The Institute for Social Ecology offers online courses on a variety of ever-expanding topics. Our seminars combine weekly interactive video seminars with ISE faculty and participants from across the globe, video lectures and readings, and online discussion forums. Most courses are available in credit and non-credit earning options; accredited courses also requires registration with our academic partner Castleton University. Classes are generally offered 2-3 times a year (check individual course pages below for time/date details). All our courses are also available in a self-directed format featuring the syllabus and materials but without the fixed time commitment of the weekly seminar. Registration for the full seminars is $100 and $50 for the self-directed version. We try to make our programs affordable while also covering costs; payment plans and need-based scholarships are available. To enroll, complete the form on the relevant course page or contact us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org.

Ecology, Democracy, Utopia is an eight-unit course that provides a comprehensive overview of Social Ecology, an interdisciplinary body of ideas that examines social and ecological problems from a transformative and holistic perspective. Students learn the foundations of social ecology and apply these insights to a variety of contemporary political and ecological problems, sharpening their understanding of the world while developing visionary ideas to change it. The course explores a broad range of interconnected themes including: social theory, hierarchy and domination, capitalism, nature philosophy, food and technology, direct democracy and the state, political organizing and movement history, and reconstructive vision.  The next seminar is will take place summer 2021.

The Philosophy and Politics of Social Ecology offers a deep dive into the philosophy and politics of social ecology designed for both newcomers to the theory and for those well versed in Bookchin’s work. Taught by longtime ISE faculty member Chaia Heller, the course addresses epistemological questions that offer a rethinking of nature and human nature that transcends racist, patriarchal, and colonial outlooks that, in turn, open the way to envision a free, democratic, and ecological society. We’ll also take on a central and fraught question of social and ecological ethics. Using anti-racist and feminist perspectives, we’ll consider how to ground an ethics in a dialectical and ‘situated’ approach to both making and evaluating knowledge claims.  During the second half of the course, we’ll apply social ecology’s epistemological and ethical frameworks to creating a utopian and democratic political praxis.  We’ll address Bookchin’s communalist project, exploring crucial questions including ‘what is dual power?’ and ‘how do we bring revolutionary perspectives to our work in social and ecological movements?’ Next seminar: April 5, 2021 1 pm EST.

Food and Climate Justice

As the world faces intersecting crises of climate, health, and multiple social inequities, movements for climate and food justice are playing a central role toward developing a community-centered grassroots response. These movements share common themes, viewing the sources of these crises in institutions  of hierarchy and domination, including capitalist structures of racism and colonialism. The extraction of resources and exploitation of marginalized populations for food and energy production, especially in the Global South, are major contributors to worldwide environmental and social degradation. This course will offer a Social Ecology perspective on the background and potential of the climate and food justice movements to resist further damage from fossil fuels and agribusiness dominance, while building ecologically harmonious and equitable food and energy systems that can restore soil health, biodiversity, and climate stability.

Each segment highlights the leadership of communities around the world in shifting the paradigm towards the fundamental principles of non-hierarchy, direct democracy, and unity in diversity. Case studies of particular projects will include video interviews and presentations by frontline advocates as well as recommended readings and other video and audio resources.

 

Frankfurt School Critical Theory is a seven-unit seminar that introduces the core concepts, thinkers, and texts of this famously rich yet challenging school of radical thought. These transdisciplinary thinkers have been a foundational influence on social ecology, which has drawn on their penetrating analyses of a wide array of topics including capitalism, fascism, modernity, reason, science and technology, nature, pop culture, mass media, aesthetics, the left, and more.   Participants will read foundational texts including Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno’s Negative Dialectics, Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man, exploring their continued relevance for contemporary political and theoretical questions related to capitalism, imperialism, modernity, culture, race, gender, colonialism, and more. The next seminar will be offered in fall 2021.

Understanding Antisemitism: Historical Roots & Contemporary Relevance is a five-session seminar that explores antisemitism in history and social theory.  Recent events – from the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the alt-right’s chant of “Jews will not replace us,” up to recent controversies within the Women’s March and UK Labour Party – have demonstrated a critical need to understand antisemitism as an ongoing threat that requires analysis and action from an emancipatory perspective. Co-taught by Robert Ogman (PhD Sociology, De Montfort University) and Peter Staudenmaier (Professor of History at Marquette University), each week participants will discuss assigned texts after a short input by the instructors. Next seminar is March 24-April 28, 2021, meeting Wednesdays at 10 am PT/1 pm ET. 

Rethinking Social Transformation is a five-unit seminar that explores the tension between transformative social change and practical political action. It engages with questions of dialectical thinking, state theory, agency, and political strategy. Participants will read and discuss texts by Murray Bookchin, Karl Polanyi, Karl Marx, David Harvey, Nicos Poulantzas, and others, with short contextualizing lectures by instructor Dr. Robert Ogman. Next seminar (TBA).

All courses are also available in a self directed format featuring the same material minus the weekly time commitment of the live seminar ($50).

To enroll or get more information, complete the form on the specific class page, or write us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org. Taking a course for credit requires additional registration and a different fee structure, please indicate on the form or write us directly: social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.org.