Neoliberalism and the Politics of Social Ecology

[This article was submitted by Matt H., an alum of the ISE summer program and a graduate of the MA in Social Ecology program at Prescott College. Comments and discussion are welcomed and encouraged!]

Neoliberalism and the Politics of Social Ecology

by Matt H.

The current expression of communalist politics is incapable of resisting and providing a viable alternative to neoliberalism. With the dismantling of the welfare state, costs and responsibilities are increasingly localized. Indeed, communalism may serve to propagate neoliberalism in the name of localism and political participation. Meanwhile, inequality is rising as wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the corporate state, international governance regimes, and amongst the global elite. In this short blog post, I argue that social ecologists need to reconsider the commitment to communalist politics and the dual-power strategy of libertarian municipalism, at least under contemporary political-economic conditions.

While neoliberalism takes a multitude of forms, scholars typically identify three main tenets.  First, neoliberalism embraces markets to fulfill policy objectives. This includes the outsourcing of government services and the privatization of public goods. Second, neoliberalism enables the globalization of capital via trade liberalization and global trade agreements. And third, neoliberalism seeks to manage the fallout of privatization–particularly rising levels of inequality–through market-based efforts. This includes a focus on self-responsibility and individual entrepreneurialism, as well as economic development through public-private partnerships and social enterprise.

Many celebrated localist initiatives operating within poor and working class communities–including DIY-initiatives, community-based organizations & non-profits, and social enterprises–align with this third tenet of neoliberalism. In such situations, individuals and communities are expected to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, no matter the barriers they face. Often, this compels them to become entrepreneurs and enter into market-based relations. Unfortunately, the deck is stacked as they have limited access to capital and wealth continues to be extracted from their community. Under such conditions it is unlikely that these initiatives meet the needs of community members. Ultimately, this strengthens the corporate state by maintaining a surplus army of labor, among other things.

In the face of rising inequality, what are the options for social ecologists? Communalist politics and the dual-power strategy of libertarian municipalism do not appear to be able to address the needs of working class and poor folks within the context I have described. Such a movement is likely to be relegated to the middle class.

A hypothetical question that I find myself returning to regarding libertarian municipalism is: Under capitalist relations of production, how would libertarian municipalism combat acts of “defensive localism” and parochialism that pit localities against each other for jobs and industry? Surely a place like Chicago’s south side would welcome jobs and even today community-based organizations, community leaders, and elected officials try to court industries just for the prospect of employment.

I find all of the answers that I come up with to the above question require much different material conditions than what currently exists, namely greater social equality. Perhaps northern European countries have political-economic conditions which provide better political opportunities for a movement such as communalism.

Some question that I think social ecologists need to grapple with then include: What are the conditions necessary for a thriving libertarian municipalist movement? Are there other avenues for social ecologists to pursue that can create the appropriate political opportunities for the development of a relevant libertarian municipalist movement? Might libertarian municipalism continue to be irrelevant even under improved political-economic conditions?

Most likely, the answer to these questions involves participation in what some social ecologists may deride as reformist initiatives. Welfare rights, labor, cooperative, environmental reform, environmental justice, and climate justice are just a few movements that are working to improve people’s lives and possibly create future political opportunities where a communalist politics may be relevant. Indeed, many social ecologists and people formerly associated with the ISE currently work within these movements. Perhaps its time for social ecology to shed itself of the specter of libertarian municipalism and its narrow strategy for social change as the ultimate expression of social ecological politics.

46 Replies to “Neoliberalism and the Politics of Social Ecology”

  1. Excellent points, one thing not mentioned is the concept of citizen participatory budgeting at municipal level, where citizens actually vote as individuals and not thru representatives on each budget line item, participatory democracy not representative democracy that is easily manipulated by money interests (ie Vancouver city Vision counsellors in the pocket of developers)

    second point to consider is how the term ‘think global act local’, actually needs to be rethought as today you have a migrant global workforce entering local communities. For example, a 100-mile diet considers sustainability from only a so-called local perspective without considering the human side of the issue as exploited migrant farmworkers travel thousands of miles to pick the 100-mile diet. the lack of class & race perspective in the much eco-thinking.

    craig

  2. Matt,
    I want to look at a number of issues that you have raised and to unpack a number of complex issues.
    ‘Communalism’?
    In South East Asia ‘communalism’ is a strategy of community conflict. Among the communities of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, ‘communalism’ is a description of religious communities in conflict. The various sects of Moslems, Sikhs, Hindus, Jain, Buddhists, Christians, [as well as ‘the untouchables’], live in particular localities, as religious communities, attacking each other on the grounds of their religious differences, and in retaliation for centuries of oppression and domination. The Human Rights Watch actively pursues a Campaign against Communalism.
    In the West, among the social ecologists and socialists of the USA/EU/RUSSIA, ‘communalism’ has been adopted to refer to a direct democracy in which local and neighborhood assemblies of local residents make decisions in a local context in a democracy.
    What these two versions have in common is that they relate to defined communities making decisions in local assemblies; according to their priorities.

    ‘Direct Democracy’?
    Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which the sovereignty of the commune or municipality or ward or borough or town is lodged in the assembly of all citizens who choose to participate. The assembly may pass executive motions, make laws, elect and dismiss officials, conduct trials. Direct democracy is designed to enable citizens to work peacefully together, pursuing negotiations to decide on laws and actions that are relevant to the local citizens.
    In situations where governments are controlled by elite minorities, any attempts to institute ‘direct democracy’ are ‘revolutionary’. We are not operating on a clean slate. For example, World Wealth reports in 2010 have made it clear that more than 80% of the wealth of the world is controlled by less than 0.5% of the global population. The wealth elite of 10.1 million, the plutocracy, use their monies to drive the growth of a free market capitalist global economy without any regard for the interests and needs of local communities. At the moment, local assemblies have little control over the operations of such elites and to do so would be regarded as ‘revolutionary’
    Chrystia Freeland of Reuters observed recently on the BBC News that this split between the super-rich and everyone else prompted three Citigroup analysts to conclude that “the world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomy, who have primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, …. and everyone else.
    When local citizens want to take action to be directly involved in government, their rulers do not give up power without a struggle, and the citizens have to be willing to struggle if they want to gain power. During January 2011, for example, in Tunisia over 200 citizens were killed in the struggles against President Ben Ali and his family. In Egypt, 300 citizens are dead as a result of the struggles against President Mubarak. The current events in Tunisia, and Egypt, reveal the complex processes of social and political transformation that may lead to a new democracy. Not only are the citizens involved, but also world leaders, religious leaders, religious activists, world media, as well as terrorist organizations and agents, as well military forces, both national and international. And if the struggle is to succeed a multitude of citizens, united in purpose, will have to be involved.

    Could ‘direct democracy’ work in the wake of struggles for power?
    A direct democracy, based on debate, negotiation, compromise, agreement is a product of peace and stability. Local assemblies would be too diffuse and subject to takeover by the displaced elites. After the struggle, many citizens in an area – be it village, municipality, neighborhood, borough, suburb, town or city – would wish to be left alone to live in peace and given time to adjust to the new democracy. In such a situation, Chinua Achebe is quite right to remind us that it is essential to decide what to do about those ‘with the will to power’! who will manipulate the situation for their own aggrandizement !

    Could ‘direct democracy’ work?
    There is significant support for the idea across hundreds of years [from the Athenian to the Paris communes to the town meetings of New England or cantons of Switzerland.] But today, many millions of citizens living in communities have not been involved in local, regional, nor national governance. They do not have the skills, the time, nor the inclination necessary to organize systems of government. These citizens would need education and training on the street corner/classroom/field in order to develop ‘direct democracy’ and keep it free from interference by the plutocracy.
    What about the question of scale? Modern cities are larger than ever with up to 30 million residents. For example, Greater London in the UK houses more people than the whole of Greece. In modern neighborhoods in cities like Tokyo or Mexico or New York or Shanghai there may be 100,000 residents, who may not know the neighbors, and have no knowledge of the configuration of local neighborhoods nor the needs of the local communities and no reasons to take direct action except against ‘nuisance neighbors’.
    In such suburbs the residents are often commuters or new comers, whose families live elsewhere. They work somewhere else and where they live is where they sleep. Modern cities are best described as ‘dormitories’.

    How could direct democracy work in 2011?
    A key element is that citizens make the decisions, by majority vote, about the governance of the country and the services of their local neighborhood. This could be done by means of referenda by e-polls……a system of social networks and forums designed specifically to enable everyone interested to debate and vote. In this way, direct democracy would involve citizens in decision making, but not necessarily in the implementation of the decisions. Citizens may vote to extend the education services, or medical services but they cannot expect to be involved in the construction of schools, hospitals, clinics, nor the appointment of staff.
    E-polls would have to be operated in a user friendly way so as to avoid voter fatigue, if possible. There is no national parliament but there will be offices of national and local administrators.
    The results of the referenda would have to be registered by teams of professional administrators [secretariat] who would organize projects and manage funds. Of course these administrators will be influential and significant members of the direct democracy. But they will be responsible to, and subject to, and accountable to the terms of the majority decisions of the voting citizens. A direct democracy is one in which all administrators and civil servants are directly responsible to the citizens. This model is most suitable for urban living.
    The majority of people, 5.8 billion, live in poverty in rural settings, and need to be protected from capitalist exploitation. They must learn their human rights, and how to safeguard their environment so as to develop ‘direct democracy’.

    Human Rights Watch: Campaign against Communalism, 2011.
    Wikipedia 2011. Definitions of Democracy
    Friere,P. 1975 Pedagogy of the Oppressed
    Midwinter,E. 1975 Education and the Community
    Fotopoulos,T 2010 Inclusive Democracy
    Staudenmaire,P 2003 Social Ecologist envision
    Chinua Achebe 2011 New York Times: Nigeria’s Promise, Africa’s Hope
    Eiglad, E 2010 Communalism
    Bookchin, M 2002 The Communalist Project: ISE Archive
    Freeland, C 2011 BBC Newsnight, Feb 2.
    J.KelvynRichards 2011 http://www.kelvynrichards.com: Discourse:Social Ecology

  3. i just wanted to say that I think these are compelling points, Matt. And, Craig, I thought your comment was very pertinent well.

    That’s all: I’m just glad to see this discussion.

  4. @Matt, Thank you for the article and for raising several important considerations.

    Personally, I do not see the need to articulate a singular praxis as THE only legitimate/authentic politics of social-ecology. Rather, I agree that varying circumstances dictate varying strategies. So I don’t see the need to “shed” libertarian municipalism so much as acknowledge the need for a variety of contextually-based strategies and actions for bringing about greater degrees of equality and less hierarchy as well as harmonizing relationships between the human and non-human. I wonder if you’d agree with an “all hands on deck” approach that doesn’t preemptively foreclose on possibilities for strategy and action?

    @Kelvyn, it seems as though you are defining “direct democracy” in a somewhat narrow manner. While some individuals may think of themselves as “citizens” and locate themselves in neighborhoods, wards, villages, or towns. Some may prefer to avoid thinking of themselves as citizens (for a number of reasons–cultural, political, and otherwise) yet still organize themselves/orient towards a directly-democratic form of political organization and decision-making.

    I also think deeming “majority” vote *in all cases* is problematic. In some situations, the people who make up the respective polity will choose to operate via consensus while in other situations, majority voting may indeed be preferred.

    The point, again, for me, is that we ought avoid prescribing singular, one-size-fits all solutions that neglect the specificities of time, place, culture, and so forth.

  5. I wanted to follow-up on Matt’s article and Craig’s comment (both of which I enjoyed.)

    Murray and his closest followers often advocated for libertarian municipalism in a polarizing way and tried to force people to declare themselves for or against it (making it into sort of a “dividing line” among people influenced by his work and around the ISE). However, it’s important to recognize that libertarian municipalism has achieved almost zero political or theoretical traction. To my knowledge, there has only been one libertarian municipalist campaign in the United States ever (about twenty years ago in Burlington—I was involved) and there may have been one attempt by the Norwegians, although I’m not sure about that. Theoretically speaking, the only advocates of libertarian municipalism that I am aware of are those around the Communalism magazine. That magazine barely comes out and the people behind seems more interested in denouncing people that don’t agree with them than in actually advancing their ideas.

    What this means, then, is that the important issues that Matt (and Craig) raised are not likely to stimulate much debate unless we really force the issue. No matter how much (or how justly) we pick apart libertarian municipalism, it’s pretty unlikely that anybody is going to step in to defend it.

    I think that is really unfortunate. Even though Murray made exaggerated claims about the importance of his ideas, I do think that libertarian municipalism represented a significant contribution to the anarchist/libertarian socialist tradition and, as such, is really worthy of talking about. It may not have been as epochal as Murray alleged, but it was very important nonetheless.

    So, I’m glad to see Matt getting the ball rolling here and I hope we keep it going.

    I will add three points to the conversation.

    Murray never sufficiently problematized what the word “local” or “community” mean. While there are some people who have a really intimate, coherent, and sustained connection to their “locality” or “community,” there is a tremendous amount of mobility these days and many different types of communities. That needs to be addressed systematically in any attempt to formulate a coherent anti-statist politics.

    One strength of Murray’s libertarian municipalism is that it introduced a biological element into the political discussion. He often referred to a comment that Aristotle made about the definition of the city. I’m paraphrasing here, but Aristotle said that you have a real city when someone can hear you shout from one side of the city to another. Again, I’m paraphrasing, but the point is that the cultural and political organism of the city had a symbiotic relationship to the human organism and must ultimately be subsumed under the limitations of our biological form. I think this was an insightful way to think about a complementary relationship between nature and culture in the context of a political community.

    Finally, Murray offered a lot to the discussion about ways that social movements can exercise political power without devolving into states and/or losing their creative, democratic dynamism. I don’t think his solution is satisfying, but he moved that age-old discussion forward, which is a major accomplishment in itself.

    They’re so much more that one could say. I just wanted to throw these points into the dialogue. I think we’ll have to fight hard to keep the dialogue going and, if we don’t, there’s a very real possibility that his rich contributions will be forgotten.

    Sorry, I just saw your comment, Karl: your pluralistic approach to “social ecology” breaks with major premises of Murray’s ideas and represents a position that he argued vigorously against. Have you read his polemics against relativism and pluralism? Of course, you are entitled to come up with any definition of social ecology that you want but your views, if I understand them correctly, mark a significant departure from the ideas that animated the ISE and the community around it. That doesn’t make them wrong, just very different (and in need of elaboration).

  6. @ Chuck, I think you make very important points about the significance of Bookchin’s contributions, generally, and with libertarian municipalism, specifically.

    One point of information… a few years ago I was involved in something that could be considered a libertarian municipalist campaign (maybe LM-lite) in South Bend, Indiana (we called for the eventual establishment of neighborhood assemblies as the political decision-making structure for our community, among other LM-inspired platform items). For me, it was a good experience, though I don’t know that I would choose to engage in the same tactics again. If you’re interested, check this out:

    http://votegreenmichiana.wordpress.com/

    I understand what you are saying about having a “pluralistic” outlook representing a significant departure from Bookchin’s point of view. And, without knowing which specific pieces you are referring to, I can say that I’ve read many of Bookchin’s works including the polemics against “relativism” in Re-Enchanting Humanity and Anarchism, Marxism, and the Future of the Left–while they do have some important insights and critiques, overall I just disagree.

    I don’t know that I agree with your statement “…your views, if I understand them correctly, mark a significant departure from the ideas that animated the ISE and the community around it.” I certainly get that the ISE community has historically looked to Bookchin’s work as the primary source of theoretical basis. But I think that there are a number of other thinkers and theoretical traditions (such as anarchism, feminism, libertarian socialism, etc.) that have inspired/guided people around the ISE. That and I just don’t think that there are too many people who have agreed 100% with everything Bookchin wrote or said and I know that the current ISE community is much more “pluralistic” than the Bookchin of Re-Enchanting Humanity.

  7. Thanks y’all for the responses thus far.

    @Kelvyn I think you bring up some good points about unpacking the terms communalism and libertarian municipalism. I do use them almost interchangeably. However, I think it was safe for me to assume that readers of the ISE’s website understand that I am referring to the communalism developed by Bookchin.

    @Karl I agree that it is important not to completely dismiss LM. Perhaps the appropriate social conditions may develop where it would be a useful political stratgey. That said, I’m skeptical and I don’t envision it as a part of my political praxis.

    @Chuck @Karl I appreciate the historical and contemporary contexts you both provide. I was only around the ISE for a brief period that included a significant ebb. I also think your points regarding how problematic terms such as local, community, and citizenship are. Those are terms that are largely taken for granted in Bookchin’s writings. (Problematizing those terms and examining the ramifications for LM would make for an interesting essay.) While I was reading your posts I was thinking specifically of the work of Manuel Castells regarding the flows of people and resource through geographies and Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.

  8. Hey Guys,

    @Karl, Yeah, I think you’re definitely right to say that the ISE was/is more pluralistic (than Murray) when it came to social ecology. I really agree with you there. For my sake, I just think that the position is problematic insofar as it seems (to me) that it’s advocates are both identifying strongly with Murray’s work while rejecting it’s major claims. That strikes me as conflicted.

    I wasn’t aware of that campaign you mentioned. I wonder if there are others that could be included on the list?

    @Matt, yeah, I was thinking of Castells too. His work is really fascinating (and his early stuff was very important for Murray). I translated a piece by Castells on anarchism.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  9. concerning successful participatory budgeting at the municipal level see the link below to the article from the New Internationalist magazine about how the poor participate more than the middle class in Porto Allegre, Brazil because their service needs are greater. but as the writer mentions at the end what mobilizes people in one place may not in another!

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/South_America/Democracy_PortoAlegre.html

    perhaps today some of the solution to the local is to link with global issues, both global capital and migrant global labour affect us in many ways. for example if a worker earns $20/hr last year, but this year the same job can be done somewhere else in the world for $2/hr or less – one can see that the workers local condition is subject to the movement of global capital. if local workers linked their issues across national boundaries they may be able to effect some resistance to capitals race to the bottom.

    today immigrant and migrant workers are arriving in capital intensive cities (London, NYC, Dubai, Paris, Mumbai) and struggling for basic rights at work and for diminishing services, in many of these places citizens fought for similar rights one hundred years ago and have achieved some standard of living with services, but we find new immigrants today fighting for these same rights over again, having to re-invent what has already been achieved for others.

    that my rant for today!

  10. @Karl ‘Direct democracy’can be adopted in local/national politics and be seen as revolutionary, and subject to many difficulties and abuses including corruption.
    As you suggest,it may be more useful to think of ‘direct democracy’ as a principle of organisational management. For example, instead of workers being persuaded that the office/factory/enterprises are best organised by a chief and directors, it would be just as easy to organise the enterprise as a direct democracy in which all personnel are involved in the decisions and the operation of the enterprise: as worker factories or cooperatives.The adoption of direct democracy in the work place would be on a smaller scale than in the political assembly, but have clear, specific targets to monitor and achieve.
    @ Matt As I have mentioned in a previous post, social ecology should be seen as an increasingly international, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural school of thought, informed by theories and practices in physics,genetics,biology,philosophy,psychology…..and the ISE site is read by followers across the world.
    @Craig Absolutely agree.We need to ‘follow’ the money.For example, the recent financial crises have revealed clearly that the capitalist plutocracy of 10.1 million people across the globe are getting richer by the minute by moving their money at will to lower costs and maximise profits.It is no accident that up to 6 billion people are trying to live on the poverty wages,of which 1 billion are starving to death.
    @ Chuck As you have gathered, I do not ‘strongly identify’ with Murray Bookchin. But I do support the work of the ISE in their efforts to make Social Ecology relevant in the battle against the capitalist ethic of ‘grow or die’ as leading us all to’grow and die’!

  11. @Matt, this reminds me of a classic question: does a critique of the state form necessitate foregoing voting or engaging in “reformist” electoral campaigns? What about a critique of capitalism? A critique of an exploitative relationship with the non-human?

    How would you ground a “coherent” (or does that term need re-thinking?) praxis that is congruent with commitments to non-hierarchy, solidarity, and a harmonious relationships with the non-human? Does the minimum-maximum spectrum of praxis still remain a useful way to think about things?

    @Chuck, there is a conflict there… but I think it goes back to the question of whether those who identify with the ISE or social-ecology are in a position to re-construct contemporary versions of social-ecology that have some variation but are in solidarity based upon common political and ethical commitments. I believe this is necessary for the continuing relevance of the ISE and Bookchin’s work for that matter. If social ecology and the ISE are limited to a doctrinaire “Bookchinism” and can only “elaborate” social ecology using the “logic” of Bookchin’s thought, then I think the ISE and Bookchin’s work are doomed for irrelevancy. Thankfully, I know that there is space among the ISE community for a degree of “pluralism” that you’ve pointed out as a divergence from Bookchin’s ideas.

    @Craig, I think you are raising important questions that do problematize a LM political strategy… at least as an exclusive strategy. I wonder if you’d pose any (tentative or otherwise) proposals for dealing with or transcending the challenges you’ve identified?

    @Kelvyn, I generally agree with your comments above, though I would like to know how you see cultural/”bioregional” variation impacting the political strategies, political organizations, and so forth in your vision of a global social-ecology.

  12. Hey Karl,

    So, you believe that there is a variant of social ecology that is different in key ways from Murray’s and that this variant could or should serve as a foundation of the ISE? Is that an accurate characterization of your views? (I’m just trying to make sure that I understand you properly).

    Thanks

  13. @Chuck–yes, though I would emphasize “variants” -plural. I think that any number of Bookchin’s “key” concepts (DiaNat, his polemics against ecofeminists, deep ecologists, anarchists, etc.) have been contested to varying degrees by people involved with the ISE… I think identifying the “core” of social ecologies that are the basis for the ISE is something that ought be a processual thing–always ongoing and involving each of us who are connected to the ISE community–certainly not limited to few central people.

    There’s a tension between decentralization and the basis for commonality but to me that’s the crux of one of the difficult challenge of building reconstructive communities or movements.

  14. Hey Karl,

    OK, I see what you’re saying, but the problem is that none of these variants have been spelled out, much less scrutinized and defended. I’m not saying that it can’t happen, but I fear that it’d be hard to build a school around the *potential* to develop a coherent body of ideas.

    I can certainly appreciate wanting an alternative to Murray’s work, but of course actually having it is a different matter.

  15. @Chuck, I understand what you’re saying about variants being spelled out… though, again, I want to emphasize that it’s variants–plural. I don’t think social ecology or the ISE would benefit from a single person or small group of people with few or no substantive differences are invested with the ability to determine the outlines of a Singular True social ecology.

    In terms of building a school around a “coherent” body of ideas… How is “coherence” defined? Who is in the position to determine what is “coherent” and what is too divergent?

    I’m wondering what your take is: are you of the opinion that “social ecology” and the ISE are too intimately tied to Bookchin’s work and, therefore, only those to adhere to an orthodox interpretation of Bookchin’s work ought be identifying with social ecology and the ISE?

  16. Hey Karl,

    I think that there are two questions in play here.

    First, there is the issue of Murray’s “social ecology”—what it is and what it might mean for the institute for social ecology. Second, there is your pluralistic approach to social ecology (however it is defined).

    With respect to Murray’s “social ecology,” I’m not sure what it is, because he articulated very different and occasionally contradictory views over the course of his long intellectual career. This is why I’m also not sure what an “orthodox” interpretation would be and why. I genuinely don’t know how to answer these questions.

    With respect to your pluralistic approach, I think it’s fine to say that social ecology encompasses a range of positions but you do have to define the limits of that range (the boundaries) unless you want to admit any and every idea into your social ecology. You have to draw the line somewhere.

    But it appears to me that you’re not entirely pluralistic, since you have rejected core precepts of Murray’s ideas.

    For my sake, I’m not interested in reasserting social ecology as a doctrine (whatever it may be), but I am interested in a critical examination of Murray’s ideas and in the experience of the ISE. In my view, there is a lot to be gained from those things.

    . . . I’m really glad that you’ve initiated these discussions. I’m grateful for the work you put into it. I know it’s not easy, but I think it’s really valuable.

  17. Hey all,

    I haven’t read everything, but just wanted to make few comments and bring some things.

    When Chuck said : “To my knowledge, there has only been one libertarian municipalist campaign in the United States ever (about twenty years ago in Burlington—I was involved) and there may have been one attempt by the Norwegians, although I’m not sure about that. Theoretically speaking, the only advocates of libertarian municipalism that I am aware of are those around the Communalism magazine.”

    In fact, as far as I know, the most important expression of LM comes from Montreal, with what people as Dimitri R., Marcel S. and their comrades did to interest people to poltics and what is possible to do at the political level in their city.
    Some other group, without labeling themselves libertarian municipalist but close to social ecology or Kropotkin ideas, did made some actions in France too, but it’s not very well-known.

    Something should be accentuated too. I often have the feeling that people that try to put in practice or criticize LM limit it to the formation of a party-like organisation that need to elaborate a program and participate in elections (I’m generalyzing, clearly, but you see my point). And maybe Murray did make this simplification too, but I think he also did repeat many times that the most important thing about LM is to reimplicate people in politics (and then expand their possibilities & freedom into this domain), to recreate to social/political sphere.
    And, definitely (there I agree with Karl), it’s not one way or another, it is something you can do at the same time that you participate into, as you said : “Welfare rights, labor, cooperative, environmental reform, environmental justice, and climate justice,[all these] movements that are working to improve people’s lives and possibly create future political opportunities where a communalist politics may be relevant.”

    As Chuck said in Karl’s article about theory/education vs practice, there’s no duality. I really like this idea of “unity in diversity” instead of “what is the good way, the good thing to do”, I think it is too often forgotten. For me, Dimitri R. did prove in some good ways in Montréal with his fight for the building in a cooperative: it works best when the two (political revendications and organisation & the initiatives that improve people lifes you’ve mentioned) are linked together.

  18. You’re absolutely right about that, Vincent: the Montreal experience had somehow slipped my mind.

    It would be interesting to compile some sort of survey of these experiences, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, etc.

    I’d say that the Burlington experience was very mixed. The Greens had almost zero effect on policy debates in Burlington and Green candidates won very, very few votes (in the range of 3 to 6 percent, if memory serves). However, the experience of campaigning and coming up with a program and coherent position statements was extremely educational for the group, particularly given that Murray lent his fabulous rich historical perspective to all of our discussions. Certainly the experience left a lasting imprint upon me, although I’m not sure I’d want to replicate it now.

    Does anyone know what happened in Norway? Did Democratic Alternative run candidates for something? If so, how did they fare?

  19. Hi Chuck,

    I did compile some of these experience (especially the French ones : Montreal, the “Ecologie Social” group in France, but also Demalt in Scandinavia and some individualities who tries things in France and Spain, trying as you said to see what works or not, what they did have in common, etc. It small, but it’s in french… I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with that, for the moment.

    Democratic Alternative did run for elections not in Norway but in Oslo 2007, but the comment that I have is that they did their programm a bit too late, so the campain was too quick and they get only a few vote. But as you say, it was for them a good experience, very educative. I don’t know if the group in Oslo is still existing and if they will run for the next elections (maybe soon?)

    If you’re interested, there’s their program (in english, pdf) downloadable in this page :
    http://www.ecologiesociale.ch/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19&Itemid=12

  20. Greetings,

    In response to the general trend of this discussion; there are those principles according to which we would have ourselves act, and those to which we would expect the remainder of the world to adhere for our civil coexistence. Then again, those rights which we would demand for ourselves we would also wish for all people of the world to possess, even if they would voluntarily or unwittingly subject themselves to the machinations of statecraft and economic repression.

    The practical forms through and into which we organize our political movements and communities will differ according to circumstances, imagination, and freedom of expression – this is without question. The reason for contrasting these expressions is to generate a comparative ideal from which all cultures could adapt themselves in order to reconcile our functionality and security in the world political environment.

  21. Hey Vincent,

    It would be great if someone could translate your article on libertarian municipalist experiences into English. I think it would add a lot to the discussion here. Hopefully someone will do that!

  22. I’m getting into this discussion a little late, but wanted to go back to some of the crucially important issues that Matt raised at the outset. These questions are central for the future of the anti-statist left, not only for social ecology.

    Left libertarian thinkers, including Murray, have voiced a wide range of responses to the rise of what he once termed the “propertarian” right, which claims to be libertarian but consistently abuses the core meaning of that term. Noam Chomsky, for example, urges the left to unite in defense of the welfare state, to the point of actively celebrating what the State offers to those in need. He sees this as a necessary response to the current right wing backlash.

    Murray attacked Chomsky for taking this position, but also introduced some of his own modifications to the classical anti-statist outlook. For example, many of us will remember how in his later years Murray often pointed out the need for a coherent system of laws as part of a libertarian municipalist program, viewing the law as an essential historical buffer against tyranny.

    One question I’ve been pondering of late is whether we can work toward any kind of conceptual separation between the State and the public sector of the economy. It is that sector that the right is most keen to dismantle. They (mostly) love the military and police, want to beef up ‘homeland security,’ and have no difficulty legislating morals in Congress, even as they rail against the excesses of ‘big government.’ But the public sector of the economy is what they wish–to paraphrase the prominent DC-based right wing ideologue Grover Norquist–to shrink to the point where it can be flushed down the bathtub drain. How can we best engage in a more active defense of the public sector , along with the arena of directly democratic politics that Murray termed the public sphere, while continuing to challenge the oppressive institutions of the State?

    For social ecologists engaged in global climate issues, the question of what can and cannot be accomplished by working from the local level is also crucial. No confederation of communities can compel others to stop emitting massive, potentially life-destroying quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. How can we accomplish this? Clearly the current (statist) mechanisms of the UN are equally unable to do so, given the disproportionate influence of the US and China, which together represent about 40% of current global emissions. Countless important initiatives are underway at the local and regional levels that significantly help move us forward, but climate scientists (scientists usually being the most cautious contributors to political/policy debates) have made it clear that we need a rapidly accelerated program of worldwide CO2 emissions reductions to have any chance of retaining the character of the global climate within which our civilizations have developed. So how can communities be catalysts and organizing centers for change, and also help spur (or even begin to compel) necessary changes on a larger scale?

    I hope we will begin to grapple with some of these larger questions as this blog, and discussions around the Institute, continue to develop.

  23. Hey Brian,

    Welcome to the discussion. I think you touch on a lot of interesting topics, but I wanted to ask about one thing.

    You write:

    “One question I’ve been pondering of late is whether we can work toward any kind of conceptual separation between the State and the public sector of the economy”

    Typically, the “public sector” refers to parts of the economy run by the state. It is “public” to the extent that taxpayers “own” it. This is true of national defense and also social security, among other things.

    I can’t see how you can defend the parts of the economy run by the state while also attacking the state as such, but I assume your concern is with finding a way to preserve and expand a social safety net. Is that right?

  24. It is my impression that when citizens focus their attentions on the roles of the State, they completely ignore the continuing impact of the 10.1 million multi-millionaires, including 1100 billionaires,who control the wealth of the globe. This wealth elite, a plutocracy, accumulate $40 trillion annually from their investments in all kinds of funds via all kinds of capitalist projects. Their investments are based on the capitalist principle of ‘grow or die’.Their investments are made for their individual/corporate benefits. Any benefits that accrue to the local communities are ‘accidental’and unintentional.
    Some of this elite are well known across the world, many are unknown.But they are the drivers of the global economy.
    All of this elite want governments to stop taxes, and redistribution of their wealth by regulation,and supervision. They will only be interested in social justice if it increases their profits.They will certainly welcome ‘anarchy’ for then they will be freer to make profits without controls.
    This wealthy elite, some of whom invest in forestry, mining,fuels, energy, land, factories, are responsible for the pollution and emissions that lead to climate change, and the destruction of the environment.
    This plutocracy depend upon the poor as cheap labour, and cannot be committed to the alleviation of poverty. This means that more than 6 billion people have no prospect of a better life as long as the world [not just the USA]is subject to an unregulated free market capitalist system which is operated for the benefit of 0.00015% of the global population.
    What are we going to do about this global situation? Who is going to alleviate poverty? How are we going to share the wealth of the world for the benefit of all citizens? How can we operate all enterprises so that they do not pollute? and do not destroy resources? How can we begin to operate a steady state economy which is sustainable, and subsistent?

  25. @Chuck

    With respect to Murray’s “social ecology,” I’m not sure what it is, because he articulated very different and occasionally contradictory views over the course of his long intellectual career. This is why I’m also not sure what an “orthodox” interpretation would be and why. I genuinely don’t know how to answer these questions.

    That’s a very good point. I think, however, that there are some who would suggest that Bookchin’s later work should be recognized as the fullest development of his thought and would suggest that “Murray Bookchin Reader” edited by Janet Biehl or maybe the essay collection “Social Ecology and Communalism” edited by Eirik Eiglad provides an appropriate overview and introduction, respectively.

    but you do have to define the limits of that range (the boundaries) unless you want to admit any and every idea into your social ecology. You have to draw the line somewhere.

    I understand what you are getting at and, while I am certainly interested in developing and articulating my own ideas, I’m also convinced that addressing the “boundaries” of social ecology as an ongoing, collective effort that is currently being negotiated through the process of this discussion.

    Could you please explain what you mean by being interested in the “experience of the ISE?”

    @Jesse

    Then again, those rights which we would demand for ourselves we would also wish for all people of the world to possess, even if they would voluntarily or unwittingly subject themselves to the machinations of statecraft and economic repression.
    </blockquote.

    I think there's a difference between wishing something for ourselves and necessarily believe that it must/ought be "best" for others.

    The practical forms through and into which we organize our political movements and communities will differ according to circumstances, imagination, and freedom of expression – this is without question. The reason for contrasting these expressions is to generate a comparative ideal from which all cultures could adapt themselves in order to reconcile our functionality and security in the world political environment.

    Wouldn’t it be ideals, plural? Shouldn’t there be different expectations in different communities and when there are differences they are negotiated with respect to context?

    @Brian

    whether we can work toward any kind of conceptual separation between the State and the public sector of the economy.

    Of course, I agree we have to be able to critique the state form while recognizing the essential functions of the state in the everyday well-being and survival of many people. I think we work for greater degrees of decentralized democratic decision-making. Democratize and decentralize the UN as a strategy alongside the construction of dual-power institutions, autonomous spaces, and so forth.

    I think we have to be nuanced, practical, radical, and utopian all at once. I think, for example, LM is a great strategy, PARECON is a great strategy–at the same time, we cannot ignore the existence of the state and transnational organizations and their significance for the everyday lives of human and other-than-human.

    All hands on deck. No stone unturned.

    @Kelvyn, you make some great observations about the role of the wealthy private elite and pose some really provocative questions? I’m curious if you are familiar with the debate between Michael Albert and Peter Staudenmaier that deals directly and indirectly with these concerns?

    http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/zdebatealbertvsstaud.htm

    @Vincent

    Thank you for joining in with your valuable points. I agree with Chuck that it would be great to translate your article… A discussion of the experiences of LM projects would be really interesting and worthwhile.

  26. I agree with Chuck that historically the state has been the instrument for managing public services, at the same time that it’s the locus of official violence in the form of the military and police. My question is whether they’re irrevocably linked.

    Right wingers continue to attack ‘big government’ and aim to drastically reduce its size while, with few exceptions, supporting the continuing build-up of the repressive apparatus. My question is whether it’s conceptually feasible to do the opposite: to support the safety net, and also public services in general: to defend the public sector just as Murray emphasized the integrity of the public sphere in society. Can we make a meaningful separation between the public sector and what we commonly refer to as the state, which in the antiauthoritarian tradition focuses mainly on its military and police functions?

    Our preference may always be for locally controlled and administered efforts, but we also want to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks in places where reactionary forces are (we hope temporarily) in control. Consider the case of Wisconsin, where a new right wing governor seeks to balance the state budget at the expense of state workers and has threatened to call out the National Guard in response to any labor action or ‘meeting.’ I don’t know if there are any active social ecologists in the Madison area (as there have been in the past), but if so, I hope they would be united in support of the state workers, teachers and students who have been out in the streets and packed the state house in large numbers this week.

  27. Hey Karl,

    I can see reasons for arguing that it was the Bookchin of that period–the period of the Reader and Communalism–that we should look to when we try to find the “real social ecology.” However, there are also problems there. The Reader is more suggestive than systematic and some of the ideas that he expressed in that period stand in frank contradiction to ideas that he expressed at other times. Specifically, the historical perspective articulated in his “History, Progress, and Civilization” essay is incompatible with the one outlined in the Ecology of Freedom, which many considered his most important work.

    I mention this primarily to say that you can’t assume that the meaning of “social ecology” is transparent and clear and something we can accept as a premise of the discussion. If fact, we can’t even say that Bookchin’s formulation of “social ecology” is clear and consistent. These issues should be analyzed and unpacked carefully.

    I see a democratic impulse at work when you say that you want people to “develop social ecology collectively” (to paraphrase), but there are theoretical questions that need to be addressed in their own right. In other words, ideas do not become or less right if they are developed by more or less people or more or less collectively. For instance, when a scientist says that global warming is occurring, his/her claim is not more correct if developed in a group or less correct if developed alone. I appreciate your orientation toward collective work, but theoretical questions needs to be separated out.

    When I mentioned the “experience of the ISE” above, my point was that discussions about the future of the ISE would benefit from a critical examination of its failures and successes. That’s all.

    (Hey Brian, I just saw your comment . . . very good questions)

  28. Brian wrote: but we also want to make sure people don’t fall through the cracks in places where reactionary forces are (we hope temporarily) in control.

    If I’m understanding what you’re getting at, you’re suggesting that social ecologists ought have an analysis/praxis that both involves democratizing the existing structures of the state and separating out those features which, in some ways in some times/places, need to be strengthened and supported in order to protect humans and the other-than-human in the here and now AND working towards building dual-power institutions. If that is what you are getting at, then I completely agree.

    Chuck wrote: I mention this primarily to say that you can’t assume that the meaning of “social ecology” is transparent and clear and something we can accept as a premise of the discussion. If fact, we can’t even say that Bookchin’s formulation of “social ecology” is clear and consistent. These issues should be analyzed and unpacked carefully.

    Agreed. Please note that I was pointing to the Reader and SE and Communalism as examples of what *some may see as exemplifying the most representative aspects of Bookchin’s social ecology. I’m not at all suggesting this is my own opinion.

    Chuck also wrote: in other words, ideas do not become or less right if they are developed by more or less people or more or less collectively. For instance, when a scientist says that global warming is occurring, his/her claim is not more correct if developed in a group or less correct if developed alone. I appreciate your orientation toward collective work, but theoretical questions needs to be separated out.

    Sure. I’m not at all suggesting that whether its one person or 100 that the ideas around social-ecology (or, as I’d prefer, social-ecologies) will necessarily stand up to scrutiny based on the number of people involved or the degree of collectivity. But, for myself, I’m currently much more oriented in creating a more open and self-critical space and sensibility around the ISE than in seeking to assert my particular views as what ought be the basis of a reconstructed idea of social ecology.

    When I asked about your comments on caring about the experience of the ISE I was trying to understand your interest in terms of the future of the ISE/social ecology. You’ve previously stated that you don’t feel an impulse to align yourself or identify with social ecology and, at least to this point, you haven’t expressed an interest in being part of a reconstructive project as opposed to critically analyzing Bookchin’s work and the ISE. I can certainly understand that, given your personal experiences, you’d have that interest but I’m wondering if you do have the interest in being part of a reconstructive project around social ecology and the ISE?

  29. @Karl I am familiar with separate items from their debates. My regret is that they debate/argue/assert/claim and remain in opposition. ‘Parecon’ is treated as something different to ‘social ecology’, whereas they both emphasise the importance and the possibilities of democratic assemblies in the workplace and the town hall. The comments in these Blog posts reveal the same kind of oppositional thinking.
    In 2011 there is overwhelming evidence that the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer. After many decades of capitalist enterprise, 5.5 billion people and their children are still trying to survive on less than $10 a day.It is time to re-think, re-plan, re-organise society.Social action is being taken today in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain…..in the face of the plutocrats, the local military, and the police; not to forget the international forces and agencies of the USA!
    Members of the USArmy/EU based in the Ukraine read my website. Does the CIA/FBI/USArmy read the ISE web site?

  30. @ Karl, you ask:

    I’m wondering if you do have the interest in being part of a reconstructive project around social ecology and the ISE?

    I’m not really sure what you mean by “around social ecology and the ISE,” but I am interested in building a just and ecological society and believe that Murray’s work and the experience of the ISE have something to offer to that. I’m focused on making distinctions and clarifying issue because doing so is a precondition of building anything (in my opinion). It’s hard enough to change society with good ideas, it’s basically impossible when you have bad or confused ones.

    @Brian, if I understand you correctly, you are asking if we can fight *for* welfare state programs while also fighting *against* the state as such. Maybe I’m confused by what you’re raising here, but my answer to that would be no.

    As I see it, in politics, the best defense is always a good offense. That is, I think we’ll get more if we fight for more radical ends than if we moderate our demands in the interest of seeming “reasonable.” For instance, the Democrats in Wisconsin just left the Capitol and thereby delayed a vote on the Republicans cuts. I think they did this because a social movement forced them to and raised the costs of going along with Republicans. My view is that we should always be MORE (not less) aggressive in times of austerity.

  31. I posted this to another site in response to some thoughts regarding your questions:

    It is not possible to both stand for a stateless society yet demand a safety net and public services. Rather, it is necessary to understand that these functions can only be abolished if poverty and want are no longer a threat. Only when the abolition of the State at the same time makes the abolition of poverty and want possible — which is to say, until that point where the State itself is responsible for poverty and want — does the abolition of the State become possible.

    We are now at that point: The State itself is the absolutely necessary condition for poverty and want; it is the promotion of scarcity as the goad to further concentration of wealth and inequality. Without the State the present levels of inequality, and, hence, the utter dependence of one segment of society on it self-enslavement, would be impossible.

    The whole of economic policy is nothing more than a constant search for means to impose unnecessary poverty and want on working people in conditions of actual material abundance. The so-called safety net itself presupposes a level of actual material abundance consistent with the abolition of poverty in its entirety.

  32. @Kelvyn:

    I am familiar with separate items from their debates. My regret is that they debate/argue/assert/claim and remain in opposition. ‘Parecon’ is treated as something different to ‘social ecology’, whereas they both emphasise the importance and the possibilities of democratic assemblies in the workplace and the town hall. The comments in these Blog posts reveal the same kind of oppositional thinking.

    I don’t understand, are we not to disagree as part of discussion? I don’t think that Peter Staudenmaier and Michael Albert would consider themselves to be “in opposition” to one another. Not remotely. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t articulate disagreements. Same goes for the participants in the discussion on this blog.


    Members of the USArmy/EU based in the Ukraine read my website. Does the CIA/FBI/USArmy read the ISE web site?

    Are you suggesting that the US army considers your website a threat? Are you suggesting your website is more of a threat (from the point of view of the US army) than the ISE website? If so, on what basis are you making these claims?

    @Chuck,

    I’m interested to know whether you are interested in being part not just of a critical review of the history of the ISE and Bookchin’s social ecology but of the *current and future* activities of the ISE.


    As I see it, in politics, the best defense is always a good offense. That is, I think we’ll get more if we fight for more radical ends than if we moderate our demands in the interest of seeming “reasonable.” For instance, the Democrats in Wisconsin just left the Capitol and thereby delayed a vote on the Republicans cuts. I think they did this because a social movement forced them to and raised the costs of going along with Republicans. My view is that we should always be MORE (not less) aggressive in times of austerity.

    I don’t think that Brian was suggesting being more “reasonable” or that there ought necessarily be a preference for a “reform” strategy over a radical one in relation to the state. Why not multiple strategies? I don’t think a recognition of the consequences for everyday lived experience in terms of, using the examples Brian mentioned, the pubic sphere or the social safety net makes one less radically-oriented — I think that these are part of nuanced analyses and strategies.

  33. Karl,

    I find it a little weird that you’re asking questions about my motives—what difference does it make whether or not I want to volunteer at the ISE?—but, whatever. I will say that I’m pretty sure that the ISE won’t have a future unless people connected to it find a way to clarify what “social ecology” means and to talk critically about what the ISE does and has done. It sounds like we disagree here.

    I guess Brian can say more if he wishes, but it’s important to distinguish between defensive and offensive mobilizations. Obviously there are connected on many levels, but they are different in important ways.

    With respect to social welfare programs, they depend the state’s ability to capture revenue and redistribute it. To do that, the state must be dynamic and strong (and to possess an elaborate police system to support taxation). Presumably, anti-statists would not want that.

  34. @Chuck,

    I’m not sure where you perceive a disagreement. I’m all for clarifying what “social ecology” means in the present tense and also for a critical discussion of the ISE’s past and present. I’m just not interested in being singularly responsible for articulating a reconstructive “after Bookchin” social ecology, especially at this point in time. Again, in my opinion, an open space for critical dialogue has to exist before what “social ecology means” and “what the ISE does and has done” can be clarified.

    I’m asking about your interest in being part of the ISE because, in my opinion, it’s relevant to having a critical discussion about the ISE. If you don’t think the ISE has a future and/or you aren’t interested in being part of it, that is relevant information in terms of how you frame your arguments about the “experience of the ISE,” no?

    Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not at all intending to imply that if, in fact, you are uninterested in being part of the ISE that would some how undermine your point of view or that your participation in a discussion would be unwelcome.

  35. Hey Karl,

    Well, I guess this is a chicken-and-the-egg thing. That is, my feelings about the future of the ISE (and my own participation) depend on how some of the basic terms are sorted out. In my view, there are some elemental questions about “social ecology” that remain unanswered, so it’s hard (for me) to know what to make of an institution dedicated to it. Perhaps matters seem clearer to others, but that’s what conditions my connection to the ISE in particular.

    However, regardless of what I may make of “social ecology,” I think Murray’s work has a lot to teach and that the ISE has offered a lot.

  36. @ Karl
    Of course it is good for there to be open disagreement. But if one knows that the participants agree, and yet make it appear that they disagree, then they are playing a game.

    I wanted to draw attention to the fact that agents of the USArmy are reading sites that seem to contemplate and recommend social change.It would be really useful if they were reading the sites to learn more about Social Ecology. I certainly did not intend to seem to be scoring points: I should have said ” I know that members of the USArmy EU/MidEast are reading my web site. Do you know which agencies are reading the ISE site?

  37. Chuck wrote:

    Well, I guess this is a chicken-and-the-egg thing. That is, my feelings about the future of the ISE (and my own participation) depend on how some of the basic terms are sorted out. In my view, there are some elemental questions about “social ecology” that remain unanswered, so it’s hard (for me) to know what to make of an institution dedicated to it. Perhaps matters seem clearer to others, but that’s what conditions my connection to the ISE in particular.

    I think that the basic terms or elemental questions about social ecology are in the *process* of being worked out and I’d say you are already contributing to it. If it comes to pass that you don’t feel comfortable or otherwise don’t want to participate, then you (and anyone else for that matter) will have the ability to stop participating.

    Kelvyn wrote:

    Of course it is good for there to be open disagreement. But if one knows that the participants agree, and yet make it appear that they disagree, then they are playing a game.

    I wanted to draw attention to the fact that agents of the USArmy are reading sites that seem to contemplate and recommend social change.It would be really useful if they were reading the sites to learn more about Social Ecology. I certainly did not intend to seem to be scoring points: I should have said ” I know that members of the USArmy EU/MidEast are reading my web site. Do you know which agencies are reading the ISE site?

    Kelvyn, I hope you can understand and respect that debating/discussing notions of what “social ecology” constitutes in the present tense for those of us involved with or associated with the ISE is a very important and, to some, long-delayed conversation.

    You have stated you are not particularly familiar with the ISE or the “social ecology” of Murray Bookchin, a co-founder of the Institute, yet you’ve been given the courtesy of a platform to articulate your own version of “social ecology” and have your own website promoted. If you are finding that you are not receiving the response that you desire, I sincerely hope you will re-consider your approach rather than resorting to accusatory statements or denigrations (see comment thread attached to your “A Social Ecology” as well as this thread.)

  38. Hey Karl,

    I just wanted to add something . . . I don’t think it’s incumbent upon you (or any particular person) to answer the big questions about social ecology, but what we can do is set an agenda for future discussions and activities. As I see it, the context is one of crisis: fewer people are reading Murray’s work than ever before and the ISE has only a fraction of the programming that it once had. I think we need to figure out what questions to pose, and how to frame them, in order to move forward.

    Honestly, it’s conceivable that Murray’s work will be reduced to a footnote in an occasional dissertation and that the ISE will continue to shrink. Or not.

    Obviously, I don’t want that to happen and I think that what we do now will really make all the difference.

  39. @ Karl
    I do apologise if I have offended you, or your colleagues, in any way.
    I do appreciate the platform that has been offered to present an alternative set of approaches to Social Ecology. The importance of contributing to the blog is that I have become more aware of differences and similarities.

  40. I would like to make a response to Chuck’s concerns about the future scope of Social Ecology.
    At this time of rebellions against plutocratic dictators in North Africa, and the drive for democratic government;
    of rebellions by workers against their exploitation by corporate and government capitalists;
    of reports recording the destruction of species as a result of blatant exploitation by capitalist corporations;
    of legal judgements against companies found guilty of deliberately polluting rivers and valleys in the Amazon; and the continuing survey by oil and gas corporations of ocean sites in spite of government directives forbidding them;
    of global ‘insider dealing’ causing global financial crises;
    of unregulated free market capitalism pouring monies into the pockets of HNWI plutocracy, and keeping the majority poor;
    of extensive extreme weather causing drought, floods,cyclones, storms resulting in the loss of harvests and food crises;
    there is continuing need for the Institute of Social Ecology, and the actions of the supporters of Social Ecology, to help communities across the globe to be democratic, environmental, conservation, cooperative, social; to preserve the biosphere.

  41. I have not read all of the comments here so for me it would be better to continue this dicussion at the Communalism forum, where I have also posted this comment :
    I read in this text of Matt H. : “Welfare rights, labor, cooperative, environmental reform, environmental justice, and climate justice are just a few movements that are working to improve people’s lives and possibly create future political opportunities where a communalist politics may be relevant.” The thing is that today a communalist politics is not seen as much relevant in these movements, if we can really call all of them movements because most of them have many internal disputes and contradictions. They are networks with some end but often a quite limited one, so they can become quite static instead of being about movement. At the same blog, J Kelvyn Richards recently called Deep Ecology a movement, I rather think of it as a vague network with vague ideas and as something full of contradictions today.

  42. @ Rafa
    I do not disagree with you. But we have to recognise that all these groups see themselves as movements involved in significant works. As such they are unwilling to combine, cooperate, act in unison, to tolerate criticism. They want to secure their own ‘place’as social actors, and to be at the centre of the networks. Is not possible for the debates and blogs operated by the ISE, Communalism, Kommunisti, Zulenet,Inclusive Democracy, ecologieSociale, GardenEarth, and many others, to operate from a single site so that we can all benefit from a global as well as a local perspective?
    My previous comment on this page was intended to alert members of these groups that Social Ecology is an emerging discipline rooted in the physical and natural sciences, theories of knowledge and mind, economics and civics, environmentalism and conservation, as well as in ‘town meetings’. Social Ecology may lead us to ideas and practices that will help us to safeguard the earth’s biosphere.

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