of doom.” The changes, if we are to avoid planetary collapse, need to be much more massive and need to come from below.  Hansen himself has called for mass “civil resistance” and has been arrested while protesting mountain top removal coal mining.

The climate justice movement, which tends to be more radical, is where to take one’s stand at present.  The truth is that we need some extremely strong, short-term solutions to be followed by a long-term strategy of ecological and social revolution.  I have written about this in my new book Ecological Revolution and in an article to appear in the January 2010 Monthly Review.

At the same time people are making ‘green’ choices, which are sometimes much more expensive.  There is a lot of criticism from this group towards people who are opposed to environmental measures because they are afraid they are going to lose their jobs.  Does this contradiction stand in the way of a solution?

There is no doubt that the growing need to make lifestyle changes is important and critical.  A great deal is being learned in this process, which could play into an ecological revolution of the whole society — as part of a total revolutionary dialectic.  Seeking to have a smaller ecological footprint is important on an individual as well as a social level.  But divorced from fundamental economic and political change, such individual, voluntaristic changes, primarily in the realm of consumption, are limited.  We cannot shop our way out of these problems.

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Book Review: Ecology and Socialism: Inseparable Revolutions

6 August, 2009 — Climate and Capitalism

The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet, by John Bellamy Foster. Monthly Review Press, 2009. Reviewed by Simon Butler

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels famously urged the world’s workers to unite because they had a world to win, and nothing to lose but their chains. Today, the reality of climate change and worsening environmental breakdowns globally adds a further vital dimension to this strident vision of human liberation. We still have a world to win – but we also have a world to lose.

With books such as Marx’s Ecology and The Vulnerable Planet, John Bellamy Foster, editor of the US-based socialist journal Monthly Review, has earned a reputation as one of the English-speaking world’s most persuasive voices arguing for fundamental social change to tackle the looming ecological catastrophe.

His new book, The Ecological Revolution, could not have been published at a more timely moment. It argues a solution to the ecological crisis ‘is now either revolutionary or it is false.’ It is a call for urgent action and an intervention into the debates about the kind of action needed to win this ‘race’ for the future.

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