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Murray Bookchin

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Murray Bookchin

Murray Bookchin
Born January 14, 1921
New York City, New York
Died July 30, 2006(2006-07-30) (aged 85)
Burlington, Vermont
Era 20th / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Anarchist communism; later, social ecology, libertarian municipalism, Communalism
Main interests
Social hierarchy, dialectics, post-scarcity anarchism, libertarian socialism, ethics, environmental sustainability, conservationism, history of popular revolutionary movements
Notable ideas
Social ecology, Communalism, libertarian municipalism, dialectical naturalism

Murray Bookchin (January 14, 1921 – July 30, 2006)[5] was an American anarchist and libertarian socialist author, orator, historian, and political theoretician. A pioneer in the ecology movement,[6] Bookchin initiated the critical theory of social ecology within anarchist, libertarian socialist, and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books covering topics in politics, philosophy, history, urban affairs, and ecology. Among the most important were Our Synthetic Environment (1962), Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971) and The Ecology of Freedom (1982). In the late 1990s he became disenchanted with the increasingly apolitical lifestylism of the contemporary anarchist movement (see: lifestyle anarchism) and stopped referring to himself as an anarchist. Instead, he founded his own libertarian socialist ideology called Communalism.[7]

Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets, as well as the democratic confederalism of Rojava.


  • Biography 1
  • Thought 2
    • General sociological and psychological views 2.1
    • Social ecology 2.2
    • Libertarian municipalism 2.3
  • Legacy and influence 3
  • Selected bibliography 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Bookchin was born in

  • Murray Bookchin Archive at Anarchy Archives
  • Murray Bookchin holdingsLibertarian Communist Library
  • Institute for Social Ecology (ISE)
  • Murray Bookchin, Spontaneity and Utopia (1971)
  • Ursula Le Guin appreciation (2015)
  • Mortimore "Murray" Bookchin at Find a Grave

External links

  • Biehl, Janet, Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin (2015).
  • Biehl, Janet, The Murray Bookchin Reader (Cassell, 1997) ISBN 0-304-33874-5.
  • Biehl, Janet, "Mumford Gutkind Bookchin: The Emergence of Eco-Decentralism" (New Compass, 2011) ISBN 978-82-93064-10-7
  • Marshall, P. (1992), "Murray Bookchin and the Ecology of Freedom", p. 602-622 in, Demanding The Impossible. Fontana Press. ISBN 0-00-686245-4.
  • Selva Varengo, La rivoluzione ecologica. Il pensiero libertario di Murray Bookchin (2007) Milano: Zero in condotta. ISBN 978-88-95950-00-6.
  • E. Castano, Ecologia e potere. Un saggio su Murray Bookchin, Mimesis, Milano 2011 ISBN 978-88-575-0501-5.
  • Damian F. White 'Bookchin – A Critical Appraisal'. Pluto Press (UK/Europe), University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-7453-1965-0 (HBK); 9780745319643 (pbk).
  • Andrew Light, ed., Social Ecology after Bookchin (Guilfor, 1998) ISBN 1-57230-379-4.
  • Chuck Morse, "Being a Bookchinite". Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, spring 2008

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e Bookchin, Murray. The Ecology of Freedom. Oakland: AK Press, 2005. p.11
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Bookchin, Murray. The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1996. p.57-9
  4. ^ Bookchin, Murray. The Ecology of Freedom. Oakland: AK Press, 2005. p.8
  5. ^ Small, Mike. "Murray Bookchin", The Guardian August 8, 2006
  6. ^ John Muir Institute for Environmental Studies, University of New Mexico, Environmental Philosophy, Inc, Environmental Ethics’’ v.12 1990: 193.
  7. ^ Biehl, Janet. ‘’Bookchin Breaks with Anarchism’’. ‘’Communalism’’ October 2007: 1.
  8. ^ The Murray Bookchin Reader: Introduction Archived July 15, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Murray Bookchin Reader: Intro". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  10. ^ a b documentary"Anarchism In America". 2007-01-09. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  11. ^ Price, Andy. The Independent "Murray Bookchin, Political philosopher and activist who became a founder of the ecological movement" August 19, 2006". The Independent (London). 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  12. ^ New York Times Martin, Douglas (2006-08-07). "Murray Bookchin, 85, Writer, Activist and Ecology Theorist Dies August 7, 2006". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  13. ^ Paull, John (2013) "The Rachel Carson Letters and the Making of Silent Spring", Sage Open, 3(July):1-12.
  14. ^ by Janet Biehl"A Short Biography of Murray Bookchin". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  15. ^ "Ecology and Revolution". 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  16. ^ "Listen, Marxist!". Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  17. ^ a b Walker, Jesse (2006-07-31) Murray Bookchin, RIP, Reason
  18. ^ Verslius, Arthur (2005-06-20) Death of the Left?, The American Conservative
  19. ^ Bookchin, Murray. The Ecology of Freedom. Oakland: AK Press, 2005. p.31
  20. ^ Bookchin, Murray. The Ecology of Freedom. Oakland: AK Press, 2005. p. 96-7
  21. ^ Bookchin, Murray. The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism. Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1996. p.x
  22. ^ See Re-Enchanting Humanity, London: Cassell, 1995, amongst other works.
  23. ^ "Murray Bookchin, visionary social theorist, dies at 85". the new york city independent media center. 
  24. ^ Murray Bookchin. The Ecology of Freedom: the emergence and dissolution of Hierarchy. CHESHIRE BOOKS. Palo Alto. 1982. Pg. 3
  25. ^ Murray Bookchin. The Ecology of Freedom: the emergence and dissolution of Hierarchy. CHESHIRE BOOKS. Palo Alto. 1982. Pg. 8
  26. ^ Bookchin, Murray. Social Ecology and Communalism. Oakland: AK Press. 2007. p. 19
  27. ^ a b Murray Bookchin, interview by David Vanek (October 1, 2001) Harbinger, a Journal of Social Ecology, Vol. 2 No. 1. Institute for Social Ecology.
  28. ^ Bookchin, M. (October 1991). Libertarian Municipalism: An Overview. Green Perspectives, No. 24. Burlington, VT.
  29. ^ a b c Biehl, Janet (16 February 2012). "Bookchin, Öcalan, and the Dialectics of Democracy". New Compass. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  30. ^ Biehl, Janet (9 October 2011). "Kurdish Communalism". New Compass. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 


See also

  • "Beyond Neo-Marxism". TELOS 36 (Summer 1978). New York: Telos Press


  • Our Synthetic Environment (1962)
  • Crisis in our Cities (1965)
  • Desire and Need (1967)
  • Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971 and 2004) ISBN 1-904859-06-2.
  • The Limits of the City (1973) ISBN 0-06-091013-5.
  • The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years (1977 and 1998) ISBN 1-873176-04-X.
  • Toward an Ecological Society (1980) ISBN 0-919618-98-7.
  • The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy (1982 and 2005) ISBN 1-904859-26-7.
  • The Modern Crisis (1986) ISBN 0-86571-083-X.
  • The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship (1987 and 1992) ISBN 978-0-87156-706-2
  • Remaking Society (1990 and 1998) ISBN 0-921689-02-0
  • The Philosophy of Social Ecology: Essays on Dialectical Naturalism (1990 and 1996) Montreal: Black Rose Books ISBN 978-1-55164-019-8
  • To Remember Spain (1994) ISBN 1-873176-87-2
  • Re-Enchanting Humanity (1995) ISBN 0-304-32843-X.
  • The Third Revolution. Popular Movements in the Revolutionary Era (1996–2003) London and New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-304-33594-0. (4 Volumes)
  • Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm (1997) ISBN 1-873176-83-X.
  • The Politics of Social Ecology: Libertarian Municipalism (1997, by Janet Biehl) Montreal: Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-100-3.
  • Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left. Interviews and Essays, 1993-1998 (1999) Edinburgh and San Francisco: A.K. Press. ISBN 1-873176-35-X.
  • Social Ecology and Communalism, with Eirik Eiglad, AK Press, 2007


Selected bibliography

"Democratic Confederalism", the variation on Communalism developed by Öcalan in his writings and adopted by the PKK, does not outwardly seek Kurdish rights within the context of the formation of an independent state separate from Turkey. The PKK claims that this project is not envisioned as being only for Kurds, but rather for all peoples of the region, regardless of their ethnic, national, or religious background. Rather, it promulgates the formation of assemblies and organisations beginning at the grassroots level to enact its ideals in a non-state framework beginning at the local level. It also places a particular emphasis on securing and promoting Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK), which does so across all countries where Kurds live.[30]

Öcalan attempted in early 2004 to arrange a meeting with Bookchin through his lawyers, describing himself as Bookchin's "student" eager to adapt his thought to Middle Eastern society. Though Bookchin was too ill to accept the request, he sent back a message of support. When Bookchin died in 2006, the PKK hailed the American thinker as "one of the greatest social scientists of the 20th century", and vowed to put his theory into practice.[29]

Notable among these is the fought the Turkish state since the 1980s to try to secure greater political and cultural rights for the country's Kurds. Though founded on a rigid Marxist–Leninist ideology, the PKK has seen a shift in its thought and aims since the capture and imprisonment of its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in 1999. Öcalan began reading a variety of post-Marxist political theory while in prison, and found particular currency in Bookchin's works.[29]

Though Bookchin, by his own recognition, failed to win over a substantial body of supporters during his own lifetime, his ideas have nonetheless influenced movements and thinkers across the globe.

Legacy and influence

Starting in the 1970s, Bookchin argued that the arena for libertarian social change should be the municipal level. In a 2001 interview he summarized his views this way: "The overriding problem is to change the structure of society so that people gain power. The best arena to do that is the municipality—the city, town, and village—where we have an opportunity to create a face-to-face democracy."[27] In 1980 Bookchin used the term "libertarian municipalism", to describe a system in which libertarian institutions of directly democratic assemblies would oppose and replace the state with a confederation of free municipalities.[28] Libertarian municipalism intends to create a situation in which the two powers—the municipal confederations and the nation-state—cannot coexist.[27] Its supporters—Communalists—believe it to be the means to achieve a rational society, and its structure becomes the organization of society.

Libertarian municipalism

Social ecology is based on the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems. It follows, from this view, that these ecological problems cannot be understood, let alone solved, without a careful understanding of our existing society and the irrationalities that dominate it. To make this point more concrete: economic, ethnic, cultural, and gender conflicts, among many others, lie at the core of the most serious ecological dislocations we face today—apart, to be sure, from those that are produced by natural catastrophes.[26]

In the essay "What Is Social Ecology?" Bookchin summarizes the meaning of social ecology as follows:

Social ecology

The objective history of the social structure becomes internalized as a subjective history of the psychic structure. Heinous as my view may be to modern Freudians, it is not the discipline of work but the discipline of rule that demands the repression of internal nature. This repression then extends outward to external nature as a mere object of rule and later of exploitation. This mentality permeates our individual psyches in a cumulative form up to the present day-not merely as capitalism but as the vast history of hierarchical society from its inception.[25]

Bookchin also points to an accumulation of hierarchical systems throughout history that has occurred up to contemporary societies which tends to determine the human collective and individual psyche:

My use of the word hierarchy in the subtitle of this work is meant to be provocative. There is a strong theoretical need to contrast hierarchy with the more widespread use of the words class and State; careless use of these terms can produce a dangerous simplification of social reality. To use the words hierarchy, class, and State interchangeably, as many social theorists do, is insidious and obscurantist. This practice, in the name of a "classless" or "libertarian" society, could easily conceal the existence of hierarchical relationships and a hierarchical sensibility, both of which-even in the absence of economic exploitation or political coercion-would serve to perpetuate unfreedom.[24]

Bookchin was critical of class centered analysis of Marxism and simplistic anti-state forms of libertarianism and liberalism and wished to present what he saw was a more complex view of societies. In The Ecology of Freedom he says that:

General sociological and psychological views


He continued to teach at the ISE until 2004. Bookchin died of congestive heart failure on July 30, 2006, at his home in Burlington at the age of 85.[23]

, a four-volume history of the libertarian movements in European and American revolutions. The Third Revolution His last major published work was [22].Enlightenment, and the ideals of the rationality, humanism His later philosophical writings emphasize [21] Although Hegel "exercised a considerable influence" on Bookchin, he was not, in any sense, a Hegelian.[20] In addition to his political writings, Bookchin wrote extensively on philosophy, calling his ideas

In 1995, Bookchin lamented the decline of American anarchism into primitivism, anti-technologism, neo-situationism, individual self-expression, and "ad hoc adventurism," at the expense of forming a social movement. Arthur Verslius said, "Bookchin... describes himself as a 'social anarchist' because he looks forward to a (gentle) societal revolution.... Bookchin has lit out after those whom he terms 'lifestyle anarchists.'"[18] The publication of Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism in 1995, criticizing this tendency, was startling to anarchists. Thereafter Bookchin concluded that American anarchism was essentially individualistic and broke with anarchism publicly in 1999. He placed his ideas into a new political ideology: Communalism (spelled with a capital "C" to differentiate it from other forms of communalism), a form of libertarian socialism that retains his ideas about assembly democracy and the necessity of decentralization of settlement, power/money/influence, agriculture, manufacturing, etc.

In 1987, as the keynote speaker at the first gathering of the U.S. Greens in Amherst, Massachusetts, Bookchin initiated a critique of deep ecology, indicting it for misanthropy, neo-Malthusianism, biocentricism, and irrationalism. A high-profile deep ecologist Dave Foreman of Earth First! had recently said that famine in Ethiopia represented "nature taking its course," nature self-correcting for human "overpopulation."

In From Urbanization to Cities (published in 1987 as The Rise of Urbanization and the Decline of Citizenship), Bookchin traced the democratic traditions that influenced his political philosophy and defined the implementation of the libertarian municipalism concept. A few years later The Politics of Social Ecology, written by his partner of 20 years, Janet Biehl, briefly summarized these ideas.

In 1980, he resigned as ISE director, and upon his retirement from Ramapo in early 1983, he moved back to Burlington, Vermont. There, while continuing to write, he put his political ideas into practice by working with groups that opposed a wood chip plant, a trash incinerator, a condo development on the Lake Champlain waterfront, and a luxury marina. To foster face-to-face democracy, he helped create Burlington's neighborhood assemblies. In 1982, his book The Ecology of Freedom had a profound impact on the emerging ecology movement, both in the United States and abroad. His lectures in Germany influenced some of the founders of the German Greens. He was a principal figure in the Burlington Greens in 1986-90, an ecology group that ran candidates for city council on a program to create neighborhood democracy.

In 1969-70 he taught at Alternate U, a countercultural radical school based on Fourteenth Street in libertarian movement. "He spoke at a Libertarian Party convention and contributed to a newsletter edited by Karl Hess. In 1976, he told a Libertarian activist that 'If I were a voting man, I'd vote for MacBride' — LP nominee Roger MacBride, that is."[17]

In 1964, Bookchin joined the Students for a Democratic Society (in vain) against an impending takeover by a Marxist group. "Once again the dead are walking in our midst," he wrote, "ironically, draped in the name of Marx, the man who tried to bury the dead of the nineteenth century. So the revolution of our own day can do nothing better than parody, in turn, the October Revolution of 1917 and the civil war of 1918-1920, with its 'class line,' its Bolshevik Party, its 'proletarian dictatorship,' its puritanical morality, and even its slogan, 'Soviet power'".[17] These and other influential 1960s essays are anthologized in Post-Scarcity Anarchism (1971)

From 1947 he collaborated with a fellow lapsed Trotskyist, the German expatriate Josef Weber, in New York in the Movement for a Democracy of Content, a group of 20 or so post-Trotskyists who collectively edited the periodical Contemporary Issues – A Magazine for a Democracy of Content. Contemporary Issues embraced utopianism. The periodical provided a forum for the belief that previous attempts to create utopia had foundered on the necessity of toil and drudgery; but now modern technology had obviated the need for human toil, a liberatory development. To achieve this "post-scarcity" society, Bookchin developed a theory of ecological decentralism. The magazine published Bookchin's first articles, including the pathbreaking "The Problem of Chemicals in Food" (1952). In 1958, Bookchin defined himself as an anarchist,[10] seeing parallels between anarchism and ecology. His first book, Our Synthetic Environment, was published under the pseudonym Lewis Herber in 1962, a few months before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.[13][14] The book described a broad range of environmental ills but received little attention because of its political radicalism.

[12] They were married for 12 years and lived together for 35, remaining close friends and political allies for the rest of his life. They had two children, Debbie, and Joseph.[11]

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