Reconstructing Nature: Alienation, Emancipation, and the Division of Labour

By Peter Dickens | Go to book overview
Save to active project



The recovery of wholeness?

Many of what we call ‘environmental problems’ can be ascribed to the labour process, to the technical division of labour, to the multiple ways in which knowledge is constructed and used and to the ways in which modern societies manipulate nature to produce commodities. All this is not to say that the labour process, including such processes within the home and outside the formal economy, offers a total understanding of modern societies’ relations with nature. But it is a good starting point, and it is a sphere of social life which has gone almost entirely missing in contemporary environmental analysis. However, people’s alienated relations to nature, to one another and to the products of their work cannot be wholly appreciated through a narrow concentration on the labour process. It is certainly with this process that many social and environmental problems start. But to develop the argument we need to take it a stage further, examining not just the division of labour in general but its spatial and temporal forms.

This chapter is primarily concerned with civil society, defined here as social life outside the place of employment and not immediately involved with the state. It links this concern with the spatial division of labour. It first tries to clarify what civil society actually is, with reference to recent debates on the subject. It argues that the concept cannot be allowed to include and conflate the sphere of industrial production on the one hand and that of the purchase and consumption of commodities on the other. This is because, as should be clear by now, the set of relationships with nature which are contained within the sphere of production are especially important in terms of explaining people’s alienation from nature and their consequent lack of concern with the non-human world. Also important, however, are the relations formed within consumption, or the purchasing of commodities. This is all the more reason to break ranks with most analyses of civil society and to consider production separately from consumption.

The chapter goes on to link civil society to the ways in which the technical and social divisions of labour are now spatially manifesting themselves. Bringing together changes in the spatial division of labour with forms of civil society means that we can further develop our understanding of alienation and


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Reconstructing Nature: Alienation, Emancipation, and the Division of Labour


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 224

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?