Recovering Bookchin: Social Ecology and the Crises of Our Time.

Author:Martin, Thomas
Position:Book review

Andy Price, Recovering Bookchin: Social Ecology and the Crises of Our Time

Porsgrunn: New Compass Press, 2012. ISBN 978-8293064169.

Full disclosure: this reviewer sees Murray Bookchin as one of the greatest minds of the past century, and at the same time recognises that he could--at least in the last fifteen years of his life--be condescending, curt, even arrogant towards those who disagreed with him. Andy Price seems to be of much the same opinion. This volume manages to cover in some depth, and with laudable fairness, the controversies and the philosophies in only about 250 pages. It fills an important gap in the literature about Bookchin and social ecology, and should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of anarchism. Murray Bookchin, more than any other thinker, pointed us toward that future.

Few radicals on either side of the Atlantic would have questioned Bookchin's pre-eminence among living philosophers of anarchism and ecology before 1987. In that year, at a Green gathering in Amherst, Massachusetts, Bookchin delivered a keynote address on the disparities between social ecology and deep ecology--which touched off a battle ('debate' is too feeble a word) between those two ideologies that has still today not run its course. Price sets out the arguments on both sides with clarity, though the reader will not doubt which side he is on. Some eight years later, with the publication of Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm, Bookchin provoked a new controversy over what he saw as a tendency in fin de siecle anarchism towards what he called 'ad hoc adventurism, personal bravura, an aversion to theory oddly akin to the anti-rational biases of postmodernism, celebrations of theoretical incoherence ...' Perhaps the choice of the red-flag word lifestyle was a poor one--or perhaps, as Price suggests, Bookchin was simply exhausted by eight years of ad hominem attacks (not to mention his ill health) and wanted to retaliate in kind. It can't be denied that Bookchin's...

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