Political History

Ecology and Historical Materialism (Studies in Marxism and by Jonathan Hughes

By Jonathan Hughes

This e-book offers a scientific problem to the widely-held view that Marxism is not able to deal accurately with environmental concerns. Jonathan Hughes responds to criticisms of Marx's thought of historical past from environmental theorists, and gives an interpretation and reconstruction of key Marxian strategies, designed to teach that the idea needn't have damaging ecological outcomes. He argues that the communist precept "to every one based on his wishes" needs to leisure on a perception of wishes that could be happy by way of a modest and ecologically-feasible enlargement of effective output.

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Marxism and the green Malthusians 39 one of the checks to further population growth. Under such conditions, he held, population would grow geometrically until once again it outstripped food supplies, leaving more people than before living in poverty. 6 In the first edition of his Essay on Population Malthus offers no escape from the consequences of his ‘law’. Restriction of population growth by ‘preventive checks’ offers no alternative since, in his view, such checks come about only in response to a scarcity of means of subsistence that has already arisen.

These ‘last man’ or ‘last person’ arguments present scenarios in which just one person (whom we may take also to be the last sentient being) is left alive following some disaster, and ask us to judge whether, for example, it would be wrong for that person gratuitously to chop down a tree, or wipe out a species, or unleash a nuclear arsenal that would destroy the remaining life on the planet. 51 Such arguments, however, present a number of difficulties. , pp. 154–5. Taylor 1986, pp. 120–1. Cf. Singer 1993, p.

24. See also Bookchin’s critique of Deep Ecological misanthropy, cited in Low and Gleeson 1998, p. 144. Regan 1988, pp. 361–2. Regan’s primary target is Aldo Leopold’s famous ‘land ethic’ (proposed in his Sand County Almanac), which has influenced writers such as Callicott and Rolston, and which holds that actions are right when they contribute to ‘the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community’ and wrong otherwise. Note, however, that while this quotation tends to support the holist view attacked by Regan, others of his formulations suggest an extension rather than an abandonment of human-centred ethics, which would not deny the moral considerability of humans and other individual creatures.

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