Magazine article Monthly Review

Ecological Marxism in China

Magazine article Monthly Review

Ecological Marxism in China

Article excerpt

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Chinese interest in ecological Marxism has grown increasingly in the past twenty years. Amazingly, it has even become, to some extent, an important part of contemporary Marxism in China. But why has it been so well received? This paper will offer some reasons for this and also point out the challenges now facing ecological Marxism in China.

The Appearance of Ecological Marxism in China

In Chinese the term "ecological Marxism" is translated as ... Jin was the first person in China to use this term, in his 1986 article "Ecological Marxism and Ecological Socialism." He regarded ecological Marxism and ecological socialism as two different social movements and predicted that the two "will be integrated as one."1 Twenty years have passed since then, and many important writings by Western Marxist scholars on Ecological Marxism have been translated into Chinese. These include Ben Agger, Western Marxism: An Introduction; James O'Connor, Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism; William Leiss, The Domination of Nature; and John Bellamy Foster, Marx's Ecology and Ecology Against Capitalism. By 2010 there were nine books and 598 articles on ecological Marxism that were published in China in Mandarin (see Table 1), There have also been seventy-five master's theses (see Table 2) and fifteen dissertations (see Table 3) on this subject.

Today ecological Marxism is part of the totality of Marxism in China. Ecological Marxism is regarded by some Chinese Marxists as not only "one of the most influential movements in contemporary Western Marxism"2 and "a new development of Marxism,"3 but also as "a very important force among various ecological theories."4 Some Marxist scholars even argue that ecological Marxism is "the most creative aspect of American Marxist Philosophy."5

Ecological Marxism has also, at least to some extent, been accepted by the mainstream Marxist camp. For example, the article, "The Ecological Implication of Marx's Theory of Metabolism: J.B. Foster's Interpretation of Marx's Ecological Worldview" written by Chen Xueming, a professor at Fudan University and the president of the China Society for Contemporary Marxism Abroad Studies, was published in China Social Sciences, the top academic journal in China. Wang Yuchen's Ecological Critique and Green Utopia: A Study of Ecological Marxism was published in 2009 by People Press, a top government-run publisher. Xihua Digest, a leading Digest journal, reprinted Michael Perelman's Claremont Ecological Civilization Forum paper entitled "An Ecological Future: Marx and Wu- Wei Ecology." In addition, Marxism and Reality, a top journal in Marxism studies run by the Central Bureau of Compilation and Translation, has published numerous articles on ecological Marxism. All of this demonstrates that ecological Marxism as a Western intellectual movement has been accepted within the mainstream in China.

As with many other Western intellectual movements, such as "constructive postmodernism" based on Whiteheadian philosophy (an intellectual movement which originated in the West but now has considerable influence in China), the beginning of ecological Marxism in China can be called the "period of introduction" or of the transmission of Western ideas - to be followed eventually by their critical absorption and transformation in a Chinese context. During the period of introduction, the following four theories (from among many Western ideas, schools, and representative figures of ecological Marxism) have attracted the attention of Chinese Marxists:

(1) The ecological crisis theory of William Leiss and Ben Agger, which claims that the Marxist theory of economic crisis is outdated because it not only fails to explain the continuous existence and development of capitalism, but also fails to provide a theoretical guide for the shift from capitalism to socialist society. Hence, it is necessary for Marxists to base their critique of capitalism on the new stage of ecological crisis, which has its source in "alienated consumption. …

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