A discussion with John Bellamy Foster, one of the world’s leading figures in Marxian ecological theory.
John Bellamy Foster is the editor of Monthly Review, one of the world’s leading figures in Marxian ecological theory and author of numerous books including “The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology”, “The Vulnerable Planet”, “Marx’s Ecology, Ecology Against Capitalism”, “The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace With the Planet”, and “The Theory of Monopoly Capitalism”, along with several co-authored volumes.
“The old Greek philosophers,” Frederick Engels wrote in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, “were all born natural dialecticians.”1 Nowhere was this more apparent than in ancient Greek medical thought, which was distinguished by its strong materialist and ecological basis. This dialectical, materialist, and ecological approach to epidemiology (from the ancient Greek epi, meaning on or upon, and demos, the people) was exemplified by the classic Hippocratic text Airs Waters Places (c. 400 BCE), which commenced:
Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces, for they are not all alike, but differ from themselves in regard to their changes. Then the winds, the hot and cold, especially such as are common to all countries, and then such as are peculiar to each locality. We must also consider the qualities of the waters, for as they differ from another in taste and weight, so also do they differ much in their qualities. In the same manner, when one comes into a city to which he is a stranger, he ought to consider its situation, how it lies as to the winds and the rising of the sun.… These things one ought to consider most attentively, and concerning the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, or hard, and running from elevated rocky situations, and then if saltish and unfit for cooking, and the ground, whether it be naked and deficient in water, or wooded and well-watered, and whether it lies in a hollow or confined situation, or is elevated and cold; and the mode in which the inhabitants live, and what are their pursuits, whether they are fond of drinking and eating to excess, and given to indolence, or are fond of exercise and labor.…
For if one knows all these things well, or at least the greater part of them, he cannot miss knowing, when he comes into a strange city, either the diseases peculiar to the place, or the particular nature of common diseases, so that he will not be in doubt as to the treatment of the diseases, or commit mistakes, as is likely to be the case provided one has not previously considered these matters. And in particular, as the season and the year advances, he can tell what epidemic diseases will attack the city, either in summer or in winter, and what each individual will be in danger of experiencing from the change in regimen.… For with the seasons the digestive organs of men undergo a change.2
Book Launch – “The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology” by John
Sunday 14th February 2021
6pm GMT [10am Oregon time]
Zoom Meeting – Free, but you will need to register here: http://bit.ly/3643Lx9
Speaker: John Bellamy Foster
Twenty years ago, John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature introduced a new understanding of Karl Marx’s revolutionary ecological materialism. More than simply a study of Marx, it commenced an intellectual and social history, encompassing thinkers from Epicurus to Darwin, who developed materialist and ecological ideas. Now, with The Return of Nature: Socialism and Ecology, Foster continues this narrative. In so doing, he uncovers a long history of efforts to unite issues of social justice and environmental sustainability that will help us comprehend and counter today’s unprecedented planetary emergencies.Read More »
For too long it has been a cliché that a class-based Marxist approach is incompatible with the ever more urgent issues of ecological well-being. The Return of Nature comes as a breath of fresh air as, with some success, it sets out to disprove this notion.
Today we take the term ‘ecology’ for granted. And yet, as John Bellamy Foster explains, it took over a century for ecology to achieve recognition as a science.
Researching his ‘sequel’ to Marx’s Ecology, Foster set out to provide a survey of the 80 years between Marx’s death and the 1960s. He adopts a wide-ranging, anecdotal approach, with mini biographies of the interacting personalities, as though a War and Peace of ecological socialist thought.Read More »
ÖŞK: The U.S. government is escalating the tension with China with the sanctions, consulate closures, harsher and more reckless rhetoric after the pandemic… According to a Pew Research Center poll, 73 percent of U.S. people say they have an unfavorable view of the country. Anti-China rhetoric is an election strategy for Republicans. Republicans are not alone in this. Democrats are racing with Republicans with their anti-China sentiment, blaming Trump for not being hard enough on China. Considering China’s success on innovation and improvement of the new technologies like 5G and its acceptance by West, what will be the future results of anti-China policies both inside and outside of the U.S.? There are reports suggesting that U.S. officials try to push the relations towards a point of ‘no return’. Would that be an outcome?Read More »
John Bellamy Foster has the distinction of having expertise in both political economy and ecology, perhaps the two most important fields in terms of analyzing the COVID-19 pandemic. His work in political economy has both explained and extended the theory of monopoly capitalism first developed by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy. He has helped to show that this theory remains the best analysis of the global capitalist economy. His work in environmental sociology is world-renowned, elucidating with great clarity the intimate connection between capitalism and ecological crises, of which the current pandemic is the latest manifestation. In this interview, we ask John to take a retrospective look at his book, Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce. It has been two-and-a-half years since the book was published, and, given President Trump’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus catastrophe, this is a good time to assess what has transpired since he was elected president.
We’re live! Join John Bellamy Foster, Amy Leather & Martin Empson to discuss Marxism and ecology in a time of pandemic. The global environmental crisis has demonstrated how the system’s drive to accumulate means that capitalism puts profit before people and planet. The work of Marx and Engels in understanding the relationship between capitalism and nature has resurfaced in recent decades as an outstanding critique of the system’s destructiveness. The coronavirus pandemic originates in the same system that is driving climate change and the biodiversity crisis. Fossil fuel capitalism, industrial agriculture, deforestation is driving environmental destruction and creating the conditions for new and deadly diseases. Join authors and activists John Bellamy Foster, Amy Leather and Martin Empson to discuss how Marxism and Ecology can explain the crises we face and offer an alternative.Read More »
When one talks of climate change, one thinks about climate science rather than sociology. You ae an environmental sociologist. What exactly does an environmental sociologist do?
Most of our environmental problems are social problems generated by the nature of our society, so an environmental sociologist would ask how we would change society to deal with environmental problems, how to deal with environmental justice and so on.
As a tiny island, how can we affect climate change?
The main responsibility is on the rich countries that have the highest per capita emissions and who have had the biggest share of emissions historically. So the reality is we cannot solve this problem unless rich nations take the lead; they have the biggest emissions, the wealth and the technology.
[The following interview of Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster, completed on August 5, 2019, was conducted by Farooque Chowdhury for Kolkata’s famous socialist weekly Frontier and has appeared this month in their special Autumn issue. It was thus originally intended for a non-U.S. audience. Monthly Review is publishing it as well because of the urgency of the issues it addresses. The interview is mainly concerned with the historical conditions associated with the rise of new far-right movements of a broadly neofascist character. However, it is important to underscore that such political movements, though they appear to be ascendant at present, are still far from dominant. Rather, what we are witnessing, especially in the advanced capitalist world, is the development of what David Harvey has recently referred to as a neoliberal-neofascist alliance, reflecting the decline of the liberal-democratic state. Neofascism is the most dangerous and volatile phenomenon in this emerging right-wing historical bloc. Moreover, all of this has to be seen in relation to the structural crisis of capitalism and growing ruling-class attempts to restructure the state-capital relationship so as to create regimes more exclusively for capital. The big unknown in this situation is the response of the left, which, rooted in the working class, remains, at least potentially, the ultimate mass movement — one capable of halting, reversing, and overturning capital, and charting a new path toward a society of substantive equality and ecological sustainability (i.e., socialism)