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Harbinger Issue 3 Call for Submissions: Heresies and Sacred Cows

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Harbinger: A Journal of Social Ecology is now accepting submissions for issue 3 on the theme of “Heresies and Sacred Cows.” Details below.

All political ideas and traditions confront a tension between ideological consistency and evolution, stability and change. What ideas are foundational, and which ones require updating due to new historical or theoretical developments? 

Although social ecology has been developed by many people and movements in a variety of settings and locations, it is still strongly identified with its foundational theorist, Murray Bookchin. He was a profoundly systemic thinker who strongly emphasized ideological coherence and vigorously–and often polemically–defended his ideas. The centrality of his individual intellectual contribution to our theoretical tradition has at times lent it an air of orthodoxy or perception that social ecology is a closed political worldview tied to the work of a single thinker. As a result, debates–and occasionally splits–have periodically emerged around incorporating new ideas into social ecology. This, of course, is not a dynamic unique to social ecology. 

Some of those specific past debates have included social versus deep ecology (and later anarcho-primitivism), Bookchin’s strong secularist/Enlightenment commitments contra various spiritualities and later indigenist cosmologies, arguments over the validity of dialectical naturalism, Bookchin’s rejection of anarchism, the need for political organization versus counterculture and “lifestyle politics,” the viability of libertarian municipalism and especially the emphasis on local elections, the elevation of a general human interest versus Marxian class analysis, the compatibility of neo-Marxist ideas associated with autonomist thinkers like Hardt and Negri, incorporating various post-structuralist insights ranging from anti-naturalism to Butlerian gender politics, prefigurative direct democracy versus statism/national politics, arguments about the first/second nature binary and anthropocentrism versus vegan/total liberation perspectives, universalism and anti-nationalism versus identity politics and minority nationalisms, and more.

These specific debates foreground more general questions such as: how open is social ecology to new ideas? Which ones, and why? How much can and should insights from other traditions be incorporated? What constitutes a fundamental incompatibility? What contradictions or elements in tension already exist within social ecology?

The next issue of Harbinger will entertain what might be called social ecology “heresies”: new perspectives that critique, challenge, or rethink its prevailing “orthodoxies” and take aim at some of our political community’s sacred cows. To this end, we’re looking for a diversity of perspectives, from within and without, to productively stir debate and shake up our received wisdom. Much of Bookchin’s political and intellectual project was directed at analyzing, amending, and transcending traditions and thinkers whose ideas, in his view, had been rendered inadequate by changed social circumstances. Just as he astutely critiqued the left for clinging to outmoded ideas and strategies that did not speak to radically different historical circumstances, we must do the same. This issue seeks to continue that tradition of reflective critical theory and immanent critique. Our goal is not to rehash tired old debates, but rather to foster  productive new discussions that ensure social ecology remains politically and theoretically relevant, adaptive within an ever-changing world. 

We’re looking for thoughtful pieces that substantively and critically engage with some aspect of social ecology’s theoretical or political worldview. We’d like to hear what ideas you see as weak links within social ecology, in need of correction or updating. Are there components you see as theoretically or strategically unsalvageable? What other political traditions should it be drawing upon, and why? Conversely, what sacred cows should remain sacred? A tradition that changes too readily becomes incoherent or merely chases after the latest political or academic trends. How do political ideas and movements navigate change and stability? What are the most pressing historical transformations and emergent issues that require new thinking from a social ecological perspective? These are some of our questions–we look forward to hearing yours. Please send your article pitches, interviews, abstracts, and art to harbinger@social-ecology.org.  Our timeline is to get a strong set of submissions by the end of summer/early fall, have time for rounds of edits during the fall, and publish in late winter. Our submission guidelines can be found here.