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20 essential books on Marxist ecology


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It’s two years since I published my last Essential Reading list. Since then I’ve received many suggestions for additions, and many new books have been published. It’s time for an update.

As before, the list does not pretend to be complete. I could easily triple the number of titles without covering the field, but I’ve arbitrarily limited it to 20 books, which forced me to drop some very good books, including some that were on previous lists.

My selection criteria are subjective: these are books that I have found particularly valuable, that I refer to frequently, and that I often recommend to others. I make no apology for including two of my own books — if I didn’t think people ought to read them, I wouldn’t have written them.

I’ve limited the list to books that are in print and readily available. I’ve avoided academic texts, and books that aren’t clearly Marxist. There are many good non-Marxist books, of course, but this is a Marxist reading list!

An ecosocialist starter kit

Each person approaches ecosocialism with a different background and different interests. A basic book for one might be too difficult for another. With that caveat in mind, these are books that I often recommend to people who want an introduction.

▸ Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster. What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism. Monthly Review Press, 2011

▸ Martin Empson, editor. System Change Not Climate Change: A Revolutionary Response to Environmental Crisis. Bookmarks, 2019

▸ Ian Angus. Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. Monthly Review Press 2016

▸ Victor Wallis. Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism. Political Animal Press. 2018

▸ Chris Williams. Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. Haymarket Books, 2010

▸ David Klein and Stephanie McMillan. Capitalism and Climate Change: The Science and Politics of Global Warming. (pdf)

▸ Michael Löwy. Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe. Haymarket Books, 2015

Marxist theory and ecology

These are essential books but they are not easy reading. They require careful attention and study. Each investigates Marx’s views on the relationship between society and nature from a different angle —and as Marx said somewhere, there is no easy road to knowledge.

▸ Paul Burkett. Marx and Nature: A Red and Green Perspective (2nd edition). Haymarket Books, 2014

▸ John Bellamy Foster. Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature. Monthly Review Press, 2000

▸ Kohei Saito. Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy. Monthly Review Press, 2017

Important topics

▸ Ian Angus and Simon Butler. Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis. Haymarket Books, 2011

▸ Hans Baer. Democratic Eco-Socialism as a Real Utopia: Transitioning to an Alternative World System. Berghahn Books, 2018

▸ Mike Davis. Planet of Slums. Verso, 2006

▸ Ashley Dawson. Extinction: A Radical History. OR Books, 2016

▸ Martin Empson. Land & Labour: Marxism, Ecology and Human History. Bookmarks, 2014

▸ John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. Monthly Review Press, 2010

▸ Hannah Holleman. Dust Bowls of Empire: Imperialism, Environmental Politics, and the Injustice of ‘Green’ Capitalism. Yale University Press, 2018

▸ Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams. Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. Monthly Review Press. 2017

▸ Andreas Malm. Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. Verso, 2016

▸ Daniel Tanuro. Green Capitalism: Why It Can’t Work. Merlin Press, 2013

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