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Consuming Our World

By Romi Mahajan

25 October, 2015

A review of ECOSOCIALISM By Michael Lowy, 2015 Haymarket Books

In “ECOSOCIALISM,” Michael Lowy has written an important book that serves as, as the subtitle suggests, “a radical alternative to capitalist catastrophe.” A brief but powerful work, ECOSOCIALISM takes the reader through the literature on the connectedness between ecology and environmental stewardship and justice and forms of economic organization, of which socialism emerges as the most sensible, humane, and ecologically sustainable and ethical. In fact, Lowy’s argues that Socialism of a real sort presupposes deep ecology and that the latter is only possible under enlightened socialism.

After a mordant, definitional preface, Lowy proceeds to offer 5 well-written and provocative chapters on different aspects of ecosocialism, covering issues of democracy, planning, the ills of advertising, and the gains of worldwide struggles (and several inspiring appendices). Lowy concludes that ecological catastrophe is inherent in capitalism and identifies capitalism therefore as the root of the problem. But he takes a nuanced view: Though a Marxist, Lowy is quick to suggest that many strands of post-Marxism cling to an inherently “productivist” ethos that undermines ecology and therefore socialism itself.
At the heart of the matter is set of dependent tensions between capitalism and the environment, capitalism and economic justice, and capitalism as it relates to a humane polity. Of late, much has been written about these tensions as they manifest themselves in the reactions to and the need to act against anthropogenic climate change.

This is where matters get tricky. On the one hand, one can make a fair case for capitalism being the bogeyman but one has to weigh that against the reaction to what is seen as a shrill, anti-market approach that appears to shore up what many consider to be naïve and Utopian solutions to climate change and other environmental catastrophes (Raghav Kaushik refers to this in his review of Robin Hahnel’s book “Green Economics”- here). Lowy bridges this with a powerful argument for “realistic utopias” and a suggestion that “reforms” are important but not sufficient. In this sense, Lowy deftly combines big dreaming with reality, while avoiding the “I do what I can” dross that emerges from most Liberal circles.

That something has to be done about ecological damage and climate change is clear. So what, indeed, is to be done?

Lowy argues that we must enter an ecosocialist modality in the economy and in the ways in which we systemically lead our collective lives. This short manifesto is a powerful enunciation of this modality and must be read by all.

Romi Mahajan can be reached at romi@thekkmgroup.com




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