New book: “Recovering Bookchin”

New Compass Press, based in Norway, has just announced the publication of Recovering Bookchin: Social Ecology and the Crises of Our Time, written by Sheffield Hallam University (UK) Senior Lecturer, Dr. Andy Price. New Compass describes the rationale for this book:

Through an extensive body of political and philosophical ideas he called social ecology, Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) elucidated one of the first intellectual responses to the ecological crisis. However, over the last two decades of his life Bookchin’s ideas slipped from focus, obscured by the emergence of a crude caricature that portrayed him as a dogmatic sectarian who intended to dominate the radical left for his own personal motivations. . .  By looking afresh at Bookchin’s work, Price argues that his contribution can be seen to provide a coherent practical and theoretical response to the ecological and social crises of our time.

A complete description and ordering information are at, and an interview with Andy Price by New Compass co-editor Sveinung Legard is available here.


4 Replies to “New book: “Recovering Bookchin””

  1. Murray Bookchin was the most important anarchist or libertarian thinker in the latter half of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, today, he is largely unread and increasingly forgotten. Why is this so? Is it because his critics were unfair or because of his shortcomings as a theorist? This book seems to place the blame on Bookchin’s critics, whereas I tend to think that he bears most of the responsibility for his own marginality.

    It is a pity that it is so hard to have a balanced discussion of his work. Murray had an exaggerated sense of his own achievements, but he really wasn’t a Hegel or Marx or Aristotle. Nonetheless, he did achieve important things, and we can only grasp and celebrate them through a critical appraisal that discusses his strengths as well as shortcomings.

  2. Recovering Bookchin by Andy Price not only describes the Bookchin caricature, but it also tries to separate the valueable criticism of Bookchin’s ideas from the criticism of him as a person. The book is not a mere defense of Bookchin, but a critical appraisal of Bookchin’s thoughts. I urge Chuck Morse and everyone else to read it, and make up their own minds about its content.

    The book can be ordered from Amazon or Createspace

  3. Chuck, given that most thinkers languish in obscurity only become influential long after their death, isn’t this a bit premature and unfair? His relative obscurity probaly has less to do with his ideas, personality, or his critics than the cultural and intellectual milieu he wrote in. From a Marxist dominated New Left to a poststructuralist/academic/particularist left in the 80s and 90s (not to mention a conservative intellectual and political climate more generally during the Reagan/Bush/Clinton years), he was simply beyond the pale for many.

    He also missed his audience by being perpetually ahead of his time: in the 60s with ecology, later by advocating an anarchism understood as direct democracy in the alterglobalization movement just as he was rejecting that tradition, and then again by being the only theorist to try to create a new left tradition based on popular assemblies, ten years before this very form would characterize the diverse uprising of the last year. There seems to actually be a resurgence of interest in Bookchin these days, from David Harvey’s praise in his last book Rebel Cities to several references in papers given at an academic conference in Berlin just this past weekend.

    That said, I think the original post here actually frames this worthy project far too defensively, giving too much attention and emphasis to the few people who caricatured Murray’s work rather than the many more who have never read it in the first place. As left libertarian ideas and councilist practices become seemingly ever more dominant on the left, Murray’s work is likely to be more widely read.

  4. Sveinung, I’m glad to learn that this book contains a “critical appraisal of Bookchin’s thought.” There was no indication of that in the blurb promoting the book and I have never seen anyone connected to The New Compass Press acknowledge (much less raise) a critique of Murray. I’m happy to hear that there is an openness to developing a more balanced approach to his work.

    Blair, I think it’s fair to say that Murray was ahead of his time in many ways—there are those that you mention and also his position on ecology, his work on patriarchy, among others. I think he was profoundly innovative—certainly one of the most creative people that I have ever met. However, I also think he was rather backwards in some respects. For instance, his refusal to identify racism as a pivotal form of domination is deeply problematic (to say the least) and, in the last thirty years of his life, his nostalgia for the pre-WWII left was quite literarily backwards looking.

    Obviously, he was a complicated thinker (and person), with amazing qualities and some serious shortcomings. He took on huge challenges in his work and life and, given that, it is inconceivable to me that he wouldn’t have failed in certain ways.

    I believe that the question for us, who want to learn from is legacy, is to figure out how to untangle the strengths from the shortcomings and to determine how to build on the former while minimizing the latter.

    And to do that obviously we have to decide on what terms.

    I agree that this book frames the issue too defensively and I also believe that excluding Murray-the-person from a discussion of his legacy is in itself erroneous. As we all know, Murray wasn’t just a writer, he was a revolutionary and basically devoted all of his life (public and private) to the cause. He wasn’t someone who wrote for X hours per day and then, when that was done, retreated into private life. On the contrary, he was what Lenin called a “full-time revolutionary” and, as such, I think it’s important to look at the relationships he formed with people and how they unfolded. I believe that this is one meaningful part of his legacy. I think Murray recognized this—which is why he spoke about his own life history so frequently—and perhaps this is why Janet Biehl is writing a biography of him). I think that material is relevant.

    I would also argue that Bookchin’s most passionate supporters have done a lot to undermine the discussion of his work. Of course, there is the outsized praise of his accomplishments—”he was a new Marx,” “a new Aristotle,” etc—and a tendency to insist that people agree with Murray’s ideas as a precondition of discussing them. I’ve seen countless events in which people are pressed to declare their support for “social ecology” before being allowed to participate in a discussion of it. I think that unnecessarily limits the range of participants.

    Ok, I’ll end here, but thanks for your comments. I would certainly be delighted to see a resurgence of interest in Murray’s work. I think that would be wonderful.

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