The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology
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The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology

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Edited by Michael R. Redclift and Graham Woodgate

The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology is a major interdisciplinary reference work on the developing field of environmental sociology. It consists of over 30 specially commissioned essays by leading scholars from around the world. These original essays examine a wide range of environmental issues in the developed and developing world as well as formerly centrally planned countries to present a truly international perspective. Together they analyse theory and concepts, philosophical and empirical issues as well as offering practical policy advice.
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Chapter 12: Beyond sociology: Marxism and the environment

Peter Dickens

Extract

12. Beyond sociology: Marxism and the environment Peter Dickens The realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends; it lies by its very nature beyond the sphere of material production proper. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature to satisfy his needs, to maintain and reproduce his life, so must civilised man, and he must do so in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. This realm of natural necessity expands with his development, because his needs do too; but the productive forces to satisfy these expand at the same time. Freedom, in this sphere, can consist only in this, that socialised man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for the human nature. (Marx, 1981: 958-9) Why Marxism? Marx’s assertion that human freedom lies in subjugating and governing nature seems hardly in tune with the tenets of modern environmentalism. Indeed, it might well be argued that scientific rationality and the notion that human freedom lies in the conquering of nature have created the very ecological problems which modern society is now witnessing and trying to deal with. Furthermore, the experiences of the previously communist societies are hardly a ringing endorsement for bringing human society’s interactions with nature ‘under collective control’....

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