Don’t Mourn, Organize! A Social Ecology Panel at the 2014 Left Forum




This year, the annual Left Forum was held on May 30st through June 1st at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The conference and its theme, Reform and/or Revolution: Imagining a World with Transformative Justice, attracted scholars and activists from across many social, environmental and labor movements including Occupy Wall Street, Idle No More, and Turkey’s Gezi Park.  Social ecologists collaborated to produce a panel discussion on the legacy and contributions of Murray Bookchin and his vision of communalist politics. Don’t Mourn, Organize! The Radical Decentralist Politics of Social Ecologist Murray Bookchin was attended by approximately twenty-five conference attendees, and touched on important themes in social ecology such as post-scarcity, technology and confederalism.

The panel was chaired by Debbie Bookchin, who provided an excellent overview of social ecology and a personalized history of the development of her father’s  ideas. Following her introduction, ISE director Brian Tokar gave an overview of the history of the social ecology’s involvement with social movements since the 1970’s. Sociologist Damian White then offered a thoughtful consideration of Murray’s nature philosophy and approach to technology, as well as his contributions to non-anarchist perspectives. Young ISE board member Eleanor Finley also spoke to the potential theoretical overlaps between the politics of communalism and intersectional perspectives on social justice. The question and answer period was characterized by a lively discussions about the tensions of working with reformist environmental organizations as well as the merits and challenges of confederalism, among other topics.

Overall, the panel was a great opportunity to celebrate the important contributions of Bookchin’s ideas to social moment theory and practice, as well as to explore some new theoretical terrain.