Liebig, Marx and the Depletion of Soil Fertility: Relevance for Today's Agriculture


  • John Bellamy Foster
  • Fred Magdoff



Ecology, Marxism


During the period 1830-1870 the depletion of the natural fertility of the soil through the loss of soil nutrients was the central ecological concern of capitalist society in both Europe and North America (only comparable to concerns over the loss of forests, the growing pollution of the cities, and the Malthusian specter of overpopulation). This period saw the growth of "guano imperialism" as nations scoured the globe for natural fertilizers; the emergence of modem soil science; the gradual introduction of synthetic fertilizers; and the formation of radical proposal for the development of a sustainable agriculture, aimed ultimately at the elimination of the antagonism between town and country.

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