The Philosophy and Politics of Social Ecology

Instructor: Chaia Heller

Next Seminar: Spring 2021


Course Description

This class 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. Together, we’ll address 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?’

Class format

Following a short lecture/presentation, we’ll engage in large group discussion. Depending on group size, we’ll then move into break-outs to explore key themes that surfaced within course reading or lecture. The group will then reconvene to participate in large group discussion to further examine theoretical threads and themes that emerged within break-outs.

The video lectures and texts are hosted on our Haiku learning portal and can be accessed anytime; the readings are downloadable. Participants are expected to watch the video lectures and complete the readings in advance of each seminar. The weekly video lectures range from 1-1.5 hours long, the weekly video seminar lasts 1.5 hours, and the 25-50 pages of weekly readings should take an estimated 1-3 hours.

There are no written assignments for non-credit seeking students, those who wish to earn credit through our partnership with Castleton University must complete additional work and fee requirements (write for details). The course cost is $100, payment plans and need-based scholarships available.

View the full syllabus here.

Weekly Course Plan and Readings

April 5: Epistemology, Part I –Cultural Conceptions of Nature: Race, Gender, Colonialism, Class

April 12: Epistemology, Part II – Dialectical Naturalism: Transcending Colonial Notions of (Cultural) Evolution

April 19: Ethics, Part I – Grounding Ethics in ‘Nature’ versus ‘Natural History’

April 26: Ethics, Part II – Position and Positionality:  Do Our Identities Affect the Legitimacy of Truth Claims?

May 3: Politics, Part I – What is Power, Anyway? Explorations Social, Political and Dual Power

May 10: Politics, Part II – Direct Democracy: How Particular Identities Inform General Political Practice

May 17: Politics, Part III – Experiments in Direct Democracy: From Ancient Athens to Rojava

May 24: Politics, Part IV – Illustrative Opposition:  The Revolutionary Potential of Social Movements



To enroll, complete the form below or write us at social-ecology@mail.mayfirst.orgPlease be sure to specify if you’re interested in the full seminar or self-directed version of the course, and if you’re seeking credit or not. The full seminar costs $100, the self-directed version costs $50.  We try to make our programs affordable while also covering costs; payment plans and need-based scholarships are available.  Please note that registration is not complete until payment is received.

ISE Course Registration Form

To register for a course or request more info, please complete the form below. Please note registration is not complete until payment is confirmed.
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