Social Ecology Blog

Rethinking nature and culture

ISE board member Eleanor Finley recommends this interview with philosopher and Rice University literature professor, Timothy Morton. In his new book, The Ecological Thought, Morton examines prevailing assumptions about nature and culture in mainstream society and ecological activism. Using metaphysics and object-relations theory, he concludes that nature is “no more” than a social construction. The publisher’s blurb explains:
No being, construct, or object can exist independently from the ecological entanglement, Morton contends, nor does “Nature” exist as an entity separate from the uglier or more [...]

Rediscovering Kropotkin

At the recent social ecology colloquium, Peter Prontzos drew our attention to the renewed interest among scientists in understanding the potential evolutionary basis for human cooperation. Among other developments, this has encouraged some evolutionary biologists to reconsider the work of Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin’s best known book, Mutual Aid, pioneered the study of cooperation in animal and human evolution more than 100 years ago, and has long been considered a classic work in the emerging anarchist intellectual and literary tradition of that period.

Last September, the Scientific American website [...]

Bookchin’s unique contributions to the left

Social ecologists have long pointed out that many of the ideas that today’s ecological and anti-authoritarian movements take for granted were first articulated in the writings of Murray Bookchin. Indeed Bookchin’s radical ecological writings predated the emergence of an environmental movement by several years. His advocacy for face-to-face municipal democracy anticipated the post-Seattle interest in direct democracy by well over a decade.

In a recent article on the New Left Project website, Janet Biehl offers an accessible and very comprehensive overview of Bookchin’s pioneering [...]

Imboden: In search of a broad, coherent social ecology

This short essay, by Arizona-based social ecologist Charles Imboden, raises some provocative questions about the evolution of social ecology and proposes a reconciliation of some currents that have often been in conflict.  Comments, as always, are strongly encouraged. This originally appeared on the author’s blog at

Recently, someone immersed in Murray Bookchin‘s late-period works asked my definition of social ecology. This brought up an important issue. How is social ecology to be defined generally, taking the entirety of the field [...]

Carmelo Ruiz on Vavilov’s Legacy

Vavilov’s legacy

by Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero

Every modern society needs a substantial public investment in agricultural research. And such research requires the acquisition of useful plant and seed specimens from all over the world. It is no different in the case of socialist societies. During the first half of the twentieth century the Soviet Union was a world leader in the fields of genetics, plant science and the study of agricultural biodiversity, in large part thanks to the colossal work of one single individual: botanist Nikolai I. [...]

The Occupy movement in North America and Europe

From social ecologist Raf Grinfeld in Belgium:

Many people in Europe were surprised to see the Occupy Together movement become so big in North America, even those of the Left who had seen more and more interesting popular protests in the Middle East and the south of Europe in 2011, and had hopes that a similar kind of thing would happen in the USA and the north of Europe.

There was also the surprise of it all in Europe because mainstream media kept [...]

From the streets of Montreal: Le printemps érable

The phrase ‘printemps érable’ translates as “Maple Spring,” but it also sounds like the French for Arab Spring. A new website, (also available at, offers a diverse mix of messages, commentaries and news stories from the Quebecois French press and activist blogs, e.g. this excerpt from a story by one of the site administrators. It describes last week’s historic march of some 600,000 people in Montreal in support of the 3-month student strike and in defiance of the Jean Charest [...]

“The Meaning and Necessity of Revolution in the 21st Century”

An exceptional work of analysis and vision from one of the most astute observers of the present worldwide revolt. Jerome E. Roos is the founder of (Reflections on a Revolution), and has traveled extensively in southern Europe over the past year. This is from a talk he gave in Barcelona on the eve of the 1-year anniversary of the uprising of the indignados. It includes links to videos that have inspired revolutionaries in Tunisia, Egypt, Greece and Chile: [...]

“Failure of the Green Economy”

The German group, Bundeskoordination Internationalismus (, has just published a new critical paper titled After the Failure of the Green Economy. This comes at an important time, as delegates from around the world are readying to meet in Rio de Janeiro for the 20th anniversary of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. Unfortunately, the planning for “Rio +20,” as it has been dubbed, appears to have been overtaken by corporate interests, and critical observers report that the entire conference is likely to [...]

New book on participatory evolution

Counterpunch this week features an interview with molecular biologist James Shapiro, whose new book, Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, seeks to offer a comprehensive view of current work in evolutionary biology and concludes that concepts of innovation, self-organization, and self-directed evolution have now overtaken traditional Darwinian views of evolution driven by random mutations.

The book begins:
How does novelty arise in evolution? Innovation, not selection, is the critical issue in evolutionary change. Without variation and novelty, selection has nothing to act upon. So [...]