Brian Morris, Anthropology, Ecology, and Anarchism: a Brian Morris Reader
Oakland: PM Press, 2014; 252pp; ISBN 978-1-60486-093-1
Brian Morris, a long time activist and philosopher, is a professor emeritus of anthropology at Goldsmiths College, London. The fifteen essays presented here range widely across the fields of psychology, history, anthropology, economics and criticism, but all are firmly grounded in social ecology. Morris is an admirer of the anarchist current initiated by Peter Kropotkin and further developed by Murray Bookchin, and still believes that social ecology is the future of anarchism. He unabashedly defends the movement against postmodernist challengers, against neo-Marxism, primitivism, and all other 'cutting edge' theories that claim to replace it. Yet he does so in such a gentle and reasonable manner that even his critics respect his work.
An understanding of social ecology requires first of all knowledge of Kropotkin and Bookchin. In four of these essays Morris presents lucid overviews of their work. His own training and fieldwork in cultural anthropology and his understanding of evolutionary and ecological principles are what brought him to anarchism in the first place, and he sees social ecology as the logical framework for twenty-first-century anarchism. In addition to the two 'big names', Morris pays homage to Rudolf Rocker, Rene Dubos, Lewis Mumford, and more indirectly even Marx, Engels, Emma Goldman and Mikhail Bakunin.
Anarchists who identify with the social ecology movement will find little new here, but they will find it presented with verve and clarity. The fifth essay, for instance, concerns 'Capitalism: The Enemy of Nature', and it would be hard to find an anarchist who does not already agree with that. One of Morris' qualities as a philosopher has always been his willingness to criticise even the thinkers he admires most, when he sees the need; and at the same time he exercises a proper academic civility toward those he does not admire. To write like this without stumbling requires a compendious knowledge, not only of anarchist literature, but also of the many...