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Environmental Ethics

Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 1980

Donald C. Lee
Pages 3-16
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics1980218

On the Marxian View of the Relationship between Man and Nature

Marx holds that mankind has developed from nature and in mutual interaction with nature: nature is not an “other” but is man’s body. Capitalism is a necessary stage in mankind’s historical development of the mastery of nature, but it regards nature as an “other” to be exploited. Thus, a further historical development is necessary: the overcoming of the dichotomy between man as subject and nature as object. Capitalism bases its concept of wealth on unnecessary production rather than on socially useful production and on the maximization of true leisure and free and creative activity for all. It creates excess pollution and depletes nonrenewable resources as a result of this wasteful, exploitative, unnecessary production. A Marxian solution to environmental problems involves the replacement of capitalism with a rational humane, environmentally unalienated social order. Unfortunately, the actual practice of Marxism has not generally been in accord with its own theory. Such rational, humane social orders have not yet been instituted, but they must be soon. We must take one aspect of Marx’s ideas to its logical conclusion: Marxist practice has been, at best, homocentric, but now it must overcome that limitation and truly see nature as our “body.” Marxism must become ecologically aware; mankind must become the steward of its “body”: the ecosystem upon which it depends and which now depends upon it for its health (homeostasis).

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