Review of Andreas Malm’s The Progress of This Storm

In These Times editor and ISE affiliate Dayton Martindale has written an excellent critical review of eco-Marxist Andreas Malm’s new book on climate change, The Progress of This Storm: Nature and Society in a Warming World.  He argues that by resurrecting a problematic dichotomy between man and nature, Malm’s theoretical and political vision constrains the possibilities of a truly liberated ecosocialist future – the transcendence of such dualisms by the “third nature” described by Social Ecology.

“But there’s a recognition of something shared between human and nonhuman, an unbreakable independent spirit that makes a villain out of top-down control itself. Henry David Thoreau called it “wildness”; we might call it the democratic instinct. It is from this recognition that any vision for an ecological future must begin. It looks away from our supposedly unique “third level of agency” toward more universal features of the natural world: adaptation, spontaneity, experimentation, freedom. It centers empathy and cooperation—think of gorillas dismantling traps—and uplifts the sort of care and subsistence labor that has traditionally been devalued by nature/society binaries, justifying the exploitation of women, indigenous groups and nonhumans. It draws on an evolutionary history of mutual aid, a lineage from beetles to humans famously drawn by Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. Less Lenin, more lemur.

To develop these qualities, I submit, it helps to conceive of human society as a subset of the natural. It may not be enough to rewild the forests, the prairies, the oceans and the deserts (although of course we must do those things). Perhaps we must rewild ourselves. The goal should be what left-green theorist Murray Bookchin called “Third Nature,” a harmonious, fecund synthesis of the nonhuman world (“First Nature”) and human communities (“Second Nature”).

…What we need, in a word, is integration. In food production, where permaculture and agro-ecological techniques are finding that the same land can feed humans and sustain wildlife, if we orient ourselves toward cooperation rather than control.

Read the full review at Boston Review here.

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