Murray Bookchin

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If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.

Murray Bookchin (14 January 192130 July 2006) was an American libertarian socialist speaker and writer.

Quotes[edit]

As long as hierarchy persists, as long as domination organises humanity around a system of elites, the project of dominating nature will continue to exist and inevitably lead our planet to ecological extinction.
The ecological principle of unity in diversity grades into a richly mediated social principle; hence my use of the term social ecology.
  • An anarchist society, far from being a remote ideal, has become a precondition for the practice of ecological principles.
    • Ecology and Revolutionary Thought (1965).
  • This pursuit of security in the past, this attempt to find a haven in a fixed dogma and an organizational hierarchy as substitutes for creative thought and praxis is bitter evidence of how little many revolutionaries are capable of 'revolutionizing themselves and things,' much less of revolutionizing society as a whole. The deep-rooted conservatism of the People's Labor Party 'revolutionaries' is almost painfully evident; the authoritarian leader and hierarchy replace the patriarch and the school bureaucracy; the discipline of the Movement replaces the discipline of bourgeois society; the authoritarian code of political obedience replaces the state; the credo of 'proletarian morality' replaces the mores of puritanism and the work ethic. The old substance of exploitative society reappears in new forms, draped in a red flag, decorated by portraits of Mao (or Castro or Che) and adorned with the little 'Red Book' and other sacred litanies.
    • "Listen, Marxist!" (May 1969); also available in Post Scarcity Anarchism (1971).
  • When cybernated and automatic machinery can reduce toil to the near vanishing point, nothing is more meaningless to young people than a lifetime of toil. When modern industry can provide abundance for all, nothing is more vicious to poor people than a lifetime of poverty. When all the resources exist to promote social equality, nothing is more criminal to ethnic minorities, women and homosexuals than subjugation.
  • Without changing the most molecular relationships in society — notably, those between men and women, adults and children, whites and other ethnic groups, heterosexuals and gays (the list, in fact, is considerable) — society will be riddled by domination even in a socialistic 'classless' and 'non-exploitative' form. It would be infused by hierarchy even as it celebrated the dubious virtues of 'people's democracies,' 'socialism' and the 'public ownership' of 'natural resources.' And as long as hierarchy persists, as long as domination organises humanity around a system of elites, the project of dominating nature will continue to exist and inevitably lead our planet to ecological extinction.
    • Toward an Ecological Society (1980).
  • The ecological principle of unity in diversity grades into a richly mediated social principle; hence my use of the term social ecology.
    • What Is Social Ecology? (1984).
  • To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth.
    • Remaking Society (1990).

The Ecology of Freedom (1982)[edit]

  • Nor do piecemeal steps however well intended, even partially resolve problems that have reached a universal, global and catastrophic character. If anything, partial 'solutions' serve merely as cosmetics to conceal the deep seated nature of the ecological crisis. They thereby deflect public attention and theoretical insight from an adequate understanding of the depth and scope of the necessary changes.
  • If we recognise that every ecosystem can also be viewed as a food web, we can think of it as a circular, interlacing nexus of plant animal relationships (rather than a stratified pyramid with man at the apex)... Each species, be it a form of bacteria or deer, is knitted together in a network of interdependence, however indirect the links may be.
  • If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.
    • Page 107 of the 2005 reprint.

Anarchism in America (15 January 1983)[edit]

Almost anyone, I suppose, can call himself or herself an anarchist, if he or she believed that the society could be managed without the state.  And by the state—I don't mean the absence of any institutions, the absence of any form of social organisation—the state really refers to a professional apparatus of people who are set aside to manage society, to preëmpt the control of society from the people.  So that would include the military, judges, politicians, representatives who are paid for the express purpose of legislating, and then an executive body that is also set aside from society.  So anarchists generally believe that, whether as groups or individuals, people should directly run society.
Directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher.
  • Almost anyone, I suppose, can call himself or herself an anarchist, if he or she believed that the society could be managed without the state.  And by the state—I don't mean the absence of any institutions, the absence of any form of social organisation—the state really refers to a professional apparatus of people who are set aside to manage society, to preëmpt the control of society from the people.  So that would include the military, judges, politicians, representatives who are paid for the express purpose of legislating, and then an executive body that is also set aside from society.  So anarchists generally believe that, whether as groups or individuals, people should directly run society.
  • I had entered the communist children's movement, an organisation called the Young Pioneers of America, in 1930 in New York City; I was only nine years of age.  And I'd gone through the entire '30s as a—Stalinist—initially, and then increasingly as someone who was more and more sympathetic to Trotskyism.  And by 1939, after having seen Hitler rise to power, the Austrian workers revolt of 1934 (an almost completely forgotten episode in labour history), the Spanish revolution by which I mean the so-called Spanish civil war—I finally became utterly disillusioned with Stalinism, and drifted increasingly toward Trotskyism.  And by 1945, I, finally, also became disillusioned with Trotskyism; and I would say, now, increasingly with Marxism and Leninism.
  • And I began to try to explore what were movements and ideologies, if you like, that really were liberatory, that really freed people of this hierarchical mentality, of this authoritarian outlook, of this complete assimilation by the work ethic.  And I now began to turn, very consciously, toward anarchist views, because anarchism posed a question, not simply of a struggle between classes based upon economic exploitation—anarchism really was posing a much broader historical question that even goes beyond our industrial civilisation—not just classes, but hierarchy—hierarchy as it exists in the family, hierarchy as it exists in the school, hierarchy as it exists in sexual relationships, hierarchy as it exists between ethnic groups.  Not only class divisions, based upon economic exploitation.  And it was concerned not only with economic exploitation, it was concerned with domination, domination which may not even have any economic meaning at all: the domination of women by men in which women are not economically exploited; the domination of ordinary people by bureaucrats, in which you may even have welfare, so-called socialist type of state; domination as it exists today in China, even when you're supposed to have a classless society; domination even as it exists in Russia, where you are supposed to have a classless society, you see.

    So these are the things I noted in anarchism, and increasingly I came to the conclusion that if we were to avoid—or if we are to avoid—the mistakes in over one hundred years of proletarian socialism, if we are to really achieve a liberatory movement, not simply in terms of economic questions but in terms of every aspect of life, we would have to turn to anarchism because it alone posed the problem, not merely of class domination but hierarchical domination, and it alone posed the question, not simply of economic exploitation, but exploitation in every sphere of life.  And it was that growing awareness, that we had to go beyond classism into hierarchy, and beyond exploitation into domination, that led me into anarchism, and to a commitment to an anarchist outlook.

  • The basic problem I really have is that whenever I meet leftists in the socialist and Marxist movements, I'm called a petit-bourgeois individualist.  [audience laughs]  I'm supposed to shrink after this—  Usually I'm called petit-bourgeois individualist by students, and by academicians, who’ve never done a days work life [sic] in their entire biography, whereas I have spent years in factories and the trade unions, in foundries and auto plants.  So after I have to swallow the word petit-bourgeois, I don't mind the word individualist at all!

    I believe in individual freedom; that's my primary and complete commitment—individual liberty.  That’s what it's all about.  And that's what socialism was supposed to be about, or anarchism was supposed to be about, and tragically has been betrayed.

    And when I normally encounter my so-called colleagues on the left—socialists, Marxists, communists—they tell me that, after the revolution, they're gonna shoot me.  [audience laughs, Murray nods]  That is said with unusual consistency.  They're gonna stand me and Karl up against the wall and get rid of us real fast; I feel much safer in your company.  [audience laughs and applauds]

    • In this clip, Murray Bookchin is speaking to a crowd of anarcho-capitalists and other libertarians at a Libertarian Party Conference.  Karl Hess is sitting next to Bookchin at the table.


Quotes about Bookchin[edit]

  • [Professor Jennifer] Burns doesn't seem to understand that when leftists, or conservatives or liberals for that matter, refer to capitalism, they don't mean what Ayn Rand meant by it.  They mean the system that is otherwise known as mercantilism, corporatism, state capitalism, or even fascism—a system in which huge corporations, aided by the state, dominate a heavily-regulated and centrally-directed economyThis is what both conservatives and liberals advocate, this is what the New Left opposed.  One New Left guru, the late Murray Bookchin, told me thirty years ago in Boston that he had no quarrel with what Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard meant by the term capitalism, a system in which people divide their labour, specialise in producing certain goods and services, and trade among themselves.  Bookchin told me that he would say that that is not capitalism, though there are many different definitions.

External links[edit]

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