J. Frank Harrison taught at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
During the past 30 years Murray Bookchin has been one of the driving forces of radical intellectualism in North America. This collection of essays was first published in the sixties, when the New Left was a rampant force of diverse elements for which Bookchin became a celebrated voice. In spite of the yuppification of many young people since then, the essays still possess a freshness and importance for the contemporary reader who is concerned with questions of social and political significance.
Bookchin calls himself an anarchist, a person who sees the resolution of human problems in the destruction and replacement of hierarchies in politics, economics, and culture. In the immense productivity of modern technology we are shown the possibility of libertarian affluence; not the affluence of a society consumed by the fetishism of commodities and false needs, not an authoritarian system of economic distribution grounded on an imagined dictatorship of a particular class, but one concerned with the proper balance between nature and a free humankind — an ecological society. Taking “utopia” as a self-conscious critical goal rather than a definition of the impossible, all of these essays capture, and indeed did much to direct, the revolutionary energies of the non-Marxist left for the last 30 years.
Yet the work is run through with practicality, the consideration of technological characteristics and alternatives to the structured authoritarianism of applied science in post-industrial society. And for those who think that all radical criticism is somehow linked to Marxism, Bookchin’s “Listen Marxist” (1969) remains a seminal piece of demystification, pointing to the reactionary character of the intellectual and political systems which bear that name.
This book has energy and command. Its ecological, organizational, and political concerns are ever with us. A tension runs through the essays — the tension felt by the person who senses the following alternative as the determinant of the future condition of the human race: “Either revolution will create an ecological society, with new ecotechnologies and ecocommunities, or humanity and the natural world as we know it today will perish.” (p. 24). With nuclear destruction staring us in the face, Bookchin’s caustic comments are ever important, rarely finding an equal in the field of contemporary socio-political analysis.