At its regularly scheduled reading and discussion group on the third Tuesday of the month, the Camden Philosophical Society meets to discuss a wide range of topics. Topics and readings will be announced in the weeks leading up to each event. Stay tuned for details, or email Sarah Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on topic:
The aim of the September discussion is to build on previous sessions, which explored the intersection between indigenous and socialist thought as it might be applied to the climate crisis, by examining Bookchin’s ideas on ethically grounded — but also practical — ways to begin moving beyond the existing economic and social paradigm. That paradigm necessarily promotes economic growth at the expense of not only the global climate but the natural world as a whole, and flows from Bookchin’s insight that the drive to dominate nature “stems from the domination of human by human.”
The readings should also be seen in the context of the Society’s topics stretching back into the spring, including the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and others, and of our attempts to discover a persuasive philosophical grounding for ethical thought. Sarah Miller will lead the discussion.
Starting in his relatively early, seminal work The Ecology of Freedom with an analysis of the worldviews of preliterate people that is reminiscent of the indigenous writings the society explored in July and August, Bookchin by the end of his career had developed “the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it,” as science fiction writer and social commentator Ursula Le Guin put it in her introduction to The Next Revolution, a collection of Bookchin’s late essays.
Both books are available for free online at https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/murray-bookchin-the-ecology-of-freedom.pdf and https://libcom.org/files/Murray%20Bookchin-The%20Next%20Revolution.%20Popular%20Assemblies%20and%20the%20Promise%20of%20Direct%20Democracy-Verso%20(2015).pdf
Specific readings selected for discussion on Sep. 17 are from The Next Revolution (see PDF link directly above):
The “Forward” by Le Guin (pp 7-9) and “Introduction” by Debbie Bookchin and Blair Taylor (pp 10-16).
The first three pages of Chapter 2, “The Ecological Crisis and the Need to Remake Society” (pp 39-41).
Entire chapter 3, “A Politics for the Twenty-First Century” (pp 47-63). Note in particular the discussion of page 59 of the continuing “process” involved, reminiscent of the process philosophy the society explored earlier.
Chapter 4, “The Meaning of Confederalism,” subsection on “Confederalism and Interdependence” (pp 70-72). Those concerned that Bookchin may be ignoring the pitfalls of localism should read the material in between, pp 63-69.
Parts of Chapter 5, “Libertarian Municipalism: The Politics of Direct Democracy.” Delineated subsection from pp 82-84. This fills out the economic aspect of Bookchin’s thinking; pp 84-86 is on the relationship of communities to the state, on identity politics and on the need to believe in working productively first to transform your own neighborhood if you think it’s possible to transform the world.
Additional readings, not required for the Sep. 17 discussion:
If the transition to the direct political and economic democracy that Bookchin labels a “communalist” society sounds difficult in a New England where town meetings are a part of the civic ethos, consider how the Syrian Kurds have applied his anti-hierarchical principles in the midst of war in a region where dictatorship and absolute male dominance have been the centerpieces of society for decades. Readings on this application of Bookchin’s thought are available here: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2018/06/15/how-my-fathers-ideas-helped-the-kurds-create-a-new-democracy/ and https://www.ft.com/content/50102294-77fd-11e5-a95a-27d368e1ddf7 and, most recently, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/08/14/captured-isis-fighters-get-short-sentences-art-therapy-syria/
Those interested in following up on the works by indigenous thinkers that the society considered in July and August could find extensive discussion by Bookchin of preliterate societies and what we can learn about our modern world from their mode of relating to the natural world and to each other in the first three chapters of The Ecology of Freedom. For a link to this book, see above in this message.