Eco Anarchism

Despite what the term 'eco-anarchism' might suggest, it does not refer to mother natures attempts at an anarchic revolution. Eco-anarchism is a theory which combines ecological and anarchic ideas to form an ideology which aims for the total liberation of all living beings under the organisation of local anarchist societies which are environmentally sustainable. 

Get started Sign up for free
Eco Anarchism Eco Anarchism

Create learning materials about Eco Anarchism with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account

Millions of flashcards designed to help you ace your studies

Sign up for free

Convert documents into flashcards for free with AI!

Contents
Table of contents

    Eco Anarchism meaning

    Eco-anarchism (synonymous with green anarchism) is a theory that adopts key elements from the ecologist and anarchist political ideologies.

    • Ecologists focus on human relations with their physical environment and hold that current consumption and growth rates are environmentally unsustainable.

    • Classical anarchists are generally critical of all forms of human and social interaction which involve authority and domination and aim to abolish human hierarchy and all of its enabling institutions. Their main focus tends to be on the dissolution of the state as the main proprietor of authority and domination, alongside capitalism.

    Check out our articles on Ecologism and Anarchism for a better understanding of these terms!

    Eco-anarchism can therefore be defined as follows:

    Eco-Anarchism: An ideology which combines the anarchist critique of human interaction with ecologist views of over-consumption and environmentally unsustainable practices, thereby also critiquing the interaction of humans with the environment and all non-human forms of being.

    Eco-anarchists believe that all forms of hierarchy and domination (human and non-human) should be abolished; they aim for total, not just social, liberation. Total liberation includes the liberation of humans, animals and the environment from hierarchy and domination. This means that eco-anarchists wish to establish long-lasting non-hierarchical and environmentally sustainable societies.

    Eco Anarchism flag

    The Echo-anarchism flag is green and black, with green representing the ecological roots of the theory and black representing anarchism.

    Eco Anarchism The Flag of Eco Anarchism StudySmarterFig. 1 The Flag of Eco-anarchism

    Eco Anarchism books

    A number of publications have generally directed eco-anarchic discourse since the 19th century. Below, we will explore three of them.

    Walden (1854)

    Eco-anarchist ideas can be traced back to the work of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was a 19th century anarchist and a founding member of transcendentalism, which has been associated with the conception of a form of ecology called deep ecology.

    Transcendentalism: An American philosophical movement developed in the 19th century with a belief in the natural goodness of people and nature, which flourishes when people are self-sustaining and free. The movement holds that contemporary societal institutions corrupt this innate goodness, and that wisdom and truth should replace wealth as the main form of societal sustenance.

    Walden was the name of a pond in Massachusetts, on the edge of Thoreau's birthplace, the town of Concord. Thoreau single-handedly built a cabin by the pond, and lived there from July 1845 to September 1847, under primitive conditions. His book Walden covers this period in his life and promotes ecologist ideas of resistance to the growth of industrialised culture through the adoption of self-sufficient and simple-living practices within nature, such as anti-materialism and holism.

    Eco-Anarchism Henry David Thoreau StudySmarterFig. 2 Henry David Thoreau

    This experience led Thoreau to believe that introspective pursuits, individualism and the freedom from the laws of society were the key elements needed by humans to achieve peace. He therefore adopted the aforementioned ecological ideals as a form of resistance to industrialised civilisation and societal rules. Thoreau's focus on individual freedoms echo individualist anarchist beliefs of rejecting state laws and restrictions to have the freedom to think rationally and cooperatively with humans and non-humans.

    Universal Geography (1875-1894)

    Élisée Reclus was a French anarchist and geographer. Reclus wrote his 19-volume book titled Universal Geography from 1875-1894. As a result of his in-depth and scientific geographical research, Reclus advocated what we now call bioregionalism.

    Bioregionalism: The idea that human and non-human interactions should be based on and restricted by geographical and natural boundaries rather than current political, economic and cultural boundaries.

    American author Kirkpatrick Sale grasped the eco-anarchist essence of the book by stating that Reclus demonstrated

    how the ecology of a place determined the kinds of lives and livelihoods its denizens would have, and thus how people could properly live in self-regarding and self-determined bioregions without the interference of large and centralised governments that always try to homogenise diverse geographical areas.1

    Reclus believed that large-scale societal laws based on political and economical gains had disrupted human harmony with nature and led to the domination and abuse of nature. He endorsed nature conservation and held that humans must not only preserve the environment but must also take direct action to mend the damage they have caused by abandoning authoritative and hierarchical state institutions and living in harmony with their distinct, natural environments. Reclus was awarded the Paris Geographical Society Gold medal in 1892 for this publication.

    Eco-Anarchism Elisee Reclus StudySmarterFig. 3 Élisée Reclus

    The Breakdown of Nations (1957)

    This book was written by Austrian economist and political scientist Leopold Kohr and advocated the dissolution of large-scale state governance to combat what Kohr referred to as the 'Cult of Bigness'. He claimed that human problems or 'social miseries' were because

    human beings, so charming as individuals or in small aggregations, have been welded into over-concentrated social units.2

    Instead, Kohr called for small-scale and local community leadership. This influenced economist E. F. Schumacher to produce a series of influential essays collectively titled Small in Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, which critiqued large industrial civilisations and modern economics for depleting natural resources and damaging the environment. Schumacher stated that if humans continued to view themselves as the masters of nature, it would lead to our doom. Like Kohr, he suggests small-scale and local governance focused on anti-materialism and sustainable environmental management.

    Materialism does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.3

    Eco Anarchism vs Anarcho Primitivism

    Anarcho-primitivism can be described as a form of Eco-anarchism, inspired by the ideas of Thoreau. Primitivism generally refers to the idea of simple living in accordance with nature and criticises modern industrialism and large-scale civilisation for being unsustainable.

    Anarcho Primitivism is characterised by

    • The idea that modern industrial and capitalist society is environmentally unsustainable

    • The rejection of technology as a whole in favour of 're-wilding',

    • The desire to establish small and decentralised communities which adopt primitive ways of life such as the 'hunter-gatherer' lifestyle

    • The belief that economic exploitation originated from environmental exploitation and domination

    Re-wilding: a return to the natural and undomesticated state of human existence, without modern technology and a focus on environmental sustainability and human connection to nature.

    These ideas were best outlined in the works of John Zerzan who rejects the idea of the state and its hierarchical structures, authority and domination and technology stating

    Life before domestication/agriculture was in fact, largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality, and health.4

    Eco-anarchism John Zerzan 2010 San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair StudySmarterFig. 4 John Zerzan, 2010, San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair

    Example of an Eco Anarchist movement

    An example of an Eco Anarchist movement can be seen in the Sarvodaya Movement. A large part of the effort to liberate India from British rule can be attributed to the “gentle anarchy” of this Gandhian Movement. While liberation was the main goal, from the beginning it was clear that the movement also advocated for social and ecological revolution.

    Pursuing the common good was the main focus of the movement, where members would advocate for an ‘awakening’ of the people. Like Reclus, Sarvodaya’s logistical goal was the breakdown of society’s structure into much smaller, community organisations - a system they called 'swaraj.'

    Communities would run their own land based on the needs of the people, with production focused on the greater good of the people and the environment. Sarvodaya would thus hope to end the exploitation of the worker and nature, as instead of production being focused on profit-building, it would be shifted towards providing for the people of their own community.

    Eco Anarchism - Key takeaways

    • Eco-Anarchism is an ideology which combines the anarchist critique of human interaction with ecologist views of over-consumption and unsustainability, thereby also critiquing the interaction of humans with the environment and all non-human forms of being.
    • The Echo-anarchism flag is green and black, with green representing the ecological roots of the theory and black representing anarchism.
    • A number of publications have generally directed eco-anarchic discourse, these include Walden (1854), Universal Geography (1875-1894), and The Breakdown of Nations (1957).
    • Anarcho-primitivism can be described as a form of Eco-anarchism, which views modern society as environmentally unsustainable, rejects modern technology and aims to establish small and decentralised communities which adopt primitive ways of life.
    • The Sarvodaya movement is an example of an eco-anarchic movement.

    References

    1. Sale, K., 2010. Are Anarchists Revolting?. [online] The American Conservative.
    2. Kohr, L., 1957. The Breakdown of Nations.
    3. Schumacher, E., 1973. Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered. Blond & Briggs.
    4. Zerzan, J., 2002. Running on emptiness. London: Feral House.
    5. Fig. 4 John Zerzan San Francisco bookfair lecture 2010 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Zerzan_SF_bookfair_lecture_2010.jpg) by Cast (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Cast) licensed by CC-BY-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en) on Wikimedia Commons
    Frequently Asked Questions about Eco Anarchism

    Explain the key ideas of eco-anarchism.


    - Recognition of Ecological abuse 

    - A desire for the regression of to smaller societies through direct action

    - A recognition of the human link to nature, not human domination over nature

    What is Eco-anarchism?


    An ideology which combines the anarchist critique of human interaction with ecologist views of over-consumption and environmentally unsustainable practices, thereby also critiquing the interaction of humans with the environment and all non-human forms of being. Eco-anarchists believe that all forms of hierarchy and domination (human and non-human) should be abolished; they aim for total, not just social, liberation.

    Why is eco-anarchism influential to anarcho-primitivism?

    Anarcho-primitivism can be described as a form of Eco-anarchism.  Primitivism generally refers to the idea of simple-living in accordance with nature, and criticises modern industrialism and large-scale civilisation for being unsustainable.

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Politics Teachers

    • 9 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App
    Sign up with Email

    Get unlimited access with a free StudySmarter account.

    • Instant access to millions of learning materials.
    • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams, AI tools and more.
    • Everything you need to ace your exams.
    Second Popup Banner