The main theme of this issue discussed in the first section, is the relation between ethics, ecology and the democratic project. Regina Cochrane’ s important critique of naturalistic ethics aims to show the problematic character of the attempt to ground left-libertarian ecopolitics in an ‘objective’ naturalism. Readers of D&N are of course aware of the thesis developed in this journal (vol 1 no 2) that any attempt to ground the liberatory project for an inclusive democracy on ‘objective’ grounds, like those of dialectical materialism or correspondingly dialectical naturalism, is both non-feasible and non-desirable. However, whereas D&N’s assessment of such an endeavour as problematic was based on the view that an ‘objective’ reason (either of the positivist or the dialectical type) on social phenomena is impossible, leading to the need for a democratic (i.e. intersubjective) rationalism, the author follows a different direction. Her aim is to show the inherently contradictory nature of an ‘objective’ naturalism on the basis of the critiques of naturalistic ethics by Hegel and especially Kant. The conclusion she derives is that, on the way towards a non-naturalistic left-libertarian ecopolitics, we have to abandon Marx’s as well as Bookchin’s overtaking of instrumental reason (reason of empiricism) by objective reason (dialectical reason). Agreeing with Adorno, she calls for a negative dialectics in which instrumental and objective reason co-exist in necessary dialectical tension, so that objective reason will not “once again lapse into a suppression of difference, individuality, and the particularity of the oppressed”. However, although this is an important step forward on the way to build a democratic rationalism one may argue that it is only a halfway house. What is in question is the very existence of an ‘objective’ reason in social phenomena, something this approach considers as both feasible and desirable, as long as it is in ‘dialectical tension’ with the reason of empiricism/positivism. Furthermore, one may raise serious reservations on whether the way to avoid objective reason lapsing again into a suppression of difference and individuality lies in seeing it in dialectical tension with instrumental reason rather than in seeing reason as part of a democratic process within the context of a genuine democracy —as a structure and a process of self-institution.
Margarita Alario shows clearly the contradictions of environmental policies as well as the way in which corporate interests manage to obscure the links between environmental and health issues. Furthermore, the author aptly highlights the ethical implications of ‘development’ by emphasising that disempowered groups in society bear a disproportionate burden of its environmental and health costs. However, the author’s adoption of Beck’s analysis (albeit a critical one) leads to what one may describe as utopian proposals. It is obvious that Beck’s analysis describes in effect the symptoms rather than the causes of the present crisis. Thus, the present system’s ‘organised irresponsibility’ is described by Beck in terms of ‘the application of legitimate norms that guarantee the incalculability of the system’s threats’, the ‘limits of expert knowledge’, ‘technological optimism’, the ‘irrationality’ of military and political decisions and so on, rather than in terms of its ‘systemic’ parameters, i.e. the market economy itself and representative democracy, as well as the ‘dominant social paradigm’ implied by these parameters. But, it is the combined effect of the dynamic of the market economy and of the dominant paradigm that, in turn, determines the direction of techno science which is far from ‘neutral’ --as it is implicitly assumed by Beck. In the context of such an alternative explanation, Alario’s optimism in the power of environmental movements, (even if they are successful in connecting civil, gender and political rights as well as social justice), seems utopian with respect to the goal of realising an ‘eco-democratic model of society’. Recognition of the ‘systemic’ nature of the ecological crisis implies the need for the creation of an ‘anti-systemic’ movement which would explicitly aim at replacing the present institutional framework with a genuine democracy that would aim at eliminating the fundamental cause of the present multi-dimensional crisis: the concentration of power at all levels.
Tim Boston offers a powerful description of American Right Wing ‘Libertarians’ who function as the ideological apparatuses of the internationalized market economy. He effortlessly shows the basic flaws of their ideology as well the unethical, in effect, nature of it. As the author stresses the ethics of right-wing ‘libertarianism’ is nothing more than the ethics of a social jungle where ‘survival is dependent on voracity, wealth and power’.
In the second section, the important discussion about class divisions today, which began in the last issue, continues with my contribution (Takis Fotopoulos). The aim of this article is to show that the collapse of the socialist project and the consequent abandonment of ‘grand narratives’ should not be followed by the rejection of every type of class analysis and politics, or, even more so, by the abandonment of every attempt to develop a universal project for human emancipation. Within this overall aim three particular aims are pursued. First, to discuss the inadequacies of the Marxist class categories in the context of the historical development of economic class divisions. Second, to develop a new model of class divisions for today’s society based on the unequal distribution of power in all its forms. Third, to define the subject of emancipatory politics today.
In the third section, Steve Best contributes an important review article in which he attempts to confront what he calls one of the major crises today, the crisis of imagination that is dominating the demoralised Left of today. A Left, which takes so much for granted, so that many wonder whether the distinction between Left and Right has a meaning anymore. The author, by confronting a neoliberal, a social democratic-Green and a Libertarian-Left position on what he calls ‘scenarios of disaster, visions of liberation’, offers a valuable contribution to the discussion that has just opened for a ‘Post-capitalist Green World that rebuilds political and economic institutions for participatory democracy, as it harmonizes social and natural evolution’.
Finally, the continuously expanding lively discussion in the dialogue section offers an exchange between Ted Trainer and myself (Takis Fotopoulos) on the crucial issue of the transitional strategies for systemic change. Ted Trainer, after a discussion of the causal elements of the present crisis and the goals of a movement for a sustainable society, puts a strong case for a strategy based on the Global Ecovillage movement. In my contribution, I compare and contrast the ecovillage strategy to that of the Inclusive Democracy’s project and I argue that the differences in strategies reflect significant paradigmatic differences. An important aspect of the discussion is an assessment of the limitations of life-style strategies, as well as those of direct action, the main example today being the anti-globalisation movement.
Takis Fotopoulos, Editor