Reply to Eirik Eiglad




For background please see the brief post “Making public a proposal for public debate” including the comments made on that post.

Greetings to Eirik and my thanks for his reply.

First, to clarify for accuracy, at no time have I posted on the New Compass website ( — there is a typo in Eirik’s reply). I believe what he is referring to is my adding a comment with a link to the post (“Making public a proposal for public debate”) to several social network postings announcing the launch of the New Compass website. In doing so, I intended no disrespect; my intention was to provoke some kind of response to a request for dialogue that, to that point, had gone almost entirely ignored by those associated with Communalism/New Compass. I apologize if my actions were perceived as disrespectful.

Second, the comments made by Chuck Morse were removed at his request. I am glad that Chuck reconsidered them–I do not support them nor do I think they advance dialogue nor demonstrate respectful discourse.

Third, at no time have I directed the proposal to any single person and I have not done so intentionally. My aim is encourage broad, inclusive discussion of the reconstruction of Bookchin’s social ecology. My firm belief is that this is best served through *many* persons engaging in respectful discussion and debate. Meaning, I see no reason why any “debate” (and I’ll remind everyone that the public suggestion of “debate” did not originate with me but with Marcus Melder) need only be between two persons.

Fourth, I find it quite curious that Eirik (and others, who have expressed similar sentiments in other fora) choose to evade the opportunity for robust public discussion with the excuse that I somehow have not articulated a “clear” political position and, therefore, discussion and/or debate should be avoided for reasons of time.

In the brief article “Social ecology needs development, dissent, dynamism” I attempted not to articulate my own political and philosophical framework but to call for “robust and respectful public discussion” in posing two primary questions:

1) Can there be social ecologies—that is, varying interpretations, philosophies, and modes of praxis that differ in some ways but remain in solidarity with one another and identified with the social ecology tradition?

To which I answered “I believe this answer definitive “yes” not as a cynical strategy for over-extending the relevance of the social ecology tradition, nor as a means for avoiding critical, direct disagreement, but as means of renewing an important community of activists and thinkers who can do the crucial work of developing social-ecological theory and putting it into practice. Dissent is not only inevitable, it is healthy and necessary and we who draw support and energy from the social ecology tradition should not shrink from disagreeing anymore than we ought be quick to alienate those with dissenting opinions.”

2) Which aspects of Bookchin’s social ecology are essential and what elements might, at least for some self-identifying social ecologists, deserve critique and revision?

To which I answered “I believe this question demands robust and respectful public discussion.”

Now, with the basis for a public discussion or debate, the New Compass website FAQ includes the following:

How do you define social ecology?
— Pretty much like Murray Bookchin did; social ecology is the body of ideas that Bookchin developed through his works. In a general sense, social ecologists recognize the relationship between society and nature, and insist that we must create a rational, ecological society to re-harmonize our relationship to the natural world. We consider ourselves social ecologists and therefore remain committed to the integrity of social ecology as a body of ideas.

In case it is not is not abundantly clear, there is a stated disagreement between the New Compass FAQ and the position that I took in the article “Social ecology needs development, dissent, dynamism” with regard to the possibilities for development, dissent, and dynamism. The editors of New Compass have clearly aligned themselves with the ideology of Murray Bookchin and have limited the possibilities of “development” to that which is determined (apparently) by those at New Compass who would speak for the “integrity” of Bookchin’s social ecology. Further, the lack of responsiveness of those associated with Communalism/New Compass to my original “Social ecology needs development, dissent, dynamism” article as well as the repeated public and private attempts to initiate dialogue or debate, in my view, reflects quite poorly on their willingness to support the capacity for “dissent” among those who would identify with social ecology.

Finally, there is considerable irony in New Compass’ stated desire for “new ideas” and “new politics” whilst remaining apparently wedded to the orthodoxy of an ideology articulated by a profound and great thinker (Murray Bookchin) who is nevertheless no longer with us and cannot create “new ideas” or “new politics.” The space for “dynamism” within the orthodoxy of Bookchin’s social ecology as adopted by New Compass is, thus, inherently limited insofar as there has been no demonstrated willingness for anyone associated with Communalism/New Compass to articulate any qualitative differences with the ideology of Murray Bookchin–an ideology which is now fixed as a result of his passing in 2006.

To conclude, I would like to highlight, again, my confusion as to why a movement ostensibly dedicated to democratic principles and “rationality” appears unwilling to engage in public discussion or debate. Curiously, those associated with Communalism/New Compass appear more concerned with avoiding debate and consolidating an orthodox ideology than engaging with, speaking only for myself, someone quite interested in contributing the development of the tradition of social ecology.