Whose Planet? Essays on Ecocentric Socialism (PB) (2023)

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This book outlines Ecocentric Socialism as a theory of humanity embedded in nature to understand and help solve social and ecological crises of the twenty-first century, especially the existential crises of catastrophic climate change, the Sixth Extinction, recurring pandemics, and nuclear holocaust. Aside from the obvious cases, scientists in related fields have come to a consensus that these are anthropogenic (human-caused) crises. Some of its key features are as follows:
- An ecological theory of human nature. Thanks to recent discoveries about the microbiome, we now know that humans are collective organisms that have been co-evolving with microbial communities, trillions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts, protozoa, and fungi. The microbiome affects our gut, which affects our brain. Also, the brain affects our gut, which affects our microbiome. Disruptions to the gut microbiome, say by infection or a change in diet, can trigger reactions in the body that may affect psychological, behavioral, and neurological health. In brief, who we are and how we think and feel and behave, is partly the result of the dynamic interactions between human cells and bacteria, viruses, yeasts, protozoa, and fungi that live as part of us.
- A much longer view of history which places society in its natural context. This new knowledge about our ecological nature must be placed in the context of the dynamics of the following trends: (1) The geophysical trend which recognizes that life emerged from non-life 3.7 million years ago and that we are an earthbound, oxygen-breathing, energy-using species dependent upon our physical environment-- especially the atmosphere, soil, and temperature range remaining compatible with human life, (2) the evolutionary transhistorical trend which recognizes and celebrates our continuity with other animals, (3) the evolutionary trend cumulating in the genus Homo going back 2.5 million years and the emergence of Homo sapiens at least 300,000 ago, and (4) the recent historical development since the rise of farming 12,000 years ago and class societies (civilization) about 5,000 years ago.
- Animistic materialism. The Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries developed in tandem with commercialization of the world and later with the rise of the capitalist mode of production effectively suppressed animistic views of nature prevalent across the world in favor of a mechanical view of nature. This included even the science of ecology. As a Native American and a professional biologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer (2023, p. 331, emphasis added) has put it this way: "The ecosystem is not a machine, but a community of beings, subjects rather than objects. What if those beings were the drivers?" In socialist and ecosocialist theories also, despite allusions to "dialectics of nature," humanity is the sole subject in "history." Animistic materialism and its philosophic gaze, that I call ecocentrism, gives agency to all animate and inanimate beings as manifested in their interrelationship. Ecocentric Socialism is built on animistic materialism. Whereas socialist and ecosocialist theories by and large are based on the Western scientific approach to nature, Ecocentric Socialism shares animistic views of nature with hunter-gatherers and Indigenous Peoples of the world that are surprisingly much closer to what we know about the natural world and our place in it since Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the current knowledge of what makes us human. The difference is fundamental, in that, the anthropocentric socialist and ecosocialist theories and policy proposals generally share the idea of a "sustainable society" where the socialist humanity will manage ecosystems wisely. In animistic views of nature, humanity can never become managers of nature, and attempts to do so on a large scale will create ecological crises as we know from 5,000 years of civilization. Instead, humanity must live in nature left to its own device


Kamran Nayeri
Publication Date:
September 1, 2023

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