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66 Editorial

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A letter recently leaked to The Observer (10.10.93) revealed that government scientists are privately extremely
concerned about the problem of long-term nuclear waste
storage. Behind the facade of tranquility there is, reportedly’ a depth of anxiety perhaps only paralleled by the level
of hubris and public deception around the matter of nuclear
energy. There is in the UK enough high-level radioactive
waste to cover a football pitch to the depth of 20 feet, and
scientists have not found a safe way to dispose of it, but the
nuclear ‘industry has always presented a firm public face’.

If this is symptomatic of the practice of institutionalised
science, then the post-modem rejection of the grand narratives of science by intellectuals and a wider social constituency becomes all too understandable. Physical science, a
grand narrati ve par excellence, seems to have been hij acked
by the nation states and big corporations (see Collier below). That in their hands its reasoning has been atrophied by
a bleak calculus of exchange value and commodification, is
a theme taken up in the ecological writings in this issue. The
consequence of ‘corporate science’, it has been repeatedly
argued, is a failure to gain a (long-term) comprehensive
grasp of the aetiological ramifications of technological

As Marshall Berman detailed in All That Is Solid Melts
Into Air, ‘short -termism’ is an endemic feature of modernity. The urge towards ceaseless development characteristic of the modem world represses theoretical consciousness
(cf. O’Neill below) and embodies a very Faustian fear that
if individuals and collectives ‘stop to rest, they will be swept
away’. The diabolical price of the boundless freedomenvisaged by Faustus, Berman notes, is an ever increasing
environmental chaos and destruction.

Andrew Collier theorises these features of development
within the modern world in terms of an ongoing competitive
dynamic constitutive of patterns of global accumulation,
whether these involve corporate capitalism or such nation
states as those of the former ‘Eastern Bloc’, compelled to
emulate capitalism for their own survival. This dynamic
fosters a practical rationality which resonates with the
paradigm of ‘exchange value’ in the economic domain.

Collier argues that the contrast drawn by Marx between
exchange and use value can be extended to ecological
matters such that ‘use value’ provides the key to a critical
practical rationality of the environment. This position is
elaborated via the insight that Marx deploys the term ‘use
value’ not mere to denote a judgement of the worth of
something, but also to indicate the value of the thing itself;
its objective properties rather than its significance for some
mode of utilisation. In this sense, all objects have a unique
worth. Here Collier follows Aristotle’s distinction between
the concrete products of household labour and the abstract
Radical Philosophy 66, Spring 1994




art of money making (chrematistics). Chrematistic rationality is seen as the ‘principal enemy of the environment’ and
is identified with the emergence of capitalism. Whilst
capitalism is exploitative of human labour it is also, in terms
of use values, irrational. For example, its ecological destructiveness is manifest in terms of degradation of things
unmediated by exchange value, that is, direct use values,
such as air, water, forests, the urban environment etc.

Collier rejects the utilitarian perspective which has us
individually consuming objects through pleasurable experience of them. Rather than being externally related to our
environment, we are, he argues, part of it. Conversely, we
enjoy use values directly because they are a part of us. It is
not as individuals that we enjoy these things, but rather as
a kind of being-in-the-world. Exchange value corrodes this
organic link with the environment.

Exchange-value rationality has a comparable effect on
science; instead of investigating the particularity of problems contemporary science tends to view them abstractly,
comprehending through ready-made categories. The specific character of a subject under investigation can only be
adduced by drawing in the multifaceted web of causation in
which it is implicated. Only this concrete approach will tell
us the real consequences and costs of any technological
policy decision.

Tim Hayward also begins with the theme of
commodification and goes on to argue for a retheorisation
of Marx’ s contradiction between forces and relations which
takes into account the limiting effect of the environment on
sustainable forms of development. Hence Marx’s admiration for the emancipatory potential of the productive forces
is here tempered by a sense that the continued domination!

exploitation of nature has too much in common with the
system of commodity production. A notion of natural limits
to growth (‘conditions of production’) is required which is
not purely ecological but sees the problem also in terms of
the structure of the social division of labour. The idea of
natural limits to growth is delineated by Hayward in terms
of ecological balance ‘which regulate(s) the metabolism’

between the social and the natural ‘from the side of nature’,
something which is absent from the Marxian paradigm.

This shifts the emancipatory emphasis away from its traditional identification with ongoing development towards· a
focus on the intensification of social contradictions produced by development and their political denouement.

Further, Hayward’s stance is a ‘political ecology’ in that
it suggests that, whilst the Enlightenment thinkers recognised natural limits only in terms of isolated laws of nature,
the complex interactions and equilibria produced by these
laws in the social sphere are equally a limit on development.

Hayward spells out some consequences of his thesis on

limits or ‘conditions of production’ in terms of rethinking
‘productive’ and ‘reproductive’ activities and the boundaries between them. Importantly, child-producing and nurturing activities can be seen as a condition of production.

This blurs the division between productive, and biological
and other socially reproductive activities and facilitates a
new way of looking at the class position of childbearing

John O’Neill takes up the themes of the value and
autonomy of nature in order to make an ecological argument via a critique of humanist Marxism. He suggest that,
although dominant reading of Marx’s early writings is
anthropocentric, it is nevertheless possible to read them
biocentrically. Some aspects of Marx’s early work ar,e
however, irretrievable. For example, the themes of
objectification and self-realisation in the alienation paradigms of Hegel and the young Marx are evocative of a
narcissistic relationship with nature where the non-human
is rendered as an embodiment of human powers via human
labour. However, it is clear that Marx’s productivism is
interwoven with a view of cognition which suggests a
different rrelation to nature. The theoretical consciousness
employed in science and the arts demands that we value
things for their own attributes as well as for human projects.

Indeed, production itself depends upon recognition of the
independent values or natures of things. This entails both
grasping the separateness and indifference of nature to
human concerns, and seeing this condition of nature as one
of value. O’Neill embodies this thought in the observation
that, whilst the usual view of making is that something is
transformed in accordance with a plan/model, the view that
the plan is guided by the natural constitution of the object is
no less true. In this way, an ecological political theory can
be founded which takes on board the Marxist critique of
capitalist development and the ecological concern for the
intrinsic value of the non-human realm.

Sue Clegg’s article on child sexual abuse takes up some
of Collier’s realistic preoccupations. Describing the notion
of child abuse as an historically shifting congerie of determinants, she emphasises the complexity of the phenomenon. Whilst she finds much of use in Hacking’s suggestion
that child abuse is socially constructed, she also wishes to
avoid the conclusion that’ child abuse’ is merely the product
of a discursive strategy. Explanations using one key category such as patriarchy or sexuality are criticised for their
reductionism. Clegg argues that a realist retheorisation of
‘child sexual abuse’ can only be accomplished by starting
from the perception that the category has been used in a
normalising way. She suggests that it might be fruitful to
look, for example, at the way marginal groups are forced
into practices such as child prostitution, rather than ‘moralising’ child abuse as the wickedness of individuals.

In the Commentary Alan Sinfield looks at the way
welfare capitalism has problematised homosexuality and
argues for a politics of subcultural resistance.

Finally, this issue contains obituaries ofE. P. Thompson
and Madan Sarup.

Howard Feather

Ecology, Animal Rights and Social Justice

‘The book is a tour de force and no
one working in the field of animal
rights will be able to avoid grappling
with 8enton’s original and provocative
conclusions. ‘

Andrew Dobson, THES
In this challenging book, Ted Benton
takes recent debates about the moral
status of animals as a basis for reviewing
the discourse of ‘human rights’. Benton’s
argument supports the important
assumption, underpinning the cause for
animal rights, that humans and other
speci~~ ~~al have much in common,
both I? wonditions for their well-being
ancf,R elr vulnerability to harm. Both
liberal rights theory and its socialist
critique fail adequately to theorize these
aspects of human vulnerability.·
Nevertheless, it is argued that, enriched
by feminist and ecological insights, a
socialist view of rights has much to offer.

Lucid, and wide-ranging in its argument,
Natural Relations enables the outline of an
ecological socialist view of rights and
justice to begin to take shape.


246 pages
£34.95086091 393 7
£11.95086091 5905


United Kingdom
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Radical Philosophy 66, Spring 1994

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