Murray Bookchin and the Ecology of Freedom

Join us on March 25, 2015 for a discussion of Murray Bookchin’s major work, The Ecology of Freedom (1982).

Murray Bookchin was among the first thinkers to draw a clear connection between capitalism and the ecological crisis. “For time spent laboring in the trenches of radical environmental theory,” Nash argues, “Murray Bookchin … has few equals.”1 Indeed, his concern with ecology predates the coining of the very term. As he often liked to remind people, Bookchin published his book Our Synthetic Environment (1962) six months before Rachel Carson published Silent Spring (1962). And while Carson’s book received far more attention, it was Bookchin who more clearly advanced the thesis that “the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.”2 The rise of civilization (especially Western civilization), he argued, brought with it an obsession with hierarchy that led directly to the degradation of the natural world. “Just as Kropotkin renewed anarchism at the end of the nineteenth century by giving it an evolutionary dimension,” Peter Marshall argues, “so Bookchin has gone further to give it a much needed ecological perspective.”3

Bookchin’s views are given fullest expression in his major work, The Ecology of Freedom (1982). There he argues for an “ethics of complementarity” derived from an “ecological vision of nature.”4 Social justice cannot be divorced from environmental justice; rather, he sought a “new and lasting equilibrium with nature.”5 Though Bookchin later offered an idiosyncratic critique of the nascent Deep Ecology movement, the revolutionary thrust of his work—especially his belief that there could be no solution to the ecological crisis without a comprehensive economic, political, and ethical reorganization of post-industrial society—offered much to radical environmentalists that came after him.

Participants have decided to read The Ecology of Freedom (1982) for this month’s discussion. As always, below can be found a partial bibliography of Bookchin’s work as well as secondary material that might be of interest to more ambitious participants.

Secondary Analysis:


There are many videos online of Bookchin speaking. Here is one particularly interesting interview from 1993:

March 25, 2015 @ 7:00 PM
CUNY Graduate Center
Department of Political Science
365 5th Ave. Room 5200.07
New York, NY 10016

Facebook event page.

1. Roderick Nash, The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 164.

2. Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (Palo Alto, CA: Cheshire Books, 1982), 1.

3. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (New York: PM Press, 2010), 602.

4. Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (Palo Alto, CA: Cheshire Books, 1982), 366. 

5. Murray Bookchin, Toward an Ecological Society (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980), 58. 


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