Saturday, March 13, 2010

Crisis in left wing thinking: the answer lies in ecological philosophy.

"It's defeatist nonsense to talk of crisis in left wing thinking" writes Mehdi Hasan (politics editor New Statesman) in yesterday's Guardian. The credit crunch has pulled the rug out from under neo-liberal plant stand, but the Right are talking as if they are still the Masters of the Universe, while all the Left seem to be doing is holding seminars entitled "What does the Left do now?"

He points to the important truth that the electorate sits substantially to the left of the Westminster parties.

In his concluding paragraphs, he suggests a "realignment of the left that... incorporates the... ideologies of smaller parties like the Greens".

Yes indeedy. I second that, on the grounds that the ecological worldview is wide enough to surpass the doctrinal differences that are intrinsic to the analytical approach of the left, which as any fule kno, is prone to fragmentation as different trends, parties and groupuscules dispute over the ideologically correct interpretation of this or that event in the light of this or that hadith interpretation of the Prophet Karl Marx.

The GIGO rule applies in philosophy as in computer science: garbage in, garbage out.

The basic problem in political theory is that they all start with a view of Man (and I use the term advisedly).

The basic starting point is the individual. No it's not, it's society. No its not its absolute freedom. No it's not, it's the domination of natural leaders. &c &c.

Man as a self existent being is not a good place to start any philosophy, because man is not a self-existent being. We are a mammalian primate species who is totally dependent on a healthy ecosystem for our continued quality of life. That realisation throw an entirely different light on human political philosophy. It affects all subsequent thinking, starting with ethics, since there is an added touchstone to ethical thinking. Ethics is not just a question of "Does my action harm others?" but also "Does my action harm our life support system?"

Social or communitarian thinking is implicit in all ecological thinking, not just because it is a fact that mankind is a social animal, but also because our ecosystem is a shared resource.

Hasan does not mention the Spirit Level, which demonstrates conclusively that to heal a multitude of medical and social problems what we have to do is close the RPG (Rich Poor Gap). This book by Wilkinson and Pickett is absolute dynamite.

And so on. Economics becomes a project nested within ecology.

The Green Party is in election mode at present, but after the election we should start to draw together a grand alliance of progressive parties and NGOs, forming a free alliance that can co-operate to bring about the radical political and economic reforms that our country and the world so desperately needs.


KRA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KRA said...

Very good post Doc. Which goes to prove not all the philosophical ecologists have disappeared from the GP.
Spot on about the ecosystem. The interdependence and the interconnection of all life has to be the starting point of a political philosophy from which individual freedom and social justice flow. Not sure the term ‘Left’ is relevant any more. Schumacher’s ideas can’t be easily compartmentalised into left or right.

Anonymous said...

all life isn't interdependent nor interconnected.

apart from that, you may have a point

DocRichard said...

Yes, Left-right is but one dimension; authoritarian/libertarian is another dimension - see

I would like to see a third axis: realist/denial.

We are thinking chaos theory here, butterfly's wing/hurricane. I think it is fair to say that in the Gaian ecosystem, everything is interconnected, though some connections are more obvious than others.