Every book more than a few years old needs to be seen within the historical context in which it was written—works of social science most of all. Re-reading Paul Burkett’s Marx and Nature today, nearly a decade and a half after its first publication, reminds me of how different in some respects the historical context was then, at the end of the twentieth century, from what we face today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Fifteen years ago the idea of a planetary ecological crisis still seemed fairly new and was being discussed by a relatively small number of environmentalists and scientists. Global warming was a world issue, but seldom hit the front page. Nowadays climate change is part of our everyday lives everywhere in the world—and history seems, if anything, to be accelerating in this respect. A decade and a half ago the contribution of Marx and Marxism to the understanding of ecology was seen in almost entirely negative terms, even by many self-styled ecosocialists. Today Marx’s understanding of the ecological problem is being studied in universities worldwide and is inspiring ecological actions around the globe.
This article will be published in full on Monday, December 29th.