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

By Peter Dickens | Go to book overview

8

GREEN UTOPIAS AND THE DIVISION OF LABOUR

Recently arguing from a ‘Red-Green’ perspective, Benton (1995) says correctly that ‘none but the most unthinking dogmatists can now believe that any of the existing radical traditions, unaided and unreformed has all the answers’. He is arguing against those few socialists who would attribute doctrinal status to the writings of Marx and other early writers on the Left. Their work clearly needs developing in relation to developments over the past century, not least the rise and fall of a range of states claiming to have been inspired by Marxist thinking.

Clearly this study has relied on Marx. But it has used Marx as a basis for a new set of themes. The reconstruction of nature to create commodities is a familiar part of Marxism, but the divisions of labour formed during the process are a new way of envisaging our relations to nature. The division of labour is a central element in our understanding, or rather failing to understand, our relations with nature. Giving this feature of modernity such prominence in attempting to explain why modern societies neglect and misuse their relations with nature may indeed lead to this approach’s parting company with that of some ‘Red-Greens’.

This chapter now starts to turn from this type of analysis to the question ‘what is to be done?’. The Red-Green Study Group (1995) have aptly altered Lenin’s question to ‘what on earth is to be done?’. Clearly, having identified the division of labour as a key obstacle along with class and a range of other social relations, this has to be the main abiding theme here. This last chapter will first critically review some influential green Utopias. Attention will be given to those schemes touching on the main themes of this study, especially the question of alienation stemming from the division of labour. It will then go on to discuss tendencies and forms of struggle which are now pointing ways towards combating the forms of alienation and estrangement stemming from the division of labour.

We will then turn to recent developments in electronic communications technologies and their role in the manipulation and transmission of knowledge. Again, if the problem of knowledge (and especially its fragmentation) is one of the key factors underlying forms of society which are ecologically unsustainable, then the question of how knowledge is now being manipulated

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