Steven Best

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The omnicidal regimes of 'civilization' and global capitalism have reached their zenith and will end - whether through an ascendent global resistance stronger than this dying world system, or through the cataclysmic adjustments the planet already has initiated, such as those that will ensure its evolution for billions of years to come.

Steven Best (born December 1955) is an American philosopher, academic and activist working in animal rights, species extinction, human overpopulation, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media and culture, globalization, and capitalist domination. He is Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Quotes[edit]

  • Like humans, pathogens do not respect species boundaries. Overall, nearly eight billion people, many with advanced technologies and rapacious appetites, are tearing ecosystems apart and within these ecosystems live millions of different kinds of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. As Sonia Shah observes in her book Pandemic, society operates with an erroneous paradigm of disease, treating diseases as foreign invaders into our territory (a mentality she describes as “microbial xenophobia”), when in fact we are the invading species encroaching on the habitat and communities of animals and ecosystems. It is wrong to say that these diseases are happening to us, rather they are the unintended results of what we are doing to the natural world. Speculations about accidental laboratory origins of outbreaks and COVID-19 conspiracy plots of bioterrorism draw attention away from actual systemic structures and dynamics of human exploitation of nature, especially as driven by the growth-addicted world system of capitalism. Hardly unexpected or accidental, viral outbreaks are the inevitable consequences of human growth and expansion. All too often, we are the causes, not effects, the culprits, not victims, of pandemic-inducing pathogens.
  • Why is it, we must ask, that the microbes that have existed for ages suddenly begin “causing” diseases? In the last fifty years, we have lost over 60% of all wildlife, as over three hundred infectious diseases have emerged or remerged around the world. It is no coincidence this is happening as the human empire expands and globalization increases. Zoonotic diseases spillover to humans far more readily in disrupted and fragment systems than intact and diverse ecosystems. Not only are humans consuming wildlife in markets, they are trafficking in wild animals for food and “medicine,” and opening up new global routes for the transmission of zoonotic disease.
A politics of total liberation could forge alliances more positive and powerful than anything yet created. It could emancipate not just one class, interest group, or even the entire human species from the grip of a nihilistic power elite (that value nothing but power and profit), but also animal communities everywhere, ecosystems worldwide, and the dynamic energies of evolution and speciation currently blocked by human "progress."
  • The desperate and tragic migration of oppressed people throughout the world, involves not only a humanitarian crisis testing the moral resolve of developed nations, but also a calamity for wildlife and ecological systems. The most simplistic response to immigration is to seal borders, while never addressing the root causes of human movement. But barriers, fences, and walls not only thwart human traffic, they impede the natural flow of nonhuman animals and plants and directly affect their migration routes and reproduction. This threatens the survival of nonhuman communities and contributes to the growing problems of habitat destruction and species extinction. This in turn affects human interests in crucial ways, and the erection of barriers along borders has a systemic impact on all communities of life – humans, animals, and ecosystems.
  • Walls solve nothing. They don’t stop desperate people, address the causes of migration, or blot out promise of a better life. They are a feeble technofix for deep-rooted social, political, and economic problems. They benefit no one but the nefarious agents, agencies, and corporations behind the migrant-industrial complex. Any serious policy approach to immigration would address the systemic causes of migration, not tinker with its effects. For the mass migration of desperate peoples are driven by global capitalism, neoliberalism, the imperialist reordering of southern nations, and the military-backed plundering of underdeveloped countries. The current global order requires harsh exploitation, drastic inequality, political violence, suffering and immiseration — all now exacerbated by runaway climate change.
  • Whereas the unconscious operations and blind forces of the planet have provoked turbulent changes over the last 4.5 billion years of earth’s evolutionary history, now change is being directed by a conscious and volitional agent – "humanity." We cannot speak of humanity equally, to be sure, as the problem was caused by the industrialized capitalist West and the poorer nations who contributed least to climate crisis will be hit the hardest. But nations such as China, India, and Brazil are major contributors, and the cumulative impact of 7.5 billion people on the planet is causing extinction and collapse everywhere. The stability of the Holocene is now gone, changes are accelerating beyond our understanding and control, and chaos waits at our door.
  • In addition to becoming vegan, the second powerful choice a person can make is the political choice to broaden resistance and become part of a planetary justice and liberation movement. First, veganism has to be connected to broader social issues such as food justice, community empowerment, class, race, and sustainability. Second, we need to create a broader shift from veganism to anti-speciesism, which facilitates real political action. This creates a profound paradigm shift, for veganism has already been thoroughly co-opted and commodified by capitalist industries, media, and culture. The mainstreaming of veganism removes it from the sphere of inter-species justice and politics to the zone of human health and individual consumption, into a lifestyle practice that challenges neither consumer nor speciesist identities. In direct contrast, anti-speciesism assaults human supremacism and shifts the focus from products and markets to the animal holocaust and the need for political struggle. Unlike “veganism,” anti-speciesism is also anti-capitalism. Thus, third, we need to connect the anti-speciesist/animal liberation movement to other social and environmental movements, with an emphasis on the emergency and systemic consequences of climate change. This two-fold shift in focus transforms veganism from a domesticated, toothless, apolitical form of consumer capitalism to vital leg of a new total liberation movement.
  • The project of human liberation and environmental sustainability will fail without giving equal importance to anti-speciesism and animal liberation. We cannot leave intact the predatory and violent mentalities that inform our exploitative relations with animals and inform our exploitation of other humans and natural world. And to make these connections, we must all fight the Right and the rise of fascism, which has appropriated ecology for its own political purposes.
  • We need to end fossil fuel energy and global agribusiness in favor of new energy and food production systems. We need to radically reduce human populations and consumption to repair ecosystems and restore wildlife populations. We need new ethics, new value, new worldviews, and a completely new socio-economic system.

The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century (2014)[edit]

The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 978-1137471116
Homo sapiens is a brash, arrogant, brilliant, ignorant, and menacing species that in a very short period of time has colonized the entire planet and left death, destruction, and extinction everywhere it went. In an era of ecological crisis marked by species extinction, rainforest destruction, desertification, resource shortages, and climate change, the epithet "wise man" is intolerably pretentious and false. If intelligence and wisdom entails the ability to survive, exercise foresight, and adapt to one's environment, then countless animal species are far more intelligent than human beings.
  • The omnicidal regimes of 'civilization' and global capitalism have reached their zenith and will end - whether through an ascendent global resistance stronger than this dying world system, or through the cataclysmic adjustments the planet already has initiated, such as those that will ensure its evolution for billions of years to come.
    • Preface: "Crisis and the Crossroads of History" (p. xiii)
  • A politics of total liberation could forge alliances more positive and powerful than anything yet created. It could emancipate not just one class, interest group, or even the entire human species from the grip of a nihilistic power elite (that value nothing but power and profit), but also animal communities everywhere, ecosystems worldwide, and the dynamic energies of evolution and speciation currently blocked by human "progress."
    • Preface: "Crisis and the Crossroads of History" (p. xiv)
  • Without understanding the co-evolution of human and other animals, and the systemic psychological, social, and ecological crises brought about by speciesism, animal domestication, the rise of agricultural society, and the "Might is Right" psychosis of civilization, we cannot formulate a viable theory of history, hierarchy and power, or of social organization and change. Without the animal standpoint, we cannot adequately understand human conflict, the dynamics of warfare, the pathology of violence and genocide, the alienation of humans from one another and the natural world, and the dynamics driving the current ecological crisis, such as stem principally from corporate agriculture and the global livestock industry. And if we cannot understand the key causes of our current crisis, then we surely cannot solve them, nor forge a better culture, humanity, and future for ourselves and all life forms on this planet.
    • Chapter 1 "The Animal Standpoint" (pp. 19-20)
  • Animal liberation is a movement of and by human animals for nonhuman animals. Where animals are enslaved, ethically responsible humans arguably have a duty to liberate them. Answering this call of conscience and duty, animal rights/liberation groups have sprouted throughout the world, with the ultimate objective of freeing captive animals from systems of exploitation and overcoming speciesist institutions and mindsets.
    • Chapter 2 "The New Abolitionism: Capitalism, Slavery, and Animal Liberation" (p. 36)
  • If physical force is needed to save an animal from attack, then that force is a legitimate form of what I call "extensional self defense." This principle mirrors US penal code statutes known as the "necessity defense," which can be invoked when a defendant believed that an illegal act was necessary to avoid great and imminent harm. One only needs to expand this concept slightly to cover actions that are increasingly desperate and necessary to protect animals from the total war against them.
    • Chapter 3 "The Paralysis of Pacifism: In Defense of Militant Direct Action" (p. 68)
  • Since the ALF first emerged in 1976, it staged dramatic raids on vivisection laboratories, especially in the United States during the 1980s. From 1996 to 2005, after the ALF nearly eliminated the fur industry in England, direct action tactics closed down a half dozen breeders who supplied animals to laboratories, and liberationists stopped construction of a major animal research center at Cambridge University and almost at Oxford as well. If not for the massive intervention by British and American governments, activists might have bankrupted and destroyed a major pharmaceutical and product testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences.
    • Chapter 3 "The Paralysis of Pacifism: In Defense of Militant Direct Action" (p. 71)
  • Unless the intensity of our defense of life matches the ferocity of the assault against it, we allow a greater violence to grow exponentially until an earth once teeming with life becomes a mass graveyard, a battered wasteland, and a toxic cesspool. Then, when it is finally too late, the unfortunates who remain will grasp what the radicals tried to convey: what the logic of growth and capitalism finally wrought, the colossal failure of human vision and will, and the complicity of pacifism with the greatest violence of all.
    • Chapter 3 "The Paralysis of Pacifism: In Defense of Militant Direct Action" (p. 78)
There can be no full or even adequate understanding of the systemic problems of capitalist society, of the origins and dynamics of hierarchy, and of a future rational, autonomous, ethical, and ecological society until we address the 10,000-year legacy of speciesism and the barbaric exploitation of other animals.
  • As with most environmentalists, the overriding concern of the Left is with fisheries, not fish; with forests, not its nonhuman inhabitants; with "resources" for human use, not animals with inherent value. Ecological concerns stem not from a "biocentric" respect for the intrinsic value of all life and the earth, but rather from the Left's oxymoronic concept of "enlightened anthropocentrism" that reduces animals and the natural world to mere means to human ends and is incapable of advancing a new planetary ethic to inform a truly sustainable mode of life.
    • Chapter 4 "Rethinking Revolution: Veganism, Animal Liberation, Ecology, and the Left" (p. 97)
  • Attacking the new slave economy as it does, the animal liberation movement is a significant threat to global capital. Animal liberation challenges large sectors of the capitalist economy by assailing corporate agriculture and pharmaceutical giants and their suppliers. Far from being irrelevant to social movements, animal rights can form the basis for a broad coalition of progressive social groups and drive changes that strike at the heart of capitalist exploitation of animals, people, and the earth.
    • Chapter 4 "Rethinking Revolution: Veganism, Animal Liberation, Ecology, and the Left" (p. 103)
  • A future revolutionary movement worthy of its name will grasp the ancient conceptual roots of hierarchy and domination, such as emerged in the animal husbandry practices of early agricultural societies. It will incorporate a new ethics (ecology and animal liberation) and politics of nature that overcomes instrumentalism and hierarchical thinking and institutions in every pernicious form possible. It will grasp the incompatibility of capitalism with the most profound values and goals of humanity. It will build on the achievements of democratic, socialist, and anarchist traditions. It will incorporate radical green, feminist, LGBT, and indigenous struggles. It will repudiate proto-fascist ideologies and unequivocally reject alliances or association with the far-Right. It will merge human, animal, and earth liberation in a total liberation struggle against global capitalism and domination in of all kinds.
    • Chapter 4 "Rethinking Revolution: Veganism, Animal Liberation, Ecology, and the Left" (p. 105)
  • Homo sapiens is a brash, arrogant, brilliant, ignorant, and menacing species that in a very short period of time has colonized the entire planet and left death, destruction, and extinction everywhere it went. In an era of ecological crisis marked by species extinction, rainforest destruction, desertification, resource shortages, and climate change, the epithet "wise man" is intolerably pretentious and false. If intelligence and wisdom entails the ability to survive, exercise foresight, and adapt to one's environment, then countless animal species are far more intelligent than human beings.
    • Chapter 5 "Minding the Animals: Cognitive Ethology and the Obsolescence of Left Humanism" (p. 132)
  • There can be no full or even adequate understanding of the systemic problems of capitalist society, of the origins and dynamics of hierarchy, and of a future rational, autonomous, ethical, and ecological society until we address the 10,000-year legacy of speciesism and the barbaric exploitation of other animals.
    • Chapter 5 "Minding the Animals: Cognitive Ethology and the Obsolescence of Left Humanism" (p. 135)
  • We now face the grim choice posed by revolutionaries over the last two centuries, which involved "revolution or barbarism." Our situation has deteriorated so dramatically that we must choose between revolution or ecological collapse, mass extinction, and possibly our own demise. The twenty-first century is a time of reckoning.
    • Conclusion: "Reflections on Activism and Hope in a Dying World and Suicidal Culture" (p. 162)
Unless the intensity of our defense of life matches the ferocity of the assault against it, we allow a greater violence to grow exponentially until an earth once teeming with life becomes a mass graveyard, a battered wasteland, and a toxic cesspool. Then, when it is finally too late, the unfortunates who remain will grasp what the radicals tried to convey: what the logic of growth and capitalism finally wrought, the colossal failure of human vision and will, and the complicity of pacifism with the greatest violence of all.
  • Despite the inspirational platitude, we must realize that failure is an option. Our future is problematic at best and doomed at worst. There is no inherent purpose we are here to fulfill, no destiny at which we are assured to arrive at in glory, however tardy, tattered, bruised, and blackened we might be. There are no guiding angels to protect us from failure and no God to save us from an apocalypse. Countless millions of species have been annihilated in past extinction events, our Homo ancestors are gone forever, we are dispatching thousands of other species into oblivion, and there is nothing but the determination of aware, concerned, and committed peoples to save Homo sapiens from vanishing into nothingness as well. As Michael Boulter notes, the earth is a self-organizing system that strives toward balance, and species lose out, if necessary, to the larger dynamics of ecological imperatives. "Extinctions are an essential stimulus to the evolutionary process," and humans are not only expendable in the overall calculus, their demise would be a positive and necessary event.[1]
    • Conclusion: "Reflections on Activism and Hope in a Dying World and Suicidal Culture" (p. 164)

The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination (2011)[edit]

The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination. Lexington Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0739136980
  • Fuelled by new forms of science and technology, military expansion, and aggressive colonization of southern nations and the developing world, capitalism evolved into a truly global system. Global capital is inspired by neoliberal visions of nations as resource pools and open markets operating without restrictions. The process euphemistically termed "globalization" is driven by multinational corporations such as ExxonMobil and DuPont; financed by financial goliaths such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and legally protected by the World Trade Organization (WTO). It homogenizes nations into a single economic organism and trading bloc through arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and the European Union (EU). Multinationals seduce, bribe, and coerce nations to open their markets and help drive down labor costs to a bare minimum, and rely heavily on corrupt dictators, loans and debt, and “hit men” and armies to enforce the rule of their “structural transformations” of societies into conduits for the flow of resources and capital. Globalization has produced trade laws that protect transnational corporations at the expense of human life, biodiversity, and the environment. It is accompanied by computerization of all facets of production and expanding automation, generating heightened exploitation of labor, corporate downsizing, and greater levels of unemployment, inequality, insecurity, and violence.
  • By no means is globalization to be understood as an inherently negative dynamic or consequence of human history, as if the desideratum is fragmentation, isolation, provincialism, and nationalism. Ever since Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa and dispersed itself globally across the continents, human existence has been a global dynamic and knowledge, culture, and technologies have spread in all directions, such as with the influence of Islam on the West. Certainly, from the standpoint of the natural environment and the countless animal species driven into extinction, the rapid global growth of human populations, technologies, and economies has not been a positive development. But dissemination of knowledge, culture, and people is a positive and enriching process; indeed, it is now urgent that the paradigm shift from economics and growth to ecology and sustainability take root on a global scale. A salient distinction to be made here is between globalization from above (as dictated by multinational capital) and globalization from below (as realized in self-organizing and democratic ways by people in cultural exchange and open movement).
  • As the corporate machines continue to slash and burn the planet, inequalities widen and power grows, logics of profit and control spread through social institutions, human numbers and the insatiable appetites of the global consumer society swell as the biodiversity of flora and fauna steeply declines, it is easy to become not only cautious or pessimistic about the prospects for planetary peace and freedom, but fatalistic and nihilistic. In the schools and social movement discourse, we are beginning to hear from some who appear resigned to the catastrophe playing out on this planet. Others, however, remain oblivious to this incredible moment in time and the epic tragedy of resigning humanity’s fate to be a failed primate species because of its inability to harness the evolutionary advantages of a large forebrain or overcome its predilection to tribalism, xenophobia, hubris, hierarchy, violence, alienation from nature and other life forms, and uncontrolled growth.

Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (2006)[edit]

Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth. AK Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1904859567
  • Increasingly, calls for moderation, compromise, and the slow march through institutions can be seen as treacherous and grotesquely inadequate. With the planet in the throes of dramatic climate change, ecological destabilization, and the sixth great extinction crisis in its history (this one having human not natural causes), "reasonableness" and "moderation" seem to be entirely unreasonable and immoderate, as "extreme" and "radical" actions appear simply as necessary and appropriate. After decades of environmental struggles in the west, we are nevertheless losing ground in the battle to preserve species, ecosystems, wilderness, and human communities. Politics as usual just won't cut it anymore
  • There are key similarities between what has been called "radical environmentalism" — which includes social ecology, deep ecology, ecofeminism, Earth First!, and primitivism — and what we term "revolutionary environmentalism." Among other things, both approaches reject mainstream environmentalism, attack core ideologies and/or institutions that have caused the ecological crisis, often adopt spiritual outlooks and see nature as sacred, reject the binary opposition separating humans from nature, and in many cases defend or adopt illegal tactics such as civil disobedience or monkeywrenching. However, a key distinguishing trait of revolutionary environmentalism is that it supports and/or employs illegal tactics ranging from property destruction for the purpose of economic sabotage to guerrilla warfare and armed struggle, recognizing that violent methods of resistance are often appropriate against fascist regimes and right-wing dictatorships. Revolutionary environmentalism seeks to counter forces of oppression with equally potent forms of resistance, and uses militant tactics when they are justified, necessary, and effective. With the advance of the global capitalist juggernaut and increasing deterioration of the Earth's ecological systems, ever more people may realize that no viable future will arise without militant actions and large-scale social transformation, a process that requires abolishing global capitalism and imperialism, and would thereby embrace revolutionary environmentalism.

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004)[edit]

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. Lantern Books, 2004. ISBN 978-1590560549
  • Torching a research or vivisection laboratory is considered more heinous than anally electrocuting foxes or conducting LD50 tests, which pour industrial chemicals into the bodies of animals until half of them die. The loss of one building is deemed more noteworthy than the devastation of rainforests or the eradication of species. Critics whine about the possibility of physical violence by the ALF but fall silent before the actuality of state terrorism, animal massacres, and environmental destruction on a global scale. They decry death threats, but never death. They condemn activist pressure against animal exploiters but condone the violence thugs direct against activists. The US is rife with volatile anti-government and hate groups — ranging from neo-Nazis militiamen to right-wing Christian zealots — that have a long record of violence, including killing hundreds of people in the Oklahoma City bombing, yet the state positions the ALF above all of them as the more dangerous "domestic terrorism" threat.
  • In the battle over animal rights, negotiations are breaking down and boundaries are being erased on both sides. Government and industry thugs unleash violence on activists, while groups such as the Animal Rights Militia, the Justice Department, the Hunt Retribution Squad, and the Revolutionary Cells openly advocate violence against animal abusers. More and more activists grow tired of adhering to a nonviolent code of ethics while violence from the enemy increases. Realizing that non-violence against animal exploiters in fact is a pro-violence stance that tolerates their blood spilling without taking adequate measures to stop it, a new breed of freedom fighters has ditched Gandhi for Machiavelli and switched principled nonviolence with the amoral (not to be confused with immoral) pragmatism that embraces animal liberation "by any means necessary."
    • It's War! The Escalating Battle Between Activists and the Corporate-State Complex (p. 301)
  • A civil war is unfolding — one between forces hell-bent on exploiting animals and the earth for profit whatever the toll, and activists steeled to resist this omnicide tooth and nail. We are witnessing not only the long-standing corporate war against nature, but also a new social war about nature.
    • It's War! The Escalating Battle Between Activists and the Corporate-State Complex (p. 301)
  • Words define reality, and the earth and animal liberation movements must resist being defined as violent fanatics and extremists. They must defend themselves rhetorically and philosophically, establishing a sharp distinction between animal and earth liberation, property destruction, protests and demonstrations on one side, and bona fide violence and terrorism on the other side. They must expose for all to see the charlatans and real terrorists in state and corporate garb who fulminate against honorable dissidents and freedom fighters from behind their Oz-like curtain.
    • It's War! The Escalating Battle Between Activists and the Corporate-State Complex (p. 334)
  • Like the "war on drugs," the "war on terrorism" is phony, a front for the war on privacy, liberty, and democracy. Only counter-terrorists can defeat terrorists. May the armies of the animal, earth, and human liberationists rise and multiply in a perfect war against the oppressors of the earth.
    • It's War! The Escalating Battle Between Activists and the Corporate-State Complex (pp. 335-336)

External links[edit]

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  1. Boulter, Michael (2005). Extinction: Evolution and the End of Man. Columbia University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0231128377.