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The following is a reply by "John P. Clark" to a question raised on the Research on Anarchsim Mailing list

     Jerome Gleizes asks, "Existe-t-il une écologie sociale française ?"

     I would suggest looking at the tradition begun by the anarchist social geographer Elisée Reclus for the roots of a French social ecology. In the essay "A Social Ecology" (translated in _Réfractions 2_ as "Une Ecologie Sociale") I summarize Reclus' contribution to social ecology as follows:

     Over the past quarter-century, a broad social and ecological philosophy has emerged under the name "social ecology." While this philosophy has recently been most closely associated with the thought of social theorist Murray Bookchin, it continues a long tradition of ecological communitarian thought going back well into the nineteenth century. The lineage of social ecology is often thought to originate in the mutualistic, communitarian ideas of the anarchist geographer Kropotkin (1842-1921). One can certainly not deny that despite Kropotkin's positivistic tendencies and his problematical conception of nature, he has an important relationship to social ecology. His ideas concerning mutual aid, political and economic decentralization, human-scaled production, communitarian values, and the history of democracy have all made important contributions to the tradition. However, it may find much deeper roots in the thought of another great anarchist thinker, the French geographer Elisée Reclus (1830-1905). During the latter half of the last century, and into the beginning of the present one, Reclus developed a far-ranging "social geography" that laid the foundations of a social ecology, as it explored the history of the interaction between human society and the natural world, starting with the emergence of homo sapiens and extending to Reclus' own era of urbanization, technological development, political and economic globalization, and embryonic international cooperation.

     Reclus envisioned humanity achieving a free, communitarian society in harmony with the natural world. His extensive historical studies trace the long record of experiments in cooperation, direct democracy and human freedom, from the ancient Greek polis, through Icelandic democracy, medieval free cities and independent Swiss cantons, to modern movements for social transformation and human emancipation. At the same time, he depicts the rise and development of the modern centralized state, concentrated capital and authoritarian ideologies. His sweeping historical account includes an extensive critique of both capitalism and authoritarian socialism from an egalitarian and anti-authoritarian perspective, and an analysis of the destructive ecological effects of modern technology and industry allied with the power of capital and the state. It is notable that a century ago Reclus' social theory attempted to reconcile a concern for justice in human society with compassionate treatment of other species and respect for the whole of life on earth--a philosophical problematic that has only recently reemerged in ecophilosophy and environmental ethics.

     This only hints at the extent of Reclus' contribution. I discuss his relationship to social ecology at some length in the book Liberty, Equality, Geography: The Social Thought of Elisée Reclus (published by the Atelier de Création Libertaire as La Pensée Sociale d'Elisée Reclus, Geographe Anarchiste.)

     Social ecology is also a real presence in France today. I know of no one among contemporary French writers who has contributed more on the theoretical level to the development of a French social ecology than Alain-Claude Galtié. He has written extensively for Francophone anarchist publications on a variety of topics ranging from transportation issues to indigenous cultures and global imperalism.

     At the meeting in Montpellier last May to plan next Spring's Reclus-Geddes conference it was clear that social-ecological thinking is quite widespead among at least some groups of libertarian activists. There are also distinct social-ecological tendencies among participants in French libertarian ecological communities.

     I would imagine that the importance of social ecology as a general perspective (as opposed to its dogmatic sectarian form) will continue to grow in France. In the age of corporate globalization and ecological crisis the importance of the dialectic between the social and the ecological becomes increasingly more obvious. As ecological thought becomes more significant in France, it is most likely to take two forms: the continuing growth of reformist environmentalism on the one hand and a growing challenge by a more radical social ecology on the other.

     John Clark

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