Bogdanov and Socialist Ecologies

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…in his book A Short Course of Economic Science, Bogdanov refers to a socialist society as being “based not on exchange but on natural self-sufficing economy” (Bogdanov 1919/1923).

This book was written from the perspective of Bogdanov’s new science of organisation, Tektology upon which Bogdanov had been working for 9 years when he published his Essays in Tektology (Bogdanov 1921/80). Here he described nature as “the first great organiser and man himself as only one of her products”. He further discusses how the science of his day was breaking down the distinction between organic and inorganic matter, leading to an integral monist understanding of the universe whereby all forms were interlaced, even if in mutual struggle, embroiled in a universal organisational process which encompassed a dialectical relationship whereby it was both “infinitely split in its parts, but continuous and unbroken in its whole” (ibid p. 6).

This provides us with a context to view the Ukrainian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky, who through his seminal work on the biosphere discovered the role of living beings in contributing to the gases of the atmosphere, particularly CO2 (Weart 2008). Indeed Bogdanov uses the interrelationship between plants and animals exchanging CO2 to illustrate a symbiotic whole (Bogdanov 1921/80). Vernadsky’s research was based on a similar approach to Bogdanov, maintaining a strictly scientific approach in a field where philosophical speculation, whether vitalist or mechanist, threatened to muddy the waters. Verdansky saw the biosphere, comprising both the environment and the living creatures as “a particular body which cannot be entirely reduced to known physicochemical systems” (Verdansky 1924/1998). In his introduction to the eventual publication of an english translation of Verdansky’s Biosphere Jacques Grinevald is at pains to distinguish Vernadsky’s approach from the more mystical viewpoint of Teilhard de Chardin. As Giulia Rispoli has shown, Vernadski was influenced by the soil scientist, Vasily Dokuchaev (1846-1903), and came to see the soil itself as being bioinert, i.e neither completely animate or inanimate (Rispoli 2014), completely in line with Bogdanov. In this context it seems likely that both Bogdanov and Vernadsky shared a Russian approach to science which facilitated such an holistic approach to nature, until the Lysenko movement received official backing from Stalin. – Fabian Thompsett, “Bogdanov’s Organisational Science, the Commons, and Sustainability”

Bogdanov’s concern for the natural limits to economic development were expressed in his utopian novel Red Star, published in 1908. On the basis of this tract, Loren Graham commended Bogdanov’s prescience in predicting the environmental problems which economic development would inevitably bring. However this alone would hardly justify considering Bogdanov of major significance to the environmental movement. Douglas Weiner, who has provided us with the history of the early Soviet conservation movement, has shown that the most important group in this movement were field naturalists and ecologists, and that the individual most responsible for providing the conditions under which these scientists and other conservationists could influence government was Anatolii Lunacharskii, the Commissar of Enlightenment. Furthermore it was Lenin who provided an important initial impetus to the conservation movement. He supported the efforts of the ecologists to have conservation issues addressed, appointed Lunacharskii Commissar of Enlightenment, and conferred responsibility for administering conservation matters on the Commissariat of Enlightenment. What I will suggest is that it was Bogdanov who offered the basic philosophical direction required for the conservationists to flourish and who helped create the intellectual milieu within which ideas in ecology could be developed to provide the intellectual foundation for the conservationists. – Arran Gare, “Aleksandr Bogdanov: Proletkult and Conservation”

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One Response to Bogdanov and Socialist Ecologies

  1. dmf says:

    Reblogged this on synthetic zero.

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