Marx and the Environment

  • John Bellamy Foster
Keywords: Ecology, Marxism


It has become fashionable in recent years, in the words of one critic, to identify the growth of ecological consciousness with "the current postmodernist interrogation of the metanarrative of the Enlightenment." Green thinking, we are frequently told, is distinguished by its postmodern, post-Enlightenment perspective. Nowhere is this fashion more evident than in certain criticisms directed at Marx and Engels. Historical materialism, beginning with the work of its two founders, is often said to be one of the main means by which the Baconian notion of the mastery of nature was transmitted to the modern world. The prevalence of this interpretation is indicated by its frequent appearance within the analysis of the left itself. "While Marx and Engels displayed an extraordinary understanding of and sensitivity toward the 'ecological' costs of capitalism," socialist ecofeminist Carolyn Merchant writes, "... they nevertheless bought into the Enlightenment's myth of progress via the domination of nature."