September 04, 2006

The Utopia Of Ecology

Murray Bookchin died recently. His "The Ecology Of Freedom" provided a lot of sparks for me for a few cold weeks in London, but ultimately I started feeling uneasy with the Utopian totalitarianism latent in the sort of writing that tends to use "democracy" to mean something that brooks no dissent on the big picture, that conjurs up a cozy view of everybody conforming to a way of living dictated by "necessity". Democracy, perhaps, is only for those who've earned it by behaving right according to his lights, a sort of Jeffersonian agrianism with a token urban overlay.

Bookchin often struck me as the sort of True Believer who moved from True Belief to True Belief (Marxism, Anarchism, Deep Ecology etc. etc.) in search of certainty and True Enemies, and who never seemed to have the sort of self-knowledge that might have tempered the humourless totalitarian tendencies. There always seemed to be a strong streak of essentialism running through his work; a lot of what he said about things like Capitalism struck me at the time as "true but not useful": "Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing". OK, if you say so, but what if I said "Deep Ecology can no more be 'persuaded' to recognise the real diversity of human desires than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop hating"?

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