The Dialectic of Organic/Inorganic Relations

The Dialectic of Organic/Inorganic Relations: Marx and the Hegelian Philosophy of Nature,” [PDF], (coauthored with Paul Burkett, Foster listed first), Organization and Environment, vol. 13, no. 4 (December 2000), pp. 403-25. DOI: 10.1177/1086026600134002

Ecological thinkers have suggested that in applying an “organic/inorganic” distinction to humanity-nature, Marx embraced a dualistic and antagonistic conception of the human-nature relationship. The authors confront this view by considering how Marx’s various applications of the concepts organic and inorganic were shaped not only by standard scientific usage but also by Marx’s engagement with Hegel’s natural philosophy and the historical struggle between materialism and teleology. They find that Marx’s usage was based on an explicit disavowal of all mechanistic and dualistic views of the human-nature relationship. In Marx’s mature works, all fixed oppositions between organic and inorganic gave way to a fully dialectical understanding of ecological processes. Marx’s growing concern with the “metabolic rift” between humanity and nature generated by capitalist production led him to link the question of communism with that of ecological sustainability. Their analysis thus sheds light on the opposition between idealist and materialist visions of ecology.

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