Dialectical Social Ecology Study Group

An Invitation to Join the Dialectical Social Ecology Group

The Dialectical Social Ecology Group currently meets weekly on Saturdays (via Zoom) at 8AM Pacific/11AM Eastern. Contact us (see below) for more information and texts.

The aspiration of the group is to contribute significantly to the development of a radically dialectical social ecology. Members of the group should have a commitment to radical dialectical thought, to the project of a social ecology, and to the convergence of the two in a radically critical, non-dogmatic, and dialectical social ecology. Such a commitment should be grounded in a spirit of mutual aid and solidarity, a love of humanity and the Earth, and an awareness of the depth of both the social and ecological crisis in the present era.

Our inquiry will be based on the classic conception of dialectic as including the aspects (moments) of negation, preservation, and transcendence, and as implying both “the ruthless critique of all things existing,” and at the same time a real desire to discover and recognize whatever moment of truth exists in any perspective, theory, form of consciousness, form of life, practice, or historical phenomenon. We will critically analyze texts from theorists who have espoused a dialectical perspective or undertaken important elements of a dialectical analysis. Examples will include: classical thinkers such as Heraclitus, Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Shakyamuni Buddha, Nagarjuna, and Tsongkhapa; modern philosophers such as Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Marx, Engels, Lukacs, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Lacan, Sartre, Whitehead, and De Beauvoir; as well as more recent thinkers such as Bhaskar, Cixous, Firestone, Irigaray, Kovel, Levins, Lewontin, Malabou, Ollman, Salleh, and Zizek.

We will also investigate more specifically social ecological thought. We will examine the ideas of thinkers such as Reclus, Kropotkin, Landauer, Buber, and Mumford who have shaped the larger libertarian and communitarian tradition out of which social ecology has emerged. We will focus on Bookchin’s social ecology, analyzing his texts and those of Biehl and his other expositors. We will also examine, for example: texts such as Guattari’s Three Ecologies, in which alternative conceptions of social ecology are developed; texts that are consciously in the tradition of social ecology, such as the recent collection Social Ecology and the Right to the City; works from the academic field of social ecology; and critiques of Bookchin’s social ecology such as Watson’s Beyond Bookchin, and those of various contributors to Light’s Social Ecology After Bookchin. We will also undertake the analysis and critique of work by members of our own group, to the extent that they offer them for discussion.

The group will investigate a multitude of crucial issues concerning the project of a dialectical social ecology, many of which have previously been treated in a superficial or even dogmatic manner. These issues include the following:

  • What is the methodological basis of social ecological inquiry, and how can it be justified?
  • What is the ontological, epistemological, and ethical/axiological basis for a social ecology?
  • To what degree can any specific social theory and politics be shown to follow from this basis?
  • How should a dialectical social ecology interpret the course of Universe history and Earth history?
  • How does a dialectical social ecology relate to evolutionary theory and processes of emergence in nature?
  • What is the nature of freedom and domination, and the role of the dialectic of freedom and domination in geohistory?
  • How can a social ecological critique of hierarchical dualism, a social ecological critique of domination, and a social ecological critique of ideology be carried out?
  • What is the relation between a dialectical social analysis and alternative conceptual frameworks such as intersectionality and transversality?
  • How should a dialectical social ecology face the problem of the fact-value dichotomy and the opposition between absolutism and relativism?
  • How can a dialectical social ecology confront the crisis of nihilism?
  • What are the details of a dialectical social ecological account of the nature of social determination?
  • What are the details of a dialectical social ecological account of social transformation?
  • How can a dialectical social ecology confront the dilemma that social transformation must be relatively rapid in order to avoid imminent biospheric collapse, and that it must be deep and systematic in order to be successful?

These issues and other basic ones will be explored through a radically dialectical and critical approach that at the same time respects the highest standards of analytical rigor, clarity, and coherence.

If this is of interest to you, please contact us for the Zoom link and details of what we are currently studying. You may also subscribe to our listserv by sending an email to this address.

What: Dialectical Social Ecology Study Group
Where: Online (Zoom)
When: Saturdays, 8AM Pacific/11AM Eastern (Ongoing)
More Information/To Participate: Contact us, or see the Dialectical Social Ecology Facebook Group

List of Texts Previously Discussed: 

  • “Master-Slave Dialectic” in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit
  • “Preface to a Dialectical Social Ecology” by John Clark
  • Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination by Jessica Benjamin
  • “Ecosocialism as a Human Phenomenon” in The Emergence of Ecosocialism by Joel Kovel
  • “Social Ecology: An Ecological Humanism” by Dan Chodorkoff
  • “Beyond Universalism and Relativism: Toward a Dialectical and Naturalistic Theory of Value” by John Clark
  • A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality Edited by Donald W. Shelburne
  • Stubborn Fact and Creative Advance: An Introduction of the Metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead by Thomas E. Hosinski
  • Emancipation After Hegel: Achieving a Contradictory Revolution by Todd McGowan
  • Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution by Lynn Margulis
  • The Tragedy of the Worker: Towards the Proletarocene by The Salvage Collective
  • The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism by Murray Bookchin
  • Monadology and Sociology by Gabriel Tarde
  • Absolute Recoil: Toward a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism by Slavoj Zizek
  • Philosophy & Revolution, ch. 1, by Raya Dunayevskaya
  • The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance by Bruce Fink
  • The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality, and Dialectic by Catherine Malabou
  • Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway
  • For a New Critique of Political Economy by Bernard Stiegler
  • Philosophy of Mind by GWF Hegel
  • Dialectical Biologist by Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin
  • Zen Sourcebook, excerpts
  • “Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism,” Erich Fromm