Marx and Engels on Ecology

Marx and Engels on Ecology

Marx and Engels on Ecology

Marx and Engels on Ecology

Synopsis

"The bibliography is a useful guide to the ecology literature. It includes a substantial number of Soviet publications in addition to the more familiar ones. More important, the fundamental theses concerning the connection between capitalism and the environment... does merit serious consideration." - Choice

Excerpt

When a colleague of mine, a director of studies on Shakespeare, learned that I was assembling the materials for this volume, he laughed and commented that I was now doing to the works of Marx and Engels what many scholars have done to the plays of Shakespeare.

He meant, I believe, that I was burrowing mole-like into the sources and would eventually emerge with a hodgepodge of bits and pieces on a particular topic--signifying nothing of consequence. The comment has a point, for the masters in various fields have written about and touched on a wide variety of things, trivial and significant; and to comb through the works of one (as is now being done by computers on the works of Shakespeare), compiling everything on which he declared himself on a particular topic, may itself be a trivial form of scholarship and an example of special pleading. For example, through this method pedants have tried to prove that Shakespeare was Christian and that Marx was an idealist or a misanthrope.

However, what Marx and Engels said on man, nature, and their relations to one another--in a word, on what today is addressed by the name of "ecology"--is a topic of quite another order. For them man is inconceivable apart from his evolution in nature and his collective labors upon nature by means of his tools. Man's dialectical relations with nature, in which man transforms it and is thereby transformed, is the very essence of his own nature. For man, nature is definable as the materials and forces of the environment that create man and are in turn created by man; and man is definable as a natural creator interacting with his environment. Thus, Marx and Engels had an understanding of an approach to ecology before the German zoologist, Ernst Haeckel, coined the term Oekologie in 1869, and long before the current "ecological crisis" and "energy crisis. . . ."

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