“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ecology and the New Left 2

Consider the possibility that "The New Left dropped the ball on ecology because it was a hippie thing" was because "It was a style thing" (see my previous).

Wouldn't that be just awful?

Imagine "dropping the ball" on race (the New Left, conventionally, was about including race and gender and notionally environment in thinking through Marxism) because thinking race was "stylistically" not cool vis a vis thinking class.

Or literally that the clothing or the music…or indeed the skin color…was wrong.

It's just awful, right?

So that's not a good reason to drop the ball on ecology.


Jason Chaplin said...

The New Left’s disingenuousness was rife on a couple of fronts, wasn’t it? The holism was too much to think so it gave way to the cult of the self, spiritual consumerism (and seeded the coming inter-generational war). It doesn’t seem there was enough of a foundation—in habits and institutions—to sustain praxis.

Worry about being perceived as hippie points to a weird insecurity. An image issue would normally just be something to work through. Then again, ecological catastrophe is bloody terrifying—why not put it off if you’re feeling small or vague?

The fashion-consciousness brings to mind Michael Albert’s view that one main reason why the radical left has stagnated is because it’s culture has been elitist and alienating to most of the working class. Like, you can’t spit on football and McDonald’s and expect everyday people to feel an affinity with you.

In the aftermath, there are now groups like IOPS committing to ecological stewardship and inter-species solidarity and doing the holistic approach 2.0 (or 1.0 proper).

Unknown said...

I think two books are relevant to this question of the New Left and ecology: Wini Breines, "Community and Organization in the New Left" and Barbara Epstein's "Political Protest and Cultural Revolution."

Breines claim is that "prefigurative politics is what was new about the new left," and she traces the experiments in what is now called "horizontal" forms of organizing that were happening among the "base" of the new left -- and the frustration it caused among those trying to discipline SDS. Epstien's book then picks up how these prefigurative organizational forms were first really employed in environmentalist direct action groups like the Clamshell Alliance and the Abalone Alliance. Basically, this story connects up the experimentation of the New Left with the environmental movement with an ecological, horizontal form of organizing.

And these forms of organizing grow, often silently, beneath the surface like mycelium, only to mushroom into daylight in forms like Occupy.