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The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and…

The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy

by Murray Bookchin

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This was a challenge for me to complete, but I'm glad I did. In retrospect, it seems largely composed of long, detailed tangents strung together thematically as historical evidence for Bookchin's ideas about the history of civilization. That's what I mean when I say I found it difficult. In the same way, Mumford's [b:Technics and Human Development|90209|Myth of the Machine Technics and Human Development|Lewis Mumford|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1193426316s/90209.jpg|87057] became a bog of historical detail. That should probably be attributed more to my preferences than the authors' deficiencies, however.

Bookchin sees two currents flowing through our history: one libertarian, one authoritarian. The former, he argues, was the one more characteristic of pre-literate, pre-state societies. The latter, with the upper hand since the rise of the state, has formed a world alien to our ancestors and our true nature:

“Trapped by a false perception of a nature that stands in perpetual opposition to our humanity, we have redefined humanity itself to mean strife as a condition for pacification, control as a condition for consciousness, domination as a condition for freedom, and opposition as a condition for reconciliation.” (365)

These conditions preserve social relations domination and hierarchy, even as "equality" is upheld by the powerful as a fundamental value.

Equality is not typically associated with an authoritarian impulse. But Bookchin's insight is to distinguish between "inequality of equals" (the sense implied in the US Declaration of Independence) and the "equality of unequals." The latter is the truly libertarian equality, in force since the earliest human societies, which the authoritarian political ideologies based on false equivalence that we have inherited (from sources as far back as the Greeks) will never tolerate.

Despite thousands of years of repression, he argues, the libertarian ideal persists. Ecology, then, provides a new mode of expressing these age-old values of "organic society" that may be incorporated into a new society with the added recognition of a universal humanity--the great gift of civilization--beyond mere tribal and national identity, without our self-imposed separation from nature, to the world's ultimate benefit. ( )
  dmac7 | Jun 14, 2013 |
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