Marx’s Ecology and the Left

Marx’s Ecology and the Left” (co-authored with Brett Clark, Foster listed first), Monthly Review, vol. 68, no. 2 (June 2016): 1-25. DOI: 10.14452/MR-068-02-2016-06_1

One of the lasting contributions of the Frankfurt School of social theorists, represented especially by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s 1944 Dialectic of Enlightenment, was the development of a philosophical critique of the domination of nature. Critical theorists associated with the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt were deeply influenced by the early writings of Karl Marx. Yet their critique of the Enlightenment exploitation of nature was eventually extended to a critique of Marx himself as an Enlightenment figure, especially in relation to his mature work in Capital. This position was expressed most notably in the work of Horkheimer and Adorno’s student, Alfred Schmidt, author of The Concept of Nature in Marx. Due largely to Schmidt’s book, the notion of Marx’s anti-ecological perspective became deeply rooted in Western Marxism. Such criticisms were also closely related to questions raised regarding Frederick Engels’s Dialectics of Nature, which was said to have improperly extended dialectical analysis beyond the human-social realm. First-stage ecosocialists such as Ted Benton and André Gorz added to these charges, contending that Marx and Engels had gone overboard in their alleged rejection of Malthusian natural limits.

Revised Version from:

Marx’s Universal Metabolism of Nature and the Frankfurt School: Dialectical Contradictions and Critical Syntheses,” in James S. Ormrod, ed., Changing Our Environment, Changing Ourselves (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), 101–35.


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