Reconstructing Nature: Alienation, Emancipation and the Division of Labour (International Library of Sociology)
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One of the main features of the contemporary environmental crisis is that no one has a clear idea of what is going on. The author uses an extension of Marx's theory of alienation to explain why people find it so difficult to relate their different knowledges of the natural and social world.
He argues that nevertheless it is possible to relate these to the abstractions of ecological discourse. Emancipation can come only through embracing science and rationality rather than rejecting them and, in the process, humanity as well as the non-human world will benefit.
about the complex combinations of many different types of knowledge, about the failure of people to understand the stratified world of nature, their relations to it and the links between what they can observe, on the one hand, and the deep-lying structures and processes affecting the events they can experience, on the other. Thus lay understandings and tacit but difficult-to-articulate judgements or skills all consistently fail to link up with the abstract ideas with which they are confronted. We
approach to Marxism, although as Sayer points out, Marxism is particularly well developed in terms of formalising how the abstract and the concrete are related to one another. As Figure 2.1 shows, at the most abstract levels are the principles of historical materialism. These include concepts of the relations between society and nature. Still at a relatively abstract level are ‘transhistorical claims’. These would include the materialist argument that for human culture to exist people must be
end, not be worth the amount of intellectual effort currently being put into it. All it seems to be saying is that the ways people understand and communicate over the natural world are socially constructed. This is largely uncontroversial, although it is of course valuable to know how different interests ‘construct’ the environment in pursuing their interests (Hannigan 1995). Our priorities should now turn, however, to the more urgent task of developing better understandings of the causal
capture and isolate it from the vagaries of the non-human world and to render it compatible with the mass-production and consumption of commodities. This despite the fact that the causal powers and mechanisms affecting the development and growth of organisms, and their interaction with the environment, are left to their own devices. In practice, control is far from complete. Parallel strategies include the electronic control of heating and ventilation in greenhouses and the use of faster
nurturing and harvesting the food yourself. Why, 146 CIVIL SOCIETY: THE RECOVERY OF WHOLENESS? then, does the allotment garden continue to flourish? The answer must lie in its image, in the role of communal effort, in the feelings growers have in feeding a family through their own efforts. Our image of the allotment turns out not to be, not a matter of the way we glimpse its landscape from the train, but a reflection of our image of the world as a whole and the social relationships we make in